The number three seems to be lucky for the Canadian pairs team of Maddison Bird and Raymond Schultz. The skaters, who turned 15 and 19 respectively in April, have won a third-place bronze medal at the national level in Canada in each of the last three years in three different divisions – pre-novice in 2007, novice in 2008, and juniors in 2009.
The couple then hit a double three when they placed sixth at the 2009 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Sofia Bulgaria, their first ISU championship in the three years that they have been together.
Maddison and Bird include a throw triple Salchow and a throw triple loop in their programs, but no side-by-side triple jumps, so that’s a three they can work on this summer. This season, they did side-by-side double Lutzes and a double flip-double toe combination.
“Next year, we plan to stay in juniors again,” Bird said. “We’d like to be higher on the podium at Canadians and go to Junior Worlds and be higher there. Hopefully, we’ll do more Junior Grand Prixs and make the JGP Final.”
Schultz started skating when he was three. “I just started in recreational skating,” he said. “My sister skated and I played hockey. I played left wing in bantam leagues for about eight years. I got into figure skating to improve my hockey skill and started competing when was nine.
“I landed my first triple toe and triple Salchow on the same day,” Schultz stated. “I’m working on all my triples. I’ve been trying a few triple Axels in practice that weren’t too bad.”
Schultz placed 13th at Canadian Nationals in 2009 and plans to continue.
He dabbled in ice dancing when he was about ten. “I skated with Tiffany Jermey in juvenile dance for two years,” he said. “We came third a lot of times. I was just testing the waters to see where I wanted to compete.”
Schultz also got into pairs when he was ten. “I competed with Ashley Zielke for five years, but she grew too tall for me,” he noted. “We were fifth in juvenile pairs in 2003. I liked the risk elements with the lifts and throws. It was more exciting than dance.”
Bird began skating when she was about two and a half years old. “My dad played hockey so my parents decided to try me on skates,” she recalled. “He made it to the Toronto Maple Leafs but then had to quit when he got injured. My brothers all play hockey and my dad kept trying to get me into it.”
“I’m working on my double Axel now,” Bird said. “I’m trying a couple of triples, the toe loop and Salchow. My double Axel is clean but I fall a lot.”
Bird placed seventh at Sectionals in novice ladies in 2009.
She started in pairs in the summer of 2006 when Lee Barkell asked her mother and her coach if she would like to try out with Schultz. “I tried it and I liked it,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to compete in ladies by myself and in pairs with someone else on the ice.”
“I didn’t skate pairs for two years after I split with Ashley,” Schultz noted. “I had some tryouts but nothing outstanding. When I tried out with Maddison, I knew there was chemistry there. We match really well.”
The couple train at the Mariposa School of Skating in Barrie, Ontario with a team of coaches directed by Lee Barkell. Jacinthe Lariviere does most of their coaching while Shane Dennison helps with lifts and throws. For singles, Bird trains with Michelle Leigh and Janice Morgan, while Schultz works with Barkell and Doug Leigh.
“Maddison and Raymond’s goal is to get two assignments for this upcoming season,” said coach Lariviere, “but we are still waiting to find out. Other goals are to get a consistent side-by-side double Axel so we can put it in the program. We also want to improve on speed and power, work on new lifts, and improve on the double twist in order to get the triple twist.”
They train on ice in pairs for two hours a day, five days a week. Schultz does another two hours in singles, while Bird does about 15 minutes less each day. Off ice, they follow a specialized program with a trainer for about two hours three or four times a week. “I think working out is fun,” Bird noted.
They also take a weekly ballet class. “My mom was in the National Ballet of Canada,” Bird added. “She taught me in class when I was younger.”
Kelly Johnson choreographs the couple’s 2008-09 pairs programs, while Mary Angela Wilson does Schultz’s programs in junior men. Johnson also choreographed Bird’s long program in ladies while Chris Mabee choreographed her short last season.
The couple changes both of their programs for pairs each season but only one of their singles programs. For their 2008-09 short program, the couple skated to The Road to Vladivostok by The Gypsy Fiddlers. “It’s fun and upbeat and happy and cool,” Bird said.
For their long program, Bird and Schultz used For the Love of a Princess from the Braveheart soundtrack. “I’ve seen the movie and remember hearing the song,” Schultz noted.
For 2009-10, they will skate to a selection of tango music for the long, but have yet to decide on music for the short.
They choreographed their own gala program to Always on Your Side by Sheryl Crowe and Sting.
Both of the skaters listen to a variety of music off ice. Schultz is the more musically talented of the duo, having learned to play the piano and the guitar.
Bird enjoys hanging out with friends, watching her brothers play hockey and reading, especially the Twilight series. “I also bake a lot,” she said.
“I go snowboarding in the winter after the skating season,” Bird added. “I don’t want to risk getting hurt while I’m competing. I also played on the flag football team in school.”
Schultz enjoys hanging out with friends and cooking. “I’m a big Gordon Ramsay fan,” he said.
Bird attends Saint Joan of Arc School, where she is in the ninth grade, “I want to do something fun and adventurous for a career,” she said, “but I haven’t decided on anything.”
Schultz graduated from high school last year and is taking a year off from studies to focus on skating and work. E puts in about 30 hours a week working in a retail clothing store. Schultz plans to study business in college.