The gloves are off for Kaetlyn Osmond.
The 18-year-old Newfoundland skater stepped onto the ice at the Canadian figure skating championships Friday wearing long black gloves instead of the white ones she'd worn all season. The doffing of the white gloves was a strategic move - to make her arm movements more visible for the judges - and it clearly made an impression.
Osmond skated a near perfect short program Friday and notched one of the highest Canadian scores ever on home ice, putting her in first place on the day one of the two day competition.
Osmond's score of 70.3 puts her ahead of Amelie Lacoste, of Delson Que., who sits second with a score of 61.27 heading into Saturday's long program.
Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., is third with a score of 58.38. Veronik Mallet, of Sept-Iles, Que. is fourth with 57.0 points. The Olympic team for Sochi will be announced Sunday.
Osmond's score was the second highest score ever recorded by a Canadian on home ice, behind the 71.36 Joannie Rochette was awarded for her short program at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Tugging at her new black gloves after her skate, Osmond said her routine - a jazz inspired number to the tune of Big Spender - relies heavily on hand movements, and the white gloves she began the season with weren't cutting it.
"We were just thinking that the white gloves are harder to see while they're on the ice, because there's so much white on the ice surface, and then the white skates, white gloves, it's a little much," said Osmond, who skates in a black dress. "So we added to the black and we just realized you can actually see what my hands are doing a lot more. This whole program is hand movements really."
The last-minute switch echoes a similar costume change Osmond made heading into the season. The dress she was supposed to wear for her long program was white, but after trying it out a few times in the summer, Osmond figured she needed something that would stand out more - and a dark purple one was made.
"You can't have white on me," she said in a recent interview. "It kind of blends in with the ice a lot. I'm more of a dark-as-you-can-get person."
Such are the many tweaks that skaters are making this season as the days tick down to the Sochi games. When it comes to last-minute improvements, everything is up for grabs.
Lacoste, who is making a bid for her first Olympics, is no different. In October, she switched coaches and cities, in an effort to jumpstart her Olympic chances. Four months out from the Sochi Games, she moved from Quebec to Colorado Springs to train under Patrick Chan's former coach Christy Krall.
The move has helped her conditioning and her confidence, two things that came through on the ice Friday, Lacoste said.
"I felt so good out on the ice, I felt so relaxed. I felt really grounded on the ice," Lacoste said. "I feel super well prepared, in top shape. After my short program I wasn't even tired at all."
She said the move to Colorado has rekindled her passion for skating, which couldn't have come at a better time. Canada has two spots open for Sochi in the women's event. Lacoste, who has battled consistency problems in the past, is making a bid for the second spot.
For Osmond, the short program Friday was a confirmation that she has healed well after battling two serious injuries this season that nearly threatened her Olympic dream.
Osmond, who trains in Edmonton, suffered an injury that was deemed to be a precursor to a stress fracture in her ankle, then battled hamstring problems that limited her ability to train, and kept her out of competitions. When she did get healthy enough to train, Osmond joked that she had to be perfect in practice, because falling hurt too much.
"It feels great knowing that even after having a season of not really training I can come back and be exactly where I am," she said Friday.
"This program definitely proved that. There were some little mistakes in it, but it's only my second competition of the year so it's just more to improve on. But I'm just very excited with where I am right now."
Osmond's coach Ravi Walia admitted he was getting worried a few months ago that Osmond's Olympic hopes could be sidelined by the injuries, particularly since it resulted in her pulling out of a competition in Russia.
"I was concerned especially in November," he said. "She wasn't skating, and she wasn't doing any off-ice. There was not a lot she could do."
"But when we started on the ice training and jumping, that was when my concern kind of went away. Because when we started doing double jumps they were perfect, and when we added triple jumps they were perfect."
Friday's program bodes well though there are kinks he and Osmond still want to work out. "I think there's still room for improvement," Walia said. "It's a really good start.Report Typo/Error