Back-to-back bronze medals were nice, but Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers are hungry for more at this year’s Canadian Figure Skating Championships.
The Virden-based senior pairs skaters fly from Florida to Toronto today to compete in this weekend’s national championships in Mississauga, Ont., looking for a top-two finish that would earn them a trip to the worlds, from March 11-17 in London, Ont.
However, with defending gold medallists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford back this year, along with 2011 national champions Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, the field will be as tough as ever at nationals.
"We’d really love to get in the top two, but it is a really, really strong field this year, so we’re trying to really go in there and focus on ourselves and having a personal best skate," Lawrence said. "I know that sounds right out of the textbook, but really, whenever there is such a strong field, it is really easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and I think that’s how mistakes are made. So we are just going to go in there this year with the goal of a top-two finish, but just focused on ourselves and just go out and skate."
Lawrence and Swiegers, both Saskatchewan natives who have lived in Virden for the past three years while training with coach Patty Hole, will skate in the short program on Friday at 3 p.m. (TSN) and Saturday’s free skate at 5:30 p.m. (TSN).
After going into last year’s national championships with Lawrence coming off a concussion, she is relatively injury-free this season, minus the usual bumps and bruises associated with being tossed around the ice by her partner.
"I don’t think you are ever going to be at 100 per cent body-wise, so there are little things that we are battling, but it’s nothing major," Lawrence said.
"We’re feeling pretty confident in ourselves and our own ability. … We’re skating fairly well actually. There’s a few little things, but we’re actually both feeling really confident and really excited going into nationals this year."
Lawrence, 22, and Swiegers, 25, have spent the past 10 days training in Ellington, Fla., under the guidance of former Canadian Olympian Lyndon Johnston, a Hamiota native who now trains some of the top pairs teams in the world.
"It’s been great, actually," said Lawrence, who teamed up with Swiegers to place fourth at the Skate Canada International event in October and fourth in a Grand Prix Tour competition in Moscow in November. "There are four other pairs teams here that are training for the U.S. nationals, so it’s been really nice to be down here and everyone claps for each other on the ice and are really supportive."
While next year’s national championships will ultimately decide which pairs represent the country at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, strong showings by Canada’s two teams at this year’s worlds could result in a third pairs team earning a trip to the Olympics.
"All we want this year is for the two best teams to go to worlds, and if it includes us as one of those two teams, we are ready to go," Hole said.
"This year, when you go to worlds, that’s what sets your world team for the Olympics, so Canada wants to really make sure that the best two teams are going because if we can get a third team for the Olympics, that’s what we all are after ...
"Rudi and Paige, they have really started to step it up, whether they have stepped it up in time going to Canadians, we’ll see, but we are certainly going to make sure the second-place team is ready to go ... We’re training hard and we’ll see what happens."