Figure skater Julianne Séguin took the separation from her partner Charlie Bilodeau five months after the Olympics hard. “A shock. A hit from a shovel to the head.”
Written by Julianne Séguin, figure skater, finished in 9th place in pairs at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games with Charlie Bilodeau.
“I won’t beat around the bush. You and me, we’re done”
I dropped my coffee. I froze, A shock. A hit from a shovel to the head. I would like to find a nicer way to explain it, but that is exactly how I feel.
It was July 14th, 2018. I felt that things had been brewing for several days. We have had our share of difficult moments, but I would have never thought that he would want to separate. Especially after all of the hardships that we have overcome. Especially after the results that we have gotten.
In the year leading up to the Pyeongchang Olympic Games, Charlie had a knee operation in June and I suffered three concussions. I had symptoms up until December. The Olympics were in February.
For almost a year, our training was shortened and I skated without being completely in control of my skills. Despite all of these pitfalls, we took second place at the Canadian National Championships, behind Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. That was already a feat.
Against all odds, we finished in the top 10 at our first Olympic Games. I was only 22 years old.
The media and the fans started talking about the Games in Beijing already. And worse, we too had started to as well. We started to talk about the next Olympic cycle, to think about our next programs. There were lots of changes to make, but I never realized that he wanted it to end. Maybe I should have known.
So, do I understand Charlie’s decision? The answer is no.
Our programs were done and he would have had many chances to tell me earlier. I understand the timing he chose even less.
Am I mad at Charlie? Not at all. Just disappointed. I am not saying it would have been easy. We would have had to work extremely hard. Would we have gotten there? I don’t know; I don’t think that it was impossible.
Since then people have asked me what was the real reason for our split. The truth is that I actually have no idea. It was totally unexpected for me. I can give you a list of things that were wrong but in my eyes none of them were insurmountable.
I don’t think we had hit the bottom of the barrel. On the contrary. I thought that it was just a difficult period. The Olympics are extremely demanding. And our pre-Olympic year was even more so.
I saw him again at the end of the summer, but his answers did not convince me.
When it came out in the media, I felt the need to hide. I would be lying to you if I said that it was easy. It hurt me. And at the time, I didn’t want to share that with the world. I needed to take a step back, to come to terms with what had happened. I needed a break.
For three months, I did not skate. I did not want to anymore. Then, all of a sudden, I felt the need to put on my skates. For only a couple of weeks now, I’ve felt good. At peace even.
I am now ready to turn the page. Slowly but surely.
Although I started skating at the age of 5, it was only around 12 or 13 years old where I understood that I had real potential. At 16 years old, I met Charlie. We started to skate pairs together. But to be honest, my ambitions were not very big. In our second year together we quickly started to have success.
In 2014, we took silver at both the Canadian Junior Championships and the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final. I understood that I had to make a choice and I stopped skating as an individual.
There are tons of young skaters with potential. But a rise as swift as Charlie and I had, I think that is more rare.
All our hopes were coming true, until the pre-Olympic year.
In January 2017, I sustained my first concussion. A blow to the head. I had to stop skating for a month. A few months later, during a show, we did a easy move, but in the spotlights I lost my bearings. I hit my head on the ice.
Finally, I fell during a lift. I knew immediately that something was wrong. I immediately felt like I had left my body. It is difficult to explain the feeling.
I had never had a concussion before even though it is fairly common in my sport. And then, I had three in a couple months. Unlucky you say?
It was hard. It’s not like a twisted ankles. It’s blue, it’s swollen, you are able to play with your limitations. A concussion is treacherous. It is a thin line between being ready and playing with fire.
It is totally unpredictable. I would wake up one morning and because of fatigue or overtraining, I would be horribly nauseated. The next day, I would feel fine.
I knew that the goal was to skate in the Olympic games. As the months went by the situation became more difficult to manage. In August, I thought that it would not work out. I could not do it. Honestly, I didn’t believe any longer.
I never had the impression that Charlie let me down. I more had the impression that I was the one who let him down, more than once. I wanted to heal. I wanted to skate, but I couldn’t. During that time, Charlie waited. That was what ate at me. I never wanted to ruin his dream, mine and that of our team. I was being patient, telling myself that it would be better, at a moment you panic.
And Charlie was there. Always. He was a golden partner. He supported me from start to finish and reassured me when I needed it.
Then something clicked into place in my head. It can’t be that we worked this hard and had so many good results and in the end it amount to nothing. I decided to go all in. What happens, happens.
I took risks that I never would have taken if it had not been a pre-Olympic year. I remember a competition in Moscow in November 2017. My vision was blurry. I had a hard time reading the dose on my medicine bottle. When we were on the ice with all the lights and the white ice, I was dizzy and nauseous. I don’t know how I managed to skate, but I did.
I had my first concussion in January and my last symptoms in December. Eleven months of doubts, fears, questioning. We arrived in Pyeongchang in good health but I will not hide the fact that I was not at the top of my game.
So, were we expecting to finish in 9th place at the Olympics? Yes and no.
Before the short program, we just wanted to do our best. The pressure was enormous to give a performance that lived up to our expectations. We had never been in this situation before, but we are both competitors at heart. Before the free skate, we set ourselves a goal of getting in the top 10. And we achieved it, at our first Olympic Games, even if we had a difficult year.
In all truth, the Olympics were not easy, despite the unexpected result. Training did not go as well as we would have liked. We arrived early, we skated every day and we had to maintain our physical condition for two weeks to wait to peak the day of the competition.
