Athlete Ambassador Kaetlyn Osmond
We are so excited to have figure-skating superstar Kaetlyn Osmond as a GIST Athlete Ambassador. This kick-ass competitor needs no introduction.
During Kaetlyn’s figure skating career, she won three national titles, won three Olympic medals (team and singles), won Canada’s first ladies’ World Championship in 45 years (!!!), and racked up plenty of other accolades (including her hometown naming their arena after her).
At the ripe age of 22 Kaetlyn retired from competition after winning the 2018 World Championships. Now, Kaetlyn is a professional skater skating in travelling shows, and is focusing her efforts toward growing the sport in Newfoundland and empowering young female athletes to participate in sport. Can we get a hell yeah?!
We recently sat down with Kaetlyn Osmond to discuss figure skating, retirement, what’s next, and importantly, if she were a Harry Potter character, which one would she be.
Jacie at The GIST (TG): How did you first get into figure skating?
Kaetlyn Osmond (KO): I first started skating when I was two-years-old (Editor’s note: Okay, yes, you read that right, *skating* at two-years-old!). In Marystown, there weren’t a lot of options outside of the traditional sports. My parents were both hockey players so they put us into figure skating to learn to be hockey players (Editor’s note: figure skaters are widely respected across ice sports for their incredible skating abilities, so much so that many NHL players, like star Jeff Skinner either figure skate first, or receive lessons from figure skaters, like Brian Boyle and Barbara Underhill), but neither of us made the switch. My sister was a figure skater, so of course as the younger sibling I wanted to be exactly like her.
Funny story actually. Nine years ago, my sister stopped skating after I competed against her for the first time and I beat her. She literally quit skating right after. *Kaetlyn chuckles*
TG: Okay that is so funny. We love a good sibling rivalry. What’s your favourite memory competing in figure skating?
KO: There are so many great moments. National competitions are probably my favourite — it’s really cool to compete only against other Canadians in front of a Canadian crowd. It’s such a great feeling and the atmosphere is incredible.
The Olympics will always hold a special place in my heart, too. Not so much my first Olympics because, unlike what seemed like the rest of Canada, I didn’t watch them growing up so I didn’t understand what people were talking about with the hype until the closing ceremonies. But, after that first Olympic experience, I was so excited for the following Olympics which were a huge highlight, and the outcome made it even better!
TG: Yes your team gold medal and your Olympic bronze medal were amazing! Canada was/is so proud of you winning those medals. Speaking of which, you’ve competed and won both as an individual and in a team. Can you speak to the differences?
KO: Team events are new; they only became an Olympic event in 2014. It’s a different preparation because you’re not practicing together the way a team normally does. We all train individually, and at opposite ends of the country. So, we don’t see each other until the event. You go into it knowing what you can do individually, and try to support the rest of the team the best you can just by doing what you do. In team events, you have to be very strategic in the order of competition, and who’s competing in what. Versus, as an individual competing, you just have your job and know when you’re skating and what you’re doing.
But, I did learn at Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics (Editor’s note: again, Canada won the gold!) that being on the podium with other people is so, so great. You’re holding other people’s hands, vibrating, shaking and sharing this incredible experience with others. On my own, it was kind of boring! I was thinking, “where is everyone?” *Kaetlyn laughs*
TG: What’s your favourite thing about figure skating?
KO: Performing. It’s a big part of skating —along with the athleticism, of course. One of the best things we’re able to do is tell stories and become part of the crowd and make people feel a certain way through our performance. It’s really fun to have that ability and to be able to become a different person through each program.
TG: There is something so captivating about performative sports — other athletes/sports just aren’t exposed to that.
KO: Actually, my favourite skating fans are those that don’t understand the sport that much. They can actually sit back and enjoy the performances and appreciate the athleticism in it, whereas avid skating fans that know all the rules and judging will get caught up in the specifics and can sometimes lose the big picture.
TG: You’ve lived all across Canada — born in Marystown, Newfoundland, moved to Montreal at seven, Edmonton at ten, and now Toronto. What has the experience of moving around been like? Do you return to Newfoundland often?
KO: Yeah, and somehow I ended up living in the middle *Kaetlyn laughs*. Newfoundland is where I started, but I lived in Edmonton for the longest — I was there for 13 years. It was great for training, and all of my friends and family were there, but I always consider myself from both Edmonton and Newfoundland. I still enjoy returning to Newfoundland, but it’s nice being here in Toronto, in the middle. It’s like a fresh start for me. But each place still means something different and is special.
TG: You’ve been retired for about a year now from competitive skating. What was that decision like, and how has the last year been?
