We all remember the scene in Ben Hur, when the chariots come alive, thundering across the ground, nostrils flaring, feet flying. Dust, too.
New junior dance team Mackenzie Bent and Dmitre Razgulajevs were like that on Tuesday when they won the gold medal for juniors at the Canadian National Skating Championships here. They skated to “Ben Hur.” Juris Razgulajevs, father and co-coach of the team, couldn’t believe his eyes as the largely untested team skated like never before. “They stepped up,” Juris said. “I’ve never seen them skate that fast. Oh my god.
“They had a lot of confidence. A lot of drive. Something. They weren’t holding back. Finishing first in the short dance gave them a big boost for sure. “
Juris, a world level competitor when he skated for Latvia years ago, found it very stressful, watching his son and his new partner at an event like a national championship. “Can’t describe,” he said. “No words.” Juris stood at rink’s end, his knees flexing up and down as if he, too, was out on the ice with them.
What the new team accomplished was heroic. They had missed the Challenge (qualifying event) in December because Dmitre suffered an inner ear infection for a couple of days that rendered him almost unable to move.
And although Bent had already been a Canadian junior champion with Garrett MacKeen and a fifth-place finisher at a world junior championship, Dmitre had competed a couple of times nationally in junior – finishing far behind Bent – and hadn’t had a partner for a year before he teamed up with Bent last spring.
Bent’s partner, MacKeen, had retired after the world junior championship. All skated at the same rink in Scarborough, Ont., the same club that includes world-class dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.
Bent had been friends with Dmitre for years. But Dmitre was in limbo. After his previous partnership ended, he realized he was behind on credits at school, so he took the year off skating to catch up. And he graduated from high school.
Bent and Dmitre started skating with each other, just for fun. To “kill time,”
Bent said. “We were both by ourselves, so we played around, did some stuff.”
“Want to try out?” Dmitre asked her one day.
Off the bat, they realized that their lines matched. After all, they had come from the same school, learned the same skills the same way.
At the beginning of June, 2015, they made it official: they were a competitive team. “It was a very quick turnaround,” Bent said. The work followed and lots of it, learning new programs, training on the ice, putting in off-ice time with acting classes, ballroom classes, ballet classes.
They are not newbies at this. They’ve had long partnerships before. Bent had been with her partner for 10 years. Dmitre had been with Katie Desveaux for nine. “We know what it takes to make things happen,” Bent said
From the beginning, Bent and the younger Razgulajevs looked at this season as only a growing time period. They did not focus on results. They had no idea where they would fit into the national or world levels.
Bent didn’t even know if she would continue skating. When she finished with MacKeen, she had mixed emotions and wasn’t sure about what she wanted to do at all. She tried out with other dancers a few times, but she was still deciding what she wanted to do.
“I was the lucky one,” Dmitre said.
Bent started humanities studies at university last fall, and is hoping to go into international relations.
And Dmitre understands the international world. His father and mother moved to Boston for work and he was born there. Juris then worked at Lake Placid, N.Y., then moved again to Canada. At first, Dmitre and his mother lived in Boston, while Juris crossed borders, but finally, it was clear that the family needed to be together.
Dmitre became a Canadian only two years ago. He had been an American citizen and now has dual citizenship.
“I’m much more Canadian,” Dmitre said. “I tell people I’m Canadian.”
Dmitre’s younger brother was born in Canada.
“They always had fun crossing borders,” Bent said. Juris has a Latvian passport, and Dmitre’s mother was Russian. “They crossed borders with four different passports in the family.”
“A lot of questions,” Dmitre said.
Bent has two brothers, one older, one younger. They lived at rinks. Her older brother was a speed skater, the younger one played hockey.
Her father has younger twin brothers. They both have sons that are the same age as Dmitre’s young brother and play on the same hockey team.
“So it’s kind of fate that we started skating together,” Dmitre said.
“They probably see our family more than we do,”Bent said.
Juris says there’s plenty of pressure on Dmitre, because Juris had been already so accomplished on the world stage. “”I follow in my dad’s footsteps,” Dmitre said. “I’ve got to beat all his accomplishments.”
He’s off to a good start. Bent and Dmitre won the national title with 145.31 points, 6.19 points ahead of the silver medalists.