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Barrie figure skaters to test their mettle at world event... for Poland

Mariposa skaters Olivia Oliver and Peter Paleev are heading to Croatia next month for the Junior World Figure Skating Championships
2019-02-20 Olivia Oliver and Peter Paleev
Peter Paleev and Olivia Oliver will be competing at next month's World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Zagreb, Croatia. Photo supplied

Two figure-skaters who train in Barrie will be taking their talents to Croatia next month where they will compete under the Polish flag. 

Olivia Oliver and Peter Paleev are ice-dancers who fine-tune their routines at Barrie's well-known Mariposa School of Skating. They leave for Croatia on March 3 to compete at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Zagreb.

Just a couple of weeks ago and on Oliver's 16th birthday, the duo achieved qualifying scores at the Bavarian Open in Germany to represent Poland. 

"We are so pleased that we made the qualifying scores for the worlds, which is not easy to do, and we have no expectations other than we really want to perform our personal best," Oliver told BarrieToday. "We are going to enjoy every moment of the experience and go forwards from there.

"Poland is very proud of us and it’s a great feeling to be their representative team in ice dance at the worlds," she added. "They were surprised, too, at how quickly we qualified!"

Oliver, a Grade 10 student at Innisdale Secondary School who has dual Canadian/Polish citizenship, lives in Barrie with her family. She's able to train full-time with Paleev through a co-op program offered between Innisdale and Mariposa. 

Paleev is a 20-year-old Moscow native who has been living in Barrie for seven months. Back home, he has been studying physical education at Moscow City Pedagogical University. 

And after only six months together, they’re now on their way to Zagreb.

Oliver credits their success to being fully committed and a team effort from their coaches. 

Like many meetings these days, Paleev and Oliver found each other through online. 

"We connected through an ice-dance website where skaters post their bios when they’re looking for a potential partner," Paleev told BarrieToday. "We are working hard and learning together and trying to improve our performance every day."

Paleev soon came over to Canada for meet Oliver and to see how they skated together. 

"It worked out well and we agreed to form a team," Oliver said. "He’s a very good ice dancer, so I had to work extra hard.

"There is obviously a language barrier and cultural differences, but when we are on the ice together we are fully focused on our training together," Oliver added. "As each day goes by, we get to understand each other a bit better. We found that we were 'bonding' well as a team when we were in Europe competing for the first time."

Paleev is able to skate for Poland due to his family roots. 

"I am Russian, but my grandfather was Polish. In ice dance and pairs, one skater from the team can apply to skate for the country of the other skater. Both countries have to agree and then I had to get official clearance from the Russian Federation for the ISU (International Skating Union) to approve our team. Sometimes it can take one to two years, or not be given at all, but I received my clearance in time to compete in our first international event together last December."

During his short time in Canada, Paleev has noticed some differences from his homeland. 

"The biggest difference between Russia and Canada is that people are smiling here," he said. 

Meanwhile, Oliver was born in Warsaw and moved to Canada when she was three years old. 

"We first lived in Halifax and moved to Barrie 18 months ago to specifically train at Mariposa full-time," she said. "I had been 'commuting' from Halifax to Barrie on and off for a few years before we moved here full-time."

Oliver says she finds a lot of similarities between Canada and Poland, but not much rivals Polish cuisine. 

"I go back to Poland a lot, with my skating and charity work there," she said. "Apart from my mom and dad, the only other family I have is my nan, who lives in Warsaw."

One of the things that takes her back to Poland is her charity work. She's heavily involved with helping less-fortunate children realize their own dreams. 

Just over four years ago, a then-11-year-old Oliver broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest spinner on ice, clocking an incredible 342 RPMs at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland. In doing so, she raised over $20,000 to make wishes come true for terminally ill children in Poland.

Now she spends two weeks each summer going back to Poland to raise money and visiting the homes of sick children. By a strange twist of fate, one of the wishes she was able to fulfull was for nine-year-old Weronika, who had spina bifida and her wish was to meet Oliver. So, when the young skater arrived at her home, Weronika was overwhelmed when she was presented with Oliver’s world-record certificate and one of her world-record figure skates, signed and framed.

After the world championships, Oliver plans to step up her charitable work. She is launching her own cause, Skating for Young Heroes, which will combine her passion for skating with her passion for helping less-fortunate children.