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Vancouver Islander skating in Italy for Winter World Master Games

Qualicum Bay’s Rich McBride has figure skated for 50 years and coached for 30

A Qualicum Bay man is preparing to compete in figure skating at the 2024 Winter World Master Games in Italy.

This will be the second time around for Rich McBride, who has skated for 50 years and has a medal from the 2020 games in Innsbruck, Austria.

“You have skaters converging from all over the world who love skating,” McBride said. “Some are adults who’ve only skated as adults. Some are competitors who have been skating as long as I have.”

The Winter World Master Games figure skating competition is open to athletes 28 years old and over, up to 84 years old. Age requirements vary across the different sports.

There is no qualifying event, but participants must be a member of a national governing body — McBride has been a member of Skate Canada for 50 years.

“It’s thrilling to go because you are celebrating the love of the sport and even though you’re 58, like I am, or 84, it’s remarkable to go and be in this,” he said. “It’s a competition, but it’s more of a supportive environment than you’d see in the Olympics.”

McBride has coached figure skating for 30 years, and also had a competitive career in the 1980s. He stepped away from figure skating for a while to pursue theatre and received a scholarship for musical theatre at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

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He will skate in two events, the men’s bronze free skate and the artistic free skate. He will have 1:40 to impress the judges and hopefully take home another medal. The figure skating event will be held in a town called Bormio, about two hours north of Milan in the Italian Alps.

“I’m really excited to see the town and the best part of Bormio is there are three natural thermal hot springs to soak the old bones,” McBride joked.

He will be in Italy for 13 days and hopes to squeeze in a practice session before the competition begins, plus attend the opening ceremony.

McBride said he looks forward to the food, staying in an alpine lodge and meeting lots of new people.

This could be his last Winter World Master Games — years of skating and falling on the ice have taken a toll. McBride had bionic discs surgically implanted in his neck in 2017.

“So I have a bionic neck but the rest of my body is falling apart, so I hope it can keep up,” he said with a laugh. “One last hurrah.”