There was a day when Jeremy Ten thought that his figure skating career might be over, when he lay in a hospital bed after surgery from his second serious injury.
He allowed those thoughts to last only a day.
The next morning, Ten, of Burnaby, B.C. woke up and thought to himself that he had to at least try to make a comeback, if he really loved figure skating. He decided to push himself to see if he could come back. This all happened at a time when an earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan. Ten realized he was a mere speck in the wider universe, and his problems were minuscule really.
"I'm really glad I was able to turn my head around and just focus on why I wanted to get back on the ice," he said, after a practice at the Canadian figure skating championships in Moncton, N.B.
It was bad enough that Ten had to endure a sore right ankle during the season that he wanted to qualify for the Vancouver Olympics in his hometown. He found it painful to do some of his jumps and even some basic skating. On the brink of making a name for himself, he vastly underachieved - but discovered one bone was impinging on another. He had surgery to shave down the offending bone, and remove some scar tissue. That injury destroyed his Olympic dream.
The skater got back on ice in March and not all that long afterwards, had a freak fall, just doing stroking exercises, and suffered a spiral fracture in the fibula in his left leg. He got back onto the ice only last September.
Ten spent three or four weeks in a fiberglass cast, then graduated to an air cast for another two weeks. Next step? Physiotherapy and rehabilitation for another two weeks. After about three months, he was able to put on his skates and take a tour out on the ice.
After three weeks of this, Ten was juggling the exercise of getting new choreography from renowned program designer David Wilson, and re-learning all of his jumps. Ten found that the jumps came back like magic. His muscle memory was intact and years of training helped. "It was like riding a bicycle," he said.
Still, he needed a strategy to get himself to the Canadian championships, step by step.
Ten competed in provincial championships in British Columbia with a very pared down program. At the qualifying event for the Canadian championships in Regina in December, he added a few more jumps. For example, in the short program, he attempted a triple toe loop – triple toe loop combination, an easy thing for senior men. At the Canadian championships this week, intrepid little 12-year-old Roman Sadovsky attempted the same combination in the novice men's event. Ten is 10 years older.
But Ten did attempt a difficult triple Axel in the short, and scaled down the triple in the long program to a double.
This week, Ten intends the kind of program he was doing before the accidents and incidents of his life. His combination in the short will be the vastly more difficult triple Lutz – triple toe loop. And he'll do that triple Axel in the long.
"So that's all within the last month," Ten said of his competitive attempts. "It's definitely been difficult, considering everybody had the entire season to prepare and I've had maybe not even half of that. But I'm proud of myself for being able to suck it up."
Ten said the events of the past season have been an eye-opener for him about "how precious time is and how you should really enjoy every day, doing something that you enjoy doing." The experience has tested his character. At age 22, having experienced disappointment and life-altering events, he feels that he has grown a lot as a person.
His routine for the long program will express how he feels about skating, he said. It's to the El Postino (The Postman) suite. The men's short program is on Saturday, while the free skate is on Sunday.