Charlie McKee (far right) with ice academy coaches

Skating Toward Beijing

by Michael Matros
“SPS ethos” guides Charlie McKee ’83 in creating community for ice-dancing elite.
Ranging in age from 16 to 32, they arrive at the school in Quebec from 11 countries. Together, on their skates, they represent almost one-third of the international ice-dancing elite.
 
The Ice Academy of Montreal hosts “the world’s largest concentration of figure skaters training at one school,” says Charlie McKee ’83, who joined the Academy’s leadership three years ago.
 
McKee’s other professional life includes importing, breeding, and raising horses and “working with a very, very large Dallas-based technology company.” He’s not much of a skater himself (McKee once fell through the ice on Turkey Pond and was saved by his SPS roommate, Jonathan Tracy ’83), but he says his partnership in the Ice Academy is “the most inspirational activity” in which he is involved.
 
Grand Prix events and world championships loom on the near horizon for the Academy’s students, but perhaps most daunting are the 2022 Winter Olympics, scheduled for February in Beijing.
 
McKee’s Academy partner, Jamal Othman, a former Swiss national figure skating champion, explains that the ice-dancing couples will compete in six events in the Grand Prix series between October and December, as they accumulate points for international ranking and, thus, placement at the world championships next March in Montpellier, France. In the interim, of course, comes Beijing.
 
Among the Academy’s headliners at the Olympics are expected to be four-time world champion ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France. That duo should be joined by a host of other Academy students, say McKee and Othman, who expect no fewer than nine of the school’s dance couples to represent their countries at the Olympics, and possibly as many as 12 — “more than 50% of the competition.”
 
“They will be going into the Olympic rink in Beijing,” McKee says, “as they do when they go to the Grand Prix, or whatever else, and they compete vigorously against one another. But they’re also extremely supportive, and there’s a really great sense of camaraderie.”
 
The community nature of the enterprise, McKee explains, is due in great part to the school’s 11 coaches, headed by legendary choreography teacher Romain Haguenauer, along with the two-time world silver medalist Canadian ice-dancing team of Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon.
 
“It’s unique, I think, in any sport where you’d have fierce competitors,” McKee says, “who are actually training in the same center and competing against one another in the big competitions, but who also are friends.”
 
The Academy’s ethos, McKee explains, “is the notion of holistic development of the individual, helping students, helping the skaters, helping the students wherever they are in their careers.
 
“With what we’re doing in Montreal, my mind keeps coming back to what St. Paul’s is doing in Concord,” McKee adds. “Obviously, the scale and the nature of the mission are very different, but there are so many elements that we are trying to replicate in terms of what St. Paul’s has really demonstrated in the development of young adults. And it really does start with the mindset, the commitment, the ability to work collaboratively.”
 
McKee has sent two children to St. Paul’s, Nina ’12 and Aidan ’14, the School’s “fifth generation of McKees.”
 
“Whatever St. Paul’s has done for me,” he says, “it’s shaped the way I view the world, and view the work we’re doing in Montreal.”
 
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Pictured above are Charlie McKee ‘83 (far right) with (l. to r.) Scott Moir (head coach and managing director of the Ice Academy of Montreal, London Campus) and Ice Academy co-founders and head coaches Romain Haguenauer, Patrice Lauzon, and Marie-France Dubreuil.

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