Fresh off winning their first national title, Canadian ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje recently competed at the 2015 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships where they captured the gold. The last time they won gold was in 2010 after they had missed the Vancouver Games.
“That was definitely at a different point in our career,” offered 27-year-old Poje. “We felt deflated. The Four Continents served as our turning point then, and it was our way to prove to ourselves that we wanted to fight and come back from that disappointment. We knew what we wanted from that point on. We are a different team from back then and now things have come full circle.”
The ice dancers had a great deal of international success this season, most notably on the Grand Prix circuit, and have won every competion in which they have competed. What is slightly unusual is that the ice dancers, who have competed together since 2006, pocketed a world medal (last year) before winning a national title.
“I think it’s a testament to the strength of Canadian figure skating,” said Weaver, 25. “I think the past four years have been such a high for figure skating in Canada with so much talent and so much depth.”
Although 2010 Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are sitting out this season, Weaver and Poje are certainly not placeholders.
“In the past, we’ve always tried to get as close as we could to Tessa and Scott,” said Weaver. “Never really knowing when they would retire, we always want to be ready. All those years of always striving to be at the top has paid off. It’s very exciting.”
Thus far, the ice dancers are certainly pleased with how things have been going, and like other top athletes, attribute their success to training.
“We’ve tried to put in as much work as possible in the beginning half (of the season) and just continue the momentum,” said Poje.
“We think we’ve really improved since the Grand Prix Final and have enhanced a lot of the aspects of our programs,” Weaver added.
Since the Grand Prix Final, the 2014 World silver medalists have gotten as much feedback as possible and have focused their energy on areas which they felt would make the biggest impact.
“We’ve made a few small changes to the choreography, but nothing major,” Poje said of their programs. “Most of it has come through the work in the finishes, the expressions and interpretations, and trying to ensure that we grow the story and build the base of the technique so that we can continue to achieve better levels this season.”
The Canadian champions divide their training between Toronto, Ont., and Detroit, Mich., under Pasquale Camerlengo, Angelika Krylova and Shae-Lynn Bourne, and are thriving in both environments.
“Kaitlin (Hawayek) and Jean-Luc (Baker) motivate us and we usually are the ones that never lack in motivation,” said Weaver of the team at the Detroit Skating Club. “They are the hardest workers. They are hungry for success and I think that’s been very visible in their career thus far. We’re buddies with them and I think it provides a great productive atmosphere. The DSC has always been very friendly and family-like and that continues throughout this season, even with changes of faces.”
Their win at the Grand Prix Final did not hinder their efforts to remain focused and “stay in the moment” at the 2015 Canadian National Figure Skating Championships.
“We had never won a Canadian championships and we were not going to let that opportunity slip by,” said Weaver. “We want to show Canada that they have another team that is ready to step up to the plate. That’s not something that you can just walk through or go through the motions for. I think that momentum will carry us on in the season.”
Competition at the Four Continents this week was a bit fierce for the Canadians, who battled for placements with USA’s Madison Chock/Evan Bates and Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani.
Weaver and Poje performed a solid short dance to “La Virgen de la Macarena,” which featured a level four lift, however, they only earned a level two on both the twizzles and partial step sequence. When the scores came up, it was evident that Weaver and Poje were confused.
“We are definitely going to get some feedback and make sure that our programs are prepared for the World championships,” said Weaver. “We were still happy with the performance. The hard part about the short dance, especially this year, is that even the smallest details can make a world of a difference.”
The Grand Prix Final champions found themselves in third place with 68.31 points behind Chock/Bates (70.38) and Shibutani/ Shibutani (69.65) going into the free dance.
In their routine to Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” Weaver and Poje earned a level four for their twizzles, lifts and dance spin, while the circular and diagonal steps garnered a level three. They picked up 109.15 points, just short of their seasons best, and totaled 177.46 points to capture the gold.
“It wasn’t easy coming from behind, but that’s a position that we’ve been in for seemingly our whole career,” said Weaver. “It was nothing new to feel like we had to fight for this free dance. There was a little bit of extra gusto in there because of the desire to move up, and that helped us to perform.”
With the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships looming ahead, it’s back to work for the eight-time Canadian national medalists, who feel there is still a great deal of room to grow.
“I can’t watch a video of our skating without picking out millions of different things,” said Weaver. “That’s a good thing as we are always striving to be better and better. There is so much work to be done. If we weren’t as critical of ourselves, we wouldn’t be where we are now. It’s critique with love. It’s knowing what we are capable of.”
Staying on the same page season after season is easy for Weaver and Poje, who have competed together since 2006, as they are best friends.
“We like to hang out with each other in the rink and outside the rink,” said Poje. “We have a great relationship and because of that, a great respect for each other. We know what each other wants and we want the best for each other. We try and deliver everything day in and day out when it comes to work on the ice. We just have fun and enjoy ourselves outside of the rink as well.”
“Sometimes I feel like I know what Andrew is going to say before he says it,” said Weaver, chuckling. “We keep it fresh and we always laugh. Even though our training is very intense and stressful at times, we keep it light. In the end, it’s just us as friends going out there and skating. That is what has helped us stay on (track) with our goals and aspirations.”
“She’s also a good audience for my bad jokes,” Poje chimed in. “From the very first year together, we had a great friendship and a great connection. It’s continued to develop over the seasons, and it’s built that base that we’ve kept nurturing over the years.”