Five months have passed since the Worlds in Saitama – and I’m still amazed by this powerful, classy routine, „Maria de Buenos Aires”. Following the crescendo of the music and the wonderful, sharp voice of the Argentine singer Julia Zenko, this particular free dance proved to be a brilliant choice for Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje in the most successful season of their career so far: the Canadians shared the emotions of their first Olympics, alongside the best athletes in the world, and won the World silver medal in Japan, at the end of a literally incredible event; the duo finished just 0.02 of a point behind the Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte and 0.04 ahead of the French Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat.
To me, their silver in Saitama is just the beginning; I’m certain that Kaitlyn and Andrew will come back in autumn, hungry for more. And they do have all the aces to continue climbing the World rankings: they’re beautiful and talented, breathing an air of elegance and sophistication – and trusting each other and their common goals. „We feel like a real family”, says Andrew, pointing to the great environment in which they train, Detroit Skating Club, where they’re learning from „the greatest team of coaches out there”: Anjelika Krylova, „the technical master”, and Pasquale Camerlengo, „the artist”. And this, let me tell you, might very well be the key to their success.
by Florentina Tone
Kaitlyn, Andrew, your season ended on a higher note: a silver medal at the Worlds in Saitama, only 0.02 of a point separating you from the gold. Your fans seem to have mixed feelings about the result: joy for winning the first World medal ever, but also a little bit of disappointment – you were that close of winning the gold… What about you? How do you feel about the competition/outcome in Saitama?
Kaitlyn Weaver: First of all, we’d like to thank you, Florentina, for your interest in Andrew and me and our story. We are very excited to be sharing it to you and to insideskating.net. As you said, we ended our season on the highest note of our career thus far — a World medal. We were initially in shock that we had come that close to winning the World title, but the shock transformed almost immediately into extreme gratitude after looking at the split between second, third, and fourth as well. We also were very elated that we had performed two of our best programs of the season at that competition, after an arduous yet fulfilling year. Anyone who attended the World Championships knows, the fans and audience in Saitama were outstanding. They gave each skater every ounce of energy possible, and we felt comfortable and ready to perform in front of that crowd. Thank you, Japan!
Looking back at the Olympic season, it must have been a great ride: becoming Olympians, skating your hearts out in Sochi, medaling at the Grand Prix Events and at the Worlds in Saitama. How did you approach the season and the first Olympics of your career?
Andrew Poje: We took what we learned from our career, especially the 2012-2013 season, and used that knowledge toward preparing for the Olympic season. We wanted to take every step we could and left no stone unturned to ensure we would be as ready as possible. We also took the time to listen to the knowledge of past Olympians in order to gain as much mental preparation as possible, in addition to learning from their experiences. This was possible because we attended a camp put on by Team Canada which opened our eyes to new inspiration and also motivated us, even more than we already were!
For most of the athletes, the Olympic experience is just like a rollercoaster. What was it like for you in Sochi – in terms of practice, lodging, performance, audience, outcome? Looking retrospectively, what do you see? Would you change anything if you could?
Kaitlyn: I can definitely attest that the Olympic experience was like a rollercoaster! My first steps in Sochi were not how I imagined them — without my skates! My luggage was delayed coming from Frankfurt to Moscow, so I arrived into the Olympic village with nothing. No skates, no costumes, no backups. Needless to say, I was a little worried! However, once I took one look at the enormous, glowing golden rings that welcomed us from the doors of the airport, I felt better. (My suitcase arrived a day and a half later, thankfully!) The lodging was beautiful; I was so happy that we had time in the village to acclimate and make it feel like home. It was also extremely motivating to be around the best athletes in the world. We skated our hearts out when it came time to competition, and although we didn’t achieve the outcome in terms of placement we had in the back of our minds, the experience of controlling our energy, focus, distractions, and emotions at the Games gave us incredible insight to competing the rest of that season, and the rest of our career. I wouldn’t change a thing! I’ll never forget a moment of Sochi.
Which was to you the most important (emotional, greatest) moment of this season?
Andrew: There were so many memorable moments this season because we achieved more personal milestones than ever before. One moment that sticks out to me is finishing our free dance at Nationals, knowing that we had put in the work to stamp our ticket to our first Olympic Games and being able to share that with both of our families and the audience, who seemed to somehow know what we have experienced throughout our journey!
I have to be honest: your free dance, Maria de Buenos Aires, was among my favourite free dances of the season. It’s beautiful, intricate – and incredibly powerful. Could you recompose for the readers of Inside Skating the story of this particular routine? Who come up with the idea of a tango? Who chose the music, who choreographed it…?
