Ice Network

Davison lends old partner a hand on 'Battle'

Two-time Olympian makes return to reality show as technical coach
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Bryce Davison at work with former pairs partner Jessica Dubé and her 'Battle of the Blades' partner Brian Savage. -Violetta Afanasieva

Three years ago, Bryce Davison's world as he knew it ended as many athletes' competitive careers do: with an injury. During a practice session in October 2010, the three-time Canadian pairs champion and 2008 world bronze medalist with Jessica Dubé fractured his right femur inside the knee joint.

His first surgery, a bone graft from his own body, wasn't successful, so he subsequently underwent a bone transplant using a cadaver bone and another procedure, a high tibial osteotomy, that changed the alignment of his lower leg.

"I live in pain. It's part of being an ex-athlete. We all understand," said Davison, 27, whose last surgery was April 26, 2012. "It's less painful that it was. It's gaining strength.

"It's strong enough to handle 12-hour days on the ice coaching," he added. "I do regular weight lifting, cycling and running. It's fairly healthy."

Davison is director of skating development at the Hamilton Skating Club in Hamilton, Ontario. His job involves helping out with all levels of skaters -- from CanSkate (learn to skate) up to elite junior and senior competitors.

"I even do a little tiny bit of ice dance," he said. "I don't really have my own students. Part of my position at the club is to not take on my own students. I help wherever needed."

The job allows Davison some flexibility and so, for the second time, he served as a technical coach on the TV show Battle of the Blades (the first time was in 2011). From the time training for the series began in August to the show's conclusion in mid-November, Davison's mornings were spent in Toronto and afternoons and evenings in Hamilton.

In addition to learning the ins and outs of TV production and gaining great insight into the performance side of skating, Davison said working with the hockey players has helped him hone his coaching skills.

"Hockey players understand gliding, but they don't always understand movement," Davison noted. "It's very interesting to be a part of teaching such talented athletes something new.

"It's interesting to see how quickly the ones with the good skating skills pick up on things and how important flexibility and range of motion are," he added. "On the show, my job is to make sure that everything is safe, first and foremost. Then teach the guys technical aspects of skating -- whether that be skating skills or the ability to lift and be balanced underneath, which is extremely important."

Most of the hockey guys on this season of Battle of the Blades were quite tall, so the coaches and choreographers had to work with them on getting down into position to do the lifts. They also try to make the couples look balanced and not let the figure skaters appear overpowered.

Among the skaters that Davison worked with were Dubé and her partner, Brian Savage, who made it to the semifinals. The former partners chatted prior to the start of the show and agreed it would be good for them to work together because Davison could provide clear insight for Savage on how to lift Dubé and perform other technical elements with her. He described the process as fun and easy.

Right now, Davison is thoroughly enjoying his work as coach, but he's honest in saying the intensity of Olympic competition is absent. He is open-minded in terms of his future.

"I miss the thrill of competition and the day-to-day training problem solving and that type of thing," he said. "Now I do it as a coach, but it's not the same as being a competitive skater and working through things yourself.

"I love coaching competitive skaters," he continued. "It's a big passion for me. I feel I have a lot to give them and I have a lot of experience to help them learn and go where each skater wants to go.

"But I would never close any doors. I do enjoy the performance side of skating. I stay in touch with the sport and go wherever it takes me."