Kevin Reynolds sighting





Before Kevin Reynolds takes his opening pose at the Canadian national skating championships tonight, he will have already scored a victory of sorts.


Nobody expected him to be here. Some, including his coach Joanne McLeod, weren’t at all certain that he would ever skate again.


Reynolds has endured it all: injuries, boot problems, incidents and accidents. Since his big year, when he won the Four Continents Championships over the top Japanese skaters, and finished third in the short program at the 2013 world championships in London, Ont., and fifth overall, he has competed sparingly. His past season went straight down the drain. He showed up at the Canadian championships a year ago, but had to withdraw before the free skate. His face was glum. He sounded defeated.


Now he’s all smiles. His heart is lighter. As he skated around the Scotiabank Centre at his first practice in the main arena on Thursday , he heard people say: “Welcome back Kevin.” It gladdened his heart. He hasn’t been forgotten.


Yesterday morning, Reynolds was able to do a long program run through at his first practice. He felt quite comfortable, considering everything. He’s admitted to a few early season jitters. But once he got into the practices, he felt at home.







Reynolds didn’t even know what his skating future would be. At best, the plan was to make a comeback next season, possibly. “I’m pleasantly surprised that I was able to come back this season,” he said.


The turning point to Reynolds’ skating career was surgery he had in April to repair a labral tear in his hip and also to shave off a bone spur in that hip. All of these things had been bothering him for four years. The pain had gradually intensified, so much that it was starting to snuff his dreams.


The surgery was done arthroscopically, but Reynolds still has two scars that he won’t show at parties. Awkward location, you know.


“I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to come back at all, after that,” he said.


He was off the ice for seven months. For three weeks after the surgery, he wasn’t able to do anything. He was on crutches for the first week and a half. Then he progressed to light walking around the house. Rehab started 3 ½ to four weeks out from surgery.


During his time off the ice, his wounds healed. And surprisingly, his feet grew without the pressure of being in boots all the time. They spread out more at the toes.


Remember all of his boot woes from the past two seasons? Going through a dozen pairs of boots, unable to find any that fight him tightly around his narrow heels? His feet would slide in the boot, not allowing him to follow his star of being Canada’s Quad King.


Well, Reynolds has been able to move up half a size in skating boots. And he found three or four pairs of boots in stock of gthe model he used during his most successful season. He bought all of them up, boot problems apparently solved for the next few years. Incredibly.


“Sometimes you have to leave things to fate,” he said, smiling.


Still, coming back was a longshot. A comeback from a labral tear for a men’s competitor who needs to do quads and more quads and triple Axels and stroking and footwork and and all the rest hasn’t really been tested. Reynolds is a test case.


Reynolds got back to the ice in early August. In September, he got clearance from doctors to start jumping again, with the advice that his progress must be gradual, that if he felt any pain, he’d better scale back.


But things progressed extremely quickly when Reynolds got jumping again. At each level of intensity, he felt no pain. Within 2 ½ to three weeks, he was attempting quads again.


“To be able to reach this point is something of an achievement for me,” he said. ” Reynolds began to hope for more.


Reynolds said he isn’t totally without pain at the moment, but it’s much less than what he’s endured the past couple of years. If he warms up in the morning he’ll feel no pain for the rest of the day. And there is still an improvement curve 12 months out from surgery. He expects it to get even better with more time.


Reynolds made his comeback at Challenge – the qualifying event for Canadian championships – last month in Edmonton and it was a last –minute decision to go. As he quickly improved, Reynolds figured he’d better get some programs choreographed and trained. And he wanted to start fresh, with new ones. Leave the old tired world behind.


In October, he turned to Shae-Lynn Bourne, who had been so important to his performance development. He had to hope she was free. She was. Reynolds came to Toronto and she designed his short program, music to a spy-bounty hunter theme from an animation popular in Japan and the United States.


And the free? Reynolds called on accomplished choreographer Mark Pillay, who works out of the rink in Burnaby, B.C. where Reynolds trains.


Pillay suggested music from a soundtrack to “Grand Piano.” It’s New Age classical with a symphonic sound. Reynolds connected to it right away. He had never worked with Pillay before, and found the experience “wonderful.” And it was invaluable to have him nearby to brush up details at any time.


