Canada roars to two women’s skating medals

HELSINKI — Kaetlyn Osmond’s story is one of a remarkable comeback, and doubts of recovery so deep that she wondered if she’d ever skate again.

Gabrielle Daleman’s is of a teenager riding a meteoric rise, pitting herself against the world’s best with the steely nerves of a veteran.

Together, they wrapped themselves in the Maple Leaf on Friday, and the future of women’s skating in Canada never looked brighter.

Osmond roared to a silver medal at the world figure skating championships while Daleman captured bronze, marking the first time Canada has had two women on the podium at the event.

“It was such an incredible feeling,” Osmond said. “To be able to stand on the podium and see one Canadian flag raised is one thing, but to see two, it feels like you’re not alone. Figure skating is such an individual sport, but to have a teammate on the podium with you is unbelievable.”

The result is particularly remarkable for Osmond, who suffered a gruesome broken leg in 2014 when she swerved to avoid someone in practice. Her X-rays showed the fibula snapped sideways in two places like a twig twice broken.

“When I broke my leg, I never thought I’d ever be skating again let alone be standing on a world podium,” she said through a delighted smile. “I had to relearn how to skate, relearn how to even stand on one foot again. I had to relearn all my technique.”

And she had to learn to compete again. After two surgeries, she faced an arduous comeback that taxed her mentally as much as physically. The 21-year-old from Marystown, N.L., didn’t even qualify for last year’s worlds.

“I doubted myself so much last season,” she said. “I doubted whether I’d compete at my best ever again, and finally this year, that doubt has slowly been washed away.

“The last remaining of it finally went today.”

Skating to “La Boheme,” and wearing an off-the-shoulder red dress, her hair pulled back in a bun, Osmond confidently reeled off seven triple jumps to finish with a combined score of 218.13 points, setting a Canadian record. Daleman, a 19-year-old from Newmarket, Ont., collected 213.52 points, while Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva shattered world records for both the short and long program en route to scoring 233.41 points.

The medals were Canada’s first in women’s singles since Joannie Rochette captured silver in 2009. Rochette’s medal ended a dry spell that went back to Elizabeth Manley’s silver in 1988.

“Knowing I wanted to be like Joannie since I was a little girl, and now that it’s all come to reality, I’m just starstruck, I don’t even feel like this is real life. I’m unbelievably happy right now,” said Daleman, who landed seven triples in her program to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Daleman was the next skater up at Hartwell Arena after Medvedeva’s historic performance, and looked completely unflappable. She even paused to applaud the Russian star’s score.

“She’s an absolute breathtaking skater, and I’m going to applaud her because I respect her so much,” Daleman said. “And it makes you hungrier, it makes you want that more.”

Osmond’s longtime coach Ravi Walia, meanwhile, had talked this season about having to begin again at Square 1 with Osmond, rebuilding all of her jumps and the patterns of her programs.

She’s struggled with stamina in her long program all season, but stood strong when it counted Friday. And when she struck her final pose looking nothing close to tired, Walia broke into an elated grin.

“She deserves it,” the Edmonton coach said. ”I’ve worked with her for 11 years and she is a really great athlete, a great person, and to come back from such a serious injury… she’s really had a positive attitude the whole time and worked so hard to get back to world championships.”

The results also mean Canada will have three spots in the Pyeongchang Olympics for the first time in 50 years.

“To have Kaetlyn on the podium with me, my teammate, now we get three spots for the Olympics, it’s just such an unbelievable feeling,” Daleman said. “I’m only 19 and I’m still learning things and I’m still growing, so just to have that is so unbelievable.”

The results have also thrust the young skaters into the spotlight for next year’s Olympics. Osmond doesn’t mind.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I loved being the centre of attention,” Osmond said, laughing. ”I think it’s part of the reason why I loved skating. You’re literally in a fishbowl. You’re in the middle of the ice by yourself and the world is watching.

“So that’s something I’ll definitely have to focus on over the next year, to stay in my own focus. But I still want to enjoy why I loved skating to begin with.”

Earlier in the day, ice dance darlings Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir put themselves in the driver’s seat heading into the free skate after roaring to 82.43 points, breaking their own world record in the short dance.

And in the moments after their win, Virtue, a 27-year-old from London, Ont., talked about their quest to come back stronger than ever after taking a two-year break from competition.

“I think that was a big part of the appeal in this comeback was to try and make our skating a little bit different,” Virtue said. “We are trying to push ourselves technically. We’re trying to have a bit of a departure artistically as well, but the real intention behind this comeback was to challenge ourselves.

“We knew that we were coming into a very deep and strong field so we needed to raise the level of our skating. We didn’t want to come back and do things the same way. That just wouldn’t have been motivating and inspiring.”

Two-time defending champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France are second with 76.89, while Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are third at 76.53. All three teams train in Montreal with Canadian coaches Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., are sixth with 74.84 while Toronto’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are ninth with 72.83.

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