VIRDEN — In these parts they’re simply known as ‘Paige and Rudi.’
No surnames are necessary when talking about the local figure skating duo. And when Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers lace up their skates at the Sochi Winter Olympics in less than two weeks, they’ll have the undivided attention of everyone in Westman.
"I was feeling a little stressed a few weeks before the (national) trials, and then everything came together. … That’s kind of the way I feel right now: I’m ready. Let’s go do it," Swiegers said. "There’s nothing left to do. We’re just maintaining and keeping our training going so when we get there everything can fall together again."
More than 300 people packed the Sunrise Banquet Hall at Virden’s Tundra Oil and Gas Place last night to wish the pairs skaters good luck in Russia.
Lawrence, 23, and Swiegers, 26, have lived and trained in Virden with their coach Patty Hole since 2009.
Growing up, they trained out of the Wawota Figure Skating Club in Saskatchewan, a place where they are still registered skaters because Lawrence’s mother is the club’s secretary-treasurer. When the pair competes at the Olympics, it will mean 40 per cent of Wawota’s five figure-skating members will be participating on sport’s grandest stage.
They fly out of Winnipeg with their coach on Sunday.
While they’re anxious to hit the ice in Russia, there is also cause for trepidation ahead of security concerns at the Olympics. Terrorism threats have cast a shadow over the Games, but Swiegers said it hasn’t entered their minds as they continue to focus on everything they can to do to be at their best.
"The Canadian government and Russian government are taking care of that," he said. "We’re going to go there and they’re going to take care of us. We’re there to do our job and that’s what we’re going to do."
Lawrence, whose mother, father and two brothers are also travelling overseas to see her skate, isn’t worried either.
"The Lawrence clan is going, which is so awesome and I don’t know if Russia knows what is coming for them," Lawrence joked. "I’m not thinking about (the security) at all. I’ve made the Olympics, which has been my goal forever and I’m excited about this opportunity and put my trust in the people that are there."
Another controversial issue is Russia’s hardline political stance in opposition of gay rights. Figure skating has been a trailblazer in the sporting community when it comes to gay rights. A number of skaters who have participated at past Olympics are openly gay and have advocated for equal rights.
"I feel each and every athlete and person is free to do whatever is right for them, but for Rudi and I it’s not the right platform for it," Lawrence said. "Do we agree with the Russian government? Absolutely not, but it’s not our place to fight it. We’re going there to do our job and that’s to figure skate."
Lawrence and Swiegers, who placed third at the Canadian championships, will join national champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and silver medallists Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch in representing the country at the Games.
Hole said after an up-and-down season due to injuries the pair will be ready — in large part because of the tremendous support they’ve received.
"It’s so overwhelming," Hole said. "It’s so new for everyone, including ourselves, but all of the communities around us are so excited for this."