Corey Circelli has competed at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships on numerous occasions as a junior/novice and senior, most recently at this year’s event while he was injured, which marked Canada’s first National Championships with an audience since the pandemic. In December, Corey represented Canada at the CS Golden Spin of Zagreb in Croatia, and he made his senior Grand Prix debut at the MK John Wilson Trophy at IceSheffield in Great Britain the previous month. Having opened his 2022-2023 season at the Cranberry Cup in August, Corey’s free skate is a tribute to Canadian figure skater Toller Cranston to Pagliacci, and his biggest goal for this year is stabilising the triple axel and working on the quadruple lutz. Currently, with his recovery from a fractured fibula/torn ankle, he will be starting the upcoming season later than usual, and he has trained at the Cricket Club in Toronto since starting in figure skating. This month, Corey answered our questions about competing at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships, being part of Team Canada at major competitions and having his senior Grand Prix debut at the MK John Wilson Trophy at IceSheffield.
You most recently competed at the 2023 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, what was this year’s competition like to be part of?
Well, it was our first National Championships with an audience since 2020, so there was a level of excitement amongst all the skaters to get to perform in front of a Canadian crowd again. That being said, speaking for myself, I was at the peak of my injury during the week of the Canadian Championships so my experience felt more like a survival to get through the event than the typical joy of skating for the audience. Overall, I was still able to enjoy myself, however hard it was competing with a fracture. Truly had it not been the excitement of competing at the Canadian Championships, I most likely would have withdrawn.
Having competed at the Canadian Championships numerous times over your career as both a junior and senior skater, what do you enjoy most about this event?
There is something so special about the way we do Nationals. To me, it’s the red lining on the boards and the huge maple leaf on the ice that is there every year no matter the location. When dreaming of my performances every season, I always imagine what it would look and feel like surrounded by all the red. There is also a level of history of the event given how rich the past of Canadian skating is, so it’s always so special to skate and perform for all the alumni and meet them afterwards. My junior and novice years were also really fun as we competed early in the week and I would always stay to watch the seniors at the end. It would be like the best treat to stay and watch the seniors and now it feels so surreal to be one myself.
How was it representing Canada at the CS Golden Spin of Zagreb in Croatia in December?
Golden Spin was definitely a fond experience for me. The team that I was sent with consisted of some of my closest friends on the Canadian team so it made the whole event so enjoyable. The competition itself was hit and miss but I was able to incorporate some slight changes in the program really well so, for me, it was a step in the right direction. I really enjoyed doing the gala at this event as it was completely sold out in comparison to the competition where only ten to twenty people were in attendance. It was a fun way to finish it.
What was it like making your senior Grand Prix debut at the MK John Wilson Trophy, and how was the experience skating at IceSheffield in Great Britain?
I can’t put into words the feeling I had getting assigned to the first ever Grand Prix in England. I was born in Manchester and lived in London the first four years of my life so in many ways I feel so connected to the country and culture. If I had to describe the event in one word, I would use “crowd”. It was magical. Completely sold out every day with such educated skating fans. They made me feel so appreciated and important and the energy they gave off was magnetic. At one point in my short program, I actually couldn’t hear the music. It was an experience I’ll never forget and I’m so thankful that my first Grand Prix happened in England.
You opened your 2022-2023 season with the Cranberry Cup in August last year, how was this?
This event had very specific goals. I perform the quadruple toeloop with my arms above my head, which is very unusual. I worked so hard on learning this element that my goal of the whole competition was to land one in the program. I landed it in the free skate and believe I became the first senior man to land a quadruple toeloop with arms up in international competition, so for this I felt that there was such a great takeaway from the event. The competition also takes place in Boston so we were able to see the city after and try one of their famous lobster rolls, which was amazing.
Can you tell us about your Toller Cranston tribute with your free skate and how did you feel performing to Pagliacci for the first time?
This program to me was such an important piece with such deep meaning both personally and athletically. Toller was my inspiration growing up skating at the cricket. One of the first coaches I worked with was his former coach Ellen Burka and she would show me all his old videos and I guess you could say it was love at first sight. Growing up in skating, I was always compared to Toller in our similarities of skating, and training at his former rink felt poetic in many ways. When we decided to do the tribute and choreograph it, we spent weeks studying his videos and trying to incorporate as much as we could. To be completely honest, the original program was so much more nuanced and complex, however, in the current IJS judging system, we had to remove a lot of things deemed invalid or not allowed. The first time I performed the program fully in costume was actually a private showing at the Cricket Club for just Toller’s sister and dear friends. It was a moment I’ll never forget and one I look back on all the time.
How was your time competing at the 2021 CS Cup of Austria, which marked your senior international debut?
