It seems that peppy blond figure skater Julianne Séguin was worth the wait, at least in the eyes of intrepid junior pair skater Charlie Bilodeau.
Bilodeau, of Montreal, already had a partnership with Kristel Desjardins that took them both to two Junior Grand Prix early in the 2012-2013 season and a silver medal at a Canadian championship at the junior level. By October last season, Bilodeau decided he wanted to skate only with Séguin – but he had to wait for her, until she had finished her season.
Bilodeau stayed at home, worked on his singles skating, missed the Canadian championships in Mississauga, Ont., and slipped in a few pair sessions with Séguin two or three times a week.
Now Séguin is one of the busiest skaters around. As a singles skater, she’ll go to the Junior Grand Prix in Mexico City Sept. 4 to 8 (there is no pairs event there), and then with Bilodeau, she’ll skate Junior Grand Prix at Minsk, Belarus on Sept. 25 to 29. Then she’ll head to Ostrava, Czech Republic the very next week to skate both pairs and women’s singles.
Coach Josée Picard wanted a schedule that didn’t have 16-year-old Séguin trotting all over the world with multiple time changes. You see, this season, there is much work to do. The way Picard sees it, Séguin is in a close scramble with two other budding stars in Canada: Gabby Daleman, who won the silver medal at the Canadian championships last season and Alaine Chartrand, who was third. And there are two spots open to Canadian women for the Sochi Olympics.
The fiery Séguin had been a young skater on the move and it was clear why she was so coveted. She was already skating senior at the national level last season, finishing sixth overall in the women’s event behind Kaetlyn Osmond after being third in the short. And at the 2012 Canadian championships, she had finished ninth with Andrew Evans in senior pairs, showing off a huge triple twist, a high throw triple Salchow that she landed like a cat, and side-by-side triple Salchows in their first season together. That year, Séguin was also third at the junior level behind Gabby Daleman. In 2010, Séguin couldn’t do a double flip.
Séguin made her senior international competition debut (in singles) at the 2013 Four Continents Championship in Osaka, where she finished 11th overall (146.48 points) behind two-time world champion Mao Asada. But she acquitted herself well, finishing sixth on technical marks in the free skate and drawing praise from Eurosport commentators.
At Four Continents in the long program, Séguin was 10 points behind the leader on the technical aspect, but 22 points behind on program component marks, so she’s focused hard on the presentation side, working with Julie Marcotte, who did her singles short program, to shine on stage. Séguin will also try to add a double Axel- triple toe loop and she plans a triple toe loop – triple toe loop as her jump combination for the short program. She’s working on a triple Lutz – triple toe loop, which is not consistent enough yet to put in the short program.
But the jumps and the points don’t tell the whole tale of Séguin, who started working with Marc Godin in Longueil, Que. One day, Godin approached Picard to ask her if she would take on the young skater, because he thought she might make a good pair skater.
“She was just a tiny little girl that came from a little club,” Picard said. At the time, she could do only an Axel and a double Salchow but she had spring “and she was just a neat little girl.” Last year, Séguin got all the triples.
Séguin came along at the right time for Picard, who is known for her pair and dance success. She had coached Isabelle Brasseur from six years old to the Olympic Games. And she was the original coach of Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz when they first joined forces as junior ice dancers. Picard coached them until they finished fourth at the world championships.
She had taken a break from coaching and vowed to herself that when she returned she wanted to coach a beginner to the top level again. “I’m going to enjoy the last part of my career,” she thought. Séguin has turned into a new challenge: Picard had never coached a singles skater to the top levels.
At the beginning, Picard found Séguin an easy-going student with a ready smile. “She smiles all the time,” Picard said. “The smile you see is the smile you see five days a week. That’s what I think is special about her. And I think she has succeeded so fast because she never questioned anything I told her to do. She has confidence and she does what you say. It’s very pleasant to work with somebody that is so hard working and that has got that personality.”
Picard works with Séguin at a new arena that opened a year ago in Chambly, a town of about 25,000 that is 25 kilometres southeast of Montreal. “It’s like a five-star hotel,” Picard said of the rink. “It has three nice ice surfaces and a big gym, all in the same building.”
As a pair skater, Séguin is the perfect partner, standing 4-foot-10, a foot shorter than Bilodeau. They are the right size and the right age: Bilodeau just turned 20 and the two of them can enjoy two years of eligibility at the international junior level. The plan this year is to focus on the junior level, hoping to make the Junior Grand Prix Final and the world junior championships.
But Picard is wistfully looking at the national senior pair ranks, where the third spot appears open. And at the summer provincials, Séguin and Bilodeau scored higher than another exciting new team of Nastasha Purich and Mervin Tran (at least in the short program – Purich and Tran did not do the long program). “After they’ve done their Grand Prix, we’ll see how it goes,” Picard said.