Despite making their partnership official just days before the pandemic hit, Brooke McIntosh and Benjamin Mimar are still one of Canada’s newest and youngest Canadian pairs teams ready to make their senior Grand Prix debut Oct. 29 at Skate Canada in Mississauga, Ont.
“It’s definitely been a wild ride,” McIntosh stated recently. “I don’t think we would’ve thought that we’d have two Grand Prix going into our first senior season when we first got together.”
Having said that, there seems to be few nerves about the debut.
“A lot of people don’t know us yet,” Mimar said. “So it’s exciting to show everyone who we are.”
While both are professional and dedicated to skating — Mimar relocated from Laval, Que., to Etobicoke to partner with McIntosh, who’s from Toronto — they have contrary personalities.
Seventeen-year-old McIntosh, who is the sister of Canadian swimming sensation Summer McIntosh, is soft spoken, bringing a seriousness to the team. Mimar, 23, is more playful and tries to bring the funny.
“If I get one laugh from her [at practice], I prefer that day,” he said. “So I think that’s why we…”
“Work well together,” McIntosh said, finishing his sentiment.
Asked whether Mimar was funny, she replied with a smile. “Sometimes.”
Whatever their evolving dynamic is, it seems to be working. The duo won bronze at the world juniors this past spring and started this season with a bronze at Finlandia Trophy.
It’s no doubt the two had an unconventional start.
After meeting, they skated together for four weeks before making the partnership official, only for the pandemic to hit. That put an end to training together and added a new challenge in creating chemistry.
“We couldn’t communicate and get a good relationship because we didn’t know each other and COVID just started so it was kind of hard,” Mimar said.
On top of that, Mimar had just moved to Ontario and was working to improve his English. But the two made it work. They would text, do training sessions over Zoom and get to know each other using Instagram and SnapChat.
McIntosh and Mimar’s situation isn’t unique. Michael Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s high performance director, has seen many partnerships develop over the pandemic. And despite the obvious challenges, there are some benefits.
“With pairs skating, you often need a good year, maybe two, just to really gel as a team,” he said. “In some ways, COVID gave people the opportunity to do that when there was no competition. And when the time comes to compete, you’re a much more evolved pair team.”
And that’s what Sipchuk saw happen with McIntosh and Mimar.
“All the growing pains that come along with a new team happened in training when no one was competing,” he said. “And when they got the chance to get out and compete internationally, we saw what the result was: they ended up with a medal at junior worlds.”
The duo is not putting much pressure on themselves this year. It’s their first senior season and they’re debuting new programs: their short is to Release by Jennifer Thomas and their free is to the Les Miserables soundtrack.