As summer training begins to wrap up, young skaters across the country are beginning their competitive seasons at local and provincial competitions. As a child, this was my favourite time of the year. I got to travel to the big city (Ottawa or Toronto) and compete against really good skaters. There would be hundreds of pre-novice or novice ladies in the competition and if I skated really well, and I was a little bit lucky, maybe I could win a medal and stand on the podium. Let me clarify that this didn’t happen very often. I typically found myself in 5th or 6th place but the rare time I did win a medal, I treasured it. I haven’t competed in the summer for 4 years.
After the Sochi Olympics, Eric and I decided that we didn’t want to go through the stress of competition during our summer. We wanted to relax, take our time learning new things and train with a more care-free attitude. But this year is a different year. It’s the Olympic season. And it’s our final season. We know that competing this early in the season is going to help us in the long run. The earlier you compete; the more feedback you get. The feedback and competition experience helps us to learn and grow and become a better team. The sooner we can start that process, the better we will be by the time the Olympics comes.
It’s been a different off-season than we have ever experienced, but we have worked harder than we ever worked before. In the spring we made some changes to our support team, rearranging our coaches, adding a new choreographer, adding a new skating skills coach, changing training locations and changing our off-ice trainers. This had the possibility to seem daunting but it truly gave me a refreshed feeling. I was starting over again. Back to the beginning like nothing had ever existed before. The page was clean and Eric and I could draw and create anything that we wanted.
We started at the beginning. We found music that we loved and began creating. We also worked with our coach and reworked our technique on many elements. The throws in particular. We wanted more seamless throws, with better quality execution and we have reworked our technique to allow this to happen. We also worked with a Russian coach on skating skills and we completely redid the way we do basic crossovers. At 31 years old and many habits so ingrained, this was probably the most challenging for me. I still find myself slipping back into old habits, especially when I start to get tired, but this is and will be a work in progress for the season.
From there, everything began to evolve. As we did choreography we felt no expectations to be something or do something with it. Skating and creating became natural, pure and organic. I found myself readdressing my goals and approach to skating. After Sochi, I felt like my mind was so clear. I just wanted to enjoy skating, be proud of what I did and improve everyday. And this happened and while it was happening it all felt so easy. But then, after that led to so much success, my mind became cluttered. I began to feel like I needed to do more and be more. I had spent a year focused solely on improving myself, and then suddenly I found myself looking around. What is everyone else doing? What do people want us to do? I just won everything, so if I ever finish second place again it means I’m a loser. I even questioned what my purpose was. What were my goals? I didn’t have clear and simple goals anymore. This type of mind-set created problem after problem. Of course I have some great moments and periods of time that I felt like I finally got my “old feeling” back, my centred feeling, but those were fleeting and never lasted very long. But now, for the first time in 2 years, I feel like I have come back to my centre. I feel like everyday in training, I have a purpose. To be as great as I can possibly be. I find myself looking for every tiny detail that I can improve, in every aspect of my life. I feel so free and passionate every day at training now. I feel proud of what I am doing.
This will be my final competitive season in this beautiful sport. Figure skating has and always will be such a huge part of my life. It has given me so many beautiful moments and experiences. Even the challenging experiences have been beautiful in their own way, because they have helped me become the person I am today. I want to feel beauty from figure skating for the next 7 months. I want to experience and appreciate every moment to the fullest. So as I prepare to compete on Saturday, I am filled with gratitude. Gratitude for the sport that has given me everything, for every single person that has been part of my journey at some point or another and for the partner that I have because without him I couldn’t be living this dream.