The reigning Canadian junior men’s champion, Nam Nguyen, 13, has been blazing a trail since rocketing onto the national scene five years ago.
Nguyen kicked off his budding career by winning three national titles in a row. In 2007, at the tender age of eight, he became the youngest male ever to win the juvenile title.
He followed that up with the pre-novice and novice titles the next two seasons, once again earning the distinction of being the youngest person ever to do so.
Just one month before the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in his hometown of Vancouver, B.C., Nguyen captured the bronze medal at the junior level.
Shortly thereafter, he was asked to skate in the Olympic gala with the newly crowned champions. “Being selected to perform as a soloist was an honor for me and my family,” Nguyen said. “I was very happy, and I felt so grateful to have the opportunity to represent young athletes from British Columbia, and, on a larger scale, Canada. I really wanted to show the world that we love to skate and entertain people.”
As wise as he is athletically gifted, Nguyen understood that the invitation presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study how figure skaters compete on the grand stage.
“The official practice was amazing because I had the opportunity to skate with all the Olympic medalists,” he said. “This was a unique opportunity for me to watch these great skaters and learn from them.”
It was not the first time that the seventh grader had skated at a major event. One year earlier, on the same ice, Nguyen performed at the Four Continents Championships gala. “One of my idols, Patrick Chan, introduced me to the audience,” he said. “It was very exciting for me.”
After Nguyen won the junior title last January, he returned home to find himself the guest of honor at a school assembly. “Everyone watched my long program plus an interview I did with Debbi Wilkes,” he said with a smile. “All of my friends told me if I’m at the Olympics in 2014 and people interview me, I should say to the reporters, ‘Thanks for supporting me, Brentwood Park.’”
Nguyen will skate at the senior level next season nationally. “Moving to the big leagues and competing with the senior men will be a big challenge for me,” Nguyen said. “The key is that I have to set my goals. It is important to gain experience competing at this level.”
He is already hard at work. He and his team are focused on developing his skating skills to make a seamless transition to the senior level. “The biggest area I need to improve on is the speed. I also need to focus on the quality of my edges, and growing artistically is a never-ending challenge,” Nguyen explained.
“I need to work on all of these things to bring up my second mark, which will help me to be more competitive.”
Nguyen is chasing his dream of representing Canada internationally, and he hopes to perform well enough this summer to warrant an assignment.
“I just became eligible in May, so I would love to represent Canada at the Junior Grand Prix level this season,” he said. “In order for me to earn an assignment, I need to show my best to Skate Canada. I need to be consistent in training and in competition.”
Originally published in August 2011