One couldn’t have wished for a better time for this interview.
A day after their bronze medal in Milan, when the taste of comeback on the World podium had been savoured, but the enthusiasm and joy are still present, I’m talking to Kaitlyn and Andrew – and their share of stories, them continuously adding details, layers, and completing each other’s sentences will really make you travel into the open, relaxed atmosphere of this conversation.
“It’s hard to believe yesterday happened, the way it did”, Kaitlyn smiles.
And this line right here – essentializing the 10th Worlds of their career – is the start of a journey both into recent times, and memories. And they gathered some, Kaitlyn and Andrew – and one of the most genuine, you’ll see, is the story of their try-out, in July 2006. Or their first season together, on fast-forward: “We really hit the ground running”. Or their first Senior Worlds, in Tokyo, in 2007, and the high level of excitement it brought.
And so this is an interview you wouldn’t want to miss.
…and not just just because it also hints at their future, based on their feelings at the moment, but because the overall content of it is so them. Take this meaningful quote, for example: “We’re getting to a place where we’re enjoying it just for what it is”.
by Florentina Tone/Milan
I must admit I had a different line of questioning coming to these Worlds – I was interested in your journey so far, the story of your career – but with your medal last night I definitely want to ask you about that first. So how was it to come back on the World podium? Because in ice dance usually once you drop, you drop…
Kaitlyn [nods]: …and we dropped. We dropped.
Yes, so do tell me about that. And, of course, tell me how your season went, because you also mentioned last night at the press conference that you had some of the lowest lows of your career throughout this season...
Kaitlyn: Yeah… It’s hard to believe that yesterday happened, the way it did.
To, first of all, skate a great short dance – that was a very big goal for us. We almost put all of our focus onto the short dance. Because we knew that in this field, and in ice dance in particular, it’s so close – and the short dance can really dictate where you place yourself for the free.
And so, with that being said, yesterday we wanted to give “Je suis malade” the proper adieu… and I can’t believe it went by so fast. You know, I could barely hold on to any moment in my memory because it just… it went by so fast!
True, you seemed so surprised at the end of the free dance…
Kaitlyn: I was shocked! I was shocked that it went by, and we did it again, you know? This program has such a special place in our hearts, and we seem to be able to bring it to that place every time, and it’s just: Oh, my God, we did it again!
And so to finish yesterday with that performance, to end this season, and then to receive a bronze medal… it’s a medal that far outweighs gold, silver, bronze, anything! It’s so special, and we’re so happy!
So that must have been the high point of your career right there? Emotion-wise, at least? Because I was going to ask you on the course of this conversation if you have a moment or a particular medal that you’re very fond of…
Kaitlyn: That’s the one, oh, this one! [while Andrew nods: Yeah!]
This is just me personally, but I’ve never felt like I wanted to wear this medal for ever! You know? I’ve never felt that about any medal!
And we went into our Skate Canada toast [last night], where the federation brings everyone together, skaters, families, and we were wearing the medals, we were putting them on to our families… – and I’ve never had that sense of pride about an outcome before until now. And that medal means so much to us, given this season, and given the past few years.
Yes, talk to me about that.
Andrew: You know, especially these past two seasons it’s been…
Starting with Boston, I assume…
Kaitlyn [meditatively]: …starting with Shanghai, I think…
Starting with Shanghai? Because the Grand Prix Final went great both in 2014/2015 and 2015/2016…
Andrew: Yeah, we had great seasons, but they always seemed to finish on a weird note for us. And it started to get us questioning…
Andrew: Everything. Questioning how we skate, are we not good enough?, are we not doing enough?, are we not getting in the right direction? What’s happening?
And… it took a long time for us, and many ups and downs along that way, to really understand who we are, and kind of remember why we’re doing this, and why we love to skate, and why, even though we’re so fearful of what can happen, why we still wanna go out there and put ourselves over the line. Because, you know, it’s a scary thing to go out there and just hope that you’re gonna skate perfect.
But that feeling that we get while we’re out there, when we finish those programs, when we can really walk out and be proud of what we’ve done, because of everything that led us up to that moment, is why we do it.