This competition was so important to me. As a skating fan growing up as a child and working my way up to senior international level for Canada, it was a dream come true. I had just completed the junior Grand Prix series and knew the possibility was there to compete as a senior so when it happened I was thrilled. I was able to land my first quad in competition here so it’s a very important event to me. The free skate in particular was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my career so far. I felt so free and in control, which is all you ever crave from competing, so overall it was a great time.
What are some of your favourite highlights from your skating career so far?
If I had to pick a couple I would one hundred percent have to start with Olympic Trials in 2022. Both my parents were Olympic athletes and since I was a child it has been my biggest life goal. I knew at this event that I wasn’t really in the mix to go to the Games but I wanted to try my best and see what happened. I had one of the best competitions so far and managed to place in the top five and skate in the final flight. I remember talking to Brian Orser, my coach, seconds before skating the free skate saying I feel like I’m in the YouTube videos I used to watch as a child. It was so special. That event earned me a spot to the Four Continents Championships, which was my first senior championship ISU event, which is definitely another huge career highlight. I really felt that I’d “made it” when I was at that event. That I finally got to the highest level of skating competition. It was a wow moment. The other career moment that I cherish is in practice landing my first quad with arms up. I knew at the time that no other men’s skater was doing it so the feeling of accomplishment landing something no one else does for the first time was amazing.
Do you remember how you felt being selected for your first competition representing Canada and do you have a favourite aspect of being involved with the sport?
It was just a few weeks after I won the Canadian Championships in the novice level and I was over the moon. At the time I was 13, and the idea of travelling alone for sport felt like a dream. They prepare you for everything prior to leaving but nothing ever can really prepare you for hearing your name announced with representing Canada. So much pride and excitement that it really never gets old and I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
Where does your love of figure skating come from and how did you get into it?
My parents are very close friends of Tracy Wilson and her husband. My dad actually grew up with Tracy’s husband and would tour with her while she performed. Tracy would plan these weekly skating nights with family friends and at the age of four, I was out there too. I would just stand in the middle and stare at all the people figure skating and marvel at the idea of trying myself. Tracy pushed my parents into buying figure skates for me and from then it was love at first glide, haha. I have always been the biggest fan of the sport both old and new. I am always fascinated how something so athletic can be so beautiful. I always find myself in my free time studying old videos of my favourite skaters.
What does a typical training day look like for you and how does it change in the lead-up to a major competition?
I have been healing some injuries so my current training is more recovery and strength based. That being said, in a normal off season I like to train more than I do during the season as it’s the time of year to get better. That would consist of three on ice sessions and one off ice, plus stretching. I like my first on ice to be slightly easier and then the next two to be more intense. I live beside the rink so it makes being there very easy. During the season and in preparation for competition, I still like to skate three times a day, however, I make them much, much shorter and compact. Very much quick and efficient. I also find given the intensity of training in the season I incorporate way more physiotherapy and massage therapy to allow my body to get through the training weeks.
Did you have any favourite skaters to watch when growing up and have you been given any advice over your time as a skater so far that has stuck with you?
I have only ever skated at the Cricket Club in Toronto, which is quite rare. That meaning I have seen and skated with the world’s best for as long as I can remember. I remember meeting Yuna Kim and watching her prepare for the 2010 Games, as well as first meeting the new Japanese skater in 2012 that would become THE Yuzuru Hanyu. If I had to pick my favourites both to train with and watch I would say Yuzuru Hanyu, Javier Fernández, Jason Brown, and Carolina Kostner. Being around such talent is amazing and just being in their presence teaches you so much I could write a book. Yuzuru and I have always had a nice friendship and he is always offering advice on little things. It amazes me how he remembers everything.
How do you like to spend your free time?
Free time, for me, is all about relaxing and detaching from the intensity of sport. It’s very important for me to mentally have breaks from training. I am a huge reader. Last year in 2022 alone I read 56 books. My favourite subject and passion outside of skating is Tudor history and the entire Elizabethan era. I can’t even count the amount of books I’ve read about this time frame. Even as we discuss now, I am currently in the middle of a book about Catherine of Aragon. Apart from reading, I love going to downtown Toronto and visiting new areas.
Do you have any competitions coming up that you can tell us about or that you are targeting?
As I mentioned earlier, I have been dealing with some serious injuries. I am on the upside now but I have had to be off healing for quite a while now as I had a fractured fibula and a torn ankle. This just means that my season will start later than usual, most likely in late September. Regarding events in Canada, we kind of find out where we are going relatively close to the competition so it’s all still up in the air. When I’m able to get back to work, my biggest goal is stabilising the triple axel and working on the quadruple lutz again. It will be a very exciting season once all is healed.
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