For as far back as I can remember, I was obsessed with figure skating. I’d watch skating on TV and record it onto VHS tapes and watch and rewatch the World Championships for years. I know all the results, commentary and fluff pieces from the World Championships 1990-1999. Midori Ito falling into the camera pit, Surya Bonaly’s triple-triple combinations before triple-triple combinations were “cool”, Isabelle and Lloyd’s fluff piece of him carrying all the luggage through the airport, Michelle Kwan’s fluff pieces with her dad Danny, Tara Lipinski’s scream of delight, Elvis Stojko’s incredible mental strength, Irina Slutskaya’s exuberance and Kurt Browning’s Casablanca. I dreamt of being like them.
I studied everything I could about these great skaters that I saw at the World Championships and decided that I was going to do that one day as well. I’d set an alarm to wake up in the middle of the night when the World Championships were in Japan in 2002 and 2007, so I could watch even the qualifying rounds live! I was obsessed. And I had a dream. And something inside of me, a small little ball of hope, was there to remind me to never give up and that anything was possible.
I’ve been lucky enough to compete at 7 World Championships and I’m going to my 8th one in a few days. It still seems surreal to think back to my very first one, and see the progress of my career. I thought this was a good time to look back on all my experiences and wonderful memories that the World Championships has brought me, personally, not just from my TV!
In 2008 I was delighted to qualify for my very first World Championships. I had paired up with Craig Buntin 7 months before the Nationals, which is the qualifying event for the World Championships. We skated two clean performances to finish 3rd and get a spot to the World Championships in Sweden and I was over the moon. I was finally going to see what the World Championships was all about, first hand! My dreams were crushed in 24 hours when during the gala, Craig tore his rotator cuff and finishing our competitive season became a big question mark. Craig was an extremely tough athlete, pushing through pain at ridiculous costs to realize his skating dreams, and to him, withdrawing from the World Championships was not an option. He found surgeons and doctors that gave him the okay to push through the pain and wait until April to get the necessary surgery.
So we trained for the Worlds the only way we could to keep his shoulder in tact – not practicing any lifts. We’d do our first lifts during the practice sessions once in Sweden. I don’t even remember this making me nervous. I was just so excited to finally be at the Worlds that I didn’t even have time to think about missing a lift or getting hurt. During the practice sessions I was in awe of all the skaters that I had only previously seen on TV, the Chinese teams sped across the ice into their throws so fast, one after another, without stopping. The German pair team was on the rise, and I marveled at their creativity. I dreamt of one-day skating with the freedom, flow and confidence that they did.
The competition came and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. We skated two personal best performances, and finished the competition in 6th place! Craig had just been 6th the year before with his previous partner, so it was beyond our wildest dreams to enter into Worlds and take that placement so quickly. I’ll always remember that we had to skate after Pang and Tong in the freeskate and I was so distracted watching them, that I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to focus for my own performance.
Los Angeles was an incredible host for the 2009 World Championships. We got to escape Montreal’s depths of winter and see some sunshine for a week. Craig and I were coming off a successful season, where we won our first Grand Prix medal, a silver at Nationals and felt that we were showing a new and improved version of ourselves with our skating. I had found this music that we skated to for the short program on MySpace! (Blast from the past!!) And I had to email the singer and ask her for an MP3 file so that Craig and I could possibly skate to her music. She was a local artist from the Montreal area and I was happy to support her.
Craig and I skated a great short program in 2009, but because all the other top teams included triple twists in their program, and we could only do a double, our score was lower then we wanted.
We struggled through the long program and couldn’t pull up higher then 8th place. Sadly, our teammates remained in 7th place after the long program as well, and Canada lost its third pairs spot for the 2010 season. The Olympic season. I didn’t know it then, but that spot was to be for Craig and I and because we didn’t skate better in LA to earn the 3rd spot, we were left at home in 2010 and never got to compete at the Olympics or Worlds that season.
My next World Championships would come in 2011 with a new partner, Eric Radford. It was our first season together and our goal had been to qualify for the World Team, so mission accomplished! The Worlds were supposed to be held in Japan but because of the natural disaster that took place there in March 2011 the World Championships were temporarily postponed until another country stepped in with enough resources to hold such a major event in such short notice. Russia was able to handle the challenge and we went there in April for the event. In the short program, Eric and I made quite a statement, during an accident on our triple twist. I didn’t get up high enough and I was still rotating when Eric had to catch me. I had to open my arms for the catch but because I was so close to him my elbow hit him in the face.