Kaitlyn: Wow, thank you for the incredibly kind words about our free dance last season. It indeed stands out in my head as a personal favourite (one of many, I guess!) We started the off-season in 2013 with two different ideas for the free dance: one being „Maria de Buenos Aires”. When Shae-Lynn Bourne discovered the CD (not available on iTunes) and found more music, we knew that this would have to be our choice. Also, whenever we were playing with ideas or testing our certain steps to the music, the emotion and energy came very naturally to us. We began to research the story of the operetta and found it to be very interesting and strange, to be honest! But a beautiful message all the same. Maria begins as a shadow, while the Duende (narrator) introduces her and her story. There were quotes in the first piece that we became very attached to: „like a blade of grass growing through a crack in asphalt”, symbolizing hope; and „Now is your time, Maria de Buenos Aires”. I could go through the program second by second and tell you our interpretation, but that would be very long! Shae-Lynn and Pasquale Camerlengo created a program for us that was passionate, intense and emotional — all the things we wanted to show the world during the Olympic season.
What about the message sent to you by Julia Zenko, the singer? Was she touched by your performance in Saitama? I sure was…
Kaitlyn: It was thrilling to find a message from Julia Zenko on Facebook! We always wondered if the musicians ever saw programs (Lara Fabian, for example) and we were speechless when we saw that she not only viewed the program, but loved it! She loved the passion and emotion that we brought to the ice (goal achieved!) Even more, she told us very interesting facts and secrets about Astor Piazzolla himself and the writer of the lyrics, Horacio Ferrer, and how they came together to create this beautiful operetta!
You’re fresh and innovative – and you have a great team of people working with you at Detroit Skating Club. What is it like to work with Anjelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo?
Andrew: It’s a pleasant experience to go to DSC every day and learn from the knowledge that Anjelika and Pasquale share with us. I believe Anjelika and Pasquale are the greatest team of coaches out there – and because of that we have enjoyed success season after season of training with them. Anjelika is the technical master and Pasquale, the artist. Together they cover all of the bases! However there is one thing that separates our team from the rest: we feel like a real family.
You’re both young – you could very well compete in South Korea, in 2018. Which are your competitive plans – short term and long term?
Kaitlyn: After narrowly missing the Team in Vancouver, it was a no-brainer to say that we were aiming to compete in Sochi. But now, looking to 2018, it feels far away! The best option for Andrew and me right now is to be taking it one year at a time. If we make it to Pyeongchang, then we must have an angel watching over us. But currently, we are focusing on the „here and now”.
You must have decided on the programs for the next season… Could you tell me a little bit about the music, the choreography, the process of choosing a particular theme for the free dance?
Andrew: Knowing that the Paso Doble is the theme for this year’s short dance, we were excited to be in the Spanish realm once more. We always want to do something that’s new to us because we like to push our boundaries and grow as a team every year. We’ve chosen to do a traditional Paso Doble, but put our own flavor into it.
As with the short dance, for the free we wanted to do something different than what we’ve done in the past. We have chosen a classical piece that is definitely intricate! We are always making sure to put ourselves into it and create a story that we can relate to, convey and feel.
What are your favorite ice-dance couples in the history of the discipline? Who do you aspire to be like – and why?
Kaitlyn: This is a very difficult question as I have been studying ice dance couples since I was a little girl! I like many different teams for different reasons. Growing up, my favourites were Bourne/Kraatz, Grishuk/Platov, Usova/Zhulin, Punsalan/Swallow, Krylova/Ovsiannikov. Many of whom are now my coaches! How lucky is that? When I was a developing dancer, I wanted to be a perfect mix of Elena Grushina, Shae-Lynn Bourne and Oksana Grishuk.
Andrew: Usova/Zhulin, Annisina/Peizerat, Bourne/Kraatz, Krylova/Ovsiannikov. I want to be graceful like Zhulin, but still have the manly presence like Gwendal does. And the entertainment factor like Shae and Vic.
Kaitlyn, please describe Andrew in a couple of words… Same request applies to Andrew when it comes to Kaitlyn…
Kaitlyn: There are many words I could use to describe Andrew… But the first that come to mind are… thoughtful, strong, dedicated, and sometimes goofy!
Andrew: Kaitlyn has the kindest soul I’ve ever met, which is why it’s always a privilege to be her partner.
PHOTO-GALLERY: Kaitlyn and Andrew at 2012 Worlds in Nice
With these wonderful thoughts on their partnership and journey together, let’s turn back time to 2012 World Figure Skating Championships in Nice, where Kaitlyn and Andrew’s talent erupted like a volcano: the Canadians conquered the audience with that intense, emotional “Je suis malade” and were that close to winning their first World medal. To me, Nice 2012 was a huge, fundamental step in their career; the moment they really rose to prominence. Let’s all enjoy the photo-memories.