HELSINKI — There were times over the past two seasons when Kaetlyn Osmond didn’t know if she would ever be able to skate again. Or if she even wanted to.
Now, the 21-year-old from Marystown, N.L., sits a mere three points behind defending champion Evgenia Medvedeva, and appears poised to capture Canada’s first medal in women’s singles at the world figure skating championships since Joannie Rochette won silver in 2009.
And if not Osmond? Fellow Canadian Gabrielle Daleman is right behind her.
Osmond roared to a second-place finish in the short program Wednesday, while Daleman finished third, superb results for Canadian women who have long skated in the shadow of the country’s male stars. It’s the first time Canada has had two women in the top three of the world short program.
“I was just loving every minute of it and completely in the moment,” Osmond said. “I know how to deal a little bit more with the excitement, and hopefully I can just stay that way for the long (program).”
It wasn’t as good a day for Canada’s pairs skaters, with two-time world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford struggling to a surprise seventh after the short program.
Osmond missed a season and a half after snapping her fibula in her right leg in two places when she swerved to avoid someone in practice in September 2014. The gruesome X-rays shows the bones bent sideways like broken toothpicks. She underwent two surgeries, and then embarked on a comeback that was both arduous and rattling to her confidence.
“I think she was at a very low point with her confidence,” said her longtime coach Ravi Walia. ”I think she was questioning whether she could come back and whether she wanted to come back, and I think she was afraid.”
On Wednesday, before a raucous crowd at Hartwell Arena that included several dozen Canadian flags, she was fierce and fearless in her first world appearance since 2014.
Skating to Edith Piaf’s “Sous le ciel de Paris” and “Milord,” and dressed in a glamorous black dress and black gloves, a black scarf tied jauntily at her throat, Osmond reeled off a triple flip and triple toe loop combination to open. With the crowd clapping along to her music, she went on to land a triple Lutz and double Axel en route in a clean program worth 75.98 points.
“It feels incredible,” she said through a wide smile. “I was just happy to skate the way I did. Just knowing that I’m up in second now, it just feels incredible.
“This program, I just feel so comfortable and confident doing it,” she added. ”It’s an amazing character, confident character. That gives me confidence on the ice. I find the crowd reacts really well to it, which gives me a lot of energy while I’m skating.”
Medvedeva, the latest in a long line of Russia stars, scored 79.01 points, edging Osmond on both the technical score and all five of the component (formerly artistic impression) marks.
Daleman, a 19-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., scored 72.19 for third. Russian Anna Pogorilaya is fourth with 71.52.
When Rochette won world silver in ‘09, it was Canada’s first women’s medal since Elizabeth Manley claimed silver in 1988.
When Osmond burst onto the scene in 2012, hopes were high that she would follow in Rochette’s footsteps before she was derailed by injury.
Walia and Osmond started over and rebuilt all her jumps, and while she showed great improvement in practice last season, she was unable to produce the same performance in the competitive spotlight. She didn’t qualify for last year’s world team.
“I think mentally she wasn’t quite ready, because in the competitions it wasn’t showing up,” the coach said. ”That’s something you can’t plan for as a coach, or even for her. And at the end of the season, it really was obvious that it was taking longer than we had hoped.”
Her next hurdle is Friday’s long program, which has been her albatross this season. At last month’s Four Continents, Daleman was first and Osmond second after the short program, but Osmond fell three times in the long program to plummet to fifth.
“I’m still learning how to do everything all at the same time,” said Osmond, who had both her parents in the crowd. ”I worked really hard on my stamina, my consistency, all year. And hopefully it’ll show this time when I do it.”
Daleman, who was second at the Four Continents for her first major international medal, opened with a triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination before executing a triple Lutz and double Axel. Standing at the board, animated coach Brian Orser virtually skated every step with her, jumping high in the air when she landed her triple Lutz.
“Especially after Four Continents I just gained a lot of confidence and I just knew what I’m able to do and I just enjoyed the moment,” Daleman said.
Daleman said the most touching moment was when she was sitting in the “kiss and cry” and spotted her dad Michael in the crowd. He’d only learned last week that he’d have the time off work to attend the event, and landed in Helsinki on Wednesday morning.
“Literally the last second I was there, it was ‘Oh my God, I see my dad!’,” she said. “I didn’t know where he was or were my mom (Rhonda) was in the crowd.”
In the pairs competition, two-time world champions Duhamel and Radford earned 72.67 points for their routine set to “Killer” by pop star Seal. Radford skated while fighting an injury to his right hip.
Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China were first with 81.23 points were first after the short program at 81.23 points. Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch were the top Canadians in sixth place with 73.14 points.