The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. That’s exactly how I’d sum up the Grand Prix Circuit I just experienced. Déjà vu right? Last year was an eerily similar story.
For 3 years straight we’ve opened our season at George Ethier, a small local competition in Quebec. And for 3 years in a row, we’ve had incredible performances there. We go home from the competition so confident and sure of the direction we’ve taken for the upcoming season and then we travel to Skate Canada Grand Prix for the big competitive season debut about one month later. Calm and confident, we competed at Skate Canada very well, landing our very first throw triple axel in competition and receiving our highest ever short program score. Our long was not perfect, but it was very strong and we felt satisfied with the competition as a whole. We had one month to train for our next Grand Prix, which was planned to be NHK Trophy.
For the second year in a row, our main competitors at this competition, both times a Russian team, withdrew from the event. Eric and I thrive in a competitive situation. We always want to compete against the very best and push ourselves and others beyond the limits. So in the end, we arrive at NHK Trophy pretty relaxed. Training had been going well, our programs are growing artistically and we felt like we could improve our performances and scores from Skate Canada. Sadly, we hit a few hiccups along the way at NHK and didn’t perform the way we know we can. Minuses on the grades of execution on all the side-by-side jumps, plus missing a lift at the end of our long program left us feeling very discouraged. We figured this must have been a fluke, because everything had been going so well in our preparation. After getting home from Japan we had only 5 training days at home to prepare for the Grand Prix Final. We wanted to make some changes in our short program, especially in our footwork, in order to bring more plus 2 and 3’s to the grades of execution and add more to our Program Components Score.
We worked hard on this leading into the Grand Prix Final, and we did a clean short program and long program run through at home in training before heading to France. We were feeling so confident and so ready to show great skating at the Final, and practices going into the short and long program were stellar. Our throw triple axel had never been better, and the energy and flow of our programs had improved tremendously. I was so sure that we were going to reach new personal best scores in France and I was excited to put out great skates. So when our short program completely faltered, we were shocked. Stunned. Speechless. It was the first throw triple axel we fell on in days. The first side-by-side triple lutz I had stumbled on since maybe even before NHK Trophy. I think this really startled us and shook up our confidence going into the long program. Even though I felt determined to come back strong and have a great long program, I think there was a little bit of doubt in the back of my mind, still questioning what happened with that short program.
So, that leaves us with the question, “What went wrong”?
I wish I knew the exact answer and I wish I could have done something to prevent this from happening. I have soul searched a lot since our performances at the Grand Prix Final. I’ve questioned myself, and I’ve questioned our plan. I’ve thought about what I can do to become a better skater and I’ve thought about how we can train harder to prevent performances like this from happening in the future. But the thing about these performances, the ones that shake you up and leave you in tears; these experiences teach you valuable lessons. Sometimes you have to search for the lesson, sometimes the lesson is obvious and sometimes the lesson comes in the future. But we’ve come home from the Grand Prix season and we are making some big changes in our programs. These changes will expand our skating, help us to grow and showcase our short and long program the way they were intended to be showcased. We probably wouldn’t be making these changes if it wasn’t for the experiences from NHK and the final, so right now I’m feeling thankful for those competitions. I’m thankful for the struggle, because on the other side of that struggle, there’s a beautiful rainbow.
Here’s to the second half of the season; to personal best performances, tears of happiness and pride and to enjoying the process. We hope to show renewed energy, connection and flow in our programs at the Canadian Championships, on route to winning our 6th National Title, which would be a new Canadian Pairs record!