A career for the ages ends at 23

A career for the ages ends at 23

'I knew it was going to be the last time I would stand on a podium'

By Kaetlyn Osmond for CBC Sports
May 3, 2019

It is crazy to think I am retiring at 23 years old.

Some people don’t understand why I am doing this. Perhaps they think that I am scared of the talent rising in the figure skating community. This is not the case. I made the decision for myself, fully. I can’t say there was a specific moment or conversation that helped me decide to stop competing. It was more a series of events, starting back in 2014.

Kaetlyn Osmond endured a difficult 2014 season. (Yuri Kadobnov/Getty Images) Kaetlyn Osmond endured a difficult 2014 season. (Yuri Kadobnov/Getty Images)

I was dealing with a number of injuries. I was struggling with a torn hamstring during the 2014 Olympic Games, and I was tired in the aftermath. Then, just as training was getting into high gear for the next season, I developed a stress fracture in my foot. I was so frustrated by the seemingly constant stream of injuries that I told myself if I get injured one more time I won’t be fighting back from it. The next thing I knew, I was on the ice screaming. My leg was broken. I was completely defeated. While I was in my cast, I became convinced that I would never return to the ice. I was scared to say that aloud to anyone, so I just nodded and agreed to future training plans, even though inside my head, I was rolling my eyes, thinking, “yeah right, I am not doing that.” Seven weeks later I was skating again. I was doing what I was told, but there was no heart involved, it made the healing slower. I was never good at saying “no.”


Fast forward to 2015, back in the thick of competition, I was nervous for the first time in my life. I was uncomfortable in front of judges, which is usually where I thrived. I had the worst skate of my life that season. I fell in my short program, hurting myself pretty badly, and then fell another five times in my long program. I was hurt physically, humiliated, and questioning why I was still trying. I was headed to nationals not long after this. My rollercoaster season hit another big drop when I missed the world team by a very small margin. I was devastated. Again. I wasn't mad that I didn't qualify, but I felt so unlike myself on the ice, that I couldn’t recognize who the person skating was. It was the bottom point of a downward spiral. Two years out from the Olympics, I couldn’t let those disappointments be my last memories of skating.


'End goal'

I set my first real end goal. I put everything in my power toward making the most of the two years before Pyeongchang. I decided, heart and soul, to heal myself and make these the most memorable years of my life. That is exactly what ended up happening. I began skating better than ever before. I felt better than I had in such a long time. I was strong and healthy, and if a hiccup happened, I was powerful enough to overcome anything. I still can’t believe how invincible I felt during that time. Sure, there were difficulties, but I had an amazing team around me, and they kept me going.


Then came the Olympics. It was time for that final battle and I was more than ready for it. Funnily enough, strong as I felt, I never thought the podium was within reach. I was planning to have the skate of my life, but the podium, in my opinion, was untouchable. The week before my individual event, I told my sports psychologist, “I am leaving here with a gold medal regardless. But if I manage to hit the podium again, I am done.” Just a week after saying those words, I was actually standing on the podium. I couldn’t believe it.

Watch Osmond capture Olympic bronze.

The month post-Olympics was more nightmare than dream. I had never been more exhausted. I cried constantly. My body was in pain. I had a back injury that seemed to keep getting worse. I was talking to a friend before I left for worlds, unsure if I even had the ability to make it there. We tried to have fun and we joked about becoming world champion, and I remember saying these exact words: “If I ever become world champion, I am definitely done.”

Once I got to worlds, it seemed like every step was testing my will. My first practice, I hurt my ankle on a triple Lutz. My back was hurting more. I made mistakes in practice. I had trouble sleeping at night. My short program didn’t feel comfortable. I felt like a robot. I called my friend after my short and said I couldn’t finish. I wasn’t going to get through my long program. But I was there, so I knew I was going to skate. 

The four minutes of my long program were the longest of my life. So many emotions went through me. I began my program thinking I was too tired to do the full thing. I was angry when I made a small mistake. I was excited when I landed my last jump and saw my coach Ravi Walia cheer beside where I landed. And complete relief when I hit my ending position. I wanted someone to come pick me up and carry me off the ice. Ravi gave me a hug and the first words I said when I got off was, “I did it.” He asked how I felt and I straight up told him, “That was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.” But I did it.

After that, I didn’t care about the results. I had done something that I didn’t think I could do, and I had done it well. When I won, the world muted. I could see everyone vibrating and celebrating, but it was perfectly silent to me. In that moment, I knew this was how I was going to finish my competitive journey.

Watch Osmond end her stellar career with a world title.

I stood on the podium, laughing that the week before I said it wasn’t possible. In that moment, I knew it was going to be the last time I would stand on a podium and it felt like a wave washed over me and took a weight with it.

(Large photos by Getty Images) 

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.