And we’re so proud of the team that we have behind us, the people that really helped us remember that experience. Because it’s not just Kaitlyn and I, it’s our coaches, our friends, our families, all of those people that really helped us in those low moments.
Because the low moments were the things that really make us who we are, and make us appreciate yesterday, appreciate those medal-moments – because your true fans are there for you when you’re low…
You do have one of the largest and most beautiful fan-families out there…
Kaitlyn: Yeah, and I think we can look back to this 12-year career, regardless of what happens next year, and just be so grateful for the support that we’ve felt. That built us. And we wouldn’t be the same without it, and we look forward to those messages, to those things…
I mean, you wake up in the morning, and it has a picture, and a quote, and it’s just the motivation that we need to get out of bed and get into the rink again. You know, those things keep us going, and we love what we do, and we’re hard workers, but it’s incredible to share those moments with the people that support us everyday.
“WE HAVE TO DO THIS. THIS IS US”
Now lead me a bit into the beginning of this season: you started with a different free dance, with „Spartacus”…
Kaitlyn: Yes, we knew we wanted to work with Lori Nichol. Well, we knew we wanted to work with her… [smiles, while emphasizing „we”].
She was… shy a little bit at first because she’d never worked with ice dancers before.
So this was the first time you worked with her…
Kaitlyn: Well, we worked with her for the exhibition last season…
And she’s a pairs-men-ladies, everything! But ice dance… and I sent her maybe a hundred messages, emails, phone calls [smiling], begging her to work with us. ’Cause we love the work that we did with “Ghost”, our exhibition – and, after that, she agreed to work with us on our Olympic program.
And so we were over the moon.
And it took a while for us to decide our music, but we chose “Spartacus”, “Adagio of Spartacus”: we felt it really represented who we are, and the fighting spirit, and everything we wanted to show.
Your music choices are always very different…
Kaitlyn: Yeah, they’re so different! And we worked on the floor extensively, with a dancer, Linda Garneau, and we really loved our product.
And then we competed for the first time at Autumn Classic in Montreal… aaaand it didn’t go over as well as we had hoped! [the tone of Kaitlyn’s voice is really telling – you can really sense her disappointment after the first event of the season].
I think that people said: Yes, this is a good product… buuut it’s not where it needs to be immediately. And…
And you did have a program that you also dropped very early in the season, a couple of years ago, the Elvis short dance…
Kaitlyn: Oh, we were mad about that!
With „Spartacus”, we sat down with Nikolai and he was like: You know what? We need to state our case now. There’s no time, this is not a normal season.
And he is the Olympic guru: he gets the Olympics, he understands timing, he just… he knows. Period. And he was like: We don’t have time to let this grow. It could be good by the end of the season, it will be good by the end of the season!, not the end, but with time… It was a difficult program, but he said: With these feels, and with this season, we need to do your best thing now!
And he said: We need to go back to “Malade”.
And we said: Ok.
So he said?
It didn’t come from you?
Kaitlyn: No, him.
And we said: Ok, and we went straight from the free dance event at Autumn Classic back to the hotel, and watched videos from everything.
We watched “Malade”, we watched “Maria de Buenos Aires”, we watched some of our best programs, we watched “Spartacus”, ’cause it was already online. And we thought: Ok, it’s actually not bad, we like it, buuut… if everybody’s gonna compare everything we do to „Je suis malade”, that’s the answer.
So right away – I think that was the Saturday – right away, on Monday, we went into the rink and put the music on. And that’s when we knew. We said: We have to do this. This is us. And that’s what we need to do now.
[Kaitlyn, during a press conference in Milan: “This piece – «Je suis malade» – was brought to us by an anonymous fan in 2011. I read the email first, but we hadn’t heard the song before, and the first time we heard it we fell in love right away. We considered some other versions, even a duet version, but there was nothing like the emotion Lara Fabian has in her voice. The great thing was at Worlds in Nice this fan was there, and he’s here in Milan too, so it’s a double full circle, and just the way this program should end.]
