Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers: "We like to get the crowd going"┬á
Canadian pair Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers have skated together since 2005. Last season they had a breakthrough on the international arena by winning their first bronze medal at Skate Canada, and then finishing third at Four Continents. But it probably wasn't their placement there that was the most memorable thing for the skating fans, but the moment when Rudi offered his own skate to his friend and rival, American pair skater Mark Ladwig, whose boot heel broke during the short program. It was only thanks to that, that Ladwig and Evora could return to the ice and finish their program within the allowed time.
About their new programs, what it is like to be a "clockwise skater" and more in our chat with them at the Nebelhorn Trophy, where they began their season.
Looking back, how would you sum up the last season?
Rudi: We had a really good season. Third was "our" placement last season: we were third at Nationals, third at Four Continents and then third at Skate Canada as well. So this year we are looking to improve that.
Still, I guess you were upset you couldn't go to Worlds.
Paige: It was bitter sweet, we were excited to medal at Nationals, but to be so close to making the World's team was obviously a disappointment. We just took that in stride and will use it as motivation this year.
The competition in pairs in Canada is pretty tough, and now even tougher with the new pair Jessica Dubé/Sébastien Wolfe. What do you think might help you win over them?
Paige: I think we are a very personable team, we are really entertaining and fun to watch. And we like to get the crowd going. I think that's something that plays for us, that's on our side.
Rudi: Paige and I have always been technical skaters, technically strong, so we really try to play up in-between, at the transitions, and really work for the crowd.
Is this something which also works with the judges?
Paige: Yeah, we like to get people to enjoy our skating, and judges are people too. I mean judges are obviously the most important part for us personally; they are the people we are trying to impress. But we take the crowd into consideration as well. The judges can also pick up the energy from the crowd, right? The crowd is enjoying it, the judges are going to enjoy it more, and we enjoy it more.
I agree that your short program is really entertaining. Who brings in the ideas for your programs?
Paige: Each year as we've put the short program together, we've wanted to find a light hearted, entertaining piece of music that Rudi and I can really play to. And the past two years Carol Lane and Juris Razguliaevs (coaches of the Canadian ice dancers Ralph/Hill and former coaches of Crone/Poirier - ed) choreographed it for us. And this year they made a really good program for us.
How much are you involved in the process of creation?
Rudi: They bring a lot of the technical steps and choreography. They gave us music they thought we would like, and we basically took it from there. We really have a lot of trust in them, we've known them for a couple of years, so they know our personalities and they know how we go about our programs.
Paige: And then they lay out the program for us, but as we train we change something here, add something there, feel something more┬ů and our characters in the program are starting to build.
Is there a story behind your characters?
Paige: In the short program Rudi is awaking me from the dead. I don't really know what is going on and then he kind of teaches me how to be a...
Rudi: ... a ghoul.
Paige: Someone who is like a spook, a spooky ghost who likes having fun with people and playing tricks on them and what not.
Rudi: Yeah, that's kind of the thing we try to portray.
What about the long program?
Paige: It's been a tougher program for us to put a name on and a feeling into, we are still developing it. It's set in medieval time with knights, three musketeers...
Right, "D'Artagnan" is your music...
Paige: Yes, "D'Artagnan", "Man in the Iron Mask" and "Nouvelle France". Right now we are just trying to have this elegant, regal feeling, but as the year progresses we hope to put more character into it.
Do you have any other crazy ideas that you want to skate to someday?
Paige: Not really, no. We play it year by year, each year we see what we want our programs to do for us.
Rudi: And how we want our programs to develop us as skaters.
Paige: For example, this year, when we chose this long program, we did it specifically because it was outside of our level of comfort. Neither one of us is comfortable skating elegantly nor regally, so we chose that to hopefully make us better. Right now it's still not as comfortable for us as our short program obviously is, we're still learning and coming into it, but during the year I hope it will look more natural.
Personally, I really love programs that have a story, but I also think it's more complicated to stick to that story when something goes wrong technically. Do you agree?
Paige: Yes and no. I think the toughest thing with figure skating is having a program and continuing it, even though you make mistakes. That's one of the things Rudi and I are trying to do: if you make a mistake, you just let it happen, you move on and pick up exactly as if nothing had happened. The show must go on.
Rudi: I like to think if a mistake is made, but that element was perfectly choreographed into a transition right afterwards, you'd once again have an emotion. Then if you miss an element, right away you need to step into that next element being "this is what I'm doing with my face, this is what I'm doing with my emotions" and try to portray emotions right off the bat, so that you don't lose that character, that story.
You are both clockwise skaters.
Rudi: Really? (laughs)
Forgive my curiosity, but I never had a chance to ask about it; does this mean you're both left handed?
Rudi: I'm left handed, Paige is not. I don't think there is a connection. But just like some people are left handed and some are right handed, some people turn to the right, and some people turn to the left.
For the pair doing all the elements in the opposite direction, it must be a bit complicated, like for your choreographers.
Paige: They sometimes go "Oh... oh... no, you go this way". But they get the hang of it pretty quickly, if they don't catch themselves then we catch it, it's really not an obstacle.
Rudi: When we grew up, a lot of the elements were taught this way and we had to reverse it, the coach said: "Your left hand goes with that", so I was: "OK, my right hand...". It's just more natural for us. It's just whatever is comfortable; it's comfortable for us to do it this way, so it's just the way we go.
Paige: It's like with writing, if you're right handed you just know it, same with skating.
Paige, your ISU profile mentions that you're learning kinesiology, the formal definition of which is "the scientific study of human movement".
Paige: Yeah, it's about muscles, how muscles work. I haven't graduated; I'm just taking a few classes at the university.
Is this somehow connected to figure skating?
Paige: There is definitely a relation to it. My goal at the end of it is sport's medicine or physiotherapy. What I'm taking doesn't have any direct reference to figure skating, but has references to sport and physical activity, so in that sense a lot of the things cross over.
Rudi, let's talk about what you did at Four Continents. All agreed that you deserved a "Fair play" medal for it.
Rudi: Actually, I was honoured by the US Skating Federation. They flew me to Chicago for their Governing Council meeting where Mark presented me with the US Sportsmanship Award. That was a really great thing, my Mom got to go with me to Chicago. Basically all the higher ups of the US skating federation were there, we got to shake some hands. It was a great honour, but I feel that Mark would have done the same for me, so it's not really a big thing.
It might be not a big thing, but it doesn't happen often that someone experiencing boot problems during a program gets an offer like Mark did. I feel there was something fair in the fact that you got bronze in that competition.
Rudi: Well, I like to think that it was because of how we skated. (laughs) When it comes to a competition, we all put a lot of work into it and you want everybody to have the same opportunity. So if someone's boot breaks, who are we to deny them the opportunity to go out there and do their best?
Ok, one last question: try to describe each other in three words.
Paige: He is very-very kind and thoughtful. He is funny. And I want to say energetic.
Rudi: Commanding, she is definitely commanding in a good way, she takes charge in everything. (Paige prompting: Stubborn) Stubborn. Beautiful. And organized. Funny...
Paige: Three words, Rudi!
Rudi: Oh, I was just going to keep talking about you, all nice things. Courageous, she is fearless.
Paige: And I want to add that he is strong!
Those are great combinations of qualities in a pair; he is strong and she is fearless! Thank you for your time, guys, and good luck this season!