Ah, where do I begin. I’ve had a few days to digest my experience in Finland and I actually come out of it in a fairly positive light.
First, going to compete in Finland. As you may know by now, this is where my family is from. I have strong Finnish blood in my body, and my Sisu (Finlanders are often described as having Sisu, which means guts, determination, perseverance and will-power), will carry me through this experience and forward as my season goes on.
I was surprised at the interest from the Finnish media in my background story. It seems like they were all so proud that I was a Finlander, just as I am!! Having attention from media like this at a competition was new to us. A reporter asked us “How famous are you in Canada” and we had to laugh and tell them not nearly as well known as we now are in Finland! It was a fun experience and I hope that my Finnish Roots can help motivate and inspire some young Finlanders to begin pairs skating.
The competition was organized so well and everyone was so helpful. There was also so much enthusiasm from the volunteers and the audience. I got to meet some family and a lot of new skating fans/friends from Finland which also made the experience seem so positive and uplifting. The environment was so enjoyable and I can’t wait to come back in March for the World Championships.
I even had some time to find some vegan treats in Helsinki! We went to a small market in the city and there was a veg place called “Fat Tomato” that is famous in Finland for their innovative pulled oats. I loved it and I can’t wait to go back again in March!!
I also went to Café 98 and tried their vegan pulla. My mummu used to make, and still does, the best pulla around. But Café 98’s vegan version came pretty close! The cinnamon flavouring gave me a comforting taste and after eating one, I wish I had ordered a few more.
In general, Finland seemed pretty veg friendly. At our small little hotel in Espoo, the waitress understood what vegan was and told me that the chef has some tofu and can create any dish I’d like. Talk about good service!!
And then there was the skating …. Well, it left a lot to be desired but this was a pretty typical start to our season and we are ready to move forward and grow. After the great performances at Georges Ethier the week before Finland, I think we both felt a little bit tired and a little too eager to “show off” at Finlandia Trophy. We arrived early so that we could take the time to adjust, but sadly it didn’t help. Eric and I experienced some of our worst jet leg in recent memory. I’d begin falling asleep at 2am only for my alarm to wake me up at 6:30. Or I’d fall asleep at 8:00 and be wide awake at 2am. It was a never ending cycle for the whole week. Eventually I just stopped trying to get on a sleep cycle, and I figured if my body really needed the rest, then I’d fall asleep comfortably eventually.
We practiced for two days in the practice rink and although we didn’t feel perfectly comfortable, everything seemed to be working fairly well so I wasn’t too concerned. Sometimes when we feel “off” or “uncomfortable” we think everyone can see how we feel, but it’s rarely the case. Bruno told us that everything looked sharp and he couldn’t see how uncomfortable we felt, so that made us feel better. The morning of the short program we changed from the practice rink to the main arena. The main arena is an Olympic Sized Ice rink, typical for Europe and Japan. But the problem was, the practice rink was NHL sized, the same as we train on at home. So we were left with the 30-minute practice the day of the short to figure out all of our patterns and make the required adjustments to the program. This is a pathetic excuse, we have skated and preformed well on Olympic Sized Ice in the past, but for some reason, it really rattled me. I started to become hyper aware of everything. In hindsight, I should have just been like “Screw this, just keep everything small and pretend we are on smaller ice”, but for some reason, in the moment, my head was thinking this but my body wasn’t responding.
The panic started creeping in and I lost my timing completely. I felt like I couldn’t control my feelings or my patterns on the ice, and it shook up my confidence. During the short program competition, I did a very uncharacteristic single lutz and I felt completely devastated as I tried to finish the program with energy and strength. I was so sad afterwards. There’s no other word to describe it but sadness. I wasn’t proud of myself and that is one of the worst feelings in the world. I tried to boost my energy for the long program. I even tried to pretend that this was a huge competition and I was out of contention after the short program and I needed to come and fight and attack the long program. I’d feel that attack for five minutes, then I’d go back to a relaxed, almost nonchalant attitude. It was like I was at a war in my head. The left side of my brain would tell me one thing, then the right side would argue with it and tell me something else. It was all starting to make me very tired and I arrived at the rink completely exhausted and I had just accepted that whatever was going to happen, would happen. I had to just let it all be.
We did better in the long, but there was still a sense of “unease”. I didn’t trust what I was doing, even though I had no reason not too, as we were so prepared and had just completed a great competition two weeks prior. When the long program finished, I couldn’t be sad. I had given it everything I had. On that particular day, my 100% just wasn’t great, and that’s okay. I understand that my best effort may change from day to day and circumstance to circumstance. But I knew I felt nothing on the table, I fought until the end and had no regrets when the music ended.
We are back home now, preparing for the Grand Prix series and making the necessary changes to the programs. We are continuing to work towards our own greatness and enjoying the process.
Figure Skating is a tough sport! It doesn’t matter what level you reach, Sectional competitor or World Champion, it really never does get any easier. It’s just that when you are a World Champion, all your mistakes become broadcast to the World and people scrutinize every detail.
We realize that we don’t grow when things are easy; we grow when we are faced with challenges. I can’t wait to see how the lessons learned in Finland will help us develop the strength we need for our future events.