You also said a couple of days ago here, in Milan, that with “Je suis malade” you closed not one, but two circles…
Kaitlyn: Two circles! Yeah, I think we did! [in a happy, enthusiast voice]
I think we did, because we thought it was over [in Nice] and, you know, we left that in the past. And it was a little bit daunting to bring it back, because of the memories that we have of it are so amazing… but then to bring it back, and skate it well again at Worlds, it was almost like déjà vu! And Andreas, who is our “anonymous” fan… [smiling]
So that’s the name of the fan that brought this music to you…
Kaitlyn: Yeah, Andreas. And he said he was Ok with his name being mentioned now. He’s so shy, he’s so sweet… But Andreas was the genius behind it, and he was here in Milan…
Andrew: It was really nice to have him here with us.
So skaters do take into account fans’ suggestions after all…
Kaitlyn: I’ll never not read another fan’s suggestion! [all of us laughing at this point]
Andrew: I mean, there are some weird suggestions out there for sure, but…
Kaitlyn: But there are always… You know what, who knows skating better than the fans? Who knows what they wanna watch? Why else do we do this?
We do it for ourselves, we do it because we want it to be an entertainment for the people watching and who support us. Sometimes we think we know best, but most times our fans also know best.
So he was in support of us bringing this program back, which we knew was a good sign. And he was here this week, which was the perfect way to close, finally, that book.
Not even the chapter, the book of “Malade”!
THEIR FIRST WORLDS: “TO BE IN THE SAME ROOM AS DENKOVA-STAVISKI!?”
Kaitlyn and Andrew, you mentioned this was your 10th Worlds – do you have any recollections from the first one?
Andrew: Oh, yes!
I checked and it was in…
It was in Tokyo and I remember some things about it! I remember the short… the original dance, ’cause it wasn’t a short back then. I remember some of the other programs I watched, I remember being at the event, being… so joyous for just being there!
Yeah, because we didn’t expect that at all!
Kaitlyn: We were coming of Junior Worlds…
Andrew: We were coming of Junior Worlds, and, at Nationals, we just hoped to be on the National team. And then, all of the sudden, realizing that we were going to be on the World team – it was crazy!
And we had a good Junior Worlds, and then we were like: Ok, we are going to Senior Worlds now! Oh, my God!
Kaitlyn: I think one of my favorite moments was fan-girling at all of the people that I have watched on TV, because I feel like I am the skating fan that made it [to Worlds], like: I was everyone’s biggest fan!
Just skating on the same ice like Marie-France [Dubreuil] and Patrice [Lauzon], they medaled there, and then to be in the same room as Denkova-Staviski!? I was just like: Aaaaah!
And then, all of a sudden, realizing: Oh, wait! I have to actually be here too!
[all of us laughing]
And that was the perfect opportunity for us to soak it in, you know? There was no pressure, there were no expectations, and we took that Worlds just for experience.
2007 Worlds in Tokyo: Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon (silver), Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski (gold), Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto (bronze)
I remember Javier Fernández saying last year at Europeans that those were also his first Worlds – and he remembered the large quantity of fans that attended even the practice sessions in Tokyo, and that was a huge shock to him…
Andrew: Yeah, because Japan has such a great culture for figure skating, and to be there… I mean, we knew that Worlds we’re going to be bigger than Junior Worlds…
Kaitlyn: In Oberstdorf.
Andrew: Yeah, the Junior Worlds were in Oberstdorf, and that seemed bigger already. And then walking into the rink…
Kaitlyn: Yoyogi, it was Yoyogi.
Andrew: …walking and seeing all those people that were there…
Andrew: Oh, my God!
Kaitlyn: We were kids, you know? We were kids, we had been skating together for six months.
THE (SILENT) TRY-OUT – AND ALL THE EMOTIONS
That leads me exactly to the point that I initially wanted to start this conversation with – so how did you start skating together, Kaitlyn and Andrew? Who found who?
Andrew [smiling]: That was a unique situation because…
Kaitlyn [interrupts him with a smile]: I always had my eyes on him!
[and we all burst into laughter]
So you found him?
