K: Kaetlyn Osmond; Q: Interviewer Tatjana Flade for ISU
Canada’s World silver medalist Kaetlyn Osmond (21), won her home Grand Prix Skate Canada International and starts with confidence into the Olympic season. She talks about what has changed since she won World silver, about overcoming injuries and about getting a new dog.
Q: How do you feel about your start to the season?
K: I’m really happy with it. I trained really hard over the summer, just trying to make my technique better on my jumps and gain the speed on my spins and figure out the overall package of my program. I worked a lot on the choreography, a lot on the stamina of the program so that everything could be together. So I’m happy that my summer competitions went really well. At Autumn Classic this year, I landed 7 triples for the first time in competition. So it’s been a building block and, even though I didn’t do 7 triples at this event (Skate Canada), the overall package felt better. So I’m happy that I’ve gotten a bit of every program done now and I can just build from it.
Q: What do you think is the problem that sometimes you can do so well and then sometimes it’s like a blackout and you have a strange fall out of nowhere?
K: I get really excited at competitions and I have a hard time controlling myself sometimes. With the freak falls at the Autumn Classic I fell on a skid stop and before I fell on the spins. I think I get a little too much into the program and I get really excited and try to overdo it and that’s when you hit a rut in the ice or something. So, it’s just little freak accidents but I’ve learned a lot how to control that and it keeps my feet grounded into the ice a bit better.
Q: Last year you won the silver medal at Worlds, which was a major breakthrough, how did this change your life and your skating?
K: I don’t find that it changed my life at all really. I still have a hard time believing that it actually happened. But it did give me a lot of motivation for the off-season training. I know sometimes in the off-season I have to motivate myself to get on the ice because I know there’s so long until the competitions begin again. This year I was excited to do all the training involved to start new programs, even though I went back to an old one. But to train new things and to work on it altogether, I was so motivated for that and I think that is the only main difference.
Q: Do you have higher expectations for yourself or do the people around you, such as the fans and Skate Canada, because now you have proved you can do it and be at the top?
K: I’m sure the fans have higher expectations of me now knowing that I did have a lot of silvers last year and that I could keep doing that. But for me, I know that I just skated really well and I know at it wasn’t the strongest of Worlds ever. I was happy with the way I skated but I know there were a few top skaters who did not skate their best. So, for me, the expectations for this year haven’t really changed. I know that it’s an Olympic year and everyone is going to be pushing to be at their absolute best, more so than any other year, so my expectations don’t change: I just want to be able to skate my best and hope that it stays at that top level.
Q: What do you think you need to do in order to win more gold medals after the one you got here?
K: I need to work a lot on my consistency: to get that long program stronger. My short program is very consistent, continuously putting out clean programs, but my long is usually where I struggle the most and that’s something I don’t want to happen this year. I want it to be more consistent, more fluid, and hopefully that will lead to more gold.
Q: You said at the press conference that you switched your short program because you said you did not feel so confident with “Summertime”.
K: I love “Summertime” and it was a great program. I skated it decently well at my summer competitions and at our high performance camp I actually skated a clean short but, for my confidence level, this Édith Piaf short just feels so much stronger. The character is more defined and with it being an Olympic year I want to skate the two best programs I possibly can and I believe this short is.
Q: So maybe you will keep Summertime for later?
K: Either another year or even an exhibition at some point.
Q: The Free Skating is to Black Swan. Why that choice?
K: Swan Lake was my favourite piece of music when I was younger and I never had a chance to skate to it. When I saw the movie “Black Swan” I liked the darker aspect of it, the more dramatics and that’s what I like to do for my programs. I love portraying that so I got really excited when I saw that and, for a few years now, I have been asking. I’ll bring it up every time we talk about music, I’ll say: “what about Black Swan?”. Each year I was told “my lines aren’t good enough” or “it wasn’t the right timing for it”. I’ve heard every excuse not to use it until this year. It got brought up and this time it was not me who brought it up, it was Jeff (Buttle) because he was choreographing my long program and he brought it up because I had mentioned it to him last year when we were deciding for “La Boheme” and he said: “why don’t we revisit the ‘Black Swan’ idea?”. It’s the first year I didn’t have to fight for it and it actually worked. We used “La Boheme” last year as almost a stepping stone for this to get my lines better, my elegance better so that I could portray more the ballerina side this year.
Q: How much does it correspond to your character?
K: I don’t know because I’m really not that dramatic of a human off the ice. On the ice, I feel like I can become a different person and the darker dramatics, the Black Swan is confident: she’s free to do whatever she wants and that attitude helps in my skating. The White Swan is, I feel, more what I’m actually like off the ice: I’m a lot quieter and if someone tells me to do something I’ll just do it. That’s what I find the White Swan is: she’s innocent, she’s naïve, if someone says to put her arm up, she’ll put her arm up and the Black Swan will just do it more her own way. It’s kind of becoming both of those people to skate a great program and that’s the story I found in the movie: that she had to embrace both sides of here self to finally do that last performance.
Q: Did you also do other research into that ballet?