Now, this is a common accident in pairs figure skating. We see it often in practice rinks, broken noses and blood, but I don’t think it’s ever, ever happened during a competition. Eric’s face quickly became covered in blood, but we kept on skating. We weren’t sure of the rules, and we didn’t want to stop and risk getting disqualified. At one point, the blood was becoming a bit gross, so I asked Eric if we should stop, but when he didn’t answer me, I decided to not mention it again and we went into autopilot. We finished the program quite well and ended the short in 7th place! Great for a new team and remarkable considering our circumstances with the broken nose. Eric got his nose put back in place as soon as we got off the ice, and we had to put our focus forward to the long program, and doing that triple twist once again. The thing is, when you are well trained, these major problems become minor. Your mind and body are so prepared, and so focused, that you move on to the next task without looking back. Our long program was one of our best that season and we finished our first ever Worlds in 7th place! We were so happy to start our careers on this note, and as we watched the final group of pairs preform their long program, we knew we had a lot of work to do until we could contend with that group. We set our sights on a top 5 finish for the next season.
In 2012 Nice, France was a beautiful setting for the World Championships. We went into the competition as Canadian Champions for the first time and felt a new pressure for the very first time. We set a goal of improving upon the previous season and finishing in the top 5 and as much as we were thrilled to reach that goal (5th place exactly), we saw our training mates earn a bronze medal that year and we quickly realized that it could have been us. We didn’t want to be off the podium the next year when the Worlds were held in Canada and we used their bronze medal as motivation for ourselves to reach that same status.
The 2013 World Championships was held in London, Ontario, Canada. Not many athletes get a hometown/home country World Championships and we were thrilled that the timing worked out for us to compete for our first World medal on home ground. The competition was intense and I remember being so nervous before both the short and long program that my legs felt like bricks. I thought they would just stop working mid-program and that my feet would be glued to the ice! As nervous as I was, I knew Eric and I were well trained and ready to seize the moment.
After a personal best short program, we followed it up with a solid long program and earned our very first World medal, a bronze. I remember that we skated early in the group for the long program and Eric and Bruno went to hide because they were to nervous to watch our competitors to see if we were going to win the bronze or finish 4th. I went running to find them the moment I knew our bronze medal was a real possibility!
(This is one of my very favourite moments in my skating career)
The 2014 World Championships followed a disappointing Olympic Games for Eric and I. We took the time between the Olympics and the World Championships as a chance to regroup and find a comfortable balance to our skating. We completely changed our mindset and reset our goals to be more personal and less result orientated going into this World Championships and we were pleased to see it all pay off with 2 new personal bests and another World bronze medal. When I look back on this short program, I feel like it was very quiet. We skated with a calm energy, a quiet confidence and a comfortable ease. I hope we can channel this energy for the World Championships next week! This is still our highest short program score ever. Going for 77.02 next week in Boston!!
In 2015, last season, we entered the World Championships in an undefeated season. And when our main competitors withdrew from the competition, we knew the pressure was on us to step up and grab the title. We felt so confident going into the competition, and we knew that we didn’t need to be perfect, we just needed to skate well and the World Title would be ours and that really helped us deal with the pressure. We skated a season best short program and a solid long program with 2 very minor errors, and then we had to sit back and watch the Chinese team skate. They were skating at home and the crowd was really pushing for them to be victorious and they skated perfectly. It was the best we’d ever seen them skate and it felt like a lifetime waiting for their scores to be announced. We were happy for them to skate so well in front of a hometown crowd, but we did want to be the champions. We were overwhelmed with emotion when we discovered we had won the title. All the years of hard work and dreaming and I had never really dreamt about WINNING the World Championships. My dreams always included competing at them, skating really well, being super excited and fist pumping like crazy (All things that I did accomplish)! So this felt surreal. Eric and I were so proud and I’ll never forget that week in Shanghai.
Reminiscing about all these World Championships has me feeling extremely fortunate. Not only have I competed at the World Championships, but each experience has been so special. The best moment for a figure skater is when the music stops and you know you have done your very best and each season I’ve risen up to the challenge of the World’s and each season was more successful then the past. What once seemed like a dream so far in the distance has now become my own life and I never could have imagined it would turn out the way it has. This week my team and I will travel to Boston to compete at my 8th World Championships. We aren’t looking for medals, or glory or perfection this time. We are looking for personal bests and the feeling of pride and happiness. I have no doubt that this year my experience will be amazing and special in it’s own way and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out!
Special Shout Out
Another person very special to me competed at the World Championships back in 2002 as well, my husband, Bruno. I was still living my World’s experience on my couch in the living room, but Bruno was in Japan, and competing very well. After finding the videos and looking back on the performances and protocols, I feel like he scored much lower then he should have, but that’s a story for another day! Enjoy this little flashback!
“I still remember the days where I prayed for the things that I have right now”