BAY ROBERTS, NL — It feels pretty natural for sisters Julia and Laura Keefe of Bay Roberts to spend time on an ice surface. For the last dozen-or-so years, it’s been part of their regular routine.
“I liked watching people skate on TV and I was like, ‘Oh, well I want to do that when I get older,’” Laura, the eldest of the two sisters at 16 years of age, explained.
“I really like the performance aspect of everything,” added Julia.
Julia is 14, and given the two-year age gap and their unique figure skating talents, the Keefe sisters have not found themselves competing against each other. But that all changed at this year’s Skate Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Championships, where Julia and Laura found themselves going head-to-head in the Silver Interpretive event.
“I wasn’t particularly fond of having both of them in the same category,” admitted their mother, Sherrie Keefe. “I think I was probably stressed more than they were, because obviously I wanted both of them to do well and do their best. Skating is stressful anyway to watch.”
Remarkably, the Keefe girls claimed the gold and silver medals in the event, a first-time occurrence for the pair. At one point the judges mistakenly listed Julia as the first-place finisher (Laura had skated before her), but this was quickly corrected, giving Laura gold and Julia silver.
“All year we were placing third or fourth, and we had some other competitors there, but once we figured out that we had won the category, it was really exciting,” Julia said. “Even though I was second, it was still OK, because we’d both gotten personal-best scores.”
“Of course, you always want to do well yourself, but we want each other to do well, so that was really nice,” added Laura.
Being sisters does not amp up the sense of competitiveness between the two, they said. This may come from the fact they’re both very different skaters when it comes to presentation. As Laura sees it, her younger sister is more inclined to put on a show with her skating, whereas Laura attempts to focus on the artistic elements of a performance.
“I’m more like a Broadway sort of style of a performance as opposed to artistic, graceful performance,” Julia admitted.
Outside of skating and school, the Keefe sisters have plenty on their plate, as both girls take dance and music lessons. Earlier this year, Laura was named an Education First Canadian Youth Ambassador. Later this month, she’s scheduled to join 29 students from across the country on a cultural exchange trip to Ecuador in South America.
Laura still has a busy competition schedule ahead of her. She was scheduled to skate this past week at the Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games in Deer Lake. Then in April, Laura will travel to Nova Scotia and represent Team NL at the Atlantic Skating Championships.
Sherrie Keefe can’t skate herself, but her girls took a real shining to the ice right from the start. It’s since become a family passion.
“I didn’t know a lot about skating, but it’s just one of those things where the girls got involved and they went to a competition, loved it and did well, and then you go, ‘Well, let’s go to an off-season school. Let’s skate in the summer. Let’s skate in the spring and fall.’ Seminars and all that,” said the mother, who has served in a variety of roles over the years with the Conception Bay North Skating Club.
Beyond competitions, Laura gives back to her home club in Bay Roberts as a coach, working with kids just getting used to the ice through the CanSkate program.
“I really like skating, so if I’m still coaching, that means I’m still on the ice, which is awesome,” she said.
Coaching also interests Julia, who plans to one day obtain the necessary credits to do so.