Good skaters are well known and loved. But how many people realize that there also are great skating fans? The part they play in our sport is often underappreciated. Truly devoted fans don’t merely watch skating on television; they live and breathe skating – just like skaters themselves. They don’t only know everything about their idols; they consider skaters almost part of their immediate family. In fact, skaters and their fans coexist; they kind of feed off one another.
One of the greatest figure skating fans, if not the best, is the Canadian, Janet Neil. If there was such a thing as an official skating fan club, Janet would be the unopposed president. Every Canadian fan knows her, for whenever there is a competition sanctioned by Skate Canada, Janet is there. If she could, she would follow her beloved skaters all over the world.
Unfortunately, her salary as a library technician won’t let her do that, however, she did go
to 1995 Worlds in Birmingham England & to 2007 Worlds Tokyo Japan.
But you know what? Janet doesn’t only support Canadian skaters; her love for the sport knows no ethnic, national of geographical boundaries.
This year, Janet brought seven national flags to 2011 Skate Canada International competition. Whenever a skater finishes his or her routine, Janet waves their national flag as a sign of respect and recognition. After taking their bows, most skaters don’t proceed directly to the Kiss-and-Cry area. They skate up to Janet to receive their gifts – cute stuffed toys. Janet travels to competitions with an extra suitcase to accommodate those toys that she buys with her own money. She decides which of the toys suits this or that skater best. Sometimes Janet’s gifts turn out to be almost prophetic.
“I once gave Alban Preaubert a turtle.” Janet smiles. “And guess what? He skated to the piece called Turtle Shoes. It was very appropriate.”
At 2011 Skate Canada International, Janet gave Daisuke Takahashi a turtle wearing a graduation cap and holding a diploma, and that was the very toy he held in the Kiss-and-Cry area. The next day that particular toy was discussed on several skating forums. A British commentator called Janet a real skating fan.
Canada is a country of frozen ponds and hundreds of indoor rinks. All ice sports are greatly appreciated there; every Canadian child skates. Janet grew up in the small town of Lucan, ON, just 28.1. km north of London, Ont. From ages three to nineteen, she spent her leisure hours skating, just like everybody else. She never competed, but she enjoyed the feeling of gliding and turning. Her sisters skated too, and her older sister gave Janet lessons, which allowed her to participate in local carnivals every year. Even though Janet didn’t become a professional skater, she has carried her love for the sport throughout her entire life. In 1990 she went to her first world’s championship in Halifax. Since then she has attended every world’s competition that took place in Canada and most Canadian nationals. Skate Canada International is her favorite competition.
Skaters love Janet. She has received dozens of emails from many of them, including Fumie Suguri and Haruka Imai. If you want to see Janet, you can go on YouTube – she can be seen at the end of every skater’s performance! You will recognize her by the Canadian “fan sweater,” by flags and stuffed toys. For those who don’t know, the Canadian fan sweater is white with red maple leaves, and it is decorated with skating pins. And don’t forget Janet’s wonderful smile, the smile of a person whose love for skating is true and genuine.
So all the best to you, Janet! See you at the next competition!