Larkyn Austman had the skate of her life to fulfill her life’s dream.
The 19-year-old Coquitlam figure skater completed seven triple jumps and scored a personal best 115.66 in Saturday’s free skate to finish third amongst the senior women at the 2018 Canadian National Skating Championships, held at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird sports centre in Vancouver. That earned her a spot on Canada’s Olympic team that will compete at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.
“It’s everything I have ever wanted,” said Austman on Monday, as she enjoyed a rare day off the ice to relax, catch up on emails and texts, and audition for a commercial. “I keep thinking about it and it still doesn’t feel real.”
Today (Wednesday), she begins working with her coaches at the Coquitlam Figure Skating Club, Zdenek Pazdirek and Liz Putnam, on what her dream will look like when she hits the ice at the 12,000-seat Gangneung Ice Arena on Feb. 21 for the women’s short program.
Austman admits it needs work, but she’s feeling no pressure. With the defending silver and bronze medalists from the 2017 world championships — Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman — on the team ahead of her, she knows she’s not expected to compete for the podium
“We have a strong field of skaters,” she said. “I’m just going to skate the best I can.”
And fully enjoy her Olympic opportunity that almost wasn’t
After a disappointing skate in Friday’s short program Austman was in sixth place heading into Saturday’s final with three skaters ahead of her who all needed to falter to some degree.
“I was disappointed with that short program,” Austman said. “I’ve been struggling with it all season, but at the same time I was glad that was it over.”
And with only .38 points separating her from third place, Austman also knew achieving her dream was anything but over.
“My long program has always been my stronger program,” Austman said. “I knew I could put it out there. I knew I had to rotate everything and stay on my feet as much as I could.”
Which is exactly what she did.
Save for a couple of minor turn-outs on landings, and one triple that ended with both her hands on the ice, Austman successfully completed all of the jumps in her arsenal. When the final note of her music from Les Miserables hushed, her face contorted in a mix of joy, relief and astonishment.
“I thought I had done enough,” she said.
As the first skater in the final flight of senior women, she’d laid down the gauntet to her rivals. It also meant she had to watch and wait out their performances, measure the minute particulars of their scores.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” said Austman, who watched the rest of the competition from the skater’s lounge alongside her coaches and her family.
The door to a top three placing started to open when Triena Robinson, who was fifth after Friday’s short program, and Ontario’s Michelle Long — who was fourth — faltered in their free skates and slipped down the standings. And when Friday’s surprise third-place finisher, Sarah Tamura, of Burnaby, also couldn’t keep pace, Austman’s camp erupted with emotion.
“It was amazing,” she said. “It’s the ultimate pressure to qualify for the Olympics.”
The hours since than have been a whirlwind of media interviews, as well as meetings and briefings with officials from Skate Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee, that culminated Sunday morning when Austman was issued her red and black Team Canada Olympic jacket in advance of the official presentation of the 17 skaters who leave for South Korea on Feb. 7.
“I have an Olympic jacket now,” Austman said. “As soon as that sinks in, I’ll realize I do belong there.”
2018 Games will be "a warmup"
Coquitlam’s Larkyn Austman will be competing at her first Olympics, but it won’t be her first taste of the Olympic experience.
And, she says, it won’t be her last.
Austman was a flower girl retrieving boquets and trinkets thrown on the ice during the figure skating competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and in 2014 she played the part of a Russian figure skater aspiring to go to the Olympics in a TV commecial for Proctor & Gamble that aired during that year’s Games in Sochi, Russia.
Now that’s she’s achieved her lifelong dream of becoming an Olympic athlete, Austman said she intends to use it to build towards winning a medal at the 2022 Games in Beijing, China.
“This will be sort of a warmup,” she said. “I plan on being in for the next four years.”
And no sooner will the lights have gone down on the Games’ closing ceremony in Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium on Feb. 25, when Austman will be off to Milan, Italy, to compete as part of Canada’s team at the 2018 World Figure Skating Championships that run from March 21-25, a part of Sunday’s Olympic team announcement by Skate Canada that caught her by surprise.
• Kevin Reynolds, who lives in Coquitlam and trains out of Burnaby, was named to Canada’s team that will compete at the 2018 ISU Four Continents figure skating championships in Taipei City, Chinese Taipai, from Jan. 22 to 27.
Reynolds, who finished fifth in the senior men at last weekend’s 2018 Canadian Skating Championships, will also be a third alternate for the team competing in Milan.