Nfld. & Labrador

Kaetlyn Osmond and Patrick Chan on life after competition, and teaching young skaters

Fans of figure skating will be sure to pile into Mile One Centre in St. John's on Saturday for the Rock the Rink tour, but two of Canada's biggest figure-skating icons were in town early to get ready for the show.

'Be patient' when learning new moves, champions advise young skaters

Kaetlyn Osmond, Rachel Tuff, Jonathan Flynn and Patrick Chan all love figure skating. Obviously. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Fans of figure skating will be sure to pile into Mile One Centre in St. John's on Saturday for the Rock the Rink tour, but two of Canada's biggest figure skating icons were in town early to get ready for the show.

Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown and Patrick Chan, a Toronto native now living in Vancouver, will be joined in St. John's later this week by Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, among other big Canadian figure-skating names.

Both of the Olympic medallists have retired from competitive skating, but the tour is a chance to skate with friends — and for Osmond, it's always nice to come back to the province.

"I'll never turn down coming here," she said, adding that, at least according to Chan, she's taking a stab at playing host for her fellow skaters.

"I'm always excited to bring people to Newfoundland and be able to share this experience with them. We've been on tour for two months already, been touring together for years, and each time we come here it's just really exciting to be able to show them around and show them where I grew up."

After the tour stop Saturday, Osmond will go across the province to host five figure-skating seminars with young skaters.

Osmond celebrates after winning gold at the Figure Skating World Championships in Milan, Italy, in 2018. (Luca Bruno / The Associated Press)

While her competition days are behind her, Osmond said she doesn't miss them much.

"There's not one day where I think about that. I've actually become a really big skating fan since I retired," she said.

"I enjoy watching competitions. I enjoy watching my friends and the skaters that I coach. It's been really much more nerve-racking, to be honest. I realize I get more nervous being on the audience side or coaches side than I do as the actual skater. And being able to watch that, it's exhilarating."

The same is true for Chan, who said he's having a bit of a surreal experience coaching young skaters, rather than having to get on the ice himself.

"It's been very interesting to be on the other side of the boards, where we're kind of taking a hands-off approach," he said, adding it's a lot of hard work to explain movements to young skaters that for him have become second nature.

"Learning to break down something to the level where it can be understood for a younger skater who many not be as body-aware as some of us are now, that takes time to develop. … It's trying to work backwards to convey a clear message."

Osmond and Chan both said the experience of coaching, and having to watch rather than be in total control as the skater, is actually a more stressful experience.

Chan competes in the men's single skating short program at Gangneung Ice Arena on Feb. 16, 2018, in Gangneung, South Korea. (Getty Images)

"When I was competing I was in complete control of what I was doing, I knew what my body felt like, I knew the way that I was gonna feel when I got on the ice and I knew how to accommodate, too, if I was feeling good or not," Osmond said.

"I realize watching other people it's not the case. I don't know what they're feeling, I don't know what is happening, I get nervous and then things start looking wrong because I'm terrified and then I actually look back on what they did and I'm like, 'Oh, it was fine.'"

Kaetlyn Osmond and Patrick Chan sat down for a quiz of this or that. Check it out in the player:

Skating superstars Patrick Chan and Kaetlyn Osmond pick their preferences, rapid fire. Somebody get Chan outside on a pond! 2:19

'Be patient'

Mentoring young skaters is a huge reward, say Osmond and Chan.

Young skaters Rachel Tuff, 12, and Jonathan Flynn, 10, both had a chance to ask the skating stars a few questions about the sport.

Two years ago, Tuff took a training camp with Chan, and said he was a great help.

"He actually helped me try to learn my double Axel," she said, with Chan adding it's one of the hardest jumps to learn.

"I can barely do a double Axel now that I've retired," Chan joked, adding that he told Tuff to just keep at it.

Osmond and Chan have both said goodbye to competitive figure skating, but say they still stress out as coaches, and being on the other side of the boards is a strange experience. (Paula Gale/CBC)

"There's days where she lands it and some days where she struggles with it, and that's all completely normal. … Be patient."

Osmond agreed, telling the two skaters that it takes a while to get the move down.

"I got only doubles really easily — I had them by the time I was seven years old — but I did not get a double Axel until I was 13, so that was a lot of years working toward it," Osmond said.

Flynn was curious about how much training time the skaters spent both on and off the ice. Turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, it's a lot.

Take everything in. Be a sponge.- Patrick Chan

"I was on the ice three hours a day and off the ice two hours a day, five days a week, so I was training about five hours a day, five days a week … and when I was living in Montreal when I was quite young, I was skating about six hours a day," Osmond said.

Osmond said she would spend at least two hours a day doing off-ice training, as well — like Pilates, ballet, cardio and strength conditioning.

"When you're older, the elements get a little bit more difficult, a lot more impact on our bodies, and you need to take the time to let it relax and heal."

Chan said those heavy skating hours are pretty standard for young skating hopefuls.

"It's a lot to learn when you're young, so I think the more hours, the more you're trying to absorb a lot more information than you would as you are older in your career. I think you're able to really learn things a little faster than when you're younger," he said.

Osmond poses with young figure skaters at the Corner Brook Civic Centre in 2018. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

When it comes to advice for well-being in the sport for young figure skaters, Osmond said it's vital to set your own goals and your own course.

"My best advice is just to have fun with it, experience it and do the best that you can without worrying about the placements. Set your own goals and live with that," Osmond said.

Chan said the sport has changed and evolved a lot in recent years, especially in the technical prowess of some competitive newcomers.

"My biggest suggestion or advice is to not get too carried away with what other people are doing. I've learned, in my career, that it's very important to focus on the goals you've set for yourself, the things you want to achieve. And sometimes it's not material things like a medal or a title," he said.

"Everybody has their own gold medal standard. … There's so many aspects of skating and the sporting world that you can find your own little gold medal in your life, even if it's not the actual medal."

As for competition itself, Chan said performing the best you can, and watching others, is a good way to learn, too.

"Take everything in," he said. "Be a sponge."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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