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.