The reality was that we were exhausted and winded when our D-Day arrived. Our way of handling the situation might have been a trigger [for the split]. What happened? Should we still stay together? Do we want to continue with the same team? It was a lot of questioning…
We had a lot to discuss after the Olympics. Our game plan was was clear. I think that he would have liked the changes to have happened instantaneously. The sport evolves very fast and there is not a second to lose. But at the same time, it is impossible to take shortcuts.
I sensed that the pressure was rising and the situation was not optimal in training. That was what was difficult. I know that I was not in the best shape of my life. I thought about it a lot. And Charlie too. He told me so.
Figure skating can be a difficult sport, especially for women. There is not much room to maneuver. You must be fit. You must watch your weight. You must always be well dressed, well made up. You must always be at your best.
When you are injured, when you can’t train, you cannot make miracles!
The relationship with the body is not always easy. But as you get older, you learn to take and to leave. It is a journey that you make with yourself. At the beginning you are intimidated by the silhouettes of certain skaters, but when you learn about the history hiding behind it, you put things into perspective pretty quickly.
I am proud to have reached this level while keeping a healthy lifestyle. Which, we can say, is not the norm in this sport…
I know that Charlie said that he had the impression that we had peaked. I did not view it like that. I was very injured and the situation did not allow me to improve. We managed to maintain a certain quality of skating but we never reached the necessary level to join Meagan and Eric.
I do not feel like we did everything we could to see if this could work before throwing in the towel.
Despite this end that cuts, we have had extraordinary moments together. I am an Olympian. And no one can take that away from me.
In fact, that is the hardest part.
I must succeed in turning the page, but without erasing the past.
I asked myself if I am even made for that anymore. Why do I skate? What does it bring me? I questioned myself at length. I didn’t want to skate anymore. And then, I decided to give myself a chance. I decided to get back in shape, to finally be the best that I can be. Only then can I make an informed decision.
I started training again a couple weeks ago, mostly at Les 4 Glaces in Bronssard. It is a neutral location and I feel good there. There are not really any international level skaters there, but to see the young skaters helps me keep the fire.
I have had contact with certain skaters, but I told them that I am not ready. My goal is to start to have tryouts in January, but I am giving myself until March to be the best version of myself. Then I will be able to make decisions.
Even if I am in excellent shape, even if I am an Olympic athlete, there are no guarantees. Skaters at the caliber of Charlie are not a dime a dozen. I see a few potential candidates in the country at the moment. Nothing more.
I know that I have not reached my full potential. As I am a very competitive girl, I want to prove that I am capable of being the best. That is my principal source of motivation.
The goal remains the same. I am ready to go further, to qualify for the Beijing Olympic Games.
I measured the jump height of the clean ladies 4-triple short programs using 981(Frames/FPS)^2/8. The amount of frames is from the first frame the skater leaves the ice to the first frame the skater’s toe-pick hits the ice.
Rika Kihira 2018 GPF SP:
Rika’s 3A was 46.63 cm (37 frames from a 60 FPS video)
Rika’s 3F in her 3F+3T was 39.38 cm (34 frames from a 60 FPS video)
Rika’s 3T in her 3F+3T was 30.66 cm (30 frames from a 60 FPS video)
Rika’s 3Lz was 41.73 cm (35 frames from a 60 FPS video)
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva 2015 Worlds SP:
Liza’s 3A at 2015 Worlds was 51.81 cm (39 frames from a 60 FPS video)
Liza’s 3Lz at 2015 Worlds was 60.09 cm (42 frames from a 60 FPS video)
Liza’s first 3T in her 3T+3T at 2015 Worlds was 44.15 cm (36 frames from a 60 FPS video)
Liza’s second 3T in her 3T+3T at 2015 Worlds was 44.15 cm (36 frames from a 60 FPS video)
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva 2018 Skate Canada SP:
Liza’s 3A at 2018 Skate Canada was 51.91 cm (39 frames from a 59.94 FPS video)
I wasn’t able to measure the height of the first 3T since the camera cut off half her boot, so I couldn’t see what frame her toe-pick hit the ice on. I was able to get her second 3T though.
Liza’s second 3T in her 3T+3T at 2018 Skate Canada was 37.17 cm (33 frames from a 59.94 FPS video).
Liza’s 3Lz at 2018 Skate Canada was 51.91 cm (39 frames from a 59.94 FPS video)
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva 2018 NHK SP:
Liza’s 3A at 2018 NHK was 54.61 cm (40 frames from a 59.94 FPS video)
Liza’s first 3T in her 3T+3T at 2018 NHK was 44.23 cm (36 frames from a 59.94 FPS video)
Liza’s second 3T in her 3T+3T at 2018 NHK was 39.46 cm (34 frames from a 59.94 FPS video)
Liza’s 3Lz at 2018 NHK was 49.28 cm (38 frames from a 59.94 FPS video)
The blessing and the curse of being a long time fan with a memory that apparently holds on to basically useless information… I just spent way too much time looking for a vague recollection of Scott talking about his ‘first partner’. I don’t do this because I’m trying to rag on J, but because I’ve clearly got an obsessive personality and it was tickling my brain that there was these quotes out there that I couldn’t find.
I looked first at the book, which did mention her:
Carol: “Scott had a former dance partner, for two months leading to a local competition the previous winter, and then she decided she didn’t want to do it anymore.”
So there you go on that front – 2 months and 1 competition. But, that wasn’t what I was looking for, and none of my regular searches were working for me, so I hit up FanForum and started skimming, LOL. (That was an interesting experience to revisit, though thoughts for another post.) Eventually I found it, in an article from 2009 at the Canadian Nationals:
“I had one partner before,” Moir said. “But I screwed up the steps, and then
she didn’t want to skate with me again. I was eight.
“Then I found Tessa,
and I screwed up the steps in the first competition and she stayed with me and
that’s when I knew I’d found one.”