Reynolds will scale back his quads for this competition. He’ll do one in the short program (quad Salchow –triple toe loop) and two (quad Salchow and quad toe loop) in the free. But he still plans a packed program, with loads of jump combos in the second half of the free.


Training has been going well since Challenge, which proved to be the biggest Challenge. Reynolds knew he wans’t going to be quite ready for that, because it was a last-minute decision to go. He’d had only three or four weeks to train his programs. Since then, he’s had an additional six weeks. He feels confident.

“I didn’t have any expectations coming into this season,” Reynolds said. “I shouldn’t have any now.” Whatever happens this week, happens. He knows he still hasn’t trained enough. At the very least, it’s a chance to do competitions for his real comeback next season.


Training has become fun again. He’s able to push harder than he’s been able for a long time.


“Now I feel so much more free on the ice,” he said. It even shows off the ice.







Joseph Phan Fare:the champ



Miss that junior men’s final at the Canadian national skating championships on Wednesday night? Pity.


The final flight of men delivered as much drama as the Young and the Restless soap opera. But this was in real time on a chilly night at the Scotiabank Centre, with a smattering of hard-core spectators.


Start with Conrad Orzel, who left a lasting impression with his effort. Orzel was memorable last year with his “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” routine when he won the bronze medal at the novice level. He endured a raft of injuries to get there, suffering a torn ligament in his left leg and an avulsion fracture, which means a piece of bone chips away from the main part of a bone.

This 15-year-old from Woodbridge, Ont., LOVES to jump. LIVES to jump. He landed seven triples at that event.


He’s a guy who knows what he wants. He loves Elvis Stojko and Evgeny Plushenko.


This takes us to the free skate Wednesday. Orzel was the only skater to attempt a triple Axel. But that deadly Axel took him on a crazy journey. He fell so hard on his first one that the crowd gasped. You could hear the sound of body hit ice, which slapped his entire left side, from head to toe.


But Orzel quickly scrambled to his feet, and sped off to try his triple Lutz. He fell again. Not what you want when you already have ice rash from the previous tumble. Could this be a train wreck to come?

But no. Orzel wasn’t finished yet. Off he flew to the other end of the ice and hit the most wondrous triple Axel – triple toe loop combo, a big one, with tight rotation, one that took your breath away. (Mind, he did underrotate the toe loop.)


It was like fireworks had gone off in his feet. He was like Roger Ramjet with rocket-fueled heels. He was like Popeye when he gnarled his way into a can of spinach.


Mistakes abounded through the rest of the routine, little ones that dropped Orzel to sixth place in the free, but fifth overfall. Still, his performance was remarkable.


Should someone have called an audible and stopped Orzel after the hard fall, at least to give him pause to figure out where his head was?


Olivier Bergeron finished third in the free skate with a triple flip – triple toe loop combo.

Christian Reekie was third overall, fourth in the free with two Lutzes, one in combination with a double loop (underrotated), and two triple flips.


But if you’re looking for special, there was Edrian Paul Celestino of Montreal, second in the free and overall with a gorgeous routine to Nessum Dorma, choreographed by David Wilson. Celestino, a former dancer, has beautiful knees and movement and pays a lot of attention to detail. He hasn’t mastered the triple Axel yet, alas.


Not surprisingly, Celestino had the highest component score at 65.76. Both he and new junior champ Joseph Phan were in a class above the rest in this department. Phan scored 64.66.

But Phan was the man of the hour, after a big development season. Two years ago, at age 12, he won the novice title in Canada. He was tiny.


Now, at age 14, Phan has had to deal with an aggressive growth spurt, shooting up about five inches since last year. He felt the difference. “When I was skating sometimes, I would just trip,” he said.

But coach Yvan Desjardins scaled back his triples and had him do easier programs until he got a handle on it. He finally did by the end of the summer. In the fall, they came back with two triple Lutzes.


Phan’s big goal this year was to improve his expression and the intensity in his program. “To be more big,” he said. “Smile and stuff.”


“Every time I’m on the ice, I just try to do more,” he said. “My coaches scream at me when I do my programs, but not in a bad way. Just scream.” He also takes a drama class in his school. He is in grade nine.

