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Backstage at 2013 Canadians

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Susan D. Russell
Kaetlyn Osmond

The seeds of her rocket-like ascent are often said to have been planted at the end of October, when Kaetlyn Osmond burst upon the scene in a major way with a stunning victory at Skate Canada.

Her confidence level has been zooming ever since. She displayed it one more time this afternoon with a superb short program that produced a score of 70.04 points — the first time a female skater has cracked 70 in the short at the Canadian Championships.

It has the 17-year-old from Marystown, N.L., well on her way to a first national title here at the Hershey Centre. Her current margin over defending champ Amelie Lacoste is a whopping 12.18 points heading into Saturday night’s free skate final.

But ask anyone who trains at the Ice Palace Figure Skating Club in Edmonton and they’ll tell you Osmond’s sharp competitive instincts were honed rather well during a series of fun games devised by coach Ravi Walia over the summer months.

No matter what was on the line, Osmond had her eyes clearly focused on the prize.

“One day, I told all my kids, whoever skates the first clean program (wins) an iTunes gift card and she does a clean program,” said Walia. “Things like that help. We have this chart we do in the summer sometimes. She may have trouble with her elements and all of a sudden, the chart comes out and everyone’s checking off what they did in the session and she’s like 100 per cent. She’ll win the prize or whatever is happening. But that’s what you want. It’s a sport and she’s competing.”

Her training environment also goes a long way toward developing focus. The Ice Palace crew trains on a rink inside the West Edmonton Mall — the largest shopping center in North America, with more than 800 stores. But amidst all that hustle and bustle Osmond manages to keep her thoughts on the job at hand.

“It sometimes is distracting, because there’s a lot of interesting outfits going around the rink,” she said. “Sometimes, there are people playing harmonicas or someone having a cat sitting on their shoulders. But it’s really interesting skating there and I like it a lot.

“There’s always an audience, so you’re always performing. There are a couple of people who show up every day (to watch), so you’re used to the same people there.”

*****
Call it one of the most delicate questions at nationals.

Just how to ask the little darlings in the women’s competition about the peaks and valleys that are often the bane of their discipline. Let’s face it — there really may be no nice way to ask this one.

But 14-year-old Gabrielle Daleman, a newbie on this stage, cuts right to the chase.

Last year’s Canadian junior champion, a spunky little fireball from Newmarket, Ont., played interpreter of sorts for Julianne Séguin, a francophone from Longueuil, Que., who finished third in the short program (Daleman stands fifth).

When Daleman heard the query about the state of Canadian women’s skating — put politely as can be, of course — she turned to Séguin and said: “Were you aware that before Joannie (Rochette), and us, there weren’t really any good skaters?”

Um, that might be putting just a wee bit harshly. Even for us hardened journalists.

What’s that line? Out of the mouth of babes ...

*****
It isn’t always about how you ask the question. Sometimes, it’s just how it’s received.

Taking note of the 0.85-point margin between the top two teams after the pairs short program, a reporter suggested to Kirsten Moore-Towers that the standings were “tightly bunched” at the top.

Moore-Towers took a look at the scrunched up arms on the national team jacket she was wearing and admitted finding such items to fit her diminutive 4-11 frame just right is often a chore.

Her fun-loving partner, Dylan Moscovitch, didn’t miss a beat. “Most jackets are big on her,” he said. “They don’t make extra, extra small.”

*****
The pairs crown will come down to a battle between defending champs Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who lead 2011 champions Moore-Towers and Moscovitch by the above-mentioned slim margin. But what stood out for many watchers was the size of the field — a mere six entries in senior pairs.

In other words, blink and you’d have missed Friday’s competition.
So what’s the deal here?

“Pairs is a very unique discipline,” admitted Radford. “There’s a very different skill set. It’s not just jumping, it’s not just spinning. If you’re a great jumper but you can’t lift the girl or you don’t have the control to do death spirals, it doesn’t matter. It’s very unique set of skills that not everybody possesses.”

Added Duhamel: “Some people also have the misconception that ‘I’m going to go into pairs because I can’t do it in singles.’ We were both successful singles skaters, but pairs is very difficult. It’s very difficult to learn a death spiral. It’s very difficult to learn a triple twist. Just because you can land a jump doesn’t mean you can land throws.”


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