Reynolds wants to become new quad king

Canadian skater doesn't like to "play it safe," never wants to hold back

Canadian Kevin Reynolds meets at the boards with his longtime coach, Joanne McLeod, at the 2012 World Championships.
Canadian Kevin Reynolds meets at the boards with his longtime coach, Joanne McLeod, at the 2012 World Championships. (Renee Felton)


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By Vladislav Luchianov, special to
(07/09/2012) - The past season was not a simple one for 2012 Canadian silver medalist Kevin Reynolds. The only skater to land two quadruple jumps in a short program had to face various difficulties: because of food poisoning, he had to withdraw from 2011 Trophée Eric Bompard, and in his other Grand Prix event, the 2011 Cup of China, Reynolds finished seventh.

Despite all odds, Reynolds was able to come back for the second part of the season strong and motivated, earning a spot at the world championships after his second-place finish at Canadian nationals. An ankle injury affected him later in the season, as his performances at worlds and Four Continents turned out worse than he had hoped.

Reynolds talked to about last season's difficulties, his new programs, his quad prospects and his opinions on the judging system. Kevin, let's start our conversation with a question about your preparation for the new season. How is it going?

Reynolds: It's been going well. Hard to believe a new season is already starting again! I'm trying to prepare things a bit earlier this year; it's been working out so far. Could you tell us about your new programs?

Reynolds: Certainly. I will be keeping my short program ("Chambermaid Swing") for this year, as I feel that I have a little more to give in terms of character and performance. I'll be working again with Shae-Lynn Bourne later this month to brush up the choreography and to adjust the program to the new rule changes for this year.

As for the long program, I had the pleasure of working with Kenji Miyamoto in early June. His style of movement is very interesting, and it was a very different experience for me. I really enjoyed it! It took some time to get used to the complexity of his movements, but I think the end result is great. There're many more choreographic transitions than I've had in previous seasons. I'm hoping to show a more mature, refined style than I've showed before.

The music is André Mathieu's "Concerto No. 4" for piano and orchestra. It's very much in the style of Rachmaninoff -- beautiful, but also very powerful. When I'm looking for music to skate to, I like to choose something that is rarely or has never been skated to before. I had this in mind when I chose this piece. Will we see two quads in a short program again?

Reynolds: I will have to see. I would like to, but at the moment it is not in the plan. My coach and I will evaluate after a few competitions to see if I am ready to put the second quad in the short program again.

I feel that as we draw ever closer to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, we will start to see other skaters trying two quads in the short in order to be competitive. Last season was not so easy for you. How could you evaluate it?

Reynolds: Yes, it was a bit of a difficult season. There were many ups and downs, but overall I felt there was progress made versus the previous 2010-11 season, in which I struggled with injury.

My Grand Prix results were not ideal -- seventh at the Cup of China, and I had to withdraw from Trophée Eric Bompard due to food poisoning. I lost about 2 or 3 kilograms (4 to 7 pounds) of body weight during that weekend. I felt very weak for some days after. It took about a month of training to gain the weight back.

I was able to come back strong and earn the silver medal at the national championships despite this. I was very happy with my performances there, and also because I had finally earned a spot at the world championships. (I had been an alternate the past two seasons I participated.)

However, shortly after that success, I sprained my ankle during a practice at the Four Continents Championships. As a result, I was not able to perform well and only finished eighth.

I went on to recover with good performances at the world championships, where I managed a top-12 placement. This was important, as it helped secure my two Grand Prix events for this year, so I'm relieved I was able to do that.

Finally, I ended my season on a high note with strong performances at the World Team Trophy where he finished eighth out of 12.

I'm hoping this year I can stay healthy and injury free. You used to admire quad jumps after watching performances of Alexei Yagudin, Evgeni Plushenko and Timothy Goebel at the 2002 Olympics. Why do quads mean so much for you? After all, they take a lot of strength, and, if executed unsuccessfully, may influence the rest of the program and final result?

Reynolds: I think they represent the pinnacle of athleticism in our sport. I've always been competitive by nature, and I've always liked the skaters who challenged the hardest jumps, so naturally I wanted to do quads as well. Of course, the quad is risky, but risk is what makes sport so exciting. In the spirit of challenge, I am willing to take that risk. As far as I understand, you never simplify your programs just for the sake of receiving higher points. Is that so?

Reynolds: As much as is possible, yes. If options are given to me, I will try to take the more ambitious and challenging program layout. I don't like having to "play it safe." Sport should not be about holding back. Your quads look more consistent than, for example, your triple Axels. Are they easier for you, and if so, why?

Reynolds: I've always liked the quads since I started doing them -- Salchow and toe loop (loop as well) are my favorite jumps. I suppose the backwards takeoff is more comfortable for me to generate the necessary rotation.

However, I think the difference in consistency rate has more to do with the technique of my Axel jump. The technique I've learned is a "clean-edge" style, meaning there is no skid or pre-rotation on the takeoff. Because there isn't the pre-rotation that a skid-type Axel has, you have to actually rotate more in the air. There are positives and negatives to this technique, but regardless, I will need to continue to improve the consistency of this jump.

Last year, I feel was a step in the right direction. Last season, the skating community considered some results in men's skating to be very strange, especially at the 2012 World Championships. What is your opinion about the state of the judging system? What do you like in it, and what can you absolutely not accept?

Reynolds: It is a constant work in progress, and many times I feel the "progress" isn't good. I have many issues with the current judging system, probably too many to list ... and I can't get in depth with details, but I can say a couple points; mainly, they are about the rules:

First, on the technical side -- spins are not in a good state, even more so with the new rules for features being implemented this year. To get all Level 4 spins, I now have to display the ability to contort into as many different positions as possible, I have to change edges, I have to jump from one foot to the other, I have to hop up and down on one foot.

This is not what spinning should be about. I really miss simple, basic positions done well without all the cluttered, "difficult" features now required.

Footwork is also, in my opinion, not working very well. Footwork used to be about fast, entertaining steps. Now you have to display every turn and step in the book (twice!), while moving your head, arms and torso constantly to achieve a Level 4. Yes, step sequences are now more difficult than before, but it becomes monotonous -- everybody does the same turns and steps because that is what is required to get a 4. This makes originality and creativity within the sequence exceedingly difficult.

The choreo step sequence has provided some much-needed choreographic freedom, and I think this type of sequence works much better than the leveled sequence. I wish that there was more freedom in the "free" program. Right now, there are too many restrictions and too many technical elements to complete.

I also wish that the rules would not change so often. It is hard enough for the skaters and coaches to keep up with so many updates of technical details, let alone for the casual fan to even begin to understand everything involved with the point-scoring process. The question from your fans: Where does Kevin store the large number of dolls that look like the real Kevin?

Reynolds: To be honest, I've kept nearly every stuffed animal and gift since I've been on the senior circuit, and now I'm running out of space in my room! I've received many drawings and amazing fan artwork, but as for the dolls that look like me, there aren't actually too many. A couple of them are now decorations in my room. To me, these personal gifts symbolize the amazing generosity of skating fans.

In any case, I really appreciate all the support. Not just things like this, but all the messages, banners, mail ... I want to do my best for everyone who has supported me. Tell us, please, about your plans and goals for the next season.

Reynolds: I'd like to continue to improve my skating and performance quality. My goals are to medal at a Grand Prix event and to place in the top six at the worlds in London, Canada. I also want to succeed in landing a quad loop jump, as well as completing three quads in one program.