From broken leg to broken record: Kaetlyn Osmond’s Olympic journey

It wasn’t in the plan. Break a leg, win an Olympic medal. That’s preposterous. But Osmond believes she made it here because of a 2014 misstep

But figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond believes she was only able to make the step up to bronze on Friday because of the misstep she made on Sept. 11, 2014. Just seven months removed from her Olympic debut in Sochi, she hit a rut in training in Edmonton and broke her right fibula.

Two years of development toward Pyeongchang suddenly devolved into two years of physical and mental recovery, complicated by some poor results and plenty of doubts about the wisdom of continuing.

 

“It feels like forever ago, and to think that I almost hung up my skates then and called it quits, it’s amazing,” the 22-year-old said Friday. “But I don’t think I would have been able to perform the way I did today without that injury. I regrouped and almost became a new person afterwards. I had to mature. I had to refocus on how to stay on the ice and feel strong.”

There is no questioning the strength of her program, her skating skills or her will, given the long program she laid down here.

Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond during her performance. Leah Hennel / Postmedia
“You know, today, Kaetlyn took care of her business,” said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s high performance director. “She was in a position that if she skates what she can do, we knew she was going to be on the podium. We were so happy to see her put it all together with two amazing performances.”

Positioned where she was in the final group, Osmond had to skate 23rd, between the two Russian teenagers destined to rule the women’s discipline for the foreseeable future; Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva.

But Osmond didn’t blink. She soared through an elegant, powerful Swan Lake, won the country’s record 27th medal and made this the most successful outing by a Canadian figure skating squad by claiming the team’s fourth medal. Pressure? What pressure?

“She doesn’t really notice much who she’s competing against, she’s always just focusing on herself,” said her coach Ravi Walia. “She’s not really someone who’s always trying to win, she’s just always trying to do the ultimate performance.”

She came close, wobbling only on the landing of a triple toe early in the program. She nailed the triple loop that has tripped her up before, allowed herself a sweet moment to celebrate it, then focused on the double Axel, her final jump, and took it home for 231.02 total points and second place at the time. She sunk one spot when Medvedeva turned a clean long program into silver with 238.26. Zagitova was golden at 239.57.

“This Olympics has been incredible, starting with the team event,” said Osmond. “That was just really good motivation for myself. I’ve been training my program so hard. I’ve been focusing on every small detail, every mental aspect, every physical trait of that program. And being able to come here and show what I’ve been doing in practice, finally put up two clean skates, which I haven’t done in a really long time, it really means the world to me.”

It was pretty meaningful for her mom Jackie, too. Cameras caught her sobbing as Kaetlyn took her bows, and again as her daughter sat in the kiss and cry area.

“That’s often what I do at competitions, see how I can make my mom cry,” Osmond laughed. “It’s not that hard.”

It was an impressive show and surely had some non-relatives weeping at home in the dark of a Canadian winter night. And it just as certainly casts her in a new light, because it’s not easy to come into an Olympics as a reigning world championship medallist. The expectations can weigh down a skater who isn’t prepared to defend a spot on the podium. Osmond won silver at the 2017 worlds, bronze here, and there is no quibbling with that kind of consistency.

She had a job to do on Friday and she showed up for work scared, but well trained.

“I was absolutely terrified all day. I was nervous. Usually I talk a lot. I didn’t talk very much today. But it was really exciting and I felt more prepared than anything out on the ice.”

Nerves aside, this is progress. She wasn’t really ready for prime time in Sochi, finishing fifth in the team event short program, then 13th in her own discipline. She was the new kid, the youngster. A Games later, she was third in her team event skate, then third in the short program and on the podium. She had trained in Seoul in between the team event and the women’s short program, and came back relaxed and better prepared after longer training sessions than skaters are afforded at the Games.

“To make the podium is something that I never thought I would do. I remember watching Joannie Rochette back in 2010 make the podium. I said that was incredible, it’s something I’m never going to be able to do.”

She was amazed just to be at Sochi. And still amazed four years later to win here. “When I hit my ending position, I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to enjoy every minute of it. I think that’s probably why I sat on the ice for a little bit after I finished skating. That program means so much to me. I was excited from the moment we picked the music and started the choreography. It’s been bugging me the entire time that I wasn’t able to put out a clean program and show everyone why I love this program. So, the whole ending of my program, I was just loving every single minute of it.”

Her Canadian teammate Gabrielle Daleman had a terrible day. Already trailing in seventh place after she put a hand down on a triple jump in the short program, the 20-year-old over-rotated the second triple jump, a toe loop, in her opening combination on Friday, and it got much worse from there. She fell three times, scored just 103.56 points and tumbled down the standings into 15th.

“I’m heartbroken, to be honest. That’s not me. That’s not how I skate. I’ve been very strong and consistent at nationals, team event, every day of practice. But it’s sport, you have good days and bad days. And unfortunately today wasn’t my day. I don’t know if it was nerves, if it was pressure that got to me. But at the end of the day I’m human and today was not my day.”

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