Victor Kraatz gave his old partner Shae-Lynn Bourne an affectionate nudge yesterday at the Canadian figure skating championships.
After a time of stiffness between them, the 2003 world dance champions have reached a more peaceful friendship. But ironically, now that they have, they are competing against each other this week.
Kraatz is coaching Allie Hann-McCurdy of Nanaimo, B.C, and Michael Coreno of Toronto, who exceeded all expectations by finishing fourth at the Skate Canada Grand Prix in Quebec City last November.
And in the other corner, Bourne is coaching 2007 Canadian bronze medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont.
Bourne and Kraatz - both honorary chairs of these national championships - have done many promotional events leading up to the competition.
"It's been a blast," Bourne said.
And competing against her partner this week? "It's awesome," she said, glowing. "It'll be fun to see him this week."
"We're on the opposite side of the boards," Kraatz added.
Bourne was a 10-time Canadian champion with Kraatz, with whom she also won four world bronze medals before finally breaking through to win a world gold in 2003.
Bourne and Kraatz retired after their win, but their professional career didn't last long and Kraatz suddenly quit at the end of 2003, saying he would rather be a competitive skater than a show skater.
Kraatz's decision hit Bourne hard. But don't count out these Canadian skating icons, especially with the Vancouver Winter Olympics looming.
They've talked about making a comeback before the Games, not to compete, but to return something to the Canadian public who supported them through thick and thin.
Just before the world championships last March, the couple got together to skate for about an hour in Vancouver, with few spectators.
"Some things never change," Bourne said.
"It was bizarre, but it was great, just stroking together. We were just messing around, improvising, stroking and feeling the glide with one another. And we had that conversation, what can we do [in the future]"
Their induction into the Canadian Figure Skating Hall of Fame last January also brought them closer together, as Kraatz took the microphone in front of a home crowd, then began to shed tears.
The skaters embraced, to a crowd ovation. Tears were falling everywhere.
"It was wonderful," Bourne said. "I thought it was just really amazing to be inducted with Victor, but to actually see him and to share the stage with him, that was the most amazing moment when we were there together. It was really emotional.
"It brought back a lot of memories. It just felt right."
"For him, too. To see him emotional and to hear what he had to say, it was a very special moment. And to be connected with the audience again together, it meant a lot. It was something I'll never forget."
Bourne and Kraatz had had little contact with each other since 2003, although they'd run into each other at Canadian championships, and then when Kraatz began coaching, at other competitions. But they began to talk again just before the hall induction.
"Things were better," Bourne said. "It was kind of an odd way the way it all finished. It was nice to reconnect with Victor again.
"The whole thing was so bizarre, how it all ended. I was fine, but I think it was hard at the beginning. I wasn't ready for that. It was a surprise for me. That was a difficult time, but soon after that other doors opened, and the chance for me to skate alone appeared. I tried that and I grew so much, because I was put in that position."
Bourne has since made a name for herself as a solo skater in pro shows.
About a year ago, Bourne said, Kraatz apologized to her and said he was sorry. At the time, she was going through a separation with Russian-born coach Nikolai Morozov and a friendly face was welcome.
"Just to hear those words, it let all that go," Bourne said. "It was really nice to reconnect with him. Now, it's great. It's nice, because when you spend that much time with somebody and go through all that we went through, you want to have that friend for life and you want to share things with them."
It seems that Bourne's life is just beginning again.
She got a divorce from Morozov last summer. Although she still maintains a condo in Connecticut, where she has been coaching, she recently moved into an apartment in Toronto and intends to spend more time in Canada, close to her family.