Meet Jessica Cranton
It is my honor to introduce you to the marvelous Jessica Cranton, a Canadian Special Olympic figure skater with a heart as golden as her medals. This Nova Scotia-born athlete is a prime example that you can do anything you put your mind to, and that it's never too late to achieve your dreams. She's an MK Blades Ambassador, two-time Canada Games competitor and 2019 silver medalist, and team member for her province at the upcoming 2020 Special Olympics National Games. Get to know Jessica and learn more about the incredible community she's cultivated through skating, why Special Olympic athletes are no different, and what her goals are for the future!
Birthday: July 20th, 1991 (29 years old)
Born: Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, Canada
Hometown: Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, Canada
Currently: Belleisle, Nova Scotia, Canada
Country Represented: Canada
Skating Club: Greenwood SC / St. Margaret's Bay SC
Discipline: Ladies' Singles, Ice Dance
Level: Special Olympics Free Skate 3, Dance 1
Training Location: Greenwood Gardens in Greenwood, Nova Scotia, Canada / St. Margaret's Centre Daniel Smith Arena in Upper Tantallon, Nova Scotia, Canada
Coaches: Cheryle Gaston / Bradley Keeping-Myra
Blades: MK Dynasty
Jessica in competition, doing what she does best
Q: You grew up in Nova Scotia and started skating in your 20s - how has joining the figure skating world changed your life? A: I have always felt like I didn't belong anywhere, but skating showed me I belong even if I am different. I love skating because of the intense sense of community it's given me, family and connections all over the world that I couldn't be more grateful for. It's also given me to courage to be myself. I couldn't be more grateful for everything skating has given me!
A: Let me start by saying last season was one of the hardest seasons I’ve ever had but also one of the most amazing because of my Canada Games experience. Canada Games was like this exciting and nerve-wracking experience all at once. Red Deer was my second Canada Games - and also the last Canada Games I was age-eligible to qualify for - so going into Red Deer, I felt really prepared, and I focused on trusting the people who supported me and trusting that the training I had done was good enough.
I was excited meeting new friends and reconnecting with old friends - I think that’s one of the big differences between mainstream skating and Special O, we are all friends and really, really support each other, even in the height of competition.
But when they put my silver medal around my neck, it was surreal and magical! When our team manager told me, I actually cried because I was so overwhelmed that everything I had ever worked for and hoped for was happening. I was lucky to have my head coach with me there, and I can remember just jumping into her arms! Winning my first national-level medal made me feel so proud and validated. I can’t even describe it.
Q: You are set to compete for Nova Scotia at the 2020 Special Olympics National Games this upcoming February - what are your goals for that event, and what does it mean to you to be a Special Olympian?
A: I’ve been working incredibly hard this summer to revamp programs with my choreographer Bradley Keeping-Myra - and working with my head coach Cheryle Gaston - to get in fighting shape for the 2020 Games. My goal is to hit podium in both ice dance and also in my free skate and hopefully qualify for Special Olympics Worlds! I’m also excited to see my friends, especially from Newfoundland and Quebec, and I’m even trying to learn French (my second goal for the 2020 Games). There have been a few blips so far, but I’m feeling confident about this season and my goals.
Left: Jessica (left) on the podium at the 2019 Canada Games in Red Deer, Alberta
Right: Jessica bringing the sass during one of her 2018-19 programs
What it means to be a Special Olympian to me is this intense sense of belonging, friendship, and family within the skating community. I’ve crossed a lot of paths in the Maritimes and Canada and without the Special Olympics, I would have never had the opportunity.
Q: What is one thing you wish people understood about the Special Olympics and athletes with disabilities in general?
A: Special Olympian athletes train just as hard as mainstream athletes and, just because we don’t do triple jumps, it doesn’t mean that our accomplishments are any less. Most of all I wish people understood that we belong in your skating clubs, on your ice not separate, but together with your mainstream skaters. That has been the most life-changing and enriching experience being included, just as I am in a group of mainstream skaters, and it has been all across the province of Nova Scotia, not just at my home rink.
What my “rink rats” (what I call my rink family) have learned from me is a lifetime of acceptance, how to interact with disabled people, but most of all they taught me I belonged when I never before in my life thought I did. They gave me family, belonging, inclusion, love, and I wish more disabled people and mainstream people could have this fairy godmother moment of belonging.
Q: Off the ice, what are some things that bring you joy?
A: I adore makeup and am a huge RuPaul's Drag Race fan. I don’t have a lot of spare time between training 12 hours a week and working full-time, but spending time with my three-year-old niece (who also loves skating) is high on my list of things outside of skating that I enjoy doing. She is the light of my life, and it doesn’t matter how tired or bad my day was because whatever adventure we get up to always makes me feel better.
Jessica's athlete profile for #TeamNovaScotia
(Video courtesy of Canada Games)
If you were a flower, which one would you be and why?
I would pick a rose because roses were my grandmother's and my nana’s favorite flower. My nana died in 2015, a couple months after my first national-level completion, and my grandma died almost a year ago now, two days before my first competition of the 2018-19 season. Roses remind of them and make me feel close to them - they both were two of my biggest supporters, and it was a hard season without both of them this year.
Favorite way to relax?
I love drawing in my sketchbook, especially designing figure skating dresses. It just really unwinds me, and often talking about the next dress helps keep me grounded on bad days. Every dress I’ve worn this last season and next I’ve drawn and designed, then Blades to Beams has created it for me.
Best thing about living in the Maritimes?
Probably the incredible views! It’s beyond beautiful here, and I'm never far from the water - both fresh and salt. I wish more people would come visit!
Last thing you ate?
My breakfast smoothie and half a Mama T’s Ultimate Peanut Butter Protein Cookie (she’s a local gal). I like a big breakfast because my days are often so busy. My go-to smoothie recipe is a scoop of vanilla protein powder, pineapple juice, lots of local strawberries, frozen avocado chunks, and some vanilla yogurt.
Quote to live by?
“I didn’t come this far to only come this far.”
Jessica lets her silly side out!
KEEP UP WITH JESSICA
So many exciting things are coming Jessica's way this season - follow her on social media so you don't miss any of it!
All photos and videos courtesy of Jessica Cranton