Kaitlyn: No, our coaches knew…
Andrew: Yeah, our coaches knew, because, at that time, my partner and I were planning on skating the season, and then she decided half way through the summer that she didn’t want to do that anymore, she wanted to go to school.
And so that moment I was like: Ok, well, I guess I have to take the season off because no one starts with a new person…
So that was in…?
Andrew: That was 2006, maybe June.
Kaitlyn: June, because we tried-out in July.
Andrew: Maybe end of June. And I was like: Ok, I guess I can’t skate this year…
But my coach wanted to ask around and see what was out there [smiling]… And her coach at the time was friends with my coach, and he had asked if there was any students that he had, and he immediately said: Kaitlyn.
And we set up the try-out, and then there was the first try-out in Waterloo and… [he looks at her affectionately]
Kaitlyn: I remember going there, and my coach, Mathew Gates, was like: You know what? It’s a good experience…
He had been my coach ever since I was 13, I think, and Andrew, at that point, was a little bit out of my league: I was a new junior skater, and we knew that he had a few try-outs that were far more experienced than I was. But my coach said: It’s June, it’s a good experience, let’s go and let’s have a good weekend in Waterloo, you know, just for something to do.
Whereas previously, in the summer, I remember Chantal Lefebvre – I was skating by myself – and she said: Kaitlyn, who’s your dream partner? Like if you could skate with anybody, who would that be?
And I said: Andrew Poje! [and Kaitlyn’s tone leaves no doubt] Like, a hundred percent!
[Andrew is laughing now]
Oh, you knew that already…
Kaitlyn: Oh, a hundred percent!
But, of course, he was taken, and like who would not skate with him?!
But there was never a chance…
Had you two met before?
Kaitlyn and Andrew [on a voice]: We competed against each other…
Kaitlyn: In Lake Placid…
Andrew: Lake Placid International.
Kaitlyn: And so, anyway, we went up for the weekend, and for me it was like: Aaaaaaaaaah! [on a thin, emotional voice, as if she was really impressed with them meeting]
I mean, he was the dream partner, it was everything that I’ve been waiting for!
Andrew: I think she was a little nervous on the try-out…
Kaitlyn: I was so nervous!
Andrew: We were skating around, and we were just like doing our thing and everything, and maybe an hour into our try-out, one of the other coaches came over to Kaitlyn, who she knew, and she’s like: Kaitlyn…
Kaitlyn: It’s ok to talk.
Andrew: It’s ok to talk. She had not said a word for a complete hour!
[there’s laughter from all places again]
Kaitlyn: I was so nervous, I was so focused, yeah!
But, I mean, for me it was easy. I knew it: this was the partner that I had been waiting for. But I really didn’t think there was much of a chance. Until his coaches called mine and they said: Ok, let’s do this! And I called my mom, and I will never forget this, and I said: „Mom, we’re moving to Canada!” [categorically]
And she was like: „Ok!”
There were no doubts about it. „This is what we’re doing”. And I remember thinking: Am I crazy? Am I just delusional to just think that I could pick up my life and change it so drastically? Because, you know, it’s amazing how life can change in one second.
And my family, God bless them, supported me.
And you moved there with your…
Kaitlyn: My mom.
And we started – and we were competing in six weeks!!!
“WE HIT THE GROUND RUNNING”
You had to have your programs done, I assume… What do you remember from then?
Andrew: Because it was so late, within our first week of skating together we had to choreograph a program immediately. Usually, people go through stroking exercises, try to learn…
Kaitlyn: …build foundations…
Andrew: And we had to build a program the first week!
Kaitlyn: And then we also knew we were gonna skate Junior and Senior that year, Senior Nationals, which I was not ok with, and I was very nervous…
Andrew: But I was Senior the year before at Nationals…
Kaitlyn: And he couldn’t go back, and I did not wanna skate Senior because I was just Junior – but we built a program that could be Junior and Senior. There was a minute difference between the two, and Mathew Gates choreographed it.
Andrew: Luckily, the original dance could work for both Junior and Senior at that time.
