Last year was a whirlwind for Canada's Jeremy Ten. He began his season with no senior Grand Prix assignments. The powers that be at Skate Canada decided to test the waters and sent him to Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany.
He knew a good result could lead to greater things. Ten placed sixth. Skate Canada officials liked what they saw and assigned him to Skate Canada International and Cup of China. “My goal was to get a senior international so I went to Germany, did my job and just waited to see where it would take me," he said.
"I knew there was a shot at getting a Grand Prix assignment if I did well at Nebelhorn but I never expected two,” Ten admitted. “I think I was the dark horse last season so to come out and fulfill more than I could have ever asked for – it was like a dream come true for me, a dream season for sure.” He placed 10th at Skate Canada and seventh at Cup of China.
“Last season was all about experience and opportunity starting with Nebelhorn,” he said.
ON THE RISE
In January, the 2007 Canadian junior champion skated into third place at the 2009 Canadian Championships, earning his first senior national medal and a berth on the Los Angeles-bound World team. It was a far cry from his 11th place finish at his senior debut the year before.
A few weeks later he set the crowd on fire at the 2009 Four Continents Championships in Vancouver with a stunning long program performance that brought the crowd to its feet. His combined tally of 207.27 points was a 32.15-point increase over his previous personal best score.
That moment in Vancouver was a life-changing event for Ten. “I remember hitting the triple Axel and not being able to hear my music the cheering was so loud,” the 20-year-old recalled. “At the very end of my program people were holding up Jeremy Ten signs and a there was so much screaming – to think that I caused that reaction totally baffles me.
“It was such a defining moment in my life. I would never have thought that 10 years after I began skating that I would be skating a program like that in my hometown, and have the audience react the way they did. I still get chills when I think about it.”
It was all a little too much to absorb. “The month before Worlds was so hard for me because everything was happening so fast and I was having trouble getting a grip on everything,” he admitted.
“I am a very emotional person. Sometimes I let my emotions run wild and I can’t get on top of myself,” he said. “I remember being on my way to school right after Four Continents where I had had the skate of my life in the long program. I was in a line-up at the bus stop and I started thinking about it – the people in the arena on their feet and my coach crying – and I started crying at the bus stop.
“It was so hard for me to grasp that I had had this amazing skate competing amongst some of the best in the world. I placed 7th but for me it summed up all my hard work.”
At Worlds, Ten had technical issues in the short but the disappointment with his performance was momentary. “After the short, my coach (Joanne McLeod) said to me in the kiss and cry ‘I don’t think you are going to qualify for the long,’ he said. “But I did and I was just so grateful for the opportunity to make the cut. I came back in the long and proved that I was on the rise and that I had the potential to be up there.
“It was my goal at Worlds to show what kind of skater I was and that I do have potential. Aside from a step out of the Axel I was happy with what I accomplished. I placed 11th in the long and 17th overall.”
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE
This season is a completely new ball game. “I am going into it using all of the experience I gained last season and not hold back like I did last season,” he said. “Everything I did last season was a first but now that I have had the experience of Worlds and the senior Grand Prix circuit there is no excuse for me not to perform to my best and I am expecting a lot from myself this season.”
Ten said he learned last season that anything can happen. “I have worked really hard, improving all areas of my skating and will continue to do that. I just have to keep working hard and believe that anything is possible,” he said. “That is something I learned last year – anything is possible. As long as I keep devoting all my efforts to something that I love, I believe I can come through.”
Choreographer David Wilson crafted two new programs for the British Columbia native. “I love my new programs,” Ten said. “The long program came together really easy. David had his ideas, Joanne had her ideas and I had mine.”
The trio settled on the “Queen Symphony.” Ten recalled hearing the first three violin strokes of the symphony and falling in love with the music all over again. “I made Joanne a CD of all the musical selections that I was interested in … we looked a little more for music but we kept going back to that piece. We gave it to David to see what his reaction was and he loved it. So it just took off. The day we finished, I knew it was an Olympic program. It felt that good.”
The short was a little bit more of a struggle Ten said. “I wanted something lyrical, Joanne wanted something different and David wanted something else. I was really reserved about the eventual choice at first,” Ten admitted. “I did not think I was confident enough to pull it off, but when I heard the music I was like, ‘oh this is totally amazing.’ I think it is going to be an awesome surprise for everyone this season because I am sure everyone expected me to do lyrical.
“I am excited just to throw it out there and show people that hey, give me any kind of genre and I can skate it. I am really excited to show my programs.”
In the late spring, Ten attended a weekend seminar at his home rink in B.C. which he described as amazing. “David Liu, Joseph Inman and Sissy Crick came to my rink to do a seminar. They just focused on program components – understanding music, phrasing and transitions. They came prepared with these videos and showed us when skaters were skating to the music and when they were not. We watched performances from people like Brian Orser and Gary Beacom – because some of their programs were stronger than those of today.”
Ten performed his long program for Crick and Inman. “They wanted to see the phrasing and how I connected with the music,” Ten said. “They are like the masters of components and both loved it. They had only one negative comment, which gave me a lot of confidence because I had only had the program for three weeks. For them to say things like my program can compete with the best in the world just gave me so much confidence.”
Canada has two spots for men at the Olympics but Ten is undaunted. “It is going to be really tough but I think it will make it all the more deserving for whoever gets it,” he said. “Whoever wants it the most is going to get it so that is motivating me even more. The great thing about my position is that this is not my last chance. I know I am going to want to keep going to 2014.
“And the great thing about the Olympics being in Vancouver is that it is right in my backyard so no matter what, so whether I am going to be a part of it, it is still going to be part of my life. That is the exciting thing. It is not like I am going to lose out. I am going to push myself as hard as I can because I really want to represent Canada at the home Olympics.”
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Ten credits his older brother Nicholas, 25 for getting him into skating. “I followed him into hockey but I was like this small little kid who could not do much,” Ten said. “My dad put me into figure skating because he noticed that every time after hockey practice I would peek through the door to watch the figure skating practice and I was so fascinated by it.”
His parent’s put him into the CanSkate program and he continued to play hockey but a year later Ten said it was a no brainer. “When Ted Barton first saw me skate – I was about 9 or 10 – he thought I had two left feet. I had no control of my limbs, kind of gangly,” Ten said with a laugh.
What do his parents think about his skating career? “I think it is very difficult for them. They came from a small country, Brunei, about 25 or 30 years ago,” Ten said. “Neither of my parents spoke English when they first came but you would never know that with my mother – she does not even have an accent now. My dad still has an accent.
“They did not come from a lot. I guess to come to Canada and have a son win a bronze medal at nationals and represent Canada … I think that was more than they ever expected from me. It is really hard for them to take it all in so they are sort of awkward about it. They are like me – they just don’t know how to absorb it all.”
Ten said his parents attend as many competitions as they can. “Last year was my first time in Asia and my parents said if I ever went to China they would come with me, so they did,” Ten said. “They came to nationals and Four Continents and they were at Worlds cheering me on.”
Do his parents get nervous when he competes? “Probably. They don’t tell me but apparently my dad is really loud when I compete. Really animated so everybody knows it is my dad. My mom is quiet. It makes me laugh,” Ten said.
He is completing a minor in Kinesiology at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University. He said he has not made a decision on a major but wants to do something that is business related. “I am still not entirely sure,” he said. “I am so focused on skating that everything else has been second to that so far.”
There will be no summer vacation for this Olympic hopeful. “I had two weeks off after Worlds and reflected on everything that happened last season,” Ten said. “I got emotional more than once, I can tell you. I am so grateful to have this chance to do something that I love and that people appreciate it.”