Desjardins found the music for Phan’s long program: from the movie “ Legend of 1900.” And he brought in Jeffrey Buttle to choreograph it, knowing he was musical, and it would be right for Phan.


“This program is a piece of Jeff Buttle,” Desjardins said. Buttle loved the music and gave Phan more difficult transitions and complex choreography.


The story of the movie, said Desjardins, is about a lost boy who grows into a man. It’s really the story of Phan, especially over the last season. “I can see the transformation since the beginning of the season,” said his coach.


Phan saw Buttle only twice. “He was always smiling,” said the skater. “He was passionate. And he was always changing the movements to make it better all the time. So when he found something wasn’t right, he changed it to make it better.”


Phan also wants to get a triple Axel. He didn’t attempt one this week because it’s not consistent enough.


“The triple Axel is really close,” Desjardins said. “I’m doing it in the harness with him and it’s easy, easy. I’m not doing anything. It’s just like [he needs ]timing and a little bit more confidence, but I know he can do it.”


Phan can also do the quad Salchow and quad toe loop in the harness very easily. “For sure it’s going to happen,” Desjardins said. “It’s effortless.”









Bent/Razgulajevs thunder to Junior win



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.



Patrick Chan finding his feet for Halifax

With world records falling about his ears, young upstart Chinese skaters landing ultimate quads, and everybody looking at him with expectations, Patrick Chan could easily panic, spill his pearls in the change room and cry into his skating boots.

But he’s not.

One step at a time, he says. It’s not time for the full arsenal of tricks to be thrown madly onto his element list. For now, he plans to add a second triple Axel to his long program at the national championships next week in Halifax. That means he plans two quad toe loops (one in combination) and two triple Axels (one in combination) in his free skate.

The second triple Axel will be in combination with a double toe loop.

“This is the first time I’m raising the level of difficulty in the program in a long time,” Chan said. “I’m constantly trying to challenge myself to keep myself on my toes and know that I can still do those difficult elements. Because if I can’t, then that might be a sign that I shouldn’t be competing, especially with how difficult the level of technical elements is right now.”

He has to stay on top of it all, and perhaps down the road, he’ll get a quad Salchow in the mix. That likely won’t happen by the world championships in Boston, he said.

Skate Canada has crunched all the numbers about what Chan can accomplish if he skates cleanly and maximizes his points – comparing it to Yuzuru Hanyu’s explosive world records and exploits at the Grand Prix Final, where Chan did not win a medal. “With adding that second triple Axel, it closes the gap quite a bit,” Chan said. Then another thing to take into consideration: in either of his free skates this year, Chan planned two quads but did only one. Even so, he chalked up more than 190 points for each free skate.

“I have to play it smart and strategically, which I may not have done going into Sochi,” he said.

It all doesn’t mean that Chan isn’t feeling the heat from what he’s had to face in the skating world after taking a year off to skate on tours and shows. He’s felt frustration and motivation at the sight of it all. “I’ve had both ends of the spectrum,” he said. “There have been days where I’ve been training and I’m definitely mad at Kathy [Johnson – coach] and saying how frustrating it is to now have to push myself beyond what I think my body is able to do – at the moment.”

But in his mind, his race this season isn’t to see how quickly he can slip back into the stream and add a fourth world title. He’s looking beyond, to 2018. The added triple Axel is his first step. The triple Axel (Hanyu’s best jump) has long been his nemesis, but it’s been better this year, and now it’s time to step up and add the second one. “Rather than panicking and wanting to throw all these jumps into the program, I need to have patience and be smart about it,” Chan said. “Then I won’t hurt myself, which is most important.”

When the second triple Axel becomes consistent, Chan can move on and start thinking about the quad Salchow – if it’s necessary, he says. And it probably will be. “It’s easy to panic by looking at the results. Not winning a medal at the Grand Prix Final, it’s a natural reaction to panic and think that I don’t have a third quad. But that’s not it at all.

“I just had a bad short program, didn’t realize the rules and then the long program, I was still missing the second quad. I haven’t given myself the chance to prove that [I can] max out the points in these programs.

“I think staying calm and sticking to the plan and just adding little things technically, will eventually give me a lot of success.”

