Seconds before they stepped onto the ice at the recent Canadian figure skating championships, Nikolaj Sorensen turned to Laurence Fournier Beaudry and said: “Welcome home, baby.”
After five seasons of skating internationally for Denmark, the ice dancers will represent Canada at this week’s ISU Four Continents championships in Anaheim, Calif.
“I know she’s been really excited about this change,” Sorensen said.
Fournier Beaudry is from Montreal, while Sorensen is Danish. They’ve represented Denmark at four world championships, twice finishing 13th. But because Fournier Beaudry couldn’t obtain Danish citizenship, they couldn’t compete at the Pyeongchang Olympics, even though they had finished high enough to qualify.
So the dancers — who are also a couple off the ice — sat out international competitions last season, and were finally granted a release to compete for Canada. The moratorium ended Jan. 21, the day after the Canadian championships.
“The hardest part was actually to get the disappointing news that we were not going to be going to the Olympics,” said the 29-year-old Sorensen. “So as the Olympics approached that was tough to sit out.”
There was the insecurity of not knowing if they’d ever compete internationally again.
“You never know, you’re going into uncharted territory, I’ve never skated for Canada, we’ve never represented Canada, it’s a big federation, there were a lot of questions. It’s like you start all over for a new country,” Sorensen said.
“It was exciting and scary at the same time,” added the 26-year-old Fournier Beaudry.
The ice dancers soon learned they wouldn’t need to start over.
“Canada has been extremely helpful and the federation has really welcomed us, we became a part of the team really fast, they really took into consideration the results that we had had from our past skating in representing Denmark,” Sorensen said. “So that was really cool, we were just so happy.
“It’s always scary to do something like that, it’s like you’re jumping off the edge of a cliff, and you don’t really know where you’re going to land. So sitting out, we thought it was going to be really long, and it really wasn’t at all.”
The duo participated in Canada’s team camp in the fall, where they were presented with Canadian team jackets. They didn’t dare put them on though until they won bronze at the national championships in Saint John, officially booking their spot on the Canadian team for Four Continents and the world championships.
Fournier Beaudry and Sorensen have trained together in Montreal since 2012 with coaches Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, in a star-studded ice dance group that included Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. They needed to work their way up to Canada’s team this season by competing in provincial and divisional championships before nationals, where they won bronze with a sizzling free dance to a mix of two songs by flamenco guitarist Marcin Patrzalek and The Doors’ “Spanish Caravan.”
With the expected retirement of Virtue and Moir — the two-time Olympic champs haven’t made an official announcement — Fournier Beaudry and Sorensen slide almost seamlessly into a spot among Canada’s top ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje and Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier. Weaver and Poje edged Gilles and Poirier for gold in Saint John.
The Four Continents championships, which run through Sunday, feature skaters from the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Africa.
Nam Nguyen, who captured his second national title, leads a trio of Canadian men at Four Continents that includes Keegan Messing and Nicolas Nadeau.
Canadian champion Alaine Chartrand plus Veronik Mallet and Larkyn Austman will compete in women’s singles.
National champions Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro, 27, Sarnia, Ont., will lead a trio of pairs teams that includes Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud, and Camille Ruest and Drew Wolfe.