Golden Skate

Scion of Rodeo Family Roped into Pairs

Canada's Paige Lawrence, 19, and Rudi Sweigers, 21, perform to Orange Blossom Sorbet by Joe Trio at the 2009 World Junior Figure Skating Championships.

Paige Lawrence, whose parents own a rodeo production company in Kipling, Saskatchewan, didn’t set out to be a pairs skater. She actually competed in barrel racing as a youngster. But partner Rudi Sweigers found a way to get her into pairs.

“I kind of got tricked into it,” Lawrence said. “Rudi had a good partner but when she left, our coach asked me to help him out since I was one of the few lefties in our club. Two weeks later, he had made some programs for us.”

“I figured I’d give it a try,” she continued. “It was something fun and different for me. I liked the feeling of being thrown and started to like doing pairs. When we landed a throw triple Salchow on our second week, I knew it was special.”

“Paige is a great partner because she’s so dedicated,” Sweigers stated. “When I want to call it a day, she says, ‘let’s do five more.’ She trains me harder than our coach. She’s so gutsy. She’ll do whatever I ask of her.”

The couple didn’t meet with instant success, placing 14th at Canadian Nationals (Junior Division) in both 2006 and 2007. However, in 2008, they won the silver medal  and in 2009, they placed a surprising fourth in senior pairs.

The couple started the 2008-09 international season by placing eighth at the ISU Junior Grand Prix (JGP) in Gomel, followed by a fifth-place finish in Sheffield, England. Then they placed a very respectable fourth at the 2009 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was the highest placement for Canadian athletes at Junior Worlds.

“Our main goal last season was to make the senior international team,” Sweigers said, “and we accomplished that.”

“We were disappointed not to make the Junior Grand Prix Final,” Lawrence added, “but we refocused after the JGP season and aimed for Junior Worlds. It was our first and last Junior Worlds because we aged out. This upcoming season, we’ll just compete in seniors.”

Lawrence started to skate when she was four. “My mom was a figure skater and my dad was a hockey player,” she recalled. “They put me in Canskate because there wasn’t very much to do in our small town. It’s only about 500 people. I started training for competitions when I was nine.”

The 19-year-old, who landed her first triple Salchow when she was 15, continues to compete in singles, and placed 16th at the Western Challenge in senior ladies during the 2008-09 season.

Sweigers, 20, started to skate after his family moved to Canada from South Africa in order for his mother to practice medicine in Saskatoon and then Kipling. “Everybody does it for recreation in a small town,” said Sweigers, who went on the ice at ten.

“I dabbled in hockey early on,” he continued. “Then I went to take figure skating lessons to develop my hockey skills. I liked the jumps and it was so much fun that I kept going. I made it to Nationals a few times in junior men and was second at Sectionals in senior men, but I’ve been retired the last two years.”

“I’d had a lot of injuries so I started doing pairs when I was 15,” he continued. “I was 20th at Junior Nationals in novice pairs in 2005 with Kristin Bonkowski, but she wanted to focus on her singles career.”

That’s when he hatched his plan to skate with Lawrence. The couple hooked up in the summer of 2005.

Patricia Hole coaches the couple, who train mainly in Virden, Manitoba, six days a week for two to four hours a day. Off ice, they do an hour and a half of individual gym training a day. Sweigers also runs during the summer and does yoga.

Both of their programs are new for the upcoming season. Jamie MacGregor choreographed their short program to Baton Bunny and Bernard Ford choregrapher the long to music from the Van Helsing soundtrack.

Lawrence plans on competing in the Senior ladies division this season. “I will be using the same programs as last year because I figured four new programs would be too much to handle in one season.”

This season the team will also make ther Senior Grand Prix debut at NHK Trophy, which will be held in Nagano, Japan in November.

Off ice, Lawrence listens to country and pop music. “I’m not picky,” she said, “but I don’t like heavy metal.

“I listen to literally everything,” Sweigers said, “from classical to opera to rap, whatever mood strikes me.”

Both skaters used to play volleyball and soccer. Sweigers still enjoys kayaking, while Lawrence likes to swim. She also likes to go home on weekends to visit her family and friends and ride her horse. “I’m not a city girl at all,” she said. “It’s really relaxing to go riding with my dad and my brothers.”

Sweigers enjoys hanging out with friends, going to movies, and reading, mainly science fiction. “I’m an avid reader,” he said, “whenever I can find a good book.” Lawrence also likes to read but said, “I’m an historical fiction kind of girl.”

Both of the skaters are in their first year studying part-time at Brandon University in Manitoba, where she is majoring in kinesiology and he is focusing on psychology. “I’m leaning towards a career in sports medicine,” said Lawrence, an honor student. “I’ve been working with a sports psychologist so thought I’d learn more about it,” Sweigers noted.

The skaters plan to compete through the 2010 Olympics and hopefully the 2014 Olympics.