K: I watched a few classical ballets that my ballet instructor actually showed me and I’ve seen a few of skating. Ravi [Walia, coach] showed me a lot of Oksana Baiul. How she stays on her toes so perfectly is remarkable. I just stood there in awe watching it. So I worked really hard on that and just watching as much as I can.
Q: How risky do you think it is to take Swan Lake or Black Swan in an Olympic year where many people like to take these well-known pieces of music?
K: I think that’s the main reason why it took me so long to convince my coach actually to let me use this piece as I think he wanted me to use it during an Olympic year for that reason. I know that isn’t a choice a lot of people make – yeah there are Black Swans this year, a few Carmens, a few Moulin Rouges…. But it’s an Olympic year and that’s what happens! If I hadn’t have chosen this one I would probably have chosen another well-known piece that someone else would be skating to, so it’s just meant to be. But it’s okay. It brings out different personalities I find. You see the different styles of skating to the same music and it almost separates it, I think. If that makes any sense?
Q: Many people often wonder why, in skating, they always like to pick the well-known pieces and not take a risk by taking something very different?
K: When I was younger, I always wanted to take the risk of new things but then you run the risk of not having a good reaction from the audience or the judges and, even though it seems repetitive with people choosing the same pieces of music, they are the well-known pieces for a reason: they have stories; they have characters and; you can relate to them a lot better. Especially on the ice, telling a story is much easier job when you have these well-known pieces that have been told numerous ways and numerous times. I think that’s why a lot of people choose them because people know the story and you can portray it. It’s a lot easier and people get excited about it.
Q: How did you approach this important season?
K: I’m approaching it the same way as every season especially the way I did last year. It obviously really seemed to help last year. I’m meaning to use every competition as equal importance. Aiming to improve something at each event. It’s a long year and I don’t have to be perfect right away. So each competition I just want to know that I have improved on something.
Very proud with my #SCI17 experience. It wasn’t perfect. But it’s a long season, so there is a lot left to come 😊— Kaetlyn Osmond (@kaetlyn_23) October 28, 2017
Q: When you had all of these injury problems, was there any point where you thought about calling it quits and giving up?
K: I dealt with a lot of injuries growing up. My first injury, I think I was 13, and it was just one right after another pretty much. Nothing major really until I tore my hamstring in the Olympic year. But I was able to get over that, I think, because I was able to skate about 2 weeks after I tore my hamstring. I was back to training and I competed right away. With my foot, I was dealing with a stress fracture on my other foot and after a post-Olympic year I was exhausted. I didn’t know what to do with the injuries and I was getting frustrated. As soon as I was able to start jumping again, because of my stress fractured foot, I wound up breaking my other leg. So, it was just one thing after another and when I broke my other leg I said: “that’s it – I’m done! I’m never skating again! I can’t do it!”. That was in September 2014. I was off the ice and in a cast for 6 weeks. I started walking again in my seventh week and on November 1st I stepped on the ice again and I couldn’t even stand on my skates. I couldn’t walk. My leg wobbled. I got on the ice and I stayed on two feet. I skated for 15 minutes and didn’t get off two feet. For that entire year I was convinced that I was never competing again.
Q: But you still tried and you came back.
K: I think I was scared to tell people that I was done. I said it in my head but I didn’t want to disappoint my coaches or my parents: the people who had put everything into the sport for me and I was ready to just throw it away at that point. My parents didn’t want me to be scared of skating again, that’s the main reason I got on the ice because skating has been my life for my entire life. I couldn’t even handle thinking that I was terrified to step on the ice again. I think the year afterwards that I struggled in competitions with a lot of falls. I remember at Skate Canada I landed 2 jumps in the entire event. It was so bad. It was a rough event. I went down and it just kept going down from there. I think that year I was competing but I was more going through the motions just saying: “I’m competing because I am not ready to be done but I don’t really want to try”. Then I was tired of all the disappointments at each event. Skating poorly or not making a World team was a big one for me. It kind of woke me up by the end of the year. It took me a while, obviously, but by the end of the year I was like: “I’m not going to keep training like this if I’m going to compete and do badly”. So, I kind of woke myself up and said: “Okay, if I’m going to keep training then I’m going to be good!”. And that’s been my mentality the entire time.
Q: So you rediscovered your love for skating?
K: I did. It took a while, but I did find it.
Q: For how many years have you now been with Ravi, your coach?
K: Eleven years.
Q: So, he’s almost like a second father to you?
K: Yeah! I probably see him more than my dad. He’s known me since I was 10 years old and he’s brought me to numerous Nationals and international events; through injuries; through super-highs and super-lows. He’s been through everything with me and I think what really helps me on the ice is that he is super-calm and I’m super-hyper: we’re very opposite people but his calmness calms me down, which is really nice. We just know how to work together. I couldn’t imagine working without him.
Q: You are not training with other top level skaters, so how do you adjust to that? Or do you see it as an advantage or disadvantage?