KO: When I look back on the decision to retire, a lot of people said I made the decision after I won (2018 World Championship) and that I made a lot of my decisions based on not wanting to compete with some of the younger skaters coming up with their different jumps and quads and craziness.
But really, I made my decision to retire long before that. I didn’t realize until later, but in the back of my mind, I had made the decision to retire two years prior. I had told myself, “the last two years of my skating have been horrible and I want the next two years to make up for it. Then, I’ll be done.”
It really helped. Having that deadline in the back of my mind helped me push really hard for those next two years knowing there was an end goal.
Those were the best two years of my life, and I ended on such a high note. I knew as soon as I hit my ending position at Worlds that it was my final breath of skating and that’s exactly what I felt like, as dramatic as it sounds. I hit my ending position and that was it, that’s all I had.
Just before that (Editor’s note: “that” being winning the World Championships. So casual.) happened, I had almost hit my breaking point. We had about three full weeks of training between Olympics and Worlds in 2018, and they were the longest three weeks of my life. I was injured, crying every five seconds, complaining to my coach that I couldn’t go to Worlds, I felt like I just didn’t have it in me to compete.
Then, the week actually being in Milan at Worlds was so challenging. Looking back on it now, it was a final challenge — to endure the worst week of my life to get the best outcome. That’s what it felt like. And then that was it. I walked up a couple of stairs to get to my coach after I finished, and my coach looked at me, asked how I felt and I said, “that was the longest four minutes of my entire life.” He said, “that’s okay, you’re done.” He didn’t know until later what I meant at the time when I replied, “yes, I’m done.”
TG: Incredible to be able to work through that though and end up with a gold! So, what’s next for you after skating? You’re interested in broadcasting. Can you tell us more about that?
KO: My ultimate dream would be to have my own radio show in the morning. Then I realized radio isn’t really a thing anymore *Kaetlyn chuckles*. I don’t understand, I love the radio! So, I’m trying to dip my toes into podcasting, but haven’t convinced myself to do one yet. I’m playing around with podcasting and working on my own media training to get into that side. Of course I want to stick with sports as much as I can, but I don’t want to just focus on figure skating because that’s the only identity I’ve ever had.
I’m also coaching skating part-time right now and doing shows full-time. And then my camp in Newfoundland has been my big focus lately.
TG: Let’s talk about your camp. You’re promoting the sport of figure skating with young girls in Newfoundland (along with a charity and scholarship component). Can you speak to that?
KO: If everything runs properly there will be a series of camps across different cities in Newfoundland & Labrador starting in December, with a full day seminar in each place. Anyone competitive in the Newfoundland skating community can attend. At these camps, I’ll keep my eye out for skaters with a lot of potential to invite to another camp with more coaches there to really help them excel.
The end goal is not to take skaters out of Newfoundland, but to make skating more popular there and to help the skaters become more confident. When I go back to Newfoundland, people say I got better because I left…but who knows what I could have done there. I want people to know there are resources in Newfoundland, and you don’t have to leave to be successful.
TG: Figure skating is such a beautiful sport and obviously very visual. Can you speak to the pressure to look a specific way? And how that may have changed post-competing?
KO: I’m not the typical shape for a figure skater. I’m “too tall” (Editor’s note: she’s 5’4” inches, and yes, that’s considered tall in skating) and not the stereotypical toothpick skater that can easily jump in the air, but I have a powerful side. That’s what differentiated me. While I was a tiny bit bigger than everyone else, I had more power on the ice.
I was frequently told that I couldn’t skate to a piece of music because I “wasn’t the shape of a ballerina”. You’re always thinking, “this would be a lot easier if I was smaller. Easier on my body to jump if I was smaller.” But when you’re at peak shape, losing even a pound isn’t possible! On top of that, you’re in tiny dresses that show everything about your body and are put in front of judges and audiences and lights. I wouldn’t change the little tiny dresses though; I love them! I think with being a performance skater, the outfits can really add to the story you’re telling.
But the pressure to look a certain way really does add stress. A lot of skaters end up with an eating disorder — even if it’s not a disorder, your weight and the look of your body is in the back of your mind all the time.
Since retiring from skating, the pressure to look a certain way has actually affected me more, and it bothers me how much it does. It’s not something you can control. Words, even though they aren’t intended to be harmful, still make an impact. My coach was never trying to make me feel like I was too big or not in shape enough, but he just wanted what was best for me and to find ways to make my competing easier, which included losing weight. I still have a hard time with people talking about diets. I’ve realized, not even just in the skating world, just how much weight and dietary habits are a huge source of small talk.
