Canada’s 2002 junior men’s champion, Shawn Sawyer, took a radical approach to competing at his first World Junior Figure Skating Championship in Norway in March. He skated an entirely new long program for the first time in competition. “I needed something more mature for seniors,” Sawyer stated. “I thought if I could skate the new program, it would be great. And I wanted to be able to throw the quad toe in both programs (qualifier and free skate).
I’ve just started landing the quad and it was really consistent in practice.” He finished 11th in his first Junior Worlds, after starting in 23rd after the qualifying rounds.
By trying the program out this season, Sawyer will have a jump on his competitors for 2002-2003. He expects to compete on the junior circuit for two more seasons, although he will be skating in seniors at Canadians. Sawyer had good results this year, finishing fifth at the Junior Grand Prix Final after taking the gold at the Sofia Cup and the bronze at the SNC Cup in Nagano. “The Sofia Cup was my favorite competition,” he said. “I had a poor short but a terrific long and won the gold medal. It was my first Junior Grand Prix win and a special moment when I saw the flag and heard the anthem played.”
The 17-year-old, who was also the Canadian novice men’s titleist in 2000, was pleased with the 2001-2002 season. “I did pretty good on the junior circuit this year,” he said. “I got used to the small crowds from the JGP final. You feel less pressure when there’s no one there, but you can’t feel the crowd’s excitement. Sometimes when you’re not doing well, the crowd can keep you going.”
Sawyer comes from a skating family. “My dad and my brother both play hockey and my little sister started figure skating,” he said. “I began figure skating when I was nine. I’d played hockey for three years before, everything but goalie, but I knew that wasn’t my thing.” He enjoys skating because “everything’s a challenge in skating. You have to be strong the whole time, but you have a chance to make something happen.” He landed his first triple when he was 11, a triple salchow, and said he has learned all the jumps “in the normal order.”
Originally from New Brunswick, Sawyer has trained in Ottawa at the Minto Skating Club with coach Alexei Tchetveroukin for the last two years. He usually trains for about three hours on ice and two hours off ice every day. Off ice training includes conditioning, weight training, ballet, and jumping. “I’ve been doing ballet for the last five years, but I don’t really enjoy it,” he said. He also runs year round.
Marina Zueva choreographed his junior programs, which included “Ima” from Cirque du Soleil for the technical. “I picked all my music except this new one,” he said,” but my coach and Brian Orser found it. Brian and Lynn Nightingale choreographed “Spartacus”. Sawyer likes to skate to techno music and “something that keeps me awake.” He used “How Much is the Fish” for his exhibition program at Canadians, a program packed full of unusual moves including a beautiful spiral and a Biellmann spin. “I learned the Biellmann in New Brunswick when I was 12. I worked on it off ice and it took me four years to do it,” he remembered. “It’s hard on my back so I don’t practice it. I usually only use it in exhibitions.”
Sawyer is in the eleventh grade, where his best subjects are math and science. “I had biology in New Brunswick and just learned it easily and quickly,” he said. “I enjoy both subjects and hope to study biochemistry at university.” Between skating and school, he doesn’t have much time for relaxation, but likes to read a lot. He’s also learning to play the guitar. Other than that, he hangs out with friends and goes to the movies. Sawyer collects skating pins and has a pet hamster. For holidays, Sawyer said he likes “to go to the beach or somewhere where there is a lot of snow, not something in between. I love skiing and snowboarding in Vancouver and I like to go to the beach. I’d like to see Jamaica sometime.”
Sawyer’s goals for next season are to make the JGP final, hopefully winning a medal, and to skate better at Junior Worlds. Sawyer has already won once this season at the Junior Grand Prix in Yugoslavia. Eventually he hopes to skate at Four Continents, Worlds and the Olympics. “I want to skate for as long as I can,” he said. “I’ve just started to think about 2006 since I’ve been landing the quad.”