World figure skating champion Kaetlyn Osmond wants to go to school, study broadcasting and work in radio. What is less clear is if she has skated in competition for the last time.
“It’s still all up in the air,” Osmond said in New York City last week, before performing at the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park ice rink. “If I come back to competing, I will fight to be able to be back on top. I will fight for all of that, but I know what my strong suits are, and I’ll see what I can add onto that.”
The 23-year-old Canadian is on an indefinite break — taking this entire season off — after earning Olympic team event gold, individual bronze and a world title between February and March.
She’s still skating, but not in front of judges. Osmond recently finished the Thank You Canada Tour with her Olympic champion teammates, performing two-hour shows at 27 sites across the country.
“It was equally as exhausting [as a competition season], being in a different city in a different bus, a different everything for an entire two months,” she said.
In a similar stretch in the winter, Osmond had one of the greatest runs for a Canadian athlete in recent memory. She helped Canada dethrone Russia as Olympic team-event champion, became the second Canadian woman to earn an individual Olympic figure skating medal in 30 years and then the first to take a world title in 45 years.
It’s hard to rank the three medals.
“Worlds for me might have been the best one, only because I really questioned my ability; I was extremely tired after the Olympics,” she said.
A minor back injury throughout the season flared after PyeongChang. Osmond skipped some training sessions and said she was “in quite a bit of pain.” Once she arrived at worlds in Milan, Osmond sprained an ankle the first day of practice.
“My coach and I, we never actually voiced it to each other, but both of us were thinking that worlds might not be possible,” said Osmond, who has been coached by Ravi Walia for 12 years and drew attention in the last Olympic cycle for practicing at an Edmonton mall rink four times per week.
Osmond endured and rallied from fourth place after the short program with a clean free skate, scoring just 1.65 fewer points than at the Olympics. She won by 12.33 over Japanese Wakaba Higuchi in the only competition that Alina Zagitova failed to win for the season.
“To be able to make the podium was my ultimate goal,” Osmond said that day. “I never thought being champion was possible.”
Two months later, Osmond announced she was taking the fall season off “to refocus and evaluate the next steps in my career.” Two months after that, Osmond extended the break to the entire 2018-19 season.
If and when she returns, Osmond knows that the elite skating picture will likely look very different than when she left it on top. The world’s best skater this season, 16-year-old Japanese Rika Kihira, can land triple Axels in combination. A pair of Russian 14-year-olds, eligible for senior championships next season, can land quadruple jumps.
“It’s quite terrifying,” Osmond said without a laugh. “I knew it was coming. I just didn’t expect it to go so quickly.”
Four years ago, Osmond also took the entire post-Olympic season off. It was forced after she fractured her fibula swerving to avoid a skater in practice.
“When I came back, it took me a full year to be able to regain confidence to compete against everyone then, and they weren’t doing triple Axels at that time,” she said.
A return would not be about chasing an unfulfilled goal. Osmond, who began skating at age 3 by following her older sister, said she accomplished more than she ever expected when she won the Canadian novice title at 13.
“It wasn’t until I had a year off before [in 2014-15] that I started to create more goals and higher goals, ones that I still didn’t think were going to be able to be accomplished,” Osmond said. “I did [accomplish] that, plus beyond, this year. Going off that, the main reason that I would come back is … for a personal gain, the miss and love of competing, being in front of an audience and traveling the world with everyone.”
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