Taking a little step back in time this season? Chan didn’t have his best short program at Skate Canada International when he fell on a triple Axel and doubled a Lutz, losing all points. He finished second to Daisuke Murakami, but Hanyu had a nightmare effort, finishing sixth with 73.25 points after doubling his quad and doing a triple Lutz –double toe loop which became an entirely invalid element.

In the free, Chan soared, winning the gold medal with 190.33 points, winning that free program on the strength of his components (Hanyu defeated him technically). Chan delivered everything, but tripled a quad toe. Hanyu landed three quads, one of them not totally clean and fell on a triple Lutz to finish with 186.29. But apparently, that was just Hanyu, finding his feet, revving up the engines for what was to come.

Chan had another bad day, a really bad one, at the Bompard Trophy in France, where he finished fifth in the short program, after a double toe loop – double toe loop combo that should have been a quad-triple and then stumbling out of his triple Axel. Because the long program was cancelled after the terrorist attacks in Paris, Chan did not get the chance to show that he could make a comeback. He did that at the Grand Prix Final, once again, having to make a comeback after his “Mack the Knife” short program, which he has struggled to master. In fact, he’s had troubles mixing the technical elements with a routine that forces him to skate as if he is in a show. He hasn’t figured out the mix yet.

Hanyu went on to set world records at NHK Trophy, where he suddenly unleashed two quads in the short program as well as three in the long, earning 106.33 in the short and 216.07 in the long, for 322.40 points.

At the Grand Prix Final, Chan once again put himself out of competition with a troubled short program, finishing last of six after he tripled a quad toe, and then did a triple Lutz – triple toe loop, which became invalid because of the repetition of the toe loop – similar to what Hanyu did at Skate Canada.

He did roar back to skate much like he did at Skate Canada International, to be third in the free (192.84 points) and fourth overall with 263.45 points, 66.98 points behind Hanyu. It’s understandable that at this point, there are few Chan believers. He’s been eclipsed as he has stumbled his way back into competition mode.

Both had five jumping passes in the second half of their programs, but one of Hanyu’s is a quad-triple and a triple Axel series, huge point-getters.

Chan learned a lot from his Grand Prix Final adventure, he said. “It was definitely a very frustrating experience going through practices, where things weren’t going right,” he said. “I felt like I had never skated before. But I learned so much after the long program, knowing that I could be in last place going into the long program and still being able to keep myself together and go for it. I think I never thought I could do it or put myself in that situation and still succeed.

“..I reminded myself again that this is my first year back after a while,” he said. “All this year, I feel like I should be up at Yuzu and [Javier Fernandez’s] level, but I have to be really smart and intelligent and really understand what kind of situation that I am in, and how different it is.”

For the first time, he is competing with routines that have lyrics. He says it’s a challenge. He’s grown up skating to classical music, not “Mack the Knife”, which demands a different level of performance. “I think the closest program that I’ve had that has had that level of performance is maybe ‘Take Five,’” he said. “But ‘Mack the Knife’ is on another level. I’ve gotten better as a skater since ‘Take Five.’

And Chan has taken one last little stumble on his way to Halifax, where he competed in 2007 in his second season as a senior and created chatter about his promise. He was supposed to skate at a Skate Detroit national competition send-off recently but had to pull out after he injured a knee.

He warmed up to do his “Mack the Knife” routine for the show and landed a quad with a bit of a step out. But as he stepped off his landing leg, his blade caught the ice. The incident jerked his leg back and hyperextended his knee.

He had already irritated the patellar tendon in his knee from other incidents, and hadn’t given it a chance to strengthen. Now he’s a regular visitor to the physiotherapist, but he said it’s healing well. “I feel confident that I’ll feel  100 per cent when I get to nationals,” he said.

All in all, Chan says for the first time this season, he feels calm about competing. “I’m not feeling like I’m trying to catch up,” he said. “I had a great break during the New Year and was able to recuperate after the Final and reassess some little things that we needed to change.”

“It’s good,” he said. “Nationals is always a blast.”

Sure, he’s going for his eighth Canadian title, but for Chan, there is much more at stake, trying out new elements for the first time. “I’m just getting my legs underneath me this year,” he said. He’s looking at the long view to making the next two years to the 2018 Olympics smoother than this season.


