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.