Coquitlam’s Larkyn Austman is headed to next week’s Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Saint John, N.B., with a new perspective on her sport, and new confidence in her abilities.
Austman, who came from behind at last year’s national championships in Vancouver to place third amongst the senior women and earn a spot skating for Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as well as at the world championships in Milan, Italy, said she wants to win this year’s title.
She’s never gone into a major competition feeling that way before.
And while the door for a new Canadian champion is slightly ajar with the hiatus from competition of defending world champion Kaetlyn Osmond, Austman said her self-confidence has been buoyed by a season of renewal and rebuilding away from the national and international spotlight, at smaller local and regional competitions instead of the Grand Prix circuit.
Austman said after attaining her lifelong ambition to skate at the Olympics and world championships, then failing to qualify for the finals in both competitions, she felt humbled. Illness and injury during the off season further diminished her zeal.
But as Austman rebuilt her routines and was surrounded by enthusiastic, young skaters at the smaller meets, she said she “just sort of learned to forget about things.”
Austman said she realized she’ll always be an Olympian, no matter what happens in the rest of her career, and that has brought her peace.
“It’s really been eye-opening,” she said. “It’s so much more relaxed, and I’m skating so much better.”
Austman said when she leaves for Saint John next Tuesday, for the first time in her career she won’t be feeling the pressure to perform. With the help of her coaches, Zdenek Pazdirek and Liz Putnam, she’s simplified her routine, concentrating on the quality of her jumps rather than the quantity because that’s what the judges are rewarding after recent changes to figure skating’s rules. And first place finishes at the B.C./Yukon sectionals in Coquitlam last November and the Skate Canada Challenge in Edmonton last month have assured her she hasn’t lost her edge.
“I needed the confidence boost from those experiences,” Austman said.
But Austman’s lack of presence on international ice since Milan could yet come back to haunt her. If she retains her place on Canada’s national team by finishing in the top three in Saint John, Skate Canada will have to send her to an international meet before she’s qualified to compete at the 2019 world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.
But after a recent workout at the Poirier Sports and Leisure Complex, that extra step is the furthest thing from Austman’s mind.
“It’s just about going out and skating,” she said.