Queen’s alum comes home

Kingston is hosting Skate Canada International at the K-Rock Centre this weekend

Jackie Stell-Buckingham is in Kingston with Skate Canada for the Skate Canada International event at the K-Rock Centre.
Jackie Stell-Buckingham is in Kingston with Skate Canada for the Skate Canada International event at the K-Rock Centre.

Jackie Stell-Buckingham is back in a familiar haunt. A Queen’s graduate, she’s returned to oversee the annual Skate Canada International being held at the K-Rock Centre in her role as Director of Events for the organization.

Stell-Buckingham first experienced Queen’s when she attended a model United Nations symposium as a high school student. She said she took precautions ensuring she would get into Queen’s by applying to two different programs.

“The minute that I set foot on the campus at Queen’s I was hooked,” she said. “I had been to a couple other universities but there was something about Kingston and Queen’s that really appealed to me at that point and there was no looking back.”

Stell-Buckingham was accepted into the Bachelor of Arts-Physical Education program at Queen’s, a dual degree program. She said the Phys-Ed program emphasized the community aspect of university.

“I really liked being in Phys-Ed because it was a smaller faculty,” she said. “I knew everyone in my class and we did a lot of things together from intramurals to competitive sports to socializing ... you kind of felt part of a bigger family in a way.”

The Oshawa-native experienced the same transformation many students feel in attending university; the learning experience of moving away from home, living on your own away from the familiar environment of family and friends.

“If I had to narrow down the life opportunities of attending university particularly one like Queen’s offered, there was a lot of learning to be done,” she said. “It’s the same for any university student. It’s moving away from home, figuring out how the world works.”

Figure skating had always been a major part of Stell-Buckingham’s life. She skated through university as member of the Queen’s varsity figure skating team and was involved in the Kingston figure skating community.

“I did a lot of work in the Kingston area while I was here as a student [like] judging figure skating,” she said. “I also ... helped out the synchronized skating program that was just starting here at the time.”

Stell-Buckingham has been involved in Skate Canada in different capacities for the last 25 years. In her current position, she oversees the production and execution of all events that are held by Skate Canada over the year including this weekend’s at the K-Rock Centre.

“Basically from the time I graduated, I lucked into this position at Skate Canada and I’ve just progressed through the organization ever since,” she said. “I did coach for awhile ... before I had my family, so I’ve just always been involved at the sport at many levels.”

Kingston serves as the perfect host for this year’s competition. Stell-Buckingham said most events that occur in a post-Olympic year are generally smaller due to the reduction in talent as older skaters retire and young skaters begin training for the next winter Olympics. The town and its facilities offer a perfect balance for fans and skaters with the newer facilities for the athletes and the small-town feel of Kingston’s downtown.

“We love the city of Kingston,” she said. “It’s very hospitable town. It has great facilities for fans and for the participants as well. The ability to be able to walk from the arena to the hotel to restaurants is ideal and we don’t often find that in cities, so that was an attractive point in the city of Kingston as well.”

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics offered Canadians a new look into the world of figure skating. Canadians cried with Joannie Rochette during her heartbreaking loss of her mother and cheered on ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to their gold-medal win.

“Watching Joanie and Tessa and Scott and the rest of the Canadian teams at the Olympics will encourage young skaters to get involved in learning how to skate,” she said. “Watching them on television and hearing their stories ... They’re great ambassadors and they’re great kids and students.”

Although several skaters have had to pull out of the event due to injury, like popular ice dancers Virtue and Moir, Stell-Buckingham said the event will provide the crowd with a look at the future of Canadian figure skating.

“The neat thing about this event and what makes this event special [compared to] the other [tournaments] that we will do is there are some new faces,” she said. “So from a fan perspective if you’re a devotee and a big fan of figure skating, you’ll love this event because this is the time when you’ll get to see who’s coming up ... It’s like a whole new generation of figure skaters coming through ... For anyone coming to watch they’re going to have a really good show.”

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