By: Beverley Smith
Kevin Reynolds has seen the best of times and the worst of times in less than a year.
The skater from Coquitlam, B.C., was the toast of the country last season when he went from strength to strength: He landed five quads at the national championships; he defeated Patrick Chan on the technical mark in the free skate by 12.64 points; his long program score of 175.94 blasted his previous best by 30 points and his overall score of 261.40 was 40 points better than he had ever scored; he won the Four Continents Figure Skating Championship over skaters like popular world champion Daisuke Takahashi; he finished third in the short program at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships and fifth overall, tidily meeting a goal that many thought was a bit ambitious at the beginning of the season.
Reynolds had finally come into his own. It was a breakthrough season. It was the perfect time to have one of those, with the Sochi Olympics in the offing. It was a huge confidence builder, a momentum builder.
This season hasn’t been so easy. Reynolds hasn’t been able to capitalize on the momentum he created last year. He is going to have to take every scrap of muscle memory and moxie with him to the Olympics. Actually, he’s just relieved he qualified, after the season he’s had. “The last two weeks have been nerve-wracking,” he said.
Reynolds sailed through last season as soon as he got a new pair of boots, after he had finished sixth at NHK Trophy in Japan. They fit him better than most ever had. After all, he has a very narrow heel. He’s not easy to fit. These were like a glove. Reynolds was in boot heaven.
He thought his next pair of boots would be the same. They were not. Throughout the season, as he had to withdraw from both of his Grand Prix events with boot problems, Reynolds tried to find the answer in nine different pairs of boots. It was a frightening turn of events. His programs were terrific. He was set to improve his performance skills with Lori Nichol doing his long program for the first time. But the stupid boots threatened to destroy his Olympic dream. Remember? Reynolds missed the Vancouver Olympics in his home city by a hair. He’s 23 years old now and it’s his time.
Like many young Canadian boys, Reynolds started skating through hockey. His father, Daniel, was a hockey fan who watched the Vancouver Canucks almost religiously. But when Reynolds started in CanSkate, he veered over to figure skating, not willingly at first.
“I used to hate the figure skates,” he said “After wearing the hockey skates, I was tripping on my toe pick. I absolutely didn’t like the figure skates. But I started jumping soon after that, and I just loved the feeling of being able to fly up into the air. And I loved the feeling of spinning. That really shaped my love of the sport.”
He has a younger brother who was never interested in figure skating and is more of an academic type, probably with a future in biology or the sciences. Their mother, Cindy, is a cytotechnologist, who analyzes slides of human cells, looking for abnormalities such as cancerous cells or infectious disease cells.
Kevin is the athlete, whose schooling these days is rather on hold because of the Olympics. But he has been studying languages, particularly Japanese. You see, Japanese fans love Reynolds, and he quite likes them back. His stunning Four Continents victory in 2013 took place in Osaka, Japan and he used a routine choreographed by a Japanese man who does not speak much English. It worked.
This year, turning to Lori Nichol, Reynolds was nervous, knowing she had worked with some of his most influential skaters, such as Michelle Kwan. “She’s really gotten me to see a different side to the performance aspect of it,” said Reynolds, who knows that he must boost his program component mark to get to the top.
Shae-Lynn Bourne, his artistic mentor, choreographed his expressive short program to rock music. Nichol’s long program to “Excelsius” calls for a different kind of energy, with long sweeping movement. Reynolds found it difficult from the start. But he mastered last year’s long program by the end of the season. He finds “Excelsius” hard to master, but fulfilling.
Still, all of those good things have been underscored by Reynolds’ boot difficulties. He skated at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships with one old boot and one new boot. (Elladj Baldé did the same.) His training hadn’t been going well at all leading up to the event. He wasn’t nervous about the event, rather more anxious to finally compete and test himself under pressure. And he was tested, when his music stopped seconds into his short program.
The week turned into an exercise in managing, getting his feet under him, and getting himself ready physically and psychologically for the Olympics at the Canadian championships – his first and only competition before the Games.
Reynolds knew he wouldn’t be perfect. “It was a fight the whole way through,” he said after the long. “Nothing was comfortable out there. I’m just glad I was able to get this competition under my belt. I definitely needed this going into Sochi.”
The pressure came off his shoulders somewhat, realizing that he had helped win Canadian men three berths for Sochi – and he would be doing well to finish third, he thought. Still, it all worked out. He took the silver medal.
In the next few weeks, Reynolds will suck it all up. He’ll ignore his boot problems and carry on. He’s had to do this before. Just before his spectacular performance at the world championships in London, Ontario Reynolds suffered from a painful cyst in his leg. This time, it seems worse. He’s most grateful to the members of his team for getting him to Sochi. Now he’ll have to take care of the rest.
Want to read more about the figure skaters who will compete at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi? Pick up Beverley Smith’s new book SKATING TO SOCHI! The book profiles the top 40 athletes/teams with full-colour photos! Order online: Amazon.com, Lulu.com (ebook) or iTunes (ebook).