K: Definitely there are pros and cons to every training situation. I really love training in Edmonton. We don’t have many internationally high level skaters but we’ve had a few national competitors. A few that have done well. We have a few senior skaters now who will, hopefully, be competing at Nationals this year. I’ve been on the same session group of people since I was 10 years old, so I started as the bottom skater and I had to work my way up. Everyone was a lot older than me and now I’m like 4 years older than everyone else. But I’ve learned from what they are doing: I see them learning their new jumps and I’m learning from what they are doing. I sometimes help them, which reminds me of my own technique. They might not be high level skaters but they do very interesting things and, at the same time, I want to show that I am also a high level skater and I don’t want to skate poorly in front of them. I want to show that I am strong skater. They see me melt down every now and then but it’s okay. So I think it pushes me to keep going at my best. Of course it would be cool to train with high level people but, at the same time, I think that I would get exhausted after a while because there is so much happening all of the time.
Q: How would you describe your personality?
K: I don’t really know. I’m usually really quiet until people get to know me. The only time I’m feeling fully confident is while I’m in a rink. Walking around a city or something, I feel like I’m lost - I never know where to go. I’m so shy, I’m so scared to talk to anyone. When I walk into a rink, I’m a completely different person. I think that’s just because it’s where I have grown up. In a rink I know what to expect: in a city I have no idea. I have small groups of friends, I don’t have many and I just like to stay calm.
Q: Are you still in school studying?
K: I’m not in school right now. In the spring I sometimes take a couple of classes online through one of the online universities here in Canada. I’m taking communications right now. Once I’m done skating I want to start a career eventually. But I actually want to go to school, because I love school. I loved school growing up. I never really got the chance to go to full-time school ever because of skating. So I’m excited to, once I put the skating career behind me, actually focus on school.
Q: To study communications?
Q: But broadcast people are not usually very shy.
K: But I think it’s when I am in an environment that I know and skating kinds of bring me around the broadcasting side a lot so I feel comfortable with that but, yeah, I’m really shy – I don’t now how I’m going to do that.
Q: Would you like to do interviews, commentating?
K: I would love to get into commentating. That was the initial interest of it and also just being around media at the skating, it feels like it’s something that won’t be such a drastic change from skating. I will have some similarities with it. I’ve gone and done radio and TV interviews before and I would love to be on the opposite side for a change. I would love to stay involved with skating.
Q: Hopefully changing sides is not happening so soon. What are you plans? Will you continue after the Olympic year?
K: Yes, definitely. I know a few years ago, when my year was not going so great I kind of decided that: “Okay, the next two years I’m going to push really hard and then that’s it!”. After last season, I realized that I was a lot stronger than I thought I was and I put a lot more trust in what I could do. So, to say that I would be done after this year now, I can’t think of it that way. I would love to keep pushing and pushing until I, obviously, cannot push myself anymore. So I’m still skating for the next couple of years. If another Olympics happens, it happens but I’m going to be taking it year by year.
Q: Do you live at home alone or with your family?
K: I still live with my parents.
Q: So, you don’t have to cook?
K: No, not a lot. It really helps, it takes a lot of pressure off having to do it for myself. It’s nice having the help and I have two animals. I have a cat, Annie, and she’s a Ragdoll cat, so she’s really fluffy. I love Ragdoll cats but she’s 12 now, so I’ve had her since I was 9 or 10. At Worlds this year, the day before I left, I met a dog and I wanted to have her. I couldn’t focus – I have a problem sometimes that if I really want something I can’t focus until I get it – it’s really bad. It works for skating sometimes but outside of skating, not so much. Before Worlds, that was all I could think about was how much I missed having a dog because it’s been the longest time that I have gone without having a dog with me.
Q: So you’ve had a dog before?
K: I’ve had dogs growing my entire life and I went from October till March last year without one and, for some reason, it was the week before Worlds that all I could think about was how much I missed having a dog. So the day before I left, I finally found this dog that was just outside of Edmonton. So I went to meet her at 8 o’clock at night, cause that’s all I could think about. I met her and she was so little and I was so excited. She was too young for me to pick her up, which actually worked out really good. Then I went to Helsinki and when I came back she was at the airport waiting there for me. So I have a dog now, Rasquette. She’s a Cockapoo – a Cocker Spaniel/Poodle. So she’s just this little 16 pound black mutt.
Q: Your older sister Natasha was a skater too, wasn’t she?
K: She was. She’s the reason that I got into skating. She competed in singles and dance and pairs at the junior level, at national level. Never actually made a podium but pairs was her favourite thing to do. When we moved to Edmonton, she struggled to find a partner, sadly.
Q: You moved to Edmonton for skating, if I remember correctly.
K: We moved to Montreal, originally, for skating and that was for her skating because she had a partner there and I was just a tag-a-long. No-one expected me to be the top skater of the family they all expected her to be and that’s why I slid under the radar for so long. Everyone expected her to do great and I was ‘Bambi On Ice’ – I couldn’t control myself at all. So we lived there for about 2 years but I lived with my coach there and then with my aunt. We flew her up to kind of be a nanny for me, to raise us while my parents worked just outside of Edmonton because they couldn’t get work in Montreal. So, after 2 years my parents were like: “Okay, our kids are 10 and 13 and we’re letting them live on the opposite side of the country”. So we did move to Edmonton more for family and it just worked that skating worked really well too.
Q: Thank you very much for the interview and all the best!