Kaetlyn Osmond, Canada’s new kid, ignites figure skating worlds
Sensational world figure skating championships debut sees 17-year-old Newfoundlander place fourth after the short program
Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond salutes the crowd following her short program in the women's competition at the World Figure Skating Championships on Thursday, March 14, 2013 in London, Ont.
Photograph by: Paul Chiasson, Canadian Press
LONDON, Ont. — In the moments before her program was introduced, Kaetlyn Osmond glided around the ice while the sound system in Budweiser Gardens played Alicia Keys’ “This Girl Is On Fire.”
Then her own music began, and this girl was.
Mature far beyond her 17 years, the pony-tailed kid from Marystown, Nfld., via West Edmonton Mall made a sensational world figure skating championships debut, skating a clean, nerveless two minutes, 40 seconds to Latin dance tunes with sizzle and speed, and leaving observers trying to remember a better first worlds skate by a Canadian of any stripe or gender.
Or anybody, for that matter, with Osmond’s verve, and nerve, and sparkle, right out of the gate.
Remind you of anyone, Tracy Wilson?
“You know, yes and no,” said the 1980s Canadian ice-dancing icon, who’s here for the CBC. “The only one whose eyes lit up like that, in my time, was Katarina (Witt). Because I used to watch Katarina and you could just see her eyes go ‘Game on!’ ”
Fourth place, after the short? Skating next-to-last in the final flight in Saturday’s free skate, between two world champions? Unthinkable.
Osmond — who skated ninth in the field of 35 women, often a “penalty” based on the number of higher-ranked athletes yet to come — landed a triple-triple combination, a triple flip and a double Axel, and never let up on the accelerator.
Her score of 64.73 was, at the time, the sixth-best total recorded all season by a female skater, though a couple on that list would surpass it later on.
Four of the women who started out ahead of her on that 2012-13 list — two-time world champ Mao Asada and Akiko Suzuki of Japan, Russian teen Adelina Sotnikova and American Ashley Wagner — finished behind her Thursday.
Even the returning queen of the sport, Korea’s Olympic champion Kim Yu-Na, who won the short program, was only five points ahead of Osmond after a clean but uninspiring skate to a heavy piece of music from Kiss Of The Vampire.
Behind Kim’s 69.97, were defending world champion Carolina Kostner of Italy (66.86), and Japan’s Kanako Murakami (66.64).
“I was worried because it has been a long time since I competed at the world championships, but at the same time I was confident,” said the now 22-year-old Kim, who took all of last season off. “I have done many competitions. I could do what I had to do. I did all my jumps. I got lower levels on some elements than expected, but I think it was okay.”
The crowd’s reaction to Kim’s return was even a bit muted, compared to the raucous response to Osmond’s relentless energy.
“The crowd was unbelievable, so into everything, and it just helped me calm down and enjoy the experience,” said Osmond. “Even if there was part of my program I couldn’t actually hear because the crowd was so loud, I know my (music) well enough to know that I was on time.”
She and her coach, Ravi Walia, shared a few laughs during the warmup over an observation Walia had made when she was struggling during practices this week.
“He just mentioned that the less I think, the better it is, so going into every jump I was just saying to myself: ‘No brain, no brain.’ And it worked,” Osmond said.
“I was a little nervous waiting around earlier today, but once I got on the ice, it was fine. I remember talking to Ravi before I skated, and said, ‘This doesn’t feel like worlds, it just feels like every other competition I’ve done all season.’ ”
Walia was pleased, but not surprised that Osmond rose to the occasion, under considerable pressure, in a pre-Olympic year, when all the big guns are fine-tuning their sights.
“She loves the spotlight, she loves to compete, and she’s always been like that,” he said.
Other skaters will tighten up the closer it comes to competition day, but Osmond is the opposite.
“She’s always been someone who couldn’t wait. She would come to the rink and say, ‘Only 15 more days until the competition.’ And she’d cross off each day on the calendar. That’s her personality.”
“It’s just unbelievable how things have progressed so fast,” said Osmond who, a year ago, while finishing 10th at the world juniors, still hadn’t acquired some of her triple jumps. From there to what we saw Thursday is, by figure skating’s clock, mighty fast work.
Skating after Asada and in front of Kostner on Saturday is so far removed from Osmond’s own expectations of this week, you just hope she doesn’t overthink the possible scenarios, with 48 hours to let her improbable position percolate.
“I’m really excited for it, and if the crowd is anything like it was today, I might have to calm myself down a little bit more, and try to stay in character with my program, too, which might be a bit of a struggle if it goes as well as I hope,” she said.
After so many years of writing about Canadian female skaters who seemed to shrink from the big occasion, we’ve now had Joannie Rochette and Kaetlyn Osmond essentially back-to-back.
Rochette, the Olympic bronze medallist, said she hasn’t closed the door on coming back to competitive skating.
“I’m weighing the pros and cons,” she said Wednesday evening.
If she does, she’s going to have her hands full with the new kid.
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