Kaiya Ruiter bounces into a room and beams like a spring sun, with eyes bigger than loonies. She seems delighted with life.
And why not? Ruiter (rhymes with writer) just won the junior women’s title at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., in her first crack at it. And not only did world champion Kaetlyn Osmond – her idol – sling a gold medal around her neck, but Ruiter blasted the Canadian record for junior women, when she won with a total of 174.83 points, 31.52 points more than her closest competitor, Emily Millard.
Ruiter actually broke her own record: she set it last fall at a Junior Grand Prix in Italy, when she finished with 159.07 points, and now she’s added 15.76 more points to it.
Ruiter was the novice champion last year, when she also set a Canadian record of 139.57. Is the senior Canadian women’s record next? It’s held by Gabby Daleman – 192.67 – set at the 2019 world championships. Ruiter, because of her age, is too young to compete at the senior level. She is only 13, tiny beside the silver and gold medalists on a podium.
But she skates big.
During the free skate on Wednesday, Ruiter fired off a triple Lutz – triple toe loop , a triple flip, a couple of triple loops, a triple Salchow and a triple Lutz by itself. Her only weakness was in her spins. Officials deemed her change-combination spin fell short of its requirements (one part of it short of rotation), and the other got only a level two. Imagine what her score could have been.
She got a standing ovation from the little crowd at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre, other skaters included.
That triple Lutz – triple toe loop sung. It’s the envy of any of the Canadian senior women skaters at this event. Kristina Ivanova, the only other to attempt it, underrotated the second part, although, mind you, she ended up so close to the boards that she in her icy coral frock had to pull herself short. Ivanova was third in the free skate and third overall, after having been second in the short program, 8.63 points behind the tiny one.
“That was the most fun I ever had,” Ruiter said, off the ice. “Thank you.”
Ruiter is blessed with an incredible mindset that may carry her far. She’s grateful for everything, loves everything, appreciates everything, and says thank you to reporters’ questions.
Not at all nervous about her task, she said she was actually excited. “So excited because the lights were on,” she said, glowing. “And it was an amazing setting, and I was just so excited to go on and put on a show.” That she did.
Ruiter started skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, where she was born, with her family, which includes three sisters, all of them skaters. She calls them her best friends. She’s No. 2 among them. “I’m so lucky,” she said. She eventually took lessons from Darlene Joseph, an unsung hero, who is director of the Gloucester Skating Club.
When Ruiter’s father moved to Calgary for work, Ruiter spent 10 months at the Ice Palace in Edmonton, learning from coach Ravi Walia. Of course, Osmond was working at the rink at the same time. “It was an incredible learning experience,” she said. “I loved it there. I loved the coaches and the environment and seeing Kaetlyn every day was super cool.”
Osmond is her biggest idol. “I want to be exactly like Kaetlyn,” Ruiter said. “She is my biggest role model.”
For the past couple of seasons, she’s been training at the Glencoe Club with Scott Davis, a former U.S. champion known for his blinding spins. (He realizes there will be a little work to do on her spins.)
She knows about Davis’s lordly master of the spin. She’s seen the videos.
“Oh my gosh, Scott has helped me in so many ways,” Ruiter said. “He’s incredible. We just have so much fun. And he’s so committed, dedicated, hard-working, calm and just the best.”
She started learning the double Axel under Davis. She’s come a long way in a short time.
This past season, Ruiter finally was old enough to compete at Junior Grand Prix – and she landed two of them, one in Riga, Latvia and the other in Italy. “I loved them both,” she said. “They were such incredible opportunities. It was an incredible experience to feel the speed. And the power. And the different atmosphere that they [skaters from other countries] bring. It was so incredible.”
She entranced the audience by skating to music from Harry Potter’s “The Goblet of Fire,” which describes his fourth year at the wizardry school. Ruiter LOVES Harry Potter. Tyler Miles choreographed the routine. Ruiter said she had “so much fun” – (when doesn’t she?) – bringing the books into her skating.”
She came out dressed in a costume that represented an outer cape, with silver jaggedy flares crossing her bodice. “It’s magic over the top,” she explained.