Kaetlyn Osmond is not closing any doors.
The 22-year-old reigning women’s world figure skating champion is about to embark on a performance season and has made no commitment to return to the competitive scene.
“That’s the point of me taking this year, is to be able to enjoy a different side of things and not think too much ahead about the future,” said Osmond, who was in between teaching Kamloops Skating Club seminars on McArthur Island on Saturday when she spoke to KTW.
“I started competing because I wanted to be a part of shows. This year, I finally have that opportunity. I can do more shows, bigger shows, and for a long period of time.”
Osmond is amped to begin the Thank You Canada Tour, which begins at Abbotsford Centre on Oct. 5. She will travel across the country with fellow Canadian figure skating icons Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, Patrick Chan, Megan Duhamel, Eric Radford, Elvis Stojko, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.
The prospect of driving across the Great White North (the 28-stop tour ends on Nov. 24 in St. John’s), performing at intimate venues and enjoying the experience with friends is a welcome change from what has been a gruelling four years.
And that — mental exhaustion — is why Osmond is on competitive hiatus.
Four years ago, seven months removed from her Olympic debut in Sochi, Osmond broke her right fibula while training in Edmonton. It took two years to recover physically and believe in herself again.
“I had to come back from a broken leg and then I had a year of upset at competition,” she said. “But by the time the Olympics came around, I was in the best shape I’ve ever been in, the most fit I’ve ever been and the most ready I’ve ever been for a competition.”
She snared a bronze medal in women’s singles in Pyeongchang in February and helped her country earn gold in the team event, extinguishing any remaining self-doubt and reaching a lifelong goal.
But it came at a price.
“You have an emotional roller coaster [at the Olympics] from being super high to super down and then there is what a lot of people call an Olympic hangover,” said Osmond, who won silver in women’s singles at worlds in 2017 and silver in the team event in Sochi in 2014.
“I definitely felt that when I got home, but I had to prepare for a world championship that was just a month later.”
Osmond’s coach, Ravi Walia, watched her struggle to train in the aftermath of South Korea — dog-tired, weary, spent, but still determined.
“She had a real tough time training for worlds,” Walia said, noting many of her Canadian Olympic teammates opted out of the world championships, which were held in Milan, Italy, in March. “I’m glad that she went. She was so exhausted, but now she’s a world champion.”
Osmond became the first Canadian woman to win the women’s singles crown at worlds since 1973, when Karen Magnussen accomplished the feat.
The Black Swan routine that lifted the Marystown, N.L., product to the podium was immaculate. For now, her competitive wings are clipped.
Eyebrows raised in June when Osmond announced she would sit out the ISU Grand Prix circuit to begin the 2018-2019 campaign. Two months later, news surfaced of her decision to take the whole year off.
Chan, Moir and Virtue are among those who counselled Osmond when she was deciding whether it was smart to take a break from the competitive circuit — only 22, in her prime and on top of the world.
They are educated on the matter, each having taken a year off after the Sochi Games in 2014.
“We travelled for Stars on Ice together,” Osmond said. “It was a perfect time then for me to talk and get their opinions and see how much it benefited them and how hard it was to come back from it. Ultimately, it was my decision.”
More shows and seminars mean more money. Nobody can fault an Olympic athlete who wants to capitalize on their fame. Many spend years training and living on a razor-thin budget.
Some are never compensated fairly — see Dylan Armstrong of Kamloops.
In 2015, he was retroactively awarded a bronze medal in shot put from the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing after Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus was caught for doping and stripped of his medal.
The recognition was great, but the window was all but closed for major sponsorship, speaking engagements and other money-making events.
Osmond said finances had little to do with her decision, noting figure skaters can do shows during and after their competitive careers.
“And, personal-life wise, I think I’m actually travelling more for these shows than I would for competition,” said Osmond, who lives with her family in Edmonton. “Mentally and physically, I wanted the time to be able to do something else and try something new.”
Walia, entering his 14th season as Osmond’s coach, said the year off will give his pupil time to recharge, a recovery stint that will bode well if a return to the competitive circuit materializes.
And what if it doesn’t?
“I don’t think there is a bad decision,” Walia said. “If she decides she loves it [more freedom, performing at shows] so much and wants to stick with that, that’s great.
“She’s already done so much and accomplished all of her goals. Whatever happens, it’s exciting either way.”