A year of transition for Leah Lee nearly concluded on the podium at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Championships.
The 15-year-old finished her competitive season in impressive fashion last month in Mississauga, finishing fourth in the Junior Women's Division. It was not only a significant jump from her 15th place result in 2019 but also from a seventh place showing just two months earlier at Skate Canada Challenge in Edmonton.
Lee was a model of consistency, placing fifth in both her short and free skates for a 137.11 total. Her performance was among the highlights for Connaught Skating on the country’s biggest stage — joining junior men’s silver medalist Wesley Chiu.
She came to the Richmond club on a full-time basis this season after coming up the competitive ranks with the Sunset Skating Club in Vancouver.
The move was somewhat routine given Lee was training with Connaught on a regular basis when a problem with the ammonia refrigeration system forced the temporary closure of the Sunset Rink back in the fall of 2018.
“I was already familiar with the other skaters and coaches. Everyone here is really welcoming and friendly. They have made it really enjoyable,” said Lee who was a gold medalist at BC/Yukon Sectionals back in November.
Her promising career has been plagued with minor injuries which eventually led to a different approach to her training this season — mainly when to push herself and when to ease back.
“We had to pay attention to keeping the body healthy,” explained her coach Eileen Murphy. “The big change that I noticed was Leah’s ability to manage herself and actually embrace the challenge because I know she does love it. But not let her get ahead of herself too.
“She actually did a really good job of being in focus and also very much enjoying what she was doing. It really made it a pleasure to watch her.”
Elite skaters like Lee are training throughout the year with much of the important work being done during the summer months. Skating peak performances during the critical competition window from November to January is easier said than done.
“You have to trust your training and I think Leah really learned that this year,” added Murphy. “She had done her work and I think she trusted that and enjoyed it more. She pulled back when she was feeling fatigued to avoid over training.
“She is in a good place right now with a bright future. She just has to take her time and do the steps to get where she wants to be.”
The plan is for Lee to continue on at the junior level for the 2021 season with senior ladies on the horizon for the Grade 10 Magee Secondary student.