Duhamel and Radford aim for 5th national title in Halifax

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford will try to win their fifth Canadian pair title next week by giving their throw quad Lutz a rest, at least for the time being and by delivering slick, confident performances, starting off with a re-jigged short program.

Yes, they are defending their national title once again, but then Duhamel and Radford have spent the entire season defending everything, considering that they won everything they contested last season, including their first world title last March.

Usually, they’ve had to defend only their Canadian title, and that was never easy, because Kirsten-Moore Towers and Dylan Moscovitch had always been nipping at their heels. Now it’s on a bigger scale. Last month, they had to defend their Grand Prix Final title – and they emerged from the competition in Barcelona with a silver medal behind rejuvenated Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov.

“We had people coming up to us, saying: ‘You’ll do better next time,’” Duhamel said. “But I had just won a silver medal at the Grand Prix Final. We didn’t think of it as failure. People are so used to us winning, but really, to us, it wasn’t a failure.” They were proud of their effort in the long program after a stumble in the short.

In the short, Duhamel landed her triple Lutz jump low on one knee, and then fell on the throw triple Lutz. Still, they were only 2.10 away from first place. They would rather give themselves a cushion after the short. They were third in the short, and finished second in the long after Duhamel stepped out of a throw triple Lutz and put a foot down at the end of their three-jump combo. They did land a very good throw quad Salchow.



Duhamel and Radford would also like to re-create the magic of last season, but it is proving impossible. Radford can’t put his finger on it, no matter how hard he tries to convince himself that he doesn’t care about results – the key to their success last year, when they just let things go, focused on their job and let the marks fall where they may.

“When you come into a new season, nothing is going to be the same,” Radford said. But he can no longer tell himself not to care. “Everybody is looking at you and expecting you to win,” he said. The Grand Prix Final was their first loss in a long time. “But we are still alive,” he said. They’re still pushing, and improving.

They could have taken the easy road and kept their old programs and coasted along this season, in the same drift as last year. But no. they had to try to put that throw quad Lutz thing into the mix for the first time, and had they landed it, they would have been the first to do two quad throws in a program. That  Lutz, however, has been suffering from irritable throw syndrome.

They are still training it and on Tuesday, they landed one in practice. They hope to have it ready for the world championships.

Now it’s humming along the way it did last summer. Duhamel admits that it went through a rather freaky autumn. Now it’s starting to feel more natural.  They agree that it’s better to set it aside and use the national championship to ratchet up their confidence, for an assault on the world stage later.

Instead, the world champs are enhancing what they do have, especially in the short program, to show improvement over a Grand Prix season that left them feeling unsettled and uncomfortable.

Their mistakes in the short program at Grand Prix Final prompted their decision to make changes for nationals. “We learn from every experience, good or bad,” Duhamel said. “The Russians delivered a great long program. They skated better than us, cleaner than us.”

In their short, they’ve shuffled some elements, strengthened others. They’ve put the Lutz earlier and added steps to it. They had been telegraphing it for five or six feet, and now that element will come in the centre of the ice, not at the end. They’ve moved a death spiral to the end of the routine, where only a lift had been. They’ve changed their footwork to be more musical and add quality.

If they have made any changes to the long, it’s to improve the entrances on both of their throws, including the throw quad Salchow. They’ve made them much less telegraphed and more fluid. Their work between the elements? They’ve improved the fluidity there, too. “Everything is more creative, takes less time, appears smoother and lighter,” Radford said. The entrance to their throw triple Lutz is the same as in the short program, but with a few more steps into it.”

The restructuring has led to a feeling of comfort, which makes it easier to skate clean. “Everything is right where we want it,” Radford said. When an element is comfortable, they don’t even have to think about it. When they are too aware, in a high-risk situation, there is more risk of a mistake. They feel a big difference. The routines breathe more. This gives them the confidence they need.

The only thing they could not control was a goofy little incident that happened on Tuesday when Radford was working in the gym. He was jumping off one box and onto another, when his foot slipped, and he put out his hands to avoid planting his face into a wall.

However, the impact bent the middle finger of his right hand backwards. He now has a sprain and is practicing with the finger taped to the next one for stability. It’s painful.

