They seem poised to be the next big thing in Canadian ice dance. But Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus are already thinking beyond that. Their goals extend far beyond their homeland’s borders.
As they head into their third season ambitious is a word that applies to this young team, who speak freely about making more of a mark on the global stage in the coming campaign.
“We definitely want to be on the podium at nationals and top 10 in the world,” said Firus, 24, during a break from their summer training at the Montréal International Skating School. “Ideally, we keep the momentum we built from last year and just keep building.”
The 23-year-old Soucisse looks toward their upcoming Grand Prix schedule that includes stops in Laval, Québec, and Japan. “We will try to get a podium finish in at least one of them,” she said. “Last year, what made our success is that we set our goals pretty high and we achieved all of them. So yes, this year the goal will be to bring home a medal from one of them.”
Soucisse and Firus, who teamed up in 2016, got their first taste of international success at Four Continents in Taipei in January, where they squeezed out a silver-medal finish in a field that, admittedly, was missing the sport’s top stars. But that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the Canadians, who had little international experience prior to that competition. Earlier in the season they finished fourth at Finlandia Trophy and placed seventh at Skate Canada in their senior Grand Prix debut.
“For us, Four Continents really highlighted all the work we put in that season, and to get a result like that … I’d never had an international medal before. We were pretty ecstatic about it,” said Firus.
“Going into that competition, our goal was to medal, but we didn’t know if it was that possible,” said Soucisse. “We went in with all the hope that we could have, and we worked so hard to get the result that we got. After the free dance, we knew that we gave everything that we could, and we had done a program that we were proud of, and we were just hoping that it would be enough.
Soucisse said it was a tough week with the jet lag and nationals just two weeks earlier. “Our week was pretty much (full of) bad practices. So, to produce a skate as good as we did … it was pretty much the biggest goal we could have accomplished.”
When 2018 Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir decided to skip the World Championships in Milan, Italy, the third spot was given to Soucisse and Firus, who were fourth at nationals last January.
The opportunity did not come as a surprise to the duo, who shared the same coaches as Virtue and Moir. “Tessa and Scott had told us to be ready (for Worlds), with a little wink-wink, nudge-nudge,” said Firus with a laugh. “So, we were preparing for it and we were planning to go, unless there was some sort of catastrophe.”
Despite skating in the first flight, Soucisse and Firus produced an 11th-place finish in the short dance in Milan. But they were unable to duplicate it in the free dance, where they placed 14th — the same spot they would occupy in the final standings.
“The short dance was a little nerve racking,” said Soucisse. “We didn’t have the greatest world standing, even though we had won a medal at Four Continents because the previous year we didn’t do much. It was pretty difficult to go into the short dance as one of the first skaters, but we somehow pulled off a really good performance. The judges gave us what we deserved, so we were really positive about that.”
It was an experience they say should prove helpful in the season ahead. “Energy-wise, Worlds felt like the biggest event, especially the free dance, and the atmosphere in that arena was really cool. It was a super good experience for us,” Firus acknowledged. “The free was good, a solid performance, but it wasn’t the best we had skated.”
They got a similar type of vibe, although on a smaller level, at 2017 Skate Canada. That Grand Prix event provided the team with their first true look at high-level competition. “It was a home crowd for us and we were pretty amped for that,” said Firus. “It was epic. That competition was pretty heated.”
Though Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier will return this season and Weaver and Poje — who are skipping the Grand Prix season — are still around, it is Soucisse and Firus who perhaps represent the future.
For Soucisse and Firus, it has been third time lucky in terms of a partnership. Both had two previous partners before eventually being paired by their coaches, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon.
“Two and a half years ago, both of us had finished with our respective partners and I started looking around,” said Firus. “I had known Caro for a while. We had been competing against each other pretty much all the time we were growing up in skating. We had a couple of tryouts, skated together for a week and it felt really good. Then we locked it down and got the ball rolling.”
They feed off the fertile training atmosphere in Montréal, where, among others, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, and all the top American teams train.“ We really enjoy it,” said Firus. “When you watch people like Tessa and Scott, and see what they’re doing, you take what you like from that and try to put it into your skating. They really raised the bar and, since we’re both pretty competitive, we like to raise the bar ourselves.”
Soucisse said they take a lot of good things from the top teams, “but we get most of our energy from the teams that are close to us. We challenge each other. That’s what is good about being here in Montréal … it’s such a huge team, and we just love to train with our close competitors.”
She has been part of the Montréal International Skating School almost since it first opened, and credits Dubreuil and Lauzon with teaching her “a better way of skating.”
“I’ve been training with them for six or seven years, pretty much since the beginning when they started coaching. They did so, so much for me. I feel like right now, when I look back, it’s like I didn’t know how to skate before.”
As the new quadrennial begins — and Soucisse and Firus have the 2022 Olympic Winter Games on their long-term radar — they believe it is time to take their skating to another level.
Their new free dance, crafted by Dubreuil, is set to “Earned It” by The Weeknd, from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie soundtrack. “Compared to last year’s free, it’s 180 degrees in the opposite direction,” said Firus. “We’re looking to show more maturity with it. We really want to work on our presence and be a more commanding team … and show we can be top 10 in the world.”
Their rhythm dance, a Tango, will be skated to a selection of music from “Felino,” by Electrocutango, a Norwegian band. “It’s more modern music, not too much classic Tango,” Soucisse explained.
The duo is enthused about the chance to compete at Skate Canada this week. The event will take place not far from their training base, and is also close to Soucisse’s hometown of Beauharnois, Québec.
“Especially for me but for Shane, too, it’s going to be really awesome because our families are all going to be there,” Soucisse said.