Kaitlyn Weaver and Sheldon Kennedy wowed the audiences with their upbeat routines in the first two weeks of the hit reality show “Battle of the Blades.”
The duo earned a standing ovation for their debut performance on Sept. 19, to “Wake Me Up” by Avicii, which included a footwork section from the tough “Yankee Polka” compulsory dance. The speed and flow of the routine were rewarded with 28.3 points, the highest score of the night. “This is first time in figure skating history the ‘Yankee Polka’ has gotten people on their feet, I have to say. I was very impressed,” said guest judge Scott Moir.
In week 2, they rocked the house with their performance to “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summers, which included twizzle elements executed perfectly in sync. That performance earned them a perfect 6.0 and three 5.9s.
Weaver recalled performing a guest appearance with Andrew Poje during the show’s first season in 2009, and said she has always been a fan. “Andrew and I were the poster kids in 2009, so I have always thought it was a dream job and when it went off the air I was sad.”
She first learned about the opportunity to compete on the show while at the 2019 World Championships in Japan. “My agent said ‘I don’t know if you will be interested in this. I don’t know what your future holds, but I’m just letting you know this is here for you in case you are interested,” Weaver said. “My first thought was ‘Oh, I don’t know if I can do that. That would be scary and different and challenging.’
“But, then things started to change and evolve and Andrew and I took different directions. I always had ‘Battle’ in my mind as I looked at all my options. Luckily for me, there were many to spend my time on this fall, but this is a dream job. I was so excited when I said yes. I took on this adventure with an open heart and an open mind and I consider myself so lucky to be paired with Sheldon. It quickly became apparent that this was more than just figure skating. This was something very special.”
The options Weaver referred to were opportunities to learn from two highly regarded choreographers, Lori Nichol and Igor Shpilband. “The first thing I thought about in the summer was that I wanted to have fun on the ice, but how was I going to do that? I love to create and try something new — doing something completely new and different is so fun,” she said.
“The first person that called was Lori Nichol who asked: “Can you come tomorrow?’ That was the best thing to put an anxious mind at peace. Then I got a call from Igor the next day and it kind of took off from there. I had incredible mentors who allowed me to just stand by their side and take things in.
“I don’t know yet what that will turn into, but I just love the idea of sharing the joy that I have for skating in different contexts. I am kind of figuring that out and seeing where I belong in figure skating. Andrew and I currently are not sure what our path will be going forward, but, taking the time away and seeing where we stand as people and even taking the step back from competing I realized just how much I was carrying. From a health perspective I feel so proud of the decision to attack this next chapter with vigour just like I would anything else.”
Kennedy said his first impression of Weaver was that she “is a professional, she is organized and focused — and I love that. I would really like to say that I am very proud of her. There are lots of changes happening in her life and I have had to make decisions in my life in the past — and present — that took a lot of thought. I am really proud of her for just continuing on her journey. Whether it is skate or not skate — I know that the process is difficult, but I think that she is handling that like a professional and for once she is thinking about her health and what is going to be the best thing for her.”
When Kennedy got the list of competitors but did not yet know who his partner would be he spent a lot of time on YouTube watching everyone. “I knew that Kaitlyn and Andrew were at the top of the world of ice dancing. My focus was that I wanted to learn how to figure skate and I wanted to dance — so how we ended up together I am not sure, but I am very grateful for the opportunity to be partnered with Kaitlyn because we are dancing on the ice,” said Kennedy who played on the Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames teams during his career.
“One of the biggest gifts we have, aside from our choreographer, Julie Marcotte, is that everyone is very clear on how to teach and that is critical. I am in kindergarten. I need to learn from scratch. And I tell you, it has been remarkable — the language and purposeful words they use to help me understand what they are talking about because this foreign to me.”
Kennedy has his own routine of putting Rub A535 lotion on himself — everywhere. “Now it is famous among the cast — you can smell that stuff as soon as you walk in the rink. It keeps him warm,” Weaver said with a laugh. “Sheldon is so professional about having fun and his energy and enthusiasm is so contagious. We have these serious things we talk about like real life, but when we get on the ice we are in stitches laughing. It has just been the most remarkable experience on so many different levels.
“I am so grateful for this opportunity for so many reasons. I think sometimes looking out into the unknown is scary, you don’t know how you are going to feel or how you are going to react. But seeing a future ahead of me is exciting. Having this opportunity that feels like home, is a challenge, and gives me time to figure things out, is such a gift. It makes me think that things do happen for a reason and this is just another one of those experiences.”
In order to prepare for the show, Kennedy bought a used pair of figure skates and rented private ice so he could learn to skate. “I was bruised. I wore my hockey pads for about a month because I was going down and down,” he recalled. “Then I had to get new blades for the skates but they still had the big toe pick on them. Kaitlyn suggested I get the toe pick zipped off a little bit because we would not need it and well, it was like the pig is out of the house. Such freedom!”
“He was so happy. He learned how to skate in the hardest blades. He learned how to fall. He is a smart competitor,” Weaver added. Kennedy has learned many figure skating moves and the lingo — Mohawks, twizzles, etc. all now roll off his tongue with ease.
“Our strategy is to market ourselves as the ice dancers. But, we have the ability do to do everything so we are showing a broad range,” said Weaver when asked how they plan to conquer their rivals. “I think our emphasis is on the quality of the skating, the intricacy of the steps, how closely we can skate together — things that are valued in ice dance. He can lift me above his head —we all know that — but what Sheldon has is an incredible run of the blade, which is very special so I want to highlight that. He is also an incredible entertainer.
“He loves twizzles. If Julie and I are talking about what we are doing with the music or where will be place an element…we turn away for one second and he is halfway down the ice twizzling. He loves it so, are we going to make use of that? You bet we are. We are all about strategy!”
Both are competing for a charity close to Kennedy’s heart — Jump Start, which raises funds to give children the opportunity to participate in sport in Canada as well as creating safe sport for all. Kennedy said 100 percent of the funds raised go to a multitude of charities and to date over $157 million has been distributed to get kids active and allow them to continually have fun no matter the circumstances. “One of our best tools for mental health, depression or anxiety is exercise and feeling that you belong,” Kennedy said. “Sport offers both. Jump Start supports a lot of charities across a broad spectrum across the country.”
We look forward to what this duo will bring to week 3. The show airs live on Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. (EST) on the CBC network.