Skip to content

Vancouver Island skater wins two gold ‘woodals’ at masters games in Italy

Rich McBride overcomes injury to take first place in pair of events
Rich McBride won two gold ‘woodals’ in figure skating at the Winter World Masters Games in Italy this past January. (Contributed photo)

Rich McBride has returned home to Vancouver Island with two gold “woodals” from the 2024 Winter World Masters Games in Bormio, Italy.

McBride, who calls Qualicum Bay home, was pleasantly surprised to win both figure skating events he entered, considering he nearly dropped out of the competition.

He was not able to skate much in the lead up to the games, after injuring himself in December.

“I had two very, very hard falls,” he said. “So hard that the Apple watch goes off and says, ‘if you don’t respond in 20 seconds, we will call 911’ and the kids are like ‘are you OK?’ and I’m like ‘I don’t think so’.”

After tumbling the same way twice, McBride, 58, thought he ought to cancel his plans. He mentioned this to a young skater before the Sandy Shores Skating Club Christmas show.

The young skater insisted, “you have to go, you’re in the newspaper.”

With his flights cancelled, McBride opted to sail on the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner from Brooklyn to London, before he flew into Milan and took a bus to Bormio a few days ahead of his first event on Jan. 16.

Concerned about another fall, he avoided practising on ice and instead focused on visualizing his routine. While on the ship, he rehearsed on the ballroom floor, marking out the spots on the floor and building muscle memory.

“I knew intuitively as a coach I shouldn’t be skating at all,” McBride said.

The theme for his first event, the artistic men’s free skate, saw him skate with an invisible male partner — a comment, he said, on the fact that two men cannot compete together in international figure skating events.

Shortly before it was his turn, McBride double-checked the rules and realized his program needed to include a single jump, or he would be penalized by a point.

“But I hadn’t been jumping, I hadn’t jumped since mid-December,” he said.

READ MORE: Qualicum Beach’s new $2.1M fire truck is traditional red but also green

During his four-minute warmup, he decided to include a Salchow jump.

“I just got very focused on the skate and visualized,” McBride said. “I just started skating and it was like magic for like 90 seconds. Basically kind of a clean, perfect skate exactly how I had imagined.”

It was a great relief to finish the program and, to his surprise, McBride took first place.

Two days later he competed in the free skate event, which includes more jumps. McBride took to the ice accompanied by the Winnie the Pooh theme song.

“I was scared I was going to hurt myself again. I was scared I was going to fall, and I thought ‘I can’t wear my Apple watch in the competition’ and then I thought ‘Oh, I don’t have to because there’s three paramedics,” McBride said with a laugh.

Fortunately, all went smoothly and he took first place in that event as well.

Both his gold medals are made of solid larch wood, sourced from surplus materials from wood processing in the forests in the Alta Valle Camonica Forestry Consortium, according to the Winter World Masters Games website.

Once he was finished with the competition, McBride could truly enjoy Bormio, a picturesque town nestled in the Italian Alps.

Although he travelled solo, he met several Canadians and enjoyed speaking a little bit of Italian he knew to the locals, and relied on a translation app for the rest.

“Getting to enjoy the location the last two days was the total icing on the cake,” McBride said. “Happy to be representing the adult skaters, the four of us, at Sandy Shores Figure Skating Club.”

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
Read more