“It’s really annoying to have that problem, especially this close to nationals,” he said.

He found out Wednesday morning  just how much he uses his left hand. Unusually, his right hand does the bulk of the work. He’ll feel it during a lift when Duhamel shifts her weight from one side to the other. And their throw Salchow is released from his left hand with a lot of force. He’ll just let the sprain heal as much as possible. He’ll manage. Many skaters compete with little aches and pains. This is just another one, to him. And they have done run-throughs with no issues even with the little annoyance.

The good news: the pair short program doesn’t take place until Friday, January 22, with the free program going the next day. The finger will have almost two weeks to heal.

All this being said, Duhamel says they feel much more settled and comfortable than they did during the Grand Prix season. They had great results early in the season, but didn’t really skate their best. They hope to change all that next week in Halifax.



Weaver and Poje and their Tchernyshev adventure

For ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, it’s not enough to be good, to zip around the ice executing difficult stuff, to continue on the long road they’ve created for a decade.

They must push. They must be different from anyone else. They must be different from anything they’ve ever been. They must love what they are doing. They must forge new paths.

And so, at the suggestion of coach Pasquale Camerlengo, they turned to iconic Russian ice dancer, Peter Tchernyshev, a five-time U.S. champion with Naomi Lang, for a new adventure. For their free dance, he bought them “This Bitter Earth” with two pieces of music: “On the Nature of Daylight,” by Max Richter, and “”Run” by Ludovico Einaudi.

The concept and the music was mostly the brainchild of Tchernyshev, known as a musical, creative dancer with the most wonderful knees: soft and well, there’s just no other word to describe them. Let’s try “otherworldly. ”  Tchernyshev lived in the United States for 15 years, but returned home to Mother Russia, where for the past four or five years, he has choreographed routines for pair skaters Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov – and he’s also worked with  Maxim Kovtun and Olympic champ Adelina Sotnikova.


Weaver and Poje had seen Kavaguti and Smirnov’s routine last year to the “Manfred Symphony.” And they loved it. They were huge fans. “I saw that program for the first time in Obertsdorf,” Weaver said. “And we have seen it almost every single competition. Save Europeans. I watched it and it was stunning. I had no idea what the story was but that’s what I mean. They were so emotional in it. And it had such power and it captivated people. And for a pair program – that’s rare. And when I found out that it was Peter that did it, I thought: ‘Oh, of course. He’s brilliant. He’s a dancer.’ And they performed it amazingly.”

Tchernyshev has given them their money’s worth. They’ve been dutifully pushed.

“It was an amazing challenge for us to work with him,” Weaver said. “He pushed us in so many ways and wanted our skating to look different than it ever has before. We were all for that.”

Take for example, their circular steps in the free dance, which is 47 seconds long. And Tchernyshev said: “Why can’t you use the whole ice? Why can’t you be in this footwork so that people forget it is a footwork sequence?”

“Well, no one does that,” the Canadian team said.

“So?” Tchernyshev said.

Okay, Weaver and Poje thought. Why couldn’t they be different? Although Tchernyshev had been an ice dancer, he’d done it in the days before the code of points judging system. He follows ice dance, but he had no preconceived notion of what the convention was. Weaver and Poje found this refreshing.

They had to meet in the middle, of course, bringing the whole thing into line with current rules. And they’ve had positive feedback on it. Well, they won the Grand Prix Final with it.

“It’s very different from our usual footwork where you go out there and complete your turns,” Poje said. “If you were to look at everybody’s footwork, it is very similar. But with ours, Peter tried to create pattern in the shapes and in our bodies. That was new for us. I think it creates different-looking footwork sections for sure.”

Said Weaver: “It feels more like choreography that happens to be rockers, choctaws, and twizzles, rather than focusing everything on the blade and nothing else on the body shape and the timing and the extension of our lines.”

It was tough for Weaver and Poje to get out of the old mindset, but it was worth the challenge, considering it has fulfilled all requirements.

Shae-Lynn Bourne acted as a consultant choreographer on the routine and worked with Tchernyshev for a couple of days. Years ago, she skated professionally with Tchernyshev. Originally, he spent 10 days in North America, working on the routine. “She had great things to say about him,” Poje said. “We knew that he had a great style that I think was different from what we are used to. So it was great, because he is similar in terms of stature to me.”

