Ponoka girl rises to international prominence, in New Zealand

Ponoka may be a small rural town but that doesn’t mean it can’t produce global scale talent: Meet Sandra Williamson Leadley.

Sandra Williamson Leadley judging a figure skating competition in Manila.

Sandra Williamson Leadley judging a figure skating competition in Manila.

Ponoka may be a small rural town but that doesn’t mean it can’t produce global scale talent: Meet Sandra Williamson Leadley, born and raised in Ponoka and currently one of only two people in the world, qualified to judge world championship level figure skating in all three disciplines of the sport: singles and pairs, ice dance and synchronized skating.

Taking the opportunity of a competition in Spokane, Washington where she will be one of the judges, Williamson Leadley extended her travel from New Zealand to North America to take part in the celebration of her mother’s 80th birthday celebration in Ponoka.

“I started skating when I was five,” she said speaking of her long journey in the sport, which took her to another continent and raised her to a level of international prominence.

Her love of skating was so passionate that Williamson Leadley dropped her studies in education in Red Deer college after only one year following her high school graduation and got a job in Newfoundland as a figure skating coach. But apparently not only the ice rink, but Canada was too small for her and she found a job in New Zealand as a coach and took it and became a resident, got married and made it her home.

After 17 years of coaching, she started judging in 1999, became an international judge in 2006 and rose to the category of world championship judge in 2009.

In the meantime Williamson Leadley also completed her studies dropped halfway in Red Deer and went further on that field to to get her PhD in education and a lecturer position at the university.

She says the life in New Zealand has a kind of slower and more relaxed pace, one she apparently enjoys and has no plans to give up, but she says she will keep visiting family in Ponoka every year.