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Weaver, Poje move one step closer to Vancouver

Bronze at Skate Canada improves Olympic chances

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje earned the bronze at Skate Canada in front of a home crowd.
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje earned the bronze at Skate Canada in front of a home crowd. (Getty Images)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(12/01/2009) - There were no Thanksgiving celebrations this year for Canadian ice dance bronze medalists and two-time world competitors Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. They were training in the United States during Canadian Thanksgiving in October and training in Canada last week when Americans were enjoying their turkeys. It's okay; they don't need a special meal to make them thankful that a bronze medal at Skate Canada helped improve their chances of earning Canada's second ice dance spot for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

"We've been really working our tails off this year. Of course, we know there are only two spots," says Weaver, who readily acknowledges the first dance spot is going to two-time world medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. "Having that motivation really drove us to work so hard. Getting a medal at our Grand Prix was a huge success. It's a great token to know that our improvement is being noticed."

This is the fourth season together for Weaver, 20, and Poje, 22. The possibility of making the Canadian Olympic team took a huge step forward last June when the Texas-born Weaver became a Canadian citizen.

"Canada is the most embracing and supportive country and federation to the athletes," she says. "It's amazing the preparations that are going on right now. There's such a buzz about the Olympics everywhere you go.

"I think we got a little tiny bit of a taste of what it would be like at Skate Canada. It's been a while since we've done an international at home. The crowd was amazing. The best audience that I think I've ever had in my life. Everyone was supporting us.

"It was really exciting and it got us all fired up for what the Olympics would be like. I don't want to get ahead of myself. We're still taking each day at a time. We have a really big job to do."

Helping Weaver and Poje along the way are their two coaches. The couple divide their time between Toronto, where they train with 10-time Canadian ice dance champion Shae-Lynn Bourne, and Detroit, where they're coached by Pasquale Camerlengo.

"Shae-Lynn focuses more on the performance aspect. She gives a lot of excitement to our skating and detail work," Weaver explains. "Pasquale is an artist, and it's about movement. Anjelika [Krylova, Camerlengo's partner in life and coaching] works more on the technical side."

The team was in Detroit most of the autumn while Bourne appeared on the CBC show Battle of the Blades. The show's run done, she joined her students at Skate Canada and was very pleased with their performances.

"I was really happy with how they performed and that they had good results," Bourne says. "I know that they're doing well, and their other coaches know that they've worked hard and they've grown, but Skate Canada was really an opportunity for the rest of the world to see that and to show they're capable of being on that Olympic team.

"You like to hear from an audience 'Wow, look at the difference from one year ago,'" she adds. "That is what I'm most proud of for those two -- that their work is paying off. It gives them the confidence they need to now prepare for nationals."

Setting Weaver and Poje apart from most other ice dance teams is their height. At 5-foot-6 and 6-foot-3, they have long lines and the ability to cover the ice. Weaver is only one inch taller than Bourne and says she tries to infuse Bourne's carriage and presence on the ice into her own skating.

Although they're young enough to contend for the next two Olympics, no one wants to miss out on the chance to compete in a home Games. It's not easy to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the prospect, but they're trying.

"I always tell my students you're aware of it, and it should be your goal, but you have to enjoy every day leading to that and not get too wrapped up in the result because you can lose the view if you're too wrapped up in it," says Bourne. "I think it's an advantage being Canadian and having the Olympics in your country. You've got so many supporters and can feel that energy. So if you tap into it, it can only help you."

Should Weaver and Poje make the team, they should enjoy every moment of the Olympic experience. Although Bourne and former partner Victor Kraatz competed at three Olympics, she's well aware that situations can change.

"You have to enjoy the moment. You can't just hope for the next moment," Bourne says.

Between now and the Canadian Championships, Jan. 11-17 in London, Ontario, Weaver and Poje will focus on training -- first in Toronto and then in Detroit. Bourne will join them in Detroit for the final weeks. Bourne feels the highly competitive atmosphere at the Detroit Skating Club, where they train alongside Jeremy Abbott, Alissa Czisny and Italian ice dancers Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, helps fuel their fires. They'll also perform in the Granite Club's holiday show.

Then it's onto London, where hopefully they will skate full out as they did in Kitchener.

"Before their free dance at Skate Canada I told them to enjoy their skate and not worry about what's going to happen because if they enjoy that skate and really commit to it and be in the moment then the result will follow," Bourne says.

"It all becomes mental at the end. You can train a whole year, but it's all down to what your mind does in the moment when you get on the ice. At every competition it's the same thing. You have to deal with yourself and what thoughts go on in your head.

"They really did skate it free and with everything. There was no caution. They weren't tentative. They just went for it."