After only nine months together, Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau left a lasting impression at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships. They were a dynamic, exciting pair with a world of potential (And doesn’t the world need pairs?).
First after the short program at the junior level at the Canadian championships last January, and, finally (after a few bobbles in the long), silver medalists, Seguin and Bilodeau were set to represent Canada at the junior world figure skating championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Then life happened. Like John Lennon once warbled: “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” This spring, Seguin and Bilodeau have had to face the toughest lessons of all.
They missed the world junior championships.
But after what followed, their inability to go turned out to be a good thing. Hard to believe, but true.
They had to withdraw after Seguin injured her lower back while creating some programs for shows two weeks before the championships. It was bad. Seguin couldn’t even bend forward. She had done a move with her partner, going up into the air, and her back locked. “I think the year was long and I had to get a break,” she said. “I had to stop. My body wasn’t following me.”
She rested the back, and did some physiotherapy. The worst part was breaking it to Bilodeau that they would have to pull out of the world junior championships, but Bilodeau was magnificent. He showed no wrath at chances missed. “Well, we just have to learn something else,” he told her. “We just have to go with it. I’m not going to be angry at you.”
“I was like, ‘oh my god, thank you,” Seguin recalled. “I was happy about that. That is a nice partner.”
With possible changes in age minimums coming for junior international events, Seguin and Bilodeau might not have another chance at competing at junior worlds. Seguin is only 17, but Bilodeau is already 20. If the age limit drops to 19, they will have to look at senior events only. That would affect their Junior Grand Prix career, too.
No matter. This is a good team, with strong connections. “I really like to skate with him,” Seguin said. “We like each other. And we have a nice friendship.” She illustrates this by interlacing her fingers together. They fit each other. They complement each other. Seguin, too, is a people person. She loves people. She’s not difficult.
But what they faced was.
Bilodeau’s grandfather died. Then his father, Robert, was found in a diabetic coma. Bilodeau rushed to be by his side in intensive care, but it was in a town four hours away. Gradually, his condition weakened, and he died April 11.
March and April disappeared for the pair. For a month and a half, Bilodeau was caught up in things other than skating, really important events. “He would have missed that, if we had gone to the junior world championships,” said coach Josee Picard. “Luckily, we didn’t go.”
The team cancelled all shows. Robert Bilodeau’s funeral was on the Monday of the development camp for singles that Seguin attended. On the Tuesday, Bilodeau finally came back to the ice and Picard set about organizing all the music and the meetings with choreographers. In early May, it was to be Shae Zukiwsky, designing the short program. The week of May 12, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon were to come to work on their free skate. It will be an exciting time for these young pair skaters, working with ice dancers.
The creative work and the bustle will be good for Bilodeau, who says he will turn a page. “Let’s start a new life,” he said.
“You know you always wonder why something happens for a reason,” Picard said. “The injury allowed him to be at his father’s side.”
The team has done nothing since the injury. Seguin lost about six weeks of training. She started training again only one week before the development camp, not so sure she’d make it through all of the fitness testing.
Now, Seguin says her first priority is to ensure her back is sound. As a singles skater (at the senior level), she is keeping her long program and having Julie Marcotte design a new short program. Seguin is doing all triples, up to the triple Lutz. She’s doing triple toe loop- triple toe loop combinations and she’s working on a triple flip – triple toe loop, necessary to go toe-to-toe with the current high-flying Canadian female singles skaters.
Seguin and Bilodeau, uncertain about the junior age rules, are putting senior programs together. All these details will be healing for a pair with so much promise. And so much life knowledge.