I had an amazing dietician that helped me through my hardest years (age 16-18) and she was one of my favourite people I’ve worked with. I was never on a diet. She was like you need to eat, you’re growing, you need to be strong to finish your four minute, incredibly demanding long program. She didn’t want me to suppress my cravings which was a huge help. Because if someone tells me I’m not allowed to have a cookie, I’m going to want it. She says to give into your cravings but keep it in check. Moderation was key.
TG: Thanks so much for being so candid about that. It’s sometimes hard to think about/talk about the pressure that we put on our bodies to look a certain way.
Figure skating is a sport that looks “easy” because it’s so beautiful. But obviously, it’s such hard work to make it look so easy. Can you give us some insight into the type of training you’ve done since you were younger?
KO: When I was younger, I skated for six hours a day. There wasn’t that much wear and tear on my body and I wasn’t doing any big tricks. I was living with my coach in Montreal, and my sister was always at the rink anyway, so I just skated all the time because I was there.
As I grew up, those hours became too much. I started limiting myself to skating three hours per day maximum. I learned that quality over quantity was better and I could maximize focus better in three hours versus six. It made me stronger.
Being on ice is the easy part. Outside of that, there was: strength and conditioning training, ballet, pilates, yoga, physio once a week, massage therapy, sports psychology. An hour warm-up before skating, 30 minute cool down after. Skating really was a full-time job.
After grade 12 training became a lot easier because I could sleep in a bit more and have the full day to focus. But while in school, I was up at 4:30am to go to the gym beforehand. Then, I’d go to school, and then skate after school every day.
TG: That sounds so gruelling, especially as a teenager. Kudos to you.
TG: On another, but important, note...We know that young girls drop out of sport at double the rate of their male counterparts by the age of 14. How do you think we can combat this?
KO: There are a lot of ways!
Creating a more fun and positive atmosphere in sports to keep girls invested more.
Being able to see more women in sport. Thankfully, I grew up in a sport that is female-dominant. Also, it’s important to know it’s okay to not succeed right away.
And more opportunities. Everyone wants to make it to the Olympics, but there are more opportunities outside of the Olympics. Look forward to other aspects of the sport and don’t think so far ahead because, unfortunately, not everyone is going to the Olympics.
Those are great points. Alright, now for some fun. Let’s get into some rapid fire questions:
On the note of off-ice training, what’s your favourite workout?
KO: Core workouts. Pilates and ballet help a lot with that. It made me feel I was centred. If my core was activated, everything else really fell into place… my core was also the first thing to go after retiring! *Kaetlyn laughs*
TG: Figure skaters are sometimes superstitious with certain skaters always having a routine when they get on the ice. Did you have one?
KO: No nit-picky weird things. When I was younger, I thought I had to drink orange juice before I skated. A cup of orange juice or a chocolate bar to get a sugar boost for the program. Then, I realized that having a superstition wasn’t the best idea. Because then if you can’t get your orange juice, you get nervous! So I tried to stay away from having a superstition.
TG: That’s a good call. What’s one healthy habit you have that an everyday non-elite athlete should insert into their life?
KO: Wake up and think of three great things in the morning. And then getting yourself out of bed to do something.
When I was given the opportunity to sleep in more, it was harder to get up. Waking up and knowing that you have something to do when you get up, whether it’s a five minute run or sitting down to write, it makes a difference.
TG: What’s your favourite jump?
KO: Triple flip, triple toe. (Editor’s note: here’s Kaetlyn nailing this combo)
TG: What was it like landing your first triple? How old were you?
KO: My first real triple in a competition was the triple salchow. I fell on my jump beforehand, and told myself I couldn’t fall twice in a row. So then I went and landed it. Oh, and it was when I competed against my sister and she was like, “What?!”
TG: What’s your favourite TV show?
TG: If you could be a character from Harry Potter who would you be?
KO: Hermione. She’s badass.
TG: What are you most excited for in 2019?
KO: To learn about myself. To try new things.
TG: Who’s your role model?
KO: My sister.
TG: What’s your guilty pleasure?
KO: Watching Shameless. I hate myself for watching it, but it’s so addictive. And candy. I can’t resist. Sour patch kids are my favourite. Funnily enough, not chocolate.
TG: Do you have a mantra that you live by?
KO: When growing up it was, “find the joy in what you do and the passion will burn out the pain”. Or something along those lines.
Something I heard a couple of weeks ago at the Lululemon 10km run was, “If you’re brave enough to start, you’re strong enough to finish.” I thought that was one of the best things I’ve heard. Especially because I don’t run, so it was a huge challenge.
Don’t subscribe to our free twice-weekly newsletter yet? Let’s make it inbox official.