One of Canada’s premiere skating coaches has taken down her shingle.
After more than 30 years of standing at the boards, Manon Perron has embarked on a new career.
In April she bid farewell to the St. Léonard, Qué., skating school she has run for decades to take up a position with the Fédération de patinage artistique du Québec. Perron’s mandate is to guide the rising stars of the sport and identify talent in the province.
“Two years ago, the Québec section offered me a full-time job as a skating mentor. I told them I definitely want the job but I have to finish what I started with Joannie [Rochette],” Perron explained. “I told Joannie at that time that I was finishing with her in 2010, and everyone at my school was aware that this change would take place.”
She was the driving force behind Rochette for 12 years, but under Perron’s tutelage a host of other Canadian skaters from the novice through the senior ranks claimed numerous medals at the national and international levels.
Though Perron’s swan song, the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, should have been one of most memorable highlights of her career, the event was overshadowed by the sudden death of Rochette’s mother the day prior to the ladies short program. The glory of the Olympic Games was lost in a sea of grief. “It was a nightmare,” Perron recalled.
That her student rose above that grief to compete and claim a medal was not surprising to Perron. “It has always been my vision that when you are really ready and really well-trained you can handle any situation. Muscle memory takes over. That is what happened with Joannie.”
Perron said she knew after the short program that Rochette would likely be standing on the podium. “Joannie is not a short program skater, and I said to myself: ‘OK, she is going to have an Olympic medal.’
“My emotions were mixed when she won the bronze. Yes, I was happy because it was the goal of a lifetime, but at what price? I would have been very happy in a normal situation, but I knew her mother really well. After 12 years we had developed a strong friendship. Can you really be happy when something like this happens? The answer is no.
“Maybe in a few years I will say yes, goal achieved and I will be really happy about it, but at this time I cannot say that.
“But I do want to thank the world for all the support we got at the Olympics. Thank you to everyone who was there when you were most needed.”
Perron’s dedication to the sport has not gone unnoticed. In 2003 Skate Canada bestowed the Competitive Coach of the Year Award on her. In 2007 she was named Coach of the Year and was also the recipient of the Skate Canada
Competitive Coach Excellence Award. She received a $10,000 grant through GM Canada’s “Making Dreams Possible” program for 2008 and 2009.
“This summer Skate Canada wanted to give me another coaching award and asked me to tell them how many national medals the skaters I coached had won over the years,” Perron said. “Since I started coaching at the national level in 1992, my skaters had won 36 medals in singles. It was amazing because I never realized it before. I just went with the flow.”
When asked if she had any regrets about her decision to leave coaching behind, Perron laughed. “No, I have the best of everything now. I am just doing what I love,” she said. “I am really happy because I only take care of the skaters in Québec, and it is just my way of doing things.
“I have good relationships with the coaches and skaters. If they need choreographers, sports psychologists or anything else, I have all the connections to help them. And at the end of the day I am not thinking about costumes or music for next season, so it is less work for me.”
Perron spent part of the off-season conducting skating seminars in Europe. “I gave a lot of on- and off-ice seminars. Joannie and Stéphane Lambiel joined me at the one I gave in Switzerland,” she said.
“At the off-ice seminars I talk about jumping techniques and have skaters give demonstrations; I speak about how one becomes a champion, the sacrifices that have to be made, and all the expertise it requires to take a child and turn them into a champion.”
One thing Perron is also looking forward to is spending more time with her family. “I don’t think my family realizes yet that I am home more because I still go away, but it is not so often.”
Looking back over her career, Perron said there were many wonderful highlights. “When Joannie won the novice and junior titles, that was special for sure.
“Her first senior Grand Prix medal, the World and Olympic medals – all the new stuff that happened after working so hard for so long were special moments.
“I have to say it was a lot of fun, and I have no regrets.”
Originally published in December 2010