No, Kaetlyn Osmond does not have an evil twin. But she can pretend.
And when she does, as she does in her free program to the movie “Black Swan,” this season, she is convincing and powerful, a potent force on the ice.
It does no good to watch her do this routine on Youtube. (But I’m including it for your viewing pleasure. Best I can do. Black magic is not my thing.) Seeing Osmond skate the program live is everything.
During practice at a secondary rink at the Pierrefonds ice complex in Montreal during Autumn Classic last week, Osmond swept powerfully around an end curve and hurtled diagonally across the ice, to a crescendo of music. And it was deadly emphatic. Don’t mess with this Kaetlyn Osmond. Better to duck into the opposite corner and holler: “Uncle.” She’ll take your breath away, truly.
For one thing, she is perhaps one of the fastest female skaters in the world. Actually, Canada has three of the fastest female singles skaters in the world, when you add in Gabby Daleman, the world bronze medalist, and Alaine Chartrand. Osmond, of course, is the world silver medalist, who finished behind only Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia, who won another Challenger event last week, the Ondrej Nepela Trophy in Bratislava.
So wildly different are the routines of the world’s top two female skaters. Sorry to say, but Medvedeva’s new routines look like carbon copies of the ones from last year. It’s the fragile, big eye, dealing-with-death look. The music titles might be different, the look is not. At the end of her short program, Medvedeva takes her last breath, apparently depicting a soul rising from the body to look back down on it, before death. (Oh my.) But resurrects herself for the long, skating to the lovely Joshua Bell, he of “The Red Violin” fame, playing on his own 1713 Huberman Stradivarius violin. And that violin of his can make you weep.
Osmond finished 15.28 points behind Medvedeva at the world championships in Helsinki last March and earned 218.13. On Saturday in Montreal, Osmond earned close to her personal best: 217.55, after doing seven triples in the free for the first time. All this in spite of the fact that she singled an Axel and took a belly flop in front of the judges. “It was my favourite part of the program,” she said later, emerging with a big bandage and some ice on her left knee. “I didn’t get to show that much, but it also made me calm down. I might have been getting a little too excited. It was a skid stop. And I stopped.” And she landed a triple loop afterwards, and sailed on, in control.
Across the Atlantic, Medvedeva earned 226.72 points, although it’s folly to compare separate competitions. Medvedeva’s scores in Bratislava were all slightly higher than Osmond’s were in Montreal.
Medvedeva owns all the world records that are possible: short program (80.85), free skate (160.46) and combined score (241.31.) Some have already anointed her the Olympic champion next February.
Not so fast. Experience has shown that Olympics are a different animal. And so much can happen in a year. So much can happen in a day. Witness Yuzuru Hanyu electrifying the world in his short program in Montreal, then the next day, falling apart, finishing fifth in the free, and wistfully watching his gold medal go to training partner Javier Fernandez. Even Canadian upstart Keegan Messing defeated Hanyu in the free skate.
Osmond’s dramatic theme, as tragic as it can be if you think of the ballet “Swan Lake” or its wickedly dark offshoot movie “Black Swan,” released in 2010, goes a different direction, too. She’ll bring us the positive, hopeful lessons learned in “Black Swan.”
We won’t need to throw ourselves in the river in despair after watching it. But what a ride is “Black Swan” – the movie and Osmond’s free skate.
Osmond has always wanted to skate to “Swan Lake,” and never had the chance. “It’s one of my favourite pieces of music when I was younger,” she said. “But when the movie “Black Swan” came out, I liked the darker side of it. I was much more dramatic. That’s what I find I can speak to more on the ice.”
She began to bring up “Black Swan” a few times in those early season meetings, but choreographer Jeff Buttle and coach Ravi Walia suggested “La Boheme” for last season. She tried to convince them otherwise. Walia and Buttle weren’t quite sure that Osmond was ready for “Black Swan.” So La Boheme it was, and it had the effect of softening up Osmond’s line. And it prepared her perfectly for this season.
This year, Buttle brought up “Black Swan” right away. “He asked me if I wanted to do “Black Swan” and I said: “Yes I do!” Osmond said.
Osmond’s big personality on the ice works the best when she plays strong characters. That’s why her Edith Piaf short program works so well. And the characters in “Black Swan” are definitely powerful. The movie gives a new twist to the ballet, depicting ballet dancers auditioning for the roles of the White Swan and the Black Swan in a New York production of “Swan Lake.”
“I love this because it is playing to two completely different characters in the same program,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of people do Swan Lake and a lot of people do Black swan. I try to bring both of them together. But I’m definitely more the Black.”
The movie turns into a battle royale between the white and black swans (dancers) and eventually it becomes clear they are really the same person. “The White Swan is innocent and wanting to be perfect, but almost getting in her head too much,” Osmond said. “She can’t deliver that perfection and the Black Swan being free and slightly evil, can.” Eventually, the heroine finds out they you have to be both to deliver the perfection. In the end, she does the absolute best performance she can do.
The program Osmond delivered was not all she could do. After all, it’s only September and the Autumn Classic is a handy Challenger event, good for priming. “I still am not actually trying everything in it yet,” she said. “I didn’t do a three-jump combination today. And I’m still doing level 3 layback [spin.] Just so that I’m pacing out the program and not putting it all in at once.”
So there’s more to come. She doesn’t throw her arms up in the air like Medvedeva does for more points. She didn’t move a triple Lutz to the second half of her short program because it just didn’t fit the music there and that would have affected component marks. The programs have been worked into an artistic whole with a sophisticated theme.
Her “Black Swan” is challenging and difficult and takes a lot of stamina. She’ll do four run-throughs in a session. The routine relies a lot on balletic line and “having those lines in a program makes it harder,” she said.
Her biggest challenge is to keep the characters alive, totally. If she doesn’t, the program goes from incredible to average. “I don’t want it to be average,” she said.
It’s not a stretch to think the world of the ballet dancer shown in “Black Swan” can mirror the world of a figure skater going for an Olympic medal. The “Black Swan movie is essentially what skating is,” Osmond said. “You’re trying to battle what you think is perfect and skate the way you want. “
At age 22, she has learned so much.