By Laurie Nealin
Special to The Telegram—Halifax
Lions and tigers and monkeys. Oh, my!
A year ago, those furry residents of a zoo in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico were lifting Kaetlyn Osmond’s deflated spirit precisely at the time she should have been competing for her third Canadian figure skating crown in Kingston, Ont.
On the day that Ontario skaters Gabby Daleman and Alaine Chartrand battled for the national title that Osmond had been forced to relinquish due to injury, the zoo was a diversion from what was happening back in Canada.
“There was a spot I could sit on the floor, and lion and tiger cubs were crawling all over me. There were three different monkeys in my hair and jumping off me. It was so cute, and so much fun,” recalled the Marystown native who lives and trains in Edmonton.
Osmond believes she will get the same warm and fuzzy feeling this week just by being back on Canadian competition ice in Halifax, site of the 2016 Canadian Tire national championships, considering a broken leg and subsequent surgeries wiped out her entire 2014-15 season.
“Nationals was the hardest competition to miss because it was one I had never missed — it would have been my ninth year — and it was really hard not to be there competing,” the 20-year-old Osmond said.
“So, we decided to go on a family vacation to Mexico.”
Daleman, who claimed the 2015 title, and Chartrand are expected to be Osmond’s challengers for the top podium spot at Scotiabank Centre. The trio’s technical components are similar, but Osmond has the edge when it comes to quality of execution, performance ability and artistry.
“My goal for Canadians is just to enjoy it,” Osmond said. “I was expecting a lot of ups and downs this year, so I really have no idea what to expect. I really just want to have fun and not get overstressed. I just want to be out there and enjoy the skate for me.
“Obviously, I’ll be upset if it doesn’t go well, especially with the way I’ve been skating in practice. It’s been so good, the best I’ve ever skated leading into a nationals. I’m really hoping to feel like myself, skate good and, hopefully, regain my national title.”
Osmond’s return to competition this season started off with a bang when she won gold at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany in September.
“Nebelhorn set me up for the year. I got a personal best (score) for my long program. I was just so happy to be out on the ice competing,” Osmond said.
She took that confidence boost into the Skate Canada Grand Prix in Lethbridge, Alta., in late October, but then the roller coaster ride began.
Osmond suffered two injuries there — a sprained ankle in practice and a pulled groin and hip flexor when she took an awkward fall in the short program.
The next day, her error-strewn free skate relegated her to 11th place.
Pain prevented her from training properly for the subsequent three weeks. She was finally able to ramp up her training the week before her second Grand Prix competition in Japan in late November. In Nagano, Osmond managed a sixth-place finish.
“I was skating really well going into Skate Canada, but one thing after another there went bad. But, I was really happy that I still got to do two Grand Prix events,” Osmond said, noting she was a scratch from all Grand Prix competition the previous two seasons because of injury.
After stepping back from training for two weeks to allow her body time to heal, Osmond has been going full tilt since mid-December.
She arrived in Halifax Tuesday night and has two days of practice before her short program Friday and free skate Saturday.
The outcome will determine whether she earns one of two berths for Canadian women at the 2016 world championships in Boston in late March.
Osmond was ranked eighth and 11th, respectively, when she competed at the global event in 2013 and 2014.
What you might not know about Kaetlyn Osmond
• She watches her competition performances on You Tube because: “I honestly don’t remember half the time what I did in my program because I’m so good about thinking about one thing at a time and forgetting if anything went bad.”
• She was not initially sold on using softer music for her short program this season because: “Growing up, I never wanted to skate to anything slow. I was so tired of watching people skate slow programs, especially women. With 'La Vie en Rose,' I felt no one was going to like it, that I couldn’t do it.”
• She expects 17 family members and friends, mostly from Newfoundland, to be in Halifax, but they won’t be aboisterous fan club because: “They know I can see them (in the stands), but they also know I don’t want to know where they are. They know what I like, so they stay pretty calm and quiet.”
• She has a brother, Gary, in Marystown who’s 10 years older and a big supporter, but he never goes to watch her compete because: “He’s not the biggest skating fan.”