Canadian ice dancers Karen Routhier, 18, and Eric Saucke-Lacelle, 19, made great strides during the 2008-09 season, even though they battled through injuries. Routhier endured year-long pain in her left leg which limited her training time.
The young team won the junior ice dance title in Canada after taking the silver medal in 2008. It was Saucke-Lacelle’s third Canadian title as he won pre-novice dance in 2005 and novice dance in 2006 with Christina Gignac, his previous partner.
This past February, Routhier and Saucke-Lacelle improved their placement at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships, moving up from tenth in 2008 to seventh.
“The level of difficulty was much higher this year than last in the top ten at Junior Worlds,” Saucke-Lacelle underlined. “There were some tough teams we hadn’t competed against before. We were hoping we’d end up between sixth and eighth and we did.”
The dancers also won bronze medals at both of their ISU Junior Grand Prix events at Czech Skate and the John Curry Memorial.
“Next year, we’ll compete as seniors at Canadians but stay in juniors internationally,” Routhier revealed. “We hope to make the Junior Grand Prix Final and go back to Junior Worlds again.” “We’re going to try to do some senior summer competitions to get ready,” Saucke-Lacelle added. “Maybe Minto Skate so our parents can come and see us.”
Saucke-Lacelle is the more experienced of the pair, having started skating at three and ice dancing at eight. Although her mother was a skating coach, Routhier only began skating when she was six and didn’t start dancing until she was 14.
The dancers, who have been together since the summer of 2006, have trained at the Mariposa School of Skating in Barrie, Ontario since January 2008 under a team headed by David Islam. “It’s very different training here than in Montreal,” Saucke-Lacelle explained. “David organizes and schedules everything for us. Our off ice training, ballet and gym work is all taken care of and it’s mandatory that we do it. In Quebec, it was kind of an option.”
Tyler Myles is their primary coach, while Kelly Johnson works on their choreography and presentation. Pavel Porac trains them in the basics. “He’s the one who makes us do things over and over and over again until he’s satisfied,” Saucke-Lacelle noted.
“We also have a sports psychologist that we can talk to,” said Routhier. “She came to visit us before Nationals, and helped us define our goals. They call it “off ice coaching” – teaching us how to manage stress and understand and control our emotions and stuff like that.”
Routhier and Saucke-Lacelle trained five days a week for three hours a day last season. “Normally, it would be more,” Routhier said, “but I have an injury to my calf muscle. I’ve been battling it for a year now. It’s called tibial stress syndrome, basically from over use. Before we came to Barrie, I didn’t have anyone to see about it, but I got therapy during the year.”
“The main cure is just rest,” she said. “I don’t need any surgery. I can skate but not push too hard with it or it hurts.”
The dancers will take the time to study the four compulsory dances that they will need for the 2009-10 season. “We’ve never done any of the dances in competition,” Saucke-Lacelle noted. “I’ve done the Westminster Waltz and the Argentine Tango, but Karen needs to learn them. We don’t know the other dances at all.”
Kelly Johnson, Tyler Myles and Tessa Virtue choreographed their 1930s-style original dance for the 2008-09 season, using music by Bette Midler. The couple skated a blues and jive routine to P. S. I Love You and Stuff Like That There.
“We had nothing to do with choosing the music,” Routhier said. “Our coaches had good ideas what would be good for us. Tessa helped us a lot on the details of the program.”
Pasquale Camerlengo choreographed their free dance using two versions of Cinema Paradiso, one by Dulce Pontes and the other by Ennio Morricone.
“Tyler found the music for us before Junior Worlds last year and had the CD for us when we were in Sofia,” Saucke-Lacelle stated. “It’s a romantic theme,” Routhier added. “We weren’t telling a certain love story from the movie. It’s just romantic, that’s all.”
Saucke-Lacelle listens to all kinds of music, while Routhier enjoys everything except heavy metal. Saucke-Lacelle is also an excellent musician himself. He plays the guitar, saxophone, drums, and piano.
For fun, Saucke-Lacelle said, “We watch a lot of movies. There’s not much else to do in Barrie, but it’s better than in Montreal. Here everyone is having fun and there are lots of skaters our age. In Montreal, there was a really big age difference and everyone lived far apart.”
Saucke-Lacelle has graduated from high school and is taking time off. “It’s hard to juggle school and skating,” he explained. Routhier will finish next year by continuing to take correspondence courses from her school in Quebec. “I won’t take any courses this summer because that’s when we have the intensive part of our training,” she noted.