It seems as if Kevin Reynolds has finally found his magic slippers.
New custom boots arrived recently from Italy and Reynolds says right now, he’s trying to relax. “I’m at the peak of the off-season,” he said. He’s spent the first part of it in search of new brogues, after the nightmare of the Olympic season.
All last season, Reynolds, who had been fifth at the 2013 world championships, was hobbled by boots that wouldn’t fit his very narrow heel. He went through eight or nine pairs, trying to find the answer, and lost his entire Grand Prix season. It was a costly nightmare.
“I had to spend more money than I earned to fix the problems,” he said from home in Coquitlam, B.C. “That was a hit on the finances, but I received some support from Skate Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee in terms of funding and I think that helped, especially in the month leading to the Olympic Games.”
Reynolds didn’t have to pay for the boots from the Italian manufacturer – they were comps – but each time he had to import a pair, he had to pay sizeable import duties, which all added up. Not only did he lose chances at winning prize money in Grand Prix events, but he lost quite a few points in the ISU ranking system by missing them. Now he has to build those points back up and good performances are necessary this year. He’d love to do the Skate Canada Grand Prix in Kelowna in late October. It’s only a short drive from his home. It would be meaningful for him.
Still, his biggest hurdle with the never-ending boot problems was the toll it took on his confidence – “things not going the way I wanted them to,” he said. That was the unkindest cut of all. Actually, on the brink of podium possibilities (he was closing a point gap with Patrick Chan), he went backwards. It was tough to take.
That’s why the team skate at the Sochi Games was especially gratifying, when Reynolds earned 167.92 points (only a quarter of a point behind winner Evgeny Plushenko at 168.20) in the men’s long program. In fact, he clinched Canada’s silver team medal with that skate.
Skate Canada showed faith in Reynolds by including him in the team event, after such a rocky, unsatisfying season. He stepped up to the plate, landing three quads in what was his first international competition of the season. His first, the quad Salchow, was the longest, biggest one he did all week. His quad toe loop – triple toe loop was easy. He was patient and calm in landing his third, a quad toe loop. Coach Joanne McLeod was emotional in the kiss and cry. So were the members of the team, who mobbed him.
“That proved I could be there, with the top men in the world,” said Reynolds, who finished ahead of the brilliant Tatsuki Machida, Japan’s next skating star.
“That’s what was so frustrating about the first part of the season. I felt like I finally belonged in the upper echelons of skaters, and to be feeling like an inferior skater again, just didn’t feel good,” he said. “It was crushing defeat.
“To build myself back up from scratch a couple of months before the national championships was one of the hardest things I had to do.”
Reynolds had already participated in two World Team Trophies, so he had a taste of what a team event could be like, to have teammates in the kiss and cry, cheering him on. “I really like that feeling,” he said. Still, the Olympics was a completely different atmosphere, requiring a different sort of approach to the more laid-back World Team Trophy.
He admits it was one of the oddest feelings he’s ever had, having to sit idle in the kiss and cry during the short program. He was only watching. He didn’t feel part of the Olympics yet. “It was a very odd feeling to be watching your competitors and at the same time, cheering Team Canada on and cheering Patrick [Chan] on. I wanted him to do well.”
Reynolds excelled at what for him was the toughest part of the Olympics: the team event. “I felt more pressure in the team event than in the individual event,” he said. “I wanted to do well for the team. I didn’t want to let them down. We had such a strong team all-around of course, and I didn’t really want to be the weak link.” It was a huge relief when he pulled it off, big-time, almost defeating a legend.
Reynolds has heard that Chan wants to take the coming year off, and that makes him Canada’s new kingpin. But for now, his goal will be all about getting on track and ensuring that the boot problems are behind him. “I’m optimistic that things are solved,” he said.
During the spring, Reynolds travelled to the boot manufacturer in Italy to sort things out, once and for all, opting for custom boots this time. “We were able to think things through clearly,” he said. “The machine was working – the machine that creates the 3D-mold of your feet. We got what we hoped for and I’m feeling much more positive after that visit.”
While he waited for his new boots, Reynolds stayed in light training with what boots he had, and has been keeping up his physical condition. “I don’t want to let things go too much,” he said. He’s been doing dance classes, just to keep his body limber. Nothing too intense. That will come later with the new chaussures.
Reynolds hasn’t done any new programs yet. He’s waiting to see what rule changes the ISU could establish at the Congress in June. He’ll get a new long program. He would like to keep his mesmerizing short program to AC/DC, but it all depends on rule changes. Some of the rule changes could be major: if the ISU cuts 30 seconds off the length of the men’s long program, it will also drop one jumping pass to seven, same as the women. “That would drastically affect the construction of the program,” Reynolds said. Choreography is pencilled in immediately after the Congress.
What about skating to vocals for the first time? It’s not Reynolds’ cup of tea. “I’ve never been a fan of them and I’m not sure how that will work without a partner to relate to,” he said, bringing up an interesting point. While vocals may work with a dance team or a pair, because the lyrics emphasize a relationship between two people, it may be different for singles skaters.
“It should be interesting to see the first year what everybody comes up with and who will be able to try with the lyrics or not,” he said. “I’m not sure I will be doing something like that.”
Reynolds, an expert on point values and system rules, said he’d already been pondering the possibility of vocals over the past four years. “I think skating is more of a relation to movement with music and I’m not sure movement with lyrics and a language – and one language in particular – is what skating is all about.
“You can equate it to contemporary dance, where you can dance to the lyrics, but I’m not sure if that is what figure skating is looking for.”
Besides, he said, it seems odds to do quads and triple Axels in an athletic competition to lyrics. Maybe, he admits, the concept is just still so new and foreign to him, it doesn’t quite fit.
For now, Reynolds can smile again. He’s surprised by the positive feedback he’s received since the Olympics. At home in Canada, people now recognize him – and he’s never experienced that before. “It’s been really special to hear from people just passing by the side of the rink and it’s very surprising the amount of recognition that being in the Olympics has given me,” he said. He missed the 2010 Olympics by one placement and had to watch the event from the sidelines in his hometown.
He also gets gifts from Canadians, Japanese and even European fans. It’s been overwhelming, he said.
And after a difficult long program in the individual event at the Sochi Olympics, Reynolds took his final bow and smiled to the appreciative Japanese crowd. “The fans were incredibly supportive,” said he, a fan favourite in Japan. “Even though the skates weren’t exactly what I wanted, I was satisfied on a personal level because I knew I had done everything I could to that point in time. “
And at worlds, he kept two men’s spots for Canada, also a goal.
Now, he says, he’ll be working on the things he can improve, now that he’s shod appropriately.
It seems as if Kevin Reynolds has finally found his magic slippers.