Canadian duo Brooke McIntosh and Benjamin Mimar delighted to make their senior Grand Prix debut on home soil
Despite formalizing their partnership just days before the pandemic hit, Brooke McIntosh and Benjamin Mimar are still one of the newest and youngest Canadian couples teams set to make their senior Grand Prix debuts on the 29th. October at Skate Canada in Mississauga, Ontario.
« It’s really been a wild ride, » McIntosh said recently. « I don’t think we would have thought we would have two Grands Prix for our first senior season when we first got together. »
That said, there seem to be few nerfs about the debut.
« A lot of people don’t know us yet, » Mimar said. « So it’s exciting to show everyone who we are. »
Although they are both professional and dedicated to skating – Mimar moved from Laval, Que., to Etobicoke to partner with McIntosh, who is from Toronto – they have opposite personalities.
McIntosh, 17, who is the sister of Canadian swimming sensation Summer McIntosh, speaks softly, bringing seriousness to the team. Mimar, 23, is more playful and tries to be funny.
« If I get a laugh out of her [at practice]I prefer that day,” he said. « So I think that’s why we… »
« Work well together, » McIntosh said, ending his sentiment.
When asked if Mimar was funny, she replied with a smile. « Sometimes. »
Whatever their evolutionary dynamics, it seems to be working. The duo won bronze at the World Junior Championships last spring and started this season with a bronze medal at the Finlandia Trophy.
Developing chemistry during the pandemic
There’s no doubt that the two had an unconventional start. After meeting, they skated together for four weeks before formalizing the partnership, only for the pandemic to hit. This ended the training together and added a new challenge in creating chemistry.
« We couldn’t communicate and build a good relationship because we didn’t know each other and COVID had just started, so it was a bit difficult, » Mimar said.
Also, Mimar had just moved to Ontario and was working on improving his English. But both made it work. They were texting, doing Zoom training sessions and getting to know each other using Instagram and SnapChat.
McIntosh and Mimar’s situation is not unique. Skate Canada High Performance Director Michael Slipchuk has seen many partnerships develop during the pandemic. And despite the obvious challenges, there are some benefits.
« With pair skating you often need a good year, maybe two, just to really get a team together, » he said. « In a way, COVID has given people the opportunity to do that when there was no competition. And when it comes time to compete, you’re a much more evolved pair team. »
And that’s what Sipchuk saw happen with McIntosh and Mimar.
« All the growing pains that come with a new team happened in training when nobody was competing, » he said. « And when they had the chance to get out there and compete at international level, we saw what the result was: they ended up with a medal at the world junior championships. »
The duo are not putting a lot of pressure on themselves this year. It’s their first senior season and they’re launching new programs: their short film is Exit by Jennifer Thomas and their free is at Wretched soundtrack.
Adapt to the next level
But there are a few signs to watch for to track the pair duo’s progress. First, how they develop their skating skills and artistry.
« As seniors, you have to keep developing and bringing out the artistic side, because that’s what makes the difference, » Slipchuk said. « Everyone makes the same items, it’s the packaging that makes the difference. »
Both are aware of this and are inspired by their teammates and world medalist ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirer.
« We see Piper and Paul training every week, they’re really amazing, » Mimar said. « What we need to do is improve our skating and that’s what they do well. »
Their range of scores will also indicate how well they are adapting to the senior scene, as it is very different from that of the juniors.
« You go out on the ice and you can be out there with world champions scoring 220 points, » Slipchuk said. « I always look at our pairs teams when they start, we want them to start aiming for somewhere between 160 and 170 or even close to 180. »
Mimar has only ever skated in front of 300 people, so the pair are thrilled to perform in front of a large crowd and on home ice for the first time as partners. At least one of McIntosh’s parents will be there to watch his sister Summer compete on the same weekend, in the same city.
« It sucks because I wish I could go watch and I’m sure she would say the same, » said McIntosh, who says the two are very close. They are constantly texting about training and school while they are on the road.
And despite her sister’s recent success, McIntosh doesn’t internalize any contrast between their athletic careers.
« I’ve never seen anyone compare me to Summer, » she said. « We’re both so proud of each other and everything we’ve accomplished over the past year. »
Another source of comparison the duo don’t think about is the legendary line of pair skaters that preceded them, especially as the team debuts after a landslide of retirements from greats like Meagan. Duhamel and Eric Radford, Dylan Moscovitch and Lubov Ilyushechkina, and Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro.
They simply see retirements as an opportunity.
« We consider ourselves one of the best teams in Canada, » said Mimar. « And now we just have to prove it. »