Liam Firus is that guy. The unselfish one. The one who gave up his berth on Canada’s world championship team last March in hopes of a better team result for all.
Firus earned a silver medal at the Canadian championships last year and the right, along with Patrick Chan, to represent Canada at the world championships in Boston. Who wouldn’t want to ride that wave?
Yes, Firus would definitely have loved to have done it. But he was thinking longer term. His motives, he said, were actually rather selfish. His ultimate dream is to make the 2018 Olympic team. Yet Canadian men had earned only two spots for the world championships last year, and Firus reasoned that if Canada could win three spots for this year’s pre-Olympic event, his country might have a better chance to get three spots for the Olympics. More chances for everybody, including himself.
He gave up the cookies for the full dinner at an upscale restaurant. He gave up his spot for someone else who might be more able to do the job last March. That’s when Nam Nguyen got the chance to go. Sadly, he didn’t earn an extra berth after all.
“I went to nationals and skated good,” Firus said. “I skated good all year. But I kind of didn’t feel like I was the one. I wasn’t quite ready for the world stage yet because I was still struggling with some of my jumps. I didn’t feel I was the most prepared.
“Yes, I did earn that spot, but I did make the decision to send someone who I felt had a better opportunity than me to get three spots for this year and three spots for the Olympics.”
And no, Skate Canada did not go to him and tell him he was off the world team. Or try to talk him into it. Firus made the decision from his own heart and will.
It wasn’t an easy decision for sure. He gave up a lot. “It was very hard. And I felt very alone,” he said. “I was disappointed, even with myself. I was questioning what was going to happen to me.
“But at the end of the day, I knew it was the right decision for me.”
What has happened to Firus since is unquantifiable. It can’t be measured in dollar and cents, or ISU points and placements. Firus said he feels like a different person and a different skater today. He says he’s grown so much from this adversity of his own making.
Both he and coach Christy Krall agreed that Firus had to change things up to reach the holy grail. They could see their partnership just wasn’t working. Krall advised him to seek out a new coach. They were on the same page.
“It was what I needed when I went there,” Firus said. “And it’s what I need at this point in my career. “
After a month or so of reflection, Firus chose to work with pair coach Bruno Marcotte in Montreal, who had taken on men’s singles skater, Elladj Balde the previous year. Marcotte is sprouting a burgeoning singles club, himself. Firus now lives in Montreal with his brother, Shane, an ice dancer. It all works out very well. Never mind that the Canadian dollar goes further in Canada than it does in the Colorado, where he had been training.
“It’s been amazing,” Firus said. “Right away, we connected. He [Marcotte] is known for pairs but he’s fantastic in singles. He’s amazing with the mind game. That’s what I need. I need confidence in my skating. ”
Firus says it’s not so much what Marcotte says to him as his daily demeanour. The silver-haired coach is consistent in his attitudes. Firus knows what he’s going to get every day. “He’s very positive when working on the basics if something is not working,” Firus said. Krall was more analytic. Marcotte never says something has to be this way or that way. He asks Firus how he feels when he does something. And Firus skates by feeling. And they build on it.
Firus has come far since he moved to Montreal in the off-season. He seems more relaxed about things. He looks at himself as a whole skater now. He doesn’t obsess over small things. He’s happier with his skating. He’s not focused on the life or death or a quad or a triple Axel (his nemesis) or how many points he’ll score. He skates because he loves it. Sometimes the love drives one, and the rest falls into place.
“I want to skate great here for myself, and accomplish what I can do,” he said. “If I do my best, what else do you want? “
At the end of the day, he wants to look back and find a moment that he’ll always remember. We’ll see this week where that takes him on his journey.