Kaitlyn: Which doesn’t happen now, it will be very difficult to compete in both now. But we were able to make it work.
And were you successful right from the start?
Kaitlyn: Well, that was the season of bronze.
We were third in our first two Junior Grand Prix, then we didn’t make the Junior Grand Prix Final, I had time to go home, learn the Golden Waltz, which is the hardest dance there is, and then compete Senior at Nationals, obviously we know what happened there…
Andrew: We got third…
Kaitlyn: …then I had to go back, learn the Silver Samba, because we hadn’t learned it at that point, compete at Junior Worlds, got third, and then we had to go home and learn the Rhumba which we hadn’t learned yet, just because everything was so fast!
We had to be so efficient with our time – and so that was an incredible year! I’m not sure anything will compare to that season. We just hit the ground running.
[And the next couple of photos are a colourful journey into memories – and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje’s fans will surely recognize the seasons and the dances, whether they are compulsory, original, short or free.]
MARIA DE BUENOS AIRES
I’ll ask that one too: looking back – and maybe letting “Malade” aside, I know it has been so important in your career – is there any other program that you feel very attached to? And it can also be a program connected with a particular performance, with the meaning of it…
Andrew: You know, maybe it’s not my favorite program of all times, but one of my favorite performances I think it was our “Edelweiss”, “The Sound of Music” program that we did in London Worlds [in 2013]. Just because we had such a hard time that season with Kaitlyn’s injury, and coming back, and not knowing what to expect…
Kaitlyn: We didn’t care though.
Andrew: Yeah, we went out there, and we really just had fun, and the audience was with us every step of the way, we skated great – and to have that exhilaration, to have that joy of knowing we got through that speed bump, you know? It was a large speed bump, but we got through that, and it was a moment that I will definitely remember.
Kaitlyn: For me… “Je suis malade” obviously stands out – but, interestingly enough, when we decided to use an old program for this season, we played a few of our favorite ones, and I felt so connected still to “Maria de Buenos Aires”.
And we played the music, and I was right there again – and I think the reason we didn’t go back to that, one of the reasons, is because we used that at the Olympics four years ago, so we couldn’t do that again!
But that was a program I think that perfectly suited us. Probably the two, like between “Je suis malade” and “Maria”. The two programs that just captured our essence… and my heart still lies with that music.
Also looking back, are you happy with what you’ve accomplished, is there something that you wanted to do, and you didn’t? Are there any regrets there, or only joys?
Andrew: You know, it’s funny, if we would have sat here maybe a year ago, I’d be like: Oh, I wish we would have done this or… but really realizing why we do it, why we love to do this, made me appreciate all of those lows, and all of those disappointments – because it made us us.
No one else will be able to repeat what we’ve done, because it’s unique to who we are, and our story, where we come from, and where we’re going in the future. Because who knows what is gonna happen? But that’s what’s exciting, ’cause we know we’ve learned so much over these years and over our career to really make every moment, and every competition and every performance special.
“DO I THINK WE’RE GONNA FINISH…?”
I’ll take it from here and ask, even though you might not be ready to answer: where do you see each other a year from now? Finishing your 11th Worlds maybe?
Kaitlyn: Oh, gosh, I don’t know!
I know my colleagues were asking you this question all throughout this week, maybe in different forms, and here I am, doing the same…
Kaitlyn: You know, there were some moments – almost for the first time, I think – within the past month, so from the end of the Olympics, where I felt like: You know what? I’m ok if this is it. And that’s the first time that ever happened.
But do I think we’re gonna finish? …No. Probably not.
But we’re getting to a place not only in our career, but in our lives, where we’re enjoying it just for what it is.
And Andrew said it: we’ve accomplished everything we wanted to, and we do it for the joy of it. And wherever this takes us now… I don’t know where we’re gonna be a year from now, but wherever it will be, it will be with our hearts – because we do this because we love it, and for no others reasons.
SEE MORE: Kaitlyn and Andrew at 2018 Worlds
[interview by Florentina Tone, Milan/photos by Wilma Alberti, Andriana Andreeva and Getty Images]