For years, Canada’s Annie Bellemare tried to get by on her natural talents, with inconsistent results. But once she started to work with Stephan Yvars, her attitude changed and her results improved with four medals in four years at Canadians. “Stephan knows what it takes to compete,” Bellemare said. “I didn’t train well so I didn’t skate well. He told me he wouldn’t take me if I wouldn’t train. It was very hard at first. I had poor technique. I’d land some jumps and fall on some, but I had no idea why. Stephan changed my technique for triple jumps. Now if I miss, I know why.”
Yvars elaborated: “I made it clear that Annie had to do more and more in practice. It’s hard to change attitudes, but it pays off. We made a plan to improve her technique so she could go and look good when she competed and she did. We didn’t expect a specific rank. We just wanted her to do her job and let the judges make their marks.” The hard work paid off with a silver medal in Ottawa in 1999. “I was so thrilled with my first medal at Canadians,” Bellemare stated. “I was in my own little world.” That medal put her on the world team. She was soon competing at the Four Continents Championships in Halifax, her first major international event, where she finished 12th.
During the 1999-2000 season, Bellemare passed a crucial CFSA monitoring session and was rewarded with assignments to the Sparkassen Cup on Ice in Germany, where she finished tenth, and the NHK Trophy, where she finished sixth. “The judges were pretty harsh,” she said of the monitoring sessions. “We had just finished the long program two days before the session, but I did good jumps. They wanted a triple lutz and I did it.” Bellemare finished ninth at Skate Canada and tenth at the Cup of Russia.
At both the 2000 and 2001 Canadian Nationals, Bellemare finished third. That earned her return engagements at the Four Continents Championships. In Osaka, Japan in 2000, she was one of only two ladies to skate a clean technical program and was the leader going into the free skate, but she finished fourth in the free and third overall. “I was really happy with the bronze since it was my first international medal,” she noted. In 2001, she earned her first trip to the World Championships in Vancouver, by finishing ninth at Four Continents, just ahead of silver medalist Nicole Watt. She finished 21st overall at her first Worlds, improving her position after each phase of the competition.
Last season, Bellemare’s goals were to win the 2002 Canadians to make the Canadian Olympic team and place in the top ten at the Olympics and Worlds. She improved at the Grand Prix events, finishing seventh at Skate Canada and eight at the NHK Trophy, giving her confidence for Canadian Nationals. She won the short program in Hamilton, but she couldn’t hold on and dropped to second behind Jennifer Robinson after the long. So it was off to Four Continents again, this time in Korea, where she finished sixth. For the 2002-2003 season, Bellemare has finished seventh at Skate Canada and tenth at Skate America, but hopes for another podium finish in Saskatoon.
Bellemare trains 10-15 hours on the ice and about five hours off ice every week. This includes a cardiovascular training program and a program by Yves Ethier, which has helped rehabilitate back problems she had previously. She also takes ballet, which she started when she was seven, but noted, “I’m not very flexible. I’ve improved but I won’t be doing any Biellmann spins.”
Annie’s mother didn’t want her to skate, but an aunt took Annie and her cousin skating when she was six and she was hooked. “I loved the jumping and the competitions and I wanted to skate all year long,” she said. “When I was ten or eleven, a lot of boys wanted me to do pairs, but I’m a lonely person. I like to skate by myself. If I stop improving, I might go to pairs so I can continue skating.” Bellemare landed her first triple jump, a salchow, when she was 12, and has been working on triple/triple combinations this season. “I’ve worked a lot on my triples and they’re all solid now,” she stated.
Annie usually selects her own music. “You have to skate to it all year long, so you need music that makes you feel good. I have to feel it to skate it.” Annie’s favorite music to skate to is slow classical music. “It’s relaxing music. When you hear it, you feel it in your heart.” Off ice, she is more likely to listen to Tori Amos or Sarah McLachlan ballads. Julie Brault and Josee Chouinard choreographed her programs. She is using “Big My Secret” by Michael Nyman from “The Piano” soundtrack for the short and “Embraceable You” by George and Ira Gershwin for the long.
Annie’s overall goal is to win the Canadian championships and get into the top ten at Worlds. She plans to skate probably until 2006. “That’s pretty far away and it depends on what happens before then,” she said. “I love doing shows and I’d like to be a pro skater for two or three years, but I want to have a normal life too. I want to get married and have kids.” Annie also hopes to become a children’s psychologist and work with troubled kids. She’s also interested in communications and marketing. Annie attended two years of classes at Edouard Montpetit College after high school, but missed too much time being away at competitions. She plans to return to the university after she finishes skating. Other than her psychology classes, She hopes to learn Italian and Spanish.
When she’s not training, Annie works at her mother’s skating store in Laval, Quebec. She reads motivational books like “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” watches “about every movie,” and plays with her golden retriever. Since her brother is a computer expert, Annie can email friends, chat, and read “jokes and stuff from other skaters.” For vacation, she likes to “go to the sun since we only have three months of sun each year.” She recently traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and hopes to get to Hawaii and Fiji one day. Other than skating, Annie enjoys snowboarding and tennis, but claims she’s not a very good player. She watches a lot of tennis on television and lists Serena Williams as her favorite player.