January 28, 2013
By Adam Wightman
|THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette photo. Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers perform their senior pair short program during the 2013 Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., on Friday, January 18, 2013.|
Locals Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers won the bronze medal at the Canadian Figure Skating Championship at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga on Sunday, Jan. 20
It is the third consecutive bronze medal that the pair have won at the national championship, and while their goal was to place in the top two, it was still a thrilling event to compete in, Rudi said.
"It was just a fantastic competition. The pairs in Canada are very strong all around. It (the pairs free-skate) was probably one of the best events at the competition to watch," said Rudi.
There were only six pairs at the competition, and Rudi, from Kipling, and Paige, of Kennedy, were the only pair not from Central Canada, with four from the Greater Toronto Area and one from Montreal. The competition involved both a short program and a long program, and the six pairs who took part were placed according to their combined score for both programs.
The short program took place on Friday, Jan. 18. For it, each pair had roughly three and a half minutes to perform a number of skating manoeuvres, called elements, long pre-determined by the events organizers. They placed third in that event, but they made a mistake that cost them points. Paige didn't land properly on her triple toe, and she slid into Rudi's path. So she had to slam on the brakes, which interfered with their next manoeuvre, a slide.
"Because we had no momentum, we couldn't get a very good score on that element. And we lost a lot of points on those two elements," Rudi said.
They performed the long program, on the other hand, as smooth as ice. It took place on Sunday, and for the program, they had four and a half minutes to perform 13 elements of their choosing. Their combined scores for the two programs were calculated shortly after the long program.
Placing third secured them a berth in Four Continents Figure Skating Championship, held this year in Osaka, Japan from Feb. 16-11.
But it isn't where they wanted to be going. If they had finished in first or second, they would have earned a spot in this year's World Figure Skating Championships, in London, Ont. in mid March.
"It is a little bit of a bittersweet thing for us." Rudi said. "Our goal at the beginning of the season was to get top two in nationals. This is now our third time with bronze in Canada."
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won their second gold medal at the competition, and Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch captured silver. Both pairs are on the Canadian national team with Rudi and Paige.
"We're really excited for our fellow competitors and friends chance to compete at worlds." Rudi said.
Rudi and Paige say that they will both be cheering in front of the television for their friends during the international competition. And for good reason. If a country's two skating pairs finish at worlds with a combined placement of 13 or lower (such as one pair getting fourth place and the other finishing in fifth, for example), their country can send three pairs to the next Olympics, for which the three pairs would have to qualify at their annual national championship.
For Canadian skaters, that will be next year's Canadian Figure Skating Championships. One of the Canadian pairs has to finish in the top 10 at Worlds if Canada can send two teams.
"We're really hoping that they have a strong competition. This is one of the times that you're cheering your heart out for your competitors," Rudi said.
However the two Canadian pairs finish at the World Figure Skating Championship, Rudi and Lawrence have a future that is quite bright. They are young and have many figure-skating related options open to them in if they don't ever make it to the Olympics, whether it be coaching, judging or skating in the professional circuit, Lawrence said.
Having such options is something that they have earned through a lot of hard work, the long hours put in on the ice and the chemistry they have developed.
But that chemistry wasn't always there. Lawrence didn't think that she and Rudi were a match made in heaven when she was first approached by her coach Patty Hole asking her to skate with him as a pair.
"I thought, well, Paige jumps the same way," Hole said. "So I asked her, 'Can you be the guinea pig?'"
The year was 2005, and the two were skating at the Wawota Skating Club. Rudi needed a new skating partner after the skater whom he used to skate in pairs with, Kristi Bonkowski, decided she wanted to skate singles.
But Lawrence repeatedly declined Hole's request that she try skating with Rudi. She thought she wanted to skate singles.
"I was very against it. I'm an independent girl and thought that I didn't want to skate with somebody as a pair. I said no quite a few times," she said.
Eventually Lawrence decided to help him out, just until he found a full-time partner to skate pairs with. But, slowly, the idea of skating with Rudi as a pair began to grow on her, with every practice, she said.
"I really started to enjoy it. I really began to enjoy the throws and the lifts and the challenge. It turned into something I really enjoyed doing"
Hole put the two through a test trial, overlooked by another pair, to see if they had what it takes. And they passed.
In a matter of weeks she decided that she would skate full-time in pairs with Rudi. "It just seemed like something that was going to work, and here they are," Hole said.
The rest, Hole said, is history, one that has spanned seven years and has led to three consecutive bronze medals in senior pairs at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships, and to the cusp of the qualifying for the Olympics.
Currently, Lawrence and Rudi live and practice out of Virden, and they still are coached by Patty Hole. The pair practices five to six days a week for three to four hours each day. They also do one to two hours of off-ice training during the days that they practice. Off-ice training includes cardio and strength exercises. A couple of days a week they do ballet and off-ice lifts. For three days a week, they have choreography sessions to polish their program they perform at competitions. And, when they aren't too busy travelling to competitions, they do yoga.
"We treat it like a job," said Lawrence. "It's our career choice for right now. We devote as much time and effort to it as we can."
The pair also goes to Ellenton, Florida, just south of Tampa, a couple of times each year to work with Lyndon Johnson, a professional coach.
What started as a reluctant spot-filling has grown into a brother and sister relationship, and everything that comes along with it, Lawrence said.
"We know each other very well, and we get along for the most part, but there is always that brother sister bickering," Lawrence said.
But what can you expect? she asked.
"Being around each other six days a week, for many days of the year-we don't get many days off-it's pretty hard to get along all of the time. But any arguments we have are never a big deal," she said. Rudi agrees.
"We get in some tussles," he said. "It's like anything else. When I do the math, I've been skating with her at the same club for 15 years, and in a way it's like a marriage, but we do have our own separate personal lives outside of skating."
They have not only skated together in the same club during those 15 years, they also have skated for the same club: the Wawota Skating Club. While they train out of Virden, they name the Wawota club as their home club on their annual Skate Canada registration.
"We're very proud of our roots," Rudi said. "Paige and I have been very supported by Saskatchewan and the Wawota figure skating club, but even though we don't train there, we still continue to represent it. I feel it made us the strong pair team that we are today," he said.
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