Former world bronze medalists Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison have ended their nine-year pairs partnership after realizing they have taken their skating career together as far as it will go.
Dubé of St-Cyrille-de-Wendover, Que., and Davison of Huntsville, Ont., have missed the entire season with Davison suffering a joint disorder. While Davison recuperated, Dubé returned to singles skating and placed sixth at the Canadian championships in January.
Their future together came to a head at a press conference about a week ago in Quebec City announcing that the 2011 Grand Prix final will take place there. After chatting, Dubé made it clear that skating by herself gave her a spark she hadn't felt in a while and wanted to pursue other interests. "I didn't really want to lose that," she said Thursday. "I needed something to remind me of why I enjoyed skating."
Davison said he was taken aback and a little disappointed at first, but realized the decision to part was right. "I had been focused on getting back [from the injury]" he said. "But this is not a bad thing and I totally respect her decision for ending it."
Dubé and Davison showed great promise when they won two world junior championships silver medals as youngsters, and then they won the bronze medal at the world championships in 2008 in Sweden. But they never found their international footing again after that, finishing in seventh spot at the next world championships and sixth at both the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the world championships that followed.
They also won three national titles together.
Davison admitted that the low point of their career was "the daily grind" of training, not an accident in 2007 in which Davison's skate blade sliced Dubé's cheek.
"We both knew there were changes that needed to be made in our lives and also with our skating," Davison said. "I don't think we were ready to make those changes that were necessary to be a better pair team."
For now, Dubé plans to continue skating as a singles skater, and she will study communications this fall at Concordia University in Montreal. "The injury made me realize that there was a lot of other things in life that I wanted to change," she said.
She may eventually become a coach, but that will come later. She'll also keep her ear to the ground for another pairs partner. "I love it too much to put it behind me," she said.
Davison has a much tougher road ahead of him, because of the injury. He spent three months unable to bear weight on his right leg, and even with rehabilitation, he can't see himself doing anything significant on the ice for another month and a half or two.
Currently, he's allowed to skate for five to 10 minutes on the ice, but he'd rather spend time in the gym rebuilding strength for now. "Four or five minutes at a time on the ice isn't necessarily going to help me, especially for the next month," he said. "This injury is a really bad one for an athlete because you have to go slow with recovery, that you almost don't want to go back on [to the ice] If you go back on and you think you're fine, you could do more damage."
In the meantime, Davison said he'll test the waters and put his name out, hoping to find another pairs partner. But it won't be easy. "It will have to be someone pretty special, to be successful pretty quickly," he said.
"I'm not 20 years old any more," the 25-year-old said. "It's like with anything, when you've had success in something, you don't want to take massive steps backward to try and redo it."
He knows the availability of female partners at the world level is slim, but said he's keeping his options open.
He's also been studying online through Athabasca University, but if he does not find a new pairs partner, he may seek further education in Toronto and area. He'd eventually like to coach, or to give something back to Skate Canada, as in working as a team leader at competitions.
For now, one dream is dead, but new ones are growing.
"There's nothing bad about this," Davison said. "It's for both of us. We're just looking forward to moving on to the new opportunities that we can find."
Dubé and Davison won Canada's only pairs medal at a major championships since Jamie Salé and David Pelletier captured gold at the 2002 Olympics. Michael Slipchuk, high-performance director for Skate Canada, said Dubé and Davison gave a jump-start to the Canadian program in 2008.
Slipchuk also said that Olympic ice dancing champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are healthy and ready to defend their title at the world championships in a week in Tokyo. They had withdrawn from the free dance at the Four Continents Championships last month in Taiwan, with Virtue citing a problem with a quad muscle.