An Orillia figure skater has been honoured with the 2020/21 Spirit Award from Skate Ontario.
Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School graduate Carlea Wilkie-Ellis is this year’s award recipient after working tirelessly on and off the ice to become a better skater during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 29-year-old Special Olympics athlete was nominated for the award by a fellow skater and her coach, Tracey Zwiers. The Spirit Award is meant to honour a skater who has worked hard, is highly decorated, and is dedicated to his or her craft.
Zwiers says Wilkie-Ellis always arrives at the rink with a positive attitude and is always encouraging the other skaters in the Orillia Figure Skating Club.
"She's always there cheering everyone on, she works hard, and she is just a positive spirit for everyone," she said.
Zwiers says Wilkie-Ellis has continually improved.
"Carlea is always working hard on her tasks and she is always motivated to keep moving up the ladder. I think it's her positivity and love for skating that has helped her win awards like this one along the way," she said.
Wilkie-Ellis says she was blown away when she found out she had won this year's Spirit Award; she said it was unexpected.
“I was really surprised to be given this award. I’m very excited,” Wilkie-Ellis said.
Wilkie-Ellis has been figure skating since she was four years old. She has won national competitions, competed in South Korea where she won an international Silver Medal in 2017, and is preparing to compete internationally again in four years.
“I enjoy meeting new friends and competing in competitions,” she said.
During the pandemic, Wilkie-Ellis has been kept off the ice and away from her passion for extended periods of time.
When she is away from the ice Wilkie-Ellis likes to stay in shape and keep her skills sharp by working out at Orillia Sports Medicine. She is expected to return to the ice next month when skating programs resume in Wasaga Beach.
“I’m really excited for the upcoming season. I miss working out every day, the competitions, and seeing my friends,” Wilkie-Ellis said.
Wilkie-Ellis is a multi-sport athlete. She has competed nationally in soccer, provincially in swimming, and was set to compete provincially in basketball before the pandemic halted all Special Olympic competitions.
“It’s important to me to keep fit, and I love the social aspect of playing sports - it’s what I enjoy the most,” she said.
“COVID has been hard to stay active because of not having activities, so I’m glad to be back to skating next month ... I’m ready.”