Kaetlyn Osmond will lead next wave of Canadian skaters
Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada reacts as her scores are posted following her performance in the women's free figure skating final in the Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, February 24, 2018 12:20AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 24, 2018 7:39PM EST
PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of -- Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond was just 14 when Joannie Rochette climbed the podium at the Vancouver Olympics.
Osmond remembers marvelling at the accomplishment. The thought she might someday match that feat never crossed her mind.
Eight years later, the 22-year-old from Marystown, N.L., will leave the Pyeongchang Olympics with two medals -- gold in the team event and bronze in the women's singles -- and is suddenly the veteran on a team facing a massive rebuild.
"Being on a team with such a veteran group, it's been so much fun, they've been so close and I've just kind of mingled my way into it," Osmond said. "It will be exciting to see a new generation, and to see what they are wiling to fight for and what they can accomplish, and if anyone needs help with anything, I hope that I can be a little bit of a mentor."
Skate Canada's high performance director Mike Slipchuk said the team's medal target for Pyeongchang was three. They did one better. Osmond's thrilling bronze skate on Friday gave the team a best-ever four Olympic medals.
Now they face an uncertain future without retiring veterans Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, and Patrick Chan.
"We feel good (about the future), but we know this was a unique group we had," said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director. "You hoped this would be the way these Games would go for this group and to see it happen is pretty incredible."
While women's singles was Canada's weakest event a few years ago, Osmond and Canadian champion Gabrielle Daleman -- who had an uncharacteristically rough outing in Pyeongchang -- will be front and centre.
As for the other disciplines, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje will be happy to be out of the shadow of ice dancers Virtue and Moir. Nam Nguyen, who won the world junior men's title in 2014, looks poised for a breakout season, and at 19, has finally stopped growing. And pairs has solid young entries in Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau, and Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro.
Can Slipchuk see an obvious leader from this next wave?
"Right now no, but I kind of think in the next month yes," Slipchuk said. "Coming through the system as a skater myself, my first world championship was with Brian Orser, Rob (McCall) and Tracy (Wilson) and Liz Manley. And we learned a lot from their leadership and we carried that on in the early 90s.
"For these guys to be around Scott and Patrick and Eric and Tessa and Meagan and that group, you kind of see the closeness of this team. I know we have guys who will step up. They've taken a lot out of this experience and they're going to want to be back here. Someone will rise."
Canada's four medals topped the team's prevous best of three won in 1988 in Calgary and four years ago in Sochi.
Osmond made her Olympic debut in Russia, finishing 13th, and said she was the quintessential nervous rookie.
"I was 18 and I was very shy, and I didn't get to meet very many people because I pretty much just hid in my room the entire time. I left my room to compete, and then I would go back into my room and sleep," she said. "It wasn't until the closing ceremonies that I got the big idea of what the Olympics was about, and why everyone was talking about how this event is so big, so exciting, and in that moment was something that I wanted to enjoy again."
Sochi was a learning experience. Pyeongchang was where she put those lessons to use.
"This time my goal going in was to focus on my competition but still enjoy the experience, still enjoy the fact that I'm at the Olympics, and I can meet all these amazing athletes in other sports. So that's what I did," she said.
"I was very much just happy-go-lucky in Sochi, and skated just because I could. And here, I wanted to fight to make it onto the podium, I wanted to be a part of Team Canada in that gold medal, and I fought wih everything I had for that, and I think those are the main differences."
A day after skating to bronze, Osmond was still beaming, her medal hanging heavy against her Canadian team jacket. She'd finally taken in some other sports, attending Canada's semifinal hockey loss to Germany on Friday night.
Her mom Jackie, she joked lovingly, hadn't stopped crying yet.
"I could vaguely see her crying when I was on the podium at the rink, and then I could see her crying on the (medal) podium last night, and when I saw her afterward, she was still crying," Osmond laughed. "So I think it's just an inevitable amount of tears right now."