The fact that Tchernyshev is a tall slender man, like Poje, makes a huge difference, actually. The two longlegs feel movement the same way, in terms of height. The moves that Camerlengo can physically make up with the team are completely different to what Tchernyshev can do.

“He has different lines, different muscles, different height and this gives you different abilities,” Weaver said. “It’s funny, because when we were working on things with Pasquale, it wouldn’t be possible. You’d try the thing, but it would be something only someone of a certain height could do. That made it a huge advantage to work with Peter, because Andrew had someone who looked like him. And that’s rare. Big tall guys. I think we had many more ideas. New ideas.”

Here’s a cool one: a very difficult lift they do in their free dance, which starts out with Weaver flying around Poje’s waist, while he’s holding one foot off the ground. She rolls a couple of times up his back, then slides back down to the ice off one of his shoulders.

Actually, it was a move they had been working on for a couple of years. They’d seen an adagio pair team perform it at a Cirque du Soleil show, and took a video of it back to their acrobat instructor. “Sorry, that can’t be done on ice,” said the instructor, who knew the performers. She was tiny, he tall. Weaver and Poje didn’t have the same height difference.

Weaver and Poje never gave up. They worked on it for two years. Finally, they were able to go back to their acrobat guru and say: “Look. We can do it.” And now it’s in their free dance.

Tchernyshev pushed Weaver and Poje in every way imaginable. “He accepted nothing less,” Weaver said.

“We are not satisfied with staying the same,” she said. “We are not satisfied with just hoping that what we did last year but maybe a little bit more, is enough. We want to push ourselves and ensure that we grow. When we’re not growing, we’re not happy. We want to be happy and fulfilled at the end of the year.”

By the time of the annual general meeting last spring, which Weaver and Poje attended, Skate Canada showed a video of their winning free dance from last year’s Canadian championships. Weaver and Poje looked at each other and thought: “Oh gosh, we can do better than that. We can do so many things better than this.”

They are their own harshest critics. They know there is so much more room to grow.

When Tchernyshev was creating the free dance, he insisted that every move had to create a feeling of flight. “It wasn’t good enough, until it was flying,” Weaver said. “He did all of those things with both of us. He would be the girl with Andrew. He’d be the boy with me. We could skate for 10 hours a day and he wasn’t satisfied until every step was flying across the ice.

“That is something unusual too, that the choreographer performs the steps with you, rather than giving you a little direction and letting you figure it out.”

They had to build power and speed from day one, when Tchernyshev was in the room.

They had to throw things out that stopped the flow. “We would love whatever it was, and he would say: ‘Nope. Not fast enough.”

That mindset stuck with the Canadians.

The choreography of the free dance was a long process. “I don’t think we could have done it any other way because it developed different moves in different ways,” Poje said.

“The program does flow right away,” Weaver said. “Of course it will build, but it’s not a struggle to create that.”

As for Tchernyshev, he “remains one of the best male skaters, ever,” Weaver said. “And he’s still pushing. And I think that’s a beautiful thing. It’s something we can relate to.

“It’s hard to keep up, mind. Really hard.”

Shall we dance, Kaetlyn Osmond?

Kaetlyn Osmond is still only 20 years old, but she’s been through an encyclopedia of stops and starts, of unfortunate incidents and more injuries in her career than she would care to remember.

Halifax is her next stop next week. There she will contest the Canadian championships after giving it a miss last year with a broken fibula, the smaller outer bone in her lower right leg.

It’s not that the Canadian championship is her comeback event. This season, she’s competed four times, with unpredictable results: a win with personal best scores at the Nebelhorn Trophy, but a dismal last-place finish in the free skate at Skate Canada in Lethbridge, Alta., where she fell five times.

Osmond’s only and most important goal this season was to actually finish two Grand Prix assignments, which, in her crazy career, would be a first. It seemed as if all would be for naught when she took an odd fall at a practice in Lethbridge, and was helped off the ice. But she pressed on, after falling twice in the short, and enduring the long. That put her 11th, with a score of 146.06. Her Nebelhorn score had been 179.41.

