Kaetlyn Osmond overcomes setbacks to debut stellar free program in Regina

It was just what Kaetlyn Osmond needed: this trip to frigid Regina to unleash a long program that nobody had seen so far this year.

On Thursday, when she flew to Regina, she turned 18. On Saturday, she won the senior women’s competition at the Skate Canada Challenge, but that’s not what the visit was all about. She didn’t come to win. Osmond didn’t want the unveiling of her new long program to come at the Canadian championships – the all-important Olympic trials in another month – so here she was, testing herself, tweeting the likes of : “Risk more than others think is safe. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible.” And so she has.

She’d already done it once this season, when a stress reaction (not as serious as a stress fracture) hobbled her training for the Skate Canada grand prix in Saint John, N.B., in October. Miraculously, she got herself together for that event, only to have to pull out before the long program, with a sudden hamstring injury that popped up out of nowhere.

As it turns out, the injury was a partial tear of the hamstring muscle, but nothing could heal that injury quickly enough for her to get to Cup of Russia, so she withdrew from that event, too. The entire grand prix season went up in smoke for the defending Canadian champion – who had won Skate Canada last season over a world bronze medalist.

“It’s been a tough season so far,” Osmond said after her skate in Regina, where she turned in a long-program score of 118.96 and 169.96 points overall, a scant point ahead of the intrepid Gabby Daleman. (By comparison, Daleman earned 107.71 for her long.) “It just seems to be one injury after another,” Osmond said.

But now Osmond knows that she can return from injury and skate well, and practice really well, too. “I was only coming to Challenge for the experience, to get a competition out there, to get back into the feeling of it before nationals and I did that,” she said. “I learned so much from this competition, from not having the greatest short program I’ve ever done and then continuing to do the long program that I’ve been doing in practice. I was really excited about that.”

Osmond finished only fifth in the short program after falling on a triple flip and making some other mistakes. In the long program, she wasn’t quite vintage Osmond yet, but close. She was off the ice for a month after the hamstring injury and began jumping again only a little more than two weeks ago. If she had done two or three triples in the long program, Osmond said, that would have been okay. Coach Ravi Walia set the bar at six, but Osmond did five, only doubling a second triple flip.

Osmond still feels some pain, Walia said, and because they did not want to aggravate her injury, they adjusted her long program. That single Axel at the end of her program? That was planned, because Axels bother her. Although she hasn’t been able to practice too many double Axels, she did manage one in the short and fired off a double Axel-triple toe loop in the long, but there was no sense in tempting fate. Team Osmond also altered some choreography and spins that have flexibility movements that bother her.

“She skated very well for her first competition and her first long program,” Walia said. “The stuff she did was very good quality. She did all of her combinations. It was a good start. She’s on track. She’s where you want her to be in December for that kind of long program. It’s good.”

“I think she’s caught up to where she should be, even though she didn’t have a good start to the season,” he said.

Osmond admits the hamstring injury was a very difficult one to overcome. “It came from nowhere really,” she said. She woke up the morning of the long program at the Skate Canada Grand Prix and could not put weight on her leg.

“It was a little bit of a slow process to get her back on track,” Walia said. “She had to take it slow and easy. She’s not 100 per cent right now, but it’s getting there.”

Ever since she got back on ice on November 8, she’s been doing her programs with what she’s been able to do. And she consistently did clean programs with watered down content. Osmond said she felt frustrated to be off the ice so long and when she finally did get back onto the ice, she had to rein herself in. “When I came back, I had to be super cautious,” she said. “It was very frustrating because I had only just come back from injury and I had felt absolutely fantastic. …Thankfully the jumps have come back really easily.” The hamstring injury was not on her landing leg.

To recover she underwent physiotherapy, and Pilates and fitness trainers worked to build her strength. “Now she feels really happy and confident with the program, now that she’s been able to perform it in competition,” Walia said. “I think she’s excited that she got to compete. She didn’t have a good short, but to be honest, it was more important to get the long program out there.”

And it was worth waiting for. The routine, choreographed by Lance Vipond, is a dramatic (can it be anything else?) depiction of Cleopatra rising to power, with detailed movement. Perhaps, in a way, it will be about Osmond this year. It’s her favourite long program of her career.

“This competition was just the beginning of things,” she said.

Beverley Smith

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