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Skate Canada winner Kaetlyn Osmond a cool customer in debut

Women's gold medalist, Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond, smiles as her marks are posted for her free program at Skate Canada International on Oct. 27, 2012 in Windsor, Ont.


There was every sign that figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond was destined for glory; the surprise was that it happened so soon.

"It was a shock to actually see her at the top, but I definitely had the idea that she was prepared for that type of performance," reflected her coach, former figure-skating champion Ravi Walia, in the afterglow of a stunning weekend of skating by his protege.

In winning the women's title at Skate Canada on the weekend at the age of just 16, Ms. Osmond signalled that the country has a burgeoning new talent ready to step up on the international stage.

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"There were a lot of strong skaters in the event and I knew it was going to be a tough competition" Mr. Walia said in an interview. "But she's a great skater, so it isn't really surprising the judges liked her so much."

Ms. Osmond, a rookie on the Grand Prix circuit, was skating in her first appearance at that level. She had been a virtual unknown before she won a surprise bronze at the Canadian championships last winter.

On Saturday, she fell once on her triple Lutz but skated an otherwise strong program to Carmen to win gold among a world-class field.

Looking older than her years in red dress and dark red lipstick, Ms. Osmond scored 115.89 points for her Carmen rendition, and 176.45 overall. Reigning world bronze medalist Akiko Suzuki was second with 175.16, while Japanese teammate Kanako Murakami was third with 168.04.

Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia, the leader after Friday's short program, had an error-filled long program to fall to fifth. Amélie Lacoste of Delson, Que., finished eighth.

Olympic and world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir captured gold in ice dancing for Canada, while Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won silver in the pairs.

Basking in media attention after her victory, Ms. Osmond described the thrill of posting an unexpected win: "Not used to it," she said, laughing. "But definitely could get used to it."

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Mr. Walia described Ms. Osmond as a naturally self-confident young woman who is adept at keeping the tension of competition in check.

"She thrives on being in the spotlight," he said. "She likes to show off all the things she has been working on. She is pretty relaxed and down-to-earth. If a skate doesn't go well in competition, it's not the end of the world to her. She loves skating and hasn't lost the innocence in her young personality."

Osmond grew up in Marystown, Nfld. – population just over 5,000 – but by the age of six she was travelling to Montreal in the summers to train.

"It was definitely a town where not many people lived and there was one rink that was only open in the winter, and a pool that was only open in the summer," Ms. Osmond said.

Mr. Walia said that she moved to Montreal to live full-time with her older sister – also a competitive skater – at the age of ten. A year later, the entire family moved to Alberta, where her parents had found work in Fort McMurray.

Ms. Osmond and her sister live in a house her family had purchased in Edmonton, Mr. Walia said. Initially, they lived with an aunt during the week and their parents travelled back from Fort McMurray to live with them on weekends.

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"The family has sacrificed a lot to have these dreams," he said. "Because of all that, I think Kaetlyn was able to look after herself at a very young age and became very independent and mature.

"Her parents are very relaxed, down-to-earth people – and Kaetlyn is a product of that," he said.

Twice a week, Ms. Osmond trains at the Sherwood Park Figure Skating Club from 6 a.m until her school day at Edmonton's Vimy Ridge High School begins. She is on a half-day Grade 12 school program, enabling her to return to the rink at 1:15 p.m. for another four or five hours of skating, gymnastics and pilates.

"She is very positive, upbeat, bubbly and confident," Mr. Walia said. "She is very intelligent about the way she approaches competition. She is very friendly and she's a great role model for other skaters on our club."

Barely on Skate Canada's radar last year, Ms. Osmond finished ninth and 10th in her first junior Grand Prix events and had been battling an injury.

After her bronze at the Canadian championships in Moncton, N.B., where she won the short program and landed the only clean triple-triple combination, she opened this season with a victory at the Nebelhorn Trophy last month.

"I think most of it is my body maturing," Ms. Osmond said. "Everything has just been coming together a lot more. But I've also been putting a lot more effort into it."

Because of her world ranking from last year – in the mid-40s – Ms. Osmond is not entered in another Grand Prix this season. However, she still stands a strong chance of making Canada's team for the world championships in London, Ont., in March.

After her remarkable weekend victory, Ms Osmond will have a week off before she begins preparations to compete at a Skate Canada Challenge competition in Regina, in early December.

In January, Mr. Walia said that she will compete in the Nationals and, depending on her results, she may compete in the IAC world championship.

"She has been improving steadily for the past year and we have worked really hard," Mr. Walia said. "We have high goals."

Suddenly, Ms. Osmond is even allowing herself to dream about the Sochi Olympics.

"It definitely starts putting a whole bunch of thoughts in your head," she said. "It just gains you so much more confidence, and a better knowing of what you can do on the ice, how much it can lead you to.

"[The thoughts] have always been there, just not as loud," she said.

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Justice reporter

Born in Montreal, Aug. 3, 1954. BA (Journalism) Ryerson, 1979. Previously covered environment beat, Queen's Park. Toronto courts bureau from 1981-85. Justice beat from 1985 - present. More


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