Three weeks later, Osmond bravely competed at NHK Trophy, where she finished sixth with 168.48 points, admittedly not fully trained, back doing a full schedule of jumps only a week before she left.  But she did what she set out to do: finish those Grand Prix.

“So far this season, it’s been a roller coaster,” Osmond said on a conference call Monday. “It’s half what I was expecting, coming back, not knowing what to expect in competitions….I think I’ve gone to both extremes this year.”

But don’t count out Osmond, already a two-time Canadian champion, known for her energetic routines and her dazzle under fire. (She was eighth in her world championship debut in 2013.) In practices at the national training camp in September and Skate Canada in October, Osmond showed up, looking glorious, fit, very much like her best days. The fluke accident in practice at Skate Canada dismantled her Grand Prix season.

The good news: Since her autumn adventures, Osmond has never trained better in her life, leading up to the Halifax national event.

First of all, Osmond had to heal the injuries she suffered at Skate Canada: a slightly sprained ankle, a small pull in a hip flexor, a pulled groin. She took the entire week off after Skate Canada, then took another week to ease herself back into training, adding something new each day. It was very difficult, she said, to get back into the routine of her training.

All injuries are completely healed now, she says. “I’m feeling better than ever, now,” she said. “I actually haven’t been practicing any better before a competition in my life. I’m super excited, heading to nationals.”

In mid-December, Osmond really started to roll. She’s been training full-tilt since NHK, focusing on her off-ice and on-ice training. She’s been doing physiotherapy, making sure her body is aligned, making sure that she knows how to control what her body is doing. A personal trainer is helping out with this, with lots of squats, core exercises, little tiny jumps, and body coordination. Her ballet instructor works on Osmond’s stretching, core and balance, controlling her upper body when her legs are doing something else.

Osmond has been doing countless run-throughs, simulations, sometimes in full costume. She did a Christmas show at the West Edmonton Mall, anything to get in front of a crowd and practice emotion control.

Perfect idea. Osmond, an emotional skater, has found it difficult to control her energy after having been away a season. “It’s a little challenging to control the excitement,” she said. “That’s something I’ve worked on my entire life.

“After taking last year off, I’m trying to get back to where I was, and I may be overthinking it a little too much. …I’m slowly getting better at it.”

Working with a psychologist isn’t on her list of things to do to figure it all out. “It works in some ways for me,” she said. “It didn’t work overly great for me. I prefer working on my own and figuring things out on my own, and working with my coach or my trainers or my friends.”

Her mindset going into the championships is to park the idea of winning a third national title at the back of her mind, although ultimately, that would be her dream. She’s merely looking forward to enjoying herself at the competition and let the results fall where they may. She wants to feel like herself on the ice again. She doesn’t want to feel nervous or pressured. “I just want to skate for myself and do what I know I can do,” she said. “And not worry about placement and what other people are doing. I just want to focus on myself and being in front of a crowd again.”

She’s set technical goals for this season, and she’s not changing those: doing a triple flip-triple toe loop in both the short and the free,  a triple Lutz, and a double Axel – triple toe loop. And she’s added a triple loop to her arsenal this season, too.

A dismal Skate Canada actually helped Osmond’s self-confidence in a strange way. She is proud that she didn’t withdraw from the long program. She now knows that no matter how bad the program went, she never gave up, giving each element her best, never slackening off after all the falls. “I still tried and I still kept going,” she said. “I still finished the program and I put a smile on my face. For me that actually means a lot more than having to withdraw. It gave me a lot of confidence, knowing that I can go through anything and still finish…It just meant a lot to me that I was able to go out there and finish that long program.”

She will go in to Halifax with important advice from coach Ravi Walia. He reminded her that every skater stumbles up against a dismal performance in a career. “He knows that I’m a better skater than that,” she said. “He knows that I’ve worked really really hard to get back to this point.

“And he just keeps reminding me: remember where you were at this point last year.”

Last year, Osmond was barely skating, barely walking.

“He knows that I managed to get myself back from literally nothing,” she said. “He knows I’m a lot stronger than one bad program.”

At Halifax, Osmond’s biggest drama will be competing against all that she has endured.