Brother act on ice at BC Winter Games

Austin and Justin Ma will be competing against each other in the pre-novice figure skating at the BC Winter Games in Vernon Feb. 23-26. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Austin and Justin Ma will be competing against each other in the pre-novice figure skating at the BC Winter Games in Vernon Feb. 23-26.

Move over Scott and Rob Niedermayer; British Columbia may soon have another brother act on ice. But don't put hockey helmets on Austin and Justin Ma.

In fact, it was their enmity for hard headgear that steered them to take up figure skating when they headed to the rink in search of a new activity to complement their soccer season.

"I wanted to try skating, but I didn't like helmets," says Austin, 13.

With their younger sister Amanda already swooping and twirling around the ice at Burnaby 8-Rinks, they followed in her salchow. Soon enough they were spending up to three hours on the ice six days a week, learning new moves, practicing new jumps, pushing each other.

Their commitment to the sport extends off the ice as well with ballet training, endurance and stretching regimes, all supervised by a personal trainer.

It makes for a busy schedule, balancing school and skating, especially now that they have to travel to Sungod arena in Delta to work with coach Kevin Bursey after eight years at 8-Rinks. But it's better than having them hang around the shopping mall, says their father, Martin.

"They have to work hard."

That's not difficult to do when each other's motivation sits in the same back seat of the same car, sleeps under the same roof and eats at the same dinner table.

Only a year apart in age, Austin and Justin compete against each other regularly. They're both currently pre-novice and they're preparing for the biggest meet of their young careers, the BC Winter Games in Vernon Feb 23-26.

"It's kind of a mini Olympics," says Justin, 14, of the competition that gathers young athletes from around the province to compete in 18 sports. In fact, some Canadian Olympians like snowboarder Maelle Ricker started their climb to national and international athletic achievement at the BC Winter Games, a fact not lost on the brothers, who harbour their own Olympic aspirations.

Though that day is still a long way off, the debate as to who would win gold and who would finish the next step down on the podium is ongoing.

"Justin always beat me early on," says Austin, smiling. "But now I'm winning. I guess he works harder, but I have more talent."

"I'm a fast learner," says Justin, stealing a glance at his younger brother.

Even if they never reach Olympic glory, Martin says his boys are still learning valuable lessons through skating.

"They're overcoming fears," says Martin, who will be accompanying Justin and Austin to Vernon to serve as a chaperone for the figure skating contingent. "They're training not to be quitters, they're training to be fighters."


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