I’m just back into my regular training routine after having a week off after the Four Continents competition. We always take a week off at this time of the year. Our bodies need it, but more importantly mentally and emotionally we need it. This year I didn’t use my week off to escape, to travel somewhere or explore something new. I stayed home, with my new puppy, and reflected on many aspects of my life. It is important to stop and pause for reflection on our paths of life, so we can choose and upgrade what no longer is serving us. Self-reflection is also very humbling, allowing us to find out why you think, or act in certain ways, then learning how to better ourselves.
My skating season, and my personal life, has not been calm these past few months. The road has had detours and rainstorms, it’s been chaotic. You think you have everything planned, and in one moment, everything you thought you knew is false. My road has never been gentle, easy or smooth, so I guess I shouldn’t expect it to start being like that now. But, I have come to the conclusion that this is what makes me fascinating. I have a story to tell, I’ve walked on top of the mountains and I’ve sunk in the deepest dirt, but I’ve gotten through it, and I am thriving because of it.
After the World Championships finished last year, in which we had the skate of our lives and defended our World Title, one of our coaches told Eric and I, “That’s it! You figured it out. Now you can always go on the ice and skate like that” and we looked at him and burst out laughing. It wasn’t all that easy. It’s not just a button that you turn on and you skate under the most intense pressure in the World with such freedom, power, passion and ease. Eric and I thought we were going to die out there. We were terrified. But then, we got into “the zone” and all our hard work paid off in that moment; when we created magic. Then, the season ended and another season started. New programs were created, new goals were visualized and new dreams were at stake. We competed early in the season at a local event and it went amazing. We were refreshed from our summer break, we were motivated for the new season ahead and we had great new material to showcase. But immediately after that great competition, everything began to crumble. We couldn’t preform well at our Senior B event in Finland but managed to somehow pull out a great short program at Skate Canada International, in which we landed our throw triple axel for the first (and only) time. But the long program was still subpar and we were left longing for more.
As preparations began for our second Grand Prix we felt refocused and refreshed. We addressed some issues that we felt hampered our performance at the first Grand Prix and we felt ready to get back on top of our game. But life isn’t always that clear cut. One week before the NHK Trophy competition I experienced an unforeseeable circumstance in my personal life. I don’t want to go into details, but life as I knew it changed that moment. At the worst possible time in my career. Eric was the stable rock I needed him to be during this time, but the focus and refreshed energy we had just found took a huge blow. Now it became a fight to survive NHK Trophy and the Grand Prix Final; which are only two weeks apart from each other, with very little time to recover from anything in between. By the Grand Prix Final, I was exhausted. I was fighting a war inside my head. Overthinking and over-analyzing both skating and life. The Final was terrible and it ended with me having a complete meltdown backstage at the rink. “Why was everything going all wrong? Wasn’t this supposed to be the time of my life? What was I supposed to do?” Luckily, I got to spend a few weeks doing shows in Europe after the Final, and it was good for my soul. I felt alive again during these shows.
When I got home and finally addressed some of the pressing issues that were awaiting me there, I felt I was able to prepare for Nationals with more clarity. We worked hard and showed up at Nationals feeling confident and prepared, and it showed in our performances. We had removed the throw triple axel from our short program by this point, which really gave us a greater sense of freedom in the short program. The throw was a huge stressor when we were standing in our starting position and sometimes all the way until the end of the short, depending on how successful the throw was or not, and it stopped us from attacking the program the way we knew that we needed too. We had a great short at Nationals and our best long of the season, and BAM. We felt like that’s it! We figured out how to compete these programs! Everything felt “back to normal” and “do-able” for the first time in a long time.
And then, I was reminded all to soon, that the road is never easy and once you think you have figured it all out, things change once again and you are back to the drawing board. Sometimes it feels like the target is constantly moving, and you never really have it for very long.
We were so ready for Four Continents. I envisioned greatness there. I was so sure that we were headed for personal best performances. We had been doing amazing run-throughs of the short and long at home, everything was feeling consistent and easy and smooth. We were so ready. Then something happened. We’re not entirely sure what. We had an extremely uncharacteristic fall in the short program and it’s almost like that completely burst our bubble. I was so inspired watching our competitors, Sui and Han during practices and performances as well. She just came back from major surgery and here they were, better then ever. I felt driven by watching them, I felt motivated. Then the day before the long program, we lost our twist. Literally. Just like that. I forgot how to do a double twist. I literally gave myself whiplash because I couldn’t figure out when to stop rotating. And actually, it wasn’t the triple twist we lost, it was our double. We use the double twist to warm up our timing for the triple twist. During the 6-minute warm up at competitions, we always just warm up a double twist, set our timing and leave the triple for the competition. I questioned just simply doing a triple in the warm up, because I felt scared and embarrassed that I would hurt myself on a double. But since we have never, ever done a triple twist in the warm up, and we rarely do a triple without doing a double first, we thought this wasn’t the time to try that. I was to do the double in the warm up and that’s that. I managed to not fall on it, but it was still by no means a proper twist. We did succeed on the triple in the competition fairly well, considering, but the program as a whole left a lot to be desired. It was lifeless and disconnected. I felt it while we skated, and I see it when I watch the YouTube video. We didn’t score well and we didn’t deserve to score any higher.
We under-performed. We are better then that and if we want higher marks, we have to skate better, end of story. So back to the drawing board once again. How many times can one visit the drawing board? It seems to be a regular occurrence for us, this season and last at least. Something wasn’t/isn’t right, and we are running out of time to figure it out. Sometimes I think back to our undefeated season in 2014/2015 or even Worlds 2016 and I wonder, what was different during those times. Did we train differently? Was it the programs, were they just more comfortable? Did we just not feel any pressure? Or did we feel pressure, but deal with it differently? There’s nothing we can do to change the past, but we can make a move so that we can change our future.
Life is good now. I have my new rescue dog that I saved from the Korean Dog Meat industry, who is now best pals with my other rescue dog, a beagle named Theo. And we are finding our way back to be able to compete at our potential. We have 2 great programs this year. Our choreographer did a really good job designing and creating unique and colorful programs. But sadly, we have yet to preform them the way they can be skated. The programs aren’t going to be great unless we are. And we can be. We have 2 more opportunities this season to showcase these programs, and we have yet again made the necessary adjustments and tweaks to the programs; brand new footwork CHECK, new seamless throw quad entry CHECK, new death spiral set up CHECK, refreshed long program so we can focus on connection, energy and emotion CHECK. Getting back my double twist. CHECK. Ha, I just had to throw that in there. And we will add more check marks in the weeks leading up to the World Championships. And it’s all going to work out and we are going to skate up to our potential and create magic, the way we know that we can. Because there is no other choice right now. We have to do it and we have to find a way.
And I think that is my magic, that I can see the sunset, even during the darkest days.