Retirement has been a rocky road for Osmond, who hopes to help other young women

TORONTO — For the better part of two decades, Kaetlyn Osmond knew exactly what she’d be doing every day. Her world and her schedule revolved around figure skating.

The 24-year-old announced her retirement last May, and hasn’t competed since winning gold at the 2018 world championships. And while she’s completely at peace with her decision to walk away when she did, the months since haven’t been all smooth sailing.

“It was a big change,” Osmond said Wednesday. “Not having the rink to go to every day — the rink was a safe spot for me — skating was my job, it was my hobby, it was all my friends, it was just a great place for me to be. And I knew exactly what my purpose was every single day.

“Losing that was a lot harder than I was expecting it to be. I didn’t have a team of 15 people telling me where to be and what to do, I had to figure that out on my own. And it felt like I had to grow up really quickly.”

Osmond retired as the country’s most decorated female skater of all time, with three Olympic medals, and two world championship medals.

But in the contemplative moments to come, she faced some serious emotional demons. The native of Marystown, N.L., has been an open book on social media about her struggles.

“I know being in skating I kept everything pretty quiet as much as I could while I competed, I didn’t want the added distractions for myself. And in doing that I just showed what I wanted people to see, the happy, no issues, always positive-looking person,” Osmond said. “When I retired I realized I was having a lot more issues than expected, some with body image, some with just confusion and not knowing which way to go.”

On Instagram a few months ago, Osmond said the prospects of restarting a new life were “absolutely terrifying.”

“I’ve always dealt with insecurities, but they were amplified leading into this (Rock the Rink) tour,” she wrote. “I was terrified and angry. I hated the way I looked and the way I felt. Feeling like the minute I saw the people I would be touring with, they would want nothing to do with me.”

Her social media posts began “very selfishly,” she said. “I just wanted to rant and get it off my chest.

But people responded.

“I realized I didn’t want to keep that quiet, I wanted to be a voice … and hearing people reach out to me since then has been very exciting, so I want to continue that and hope to keep people positive, not even in the athletic world but just young female and young athletes in general,” Osmond said.

Osmond certainly isn’t alone in battling body image issues. According to Canada’s National Eating Disorder Information Centre, female athletes in aesthetic sports — figure skating, dance, gymnastics — were found to be at the highest risk for eating disorders. Athletes competing in weight-class sports such as wrestling and endurance sports such as distance running were also at an elevated risk.

Among female skaters who’ve been vocal about eating disorders are Canadian Gabrielle Daleman, who won bronze at the 2017 world championships in Finland where Osmond captured silver, American Gracie Gold and Russia’s Yulia Lipnitskaya.

“It’s definitely hard being an athlete, you’re put in the spotlight quite a bit,” Osmond said. “We’re also in a judged sport, which is an incredible thing because it makes it very unique. But I’ve been literally put in front of judges since I was four years old so it’s hard to get that aspect out of my mind. The feeling of being continuously judged is definitely there. That being said, I don’t regret anything I did, I love everything about skating.”

Osmond, who moved to Toronto this week, has been busy in her retirement. On top of skating in Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s cross-Canada Rock the Rink Tour last fall, she performed in Stars on Ice, and tours in Switzerland and South Korea. She’s does regular coaching seminars and has started her own development camp in Newfoundland called “Off the Rock” that will eventually see two skaters chosen to travel to Edmonton next summer to work with her former coach Ravi Walia.

She’s looking forward to next week’s Canadian championships at Paramount Fine Foods Centre. She won her first national title at that rink, and as a young girl travelled to watch her older sister compete there.

“I love nationals so much, it was always my highlight of every year,” she said. “And the Mississauga rink is always a very special place for me. I’m excited to be able to go there and see who’s going to have that special moment again there.”

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