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Twice in a lifetime - Belleisle’s figure skating Jess Cranton gets second shot at Canada Games

Jess Cranton of Belleisle, Annapolis County, is heading to the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alberta Feb. 23. She’ll be vying for a medal in figure skating, but if she doesn’t get it, that’s okay. The kids she looks after at the school where she’s an educational assistant already presented her with a medal.
Jess Cranton of Belleisle, Annapolis County, is heading to the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alberta Feb. 23. She’ll be vying for a medal in figure skating, but if she doesn’t get it, that’s okay. The kids she looks after at the school where she’s an educational assistant already presented her with a medal. - Lawrence Powell
BELLEISLE, N.S. —

When Jess Cranton lands in Red Deer Feb. 23, it will be the Belleisle figure skater’s second time competing at the Canada Winters Games.

But if she doesn’t win a medal, she’s okay with that. The kids at Lawrencetown Consolidated School, where she works as an educational assistant, already presented her with one they made. And it’s gold.

Cranton has been figure skating for six years and when she looks back, there were two special people who were major influences.

“My Nana Jean, who I lost after the 2015 Canada Games, loved figure skating,” Cranton said. “We never missed it on TV and I decided I wanted to skate. My Grandma Betty, whom I lost September 2018, also always encouraged me to chase my dreams no matter what. They were both really big people in my life who encouraged my skating and supported me.”

Freeskate

Cranton is competing in Special Olympics Ladies Level 3 Freeskate.

“I competed in the 2015 Canada Games as a Level 2,” she said. “I have since competed throughout Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.”

In fact, she won gold at New Brunswick Spring 2018 and New Brunswick Fall 2018. And she is also an MK Blades figure skate blades ambassador for 2019 -- the first Special Olympic athlete to be in partnership with them.

“I compete five to six times a year wherever and whenever there is a chance,” she said. “I practice at my home club Greenwood Figure Skating Club three days a week in Greenwood and in Halifax at St. Margaret’s Bay Figure Skating Club.”

The kids she skates with?

“The support from my kids I skate with has always been amazing,” she said. “They are probably the best part of my skating. “They’ve proven to me that inclusion is an amazing and powerful thing. They’ll finish there skating careers knowing how to treat and interact with someone who is different as a person first.”

Supporters

Coach Cheryle Gaston, who will accompany Cranton to Red Deer, knows all about those kids.

“She has a team of supporters at the rink,” she said. “Her 'rats' and her coaches keep her focused and feeling safe.”

There is a whole crew of other kids Cranton works with and they keep her motivated as well.

“I’m an EA at Lawrencetown Consolidated School and I think one of the things that has me most excited is how pumped the kids I work with are for me to go,” she said. “They did a whole school sendoff for me and gave me a gold medal they made -- and if it’s the only medal I bring back then I’ll still be the luckiest girl on the planet.”

Cranton said when she came back from the 2015 Canada Winter Games she knew she had one more Games she could qualify for.

“So I worked harder, trained more hours, lived in Halifax for part of the week in the summer,” she said. “To get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity twice is beyond amazing. I’m beyond grateful for all the support and coaching. I am beyond excited for Red Deer. I’m ready to let my hard work speak for itself.”

Excited

Gaston said Cranton is excited. “And that always brings nerves, but once the music comes on she is in her element.”

In fact, without giving it away, Gaston said Cranton’s music at Red Deer will be special.

“She has had a few music changes this past two years and it was on our return from an event in the fall that we were listening to music and found a beautiful song that essentially tells the story of her skating family and supporters,” Gaston said.

When she skates at the Games, it will be for her kids -- and for those two special grandparents.

“While both of them are gone I know they would be so proud of everything I’ve accomplished,” she said. “Without their encouragement I don’t know if I ever would have started.”

“She is a tough cookie,” said Gaston. 

Gaston described Cranton as brave and that she challenges herself,

“The change in her skating in the four years that I have been coaching her is impressive,” Gaston said “I am very proud of her.”

Cranton and Gaston leave for Red Deer Feb. 23 with Cranton competing on Feb, 28 at 6:30 p.m. Nova Scotia time.

You can live stream at www.canadagames.live

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