By Laurie Nealin
Special to The Telegram
Already this season, the Marystown native has won gold in Finland and silver medals at ISU Grand Prix events in Canada and China en route to becoming the first Canadian woman to qualify for the prestigious Grand Prix Final since Joannie Rochette in 2009.
Osmond’s impressive performances — especially her program to two of French singer Edith Piaf’s signature songs — have garnered new fans including discerning NBC broadcaster Johnny Weir, a bronze medallist at the 2008 world championships.
“By far, my favourite short program of the season. She skates like Edith sings,” Weir raved on Twitter.
For his part, Canadian legend Kurt Browning has pencilled Osmond in as a contender for a world championship medal in Helsinki in March.
But, first things first.
This week at the Canadian Tire national skating championships in Ottawa, the 21-year-old Osmond, must clear the hurdle that tripped her up a year ago in Halifax.
At the 2016 Canadians, the two-time national champion finished a disappointing third, failing to capture one of two world championship berths reserved for Canadian women.
“Not making the world team last year was definitely a big eye-opener and a kick in the butt for me,” said the Edmonton-based athlete.
Osmond had missed the entire 2014-15 competition season as she rehabbed from surgeries to repair her broken right fibula, and now admits she failed to recognize how much her rivals — at home and abroad — had improved in that time.
“It was a big shock to my system,” said Osmond, who struggled to regain her competitive form last season amid new injuries that thwarted her comeback.
After settling for bronze at nationals she realized she had lost confidence in her skating and just didn’t feel like herself when competing. Determined to shed that discomfort, Osmond signed on with a sports psychologist, became “more and more motivated” and trained even harder.
Competing at the Grand Prix Final in France last month as one of the six, top-ranked women in the world this season, Osmond shone in the short program opener, ranking second to reigning world champion Evgenia Medvedeva, of Russia.
In the free skate, Osmond turned two planned triple jumps to doubles and, ultimately, finished fourth overall. She has been training herself to rotate every one of the seven triples in her program since then.
Today in Ottawa, she’ll take to TD Place Arena ice for official practice with a newfound enjoyment of her sport, and renewed confidence in herself and her skating.
Asked for her reaction to the accolades coming her way, Osmond said, “It was incredible (to see Weir’s tweet). I got so excited. I always get excited when people enjoy my programs but the way he commented on it, it helped knowing I portrayed what I have been wanting to.”
Still, she said the comments that mean the most are those that speak about the rekindled confidence she’s showing.
“To be able to show people I’m confident keeps me feeling confident. It’s something I struggled with a lot last year coming back from my injuries. It’s something I worked a lot on during the off-season and something I’ve been building on through the season, so to hear it is incredible.”
While Osmond is riding a big wave into the nation’s capital, two other young women —Toronto’s Gabby Daleman and Alaine Chartrand, of Ottawa — are no less determined to claim gold. Each earned their own national titles — Daleman in 2015 and Chartrand in 2016 — following Osmond’s wins in 2013 and ’14.
The women skate their short program Friday afternoon and the final on Saturday.
What’s at stake?
As Osmond focuses on winning a third national title in Ottawa, earning her third trip to the world championships is the ultimate goal. A top two result this weekend would guarantee that.
The 2017 Worlds in Finland carry added importance since competitors’ results there — in singles, pairs and ice dance — determine how many entries each country is allowed for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea.
Also this year, a top-three finish at Canadians comes with a bonus — a ticket to for the ISU Four Continents Championships in Korea in February where Olympic team hopefuls get the all-important chance to test-drive the Olympic figure skating venue in Gangneung.
Warding off injury
Osmond burst onto the senior competition scene at age 16 with two international wins and, later in that 2012-13 season, a Canadian title. However, injuries soon hampered her upward trajectory.
There was a torn hamstring, stress reaction in her foot, the broken fibula, a sprained ankle and groin and hip flexor injuries.
“I don’t have a body cut out to be a figure skater, even though I force it to be a figure skater. It tends to disagree with me quite often,” Osmond famously said amidst her struggles last season.
“But I’m figuring out how my body works, how to make it do what I want without injuring it more.”
Now, a big part of Osmond’s training regime is designed to prevent injury.
There are physio and massage therapy sessions, off-ice power training and proper warm-ups and cool-downs with every on-ice session.
Osmond also ratcheted down the power on her jump take-offs to help maintain better control of the multiple rotations in flight and avoid awkward landings that take a toll on the body.