Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje: "It's been a great journey so far"

July 14, 2016
By Anna Zeitlin
Photos © Anna Zeitlin, LMDJ

Kaitlyn and Andrew finished the season on a high note, delivering a spectacular free dance at the Team Challenge Cup, getting a new personal best and helping Team North America win the overall event. I was really happy they agreed to meet me for a chat the next day.

Your programs, especially the free dances, are always so passionate and thrilling. How do you draw all these emotions to skate such programs every single time?

Andrew: We always make sure that we have connection with the music, and we also have a connection with each other that I think is very strong. It really helps us to draw on our experiences that we've had throughout our career and our life. We really try to create a story that we believe, so that when it comes to performances that we need to bring emotion, we can really grasp that.

Kaitlyn: It comes from a real place, you know. And I think that emotions don't lie. Sometimes it's hard, when the pressure is high and you're thinking about performing well, but that's the best time to go inside and feel your way through the program. I think we did that best here, of all season; I think we did that.

You've got your personal best here.

Kaitlyn: Yeah, we were able to lose ourselves in the program.

How did you like Team Challenge Cup?

Andrew: It was a lot of fun. At the end of a long season it's hard to get the motivation, but as soon as we came out here and we felt the whole team environment, we've felt the whole team pushing each other and the energy from them. It made the competition so much more enjoyable. It was a great run competition, a great audience and atmosphere, so we were really happy to be part of this and that was great.

Kaitlyn: It was a great opportunity. I'm so happy we had, even for ourselves, personally, a little bit of redemption for Boston. But like Andrew said, the energy of the team - it wasn't just about us. It was about representing this group of great skaters, so it was a blast. It was so fun.

And you've won the individual event.

Kaitlyn: That felt good too (laughs).

How did it feel being captained by Kristy Yamaguchi and being next to such legends as Christopher Dean and Shizuka Arakawa?

Kaitlyn: Amazing. I did a project on Kristy in school when I was young, so I feel I was star struck, meeting her. She's so sweet and positive. I think she believed in us, even though she doesn't know us all personally. It was so nice to have a bright light as our captain. It was also the first time for me meeting Christopher Dean which was like... (gasps) I mean, he's Christopher Dean! It doesn't get much better than that. So sometimes I would be peeking into Europe's team box, just to see what he was looking at. They're celebrities and we are big fans. And Shizuka is great too, we know her from shows and she's fabulous.

You just came from Stars on Ice Japan and now starting the Canadian tour. Does it feel different doing first shows on the tour compared to the last couple of shows?

Andrew: The first couple of shows on the tour are always a little nerve-racking; to make sure that you remember the group numbers and make sure you're in line with everyone.

Kaitlyn: There are so many people on ice, it's different. You have to keep track of twelve people rather than just two.

Andrew: But by that point in the tour, near the end, everyone's had such great moments and memories on the ice together during that tour and it really comes together. We're out there having fun and just really enjoying the moment.

Kaitlyn: It's a great change of pace. We're still on the ice, we're still doing programs, we're still performing, but it's more relaxed. We get to take a breath and share with Canada what we've done this year and we feel the support so much when we do that tour. It’s so nice to meet with everyone and it's more personal. The cast is great, we've been together for many years, and we’re very close. So it's just a month of fun.

How has it been working with Jeffrey Buttle and Kurt Browning on the tour?

Kaitlyn: Great. I mean, Jeff Buttle is a genius. He's always been a genius. I'm so happy now he's able to share his ideas with the tour. He's so professional, he always comes very prepared. No matter where you look when you're on ice, you're surrounded by greatness, so we're very honored to be a part of that.

How did it feel performing to your home crowd being the first Canadian ice dance couple? Did it feel different?

Andrew: You know, I feel proud to speak of that. We've worked so hard to be at the position we are now. But we want to make sure we keep on pushing ourselves and make sure we are deserving of that pressure. We want to make Canada proud but we want to make ourselves proud too. We use that as motivation every time in training.

Kaitlyn: We've been dreaming of that moment our whole lives. It's a big burden but we're more than ready to continue holding it and to be, just even on the list with Meagan and Eric, and Patrick is a great honor. So we're happy to be there.

Is it harder to perform and compete in front of the home crowd?

Kaitlyn: I think it was a little bit last season. It was the first time that we came in as favorites to the competition. But it was a quick learning curve. We felt the pressure a little bit but then we realized that nothing really has changed. It's still Andrew and myself out on the ice with our music and our program and a great audience and that's all we need to think about. We don't need to think about what people expect or how we should stack up against everyone else. It's just about what we're able to create on the ice, so it was a very important lesson.

You always have such great costumes that I think help convey the program. Do you have an input into the costumes?

Kaitlyn: Every costume tells a different story. It starts with our designers, but we also get help from coaches, parents; sometimes the ideas come from ourselves. It's really a group effort. But I think that the image has to say something before we even skate. It sets the theme, it draws your attention and it tells the story just by your standing there, by your presence.

Andrew: Yeah, when we get on the ice we want people to already have a story created.

Kaitlyn: A feeling.

Andrew: A feeling. Not put on music and then question what's going on.

Kaitlyn: Like with our Paso Doble costumes last year. We knew that it had to be the best, and so I think Andrew's suit wasn’t maybe one of the best costumes ever, but it set the mood and it demanded attention, and it was rich.

Andrew: The same thing with the short dance this year. I felt regal just putting on the costume, so it already brought that extra feeling and emotion to that program right away, before you even heard the music.

Does having lyrics in your program help?

Kaitlyn: I think it really depends on the skater, but I feel lyrics help to convey emotion and they're relatable. It's a human quality, I think - to be able to sing to a song or hear a melody. So we love skating with lyrics, but we've had, I think, programs with both, like combination. Some more classical, some with a voice. I think it also gives you a certain identity. The voice gives the skaters identity on the ice too.

Kaitlyn, you list foreign languages as one of the interests in your ISU profile. Did you learn some Russian from Anjelika?

Kaitlyn: Yes, of course!

I've heard the coaches call you Katiusha and Andriusha?

Andrew: (laughing) Exactly, yes.

Kaitlyn: I think it started out as a little joke, but I've been loosely studying Russian for many years, just because my idols were always Russian and Russian-speaking skaters. When I was growing up I trained at the same rink as Tarasova and Morozov's group, so I grew up idolizing them. I wanted to speak to them and be like them. Now Natalia and Anjelika speak to us in Russian a lot.

Andrew: During our lessons they'll speak to us, yes.

Kaitlyn: Some things we don't know yet, but we've come to have quite a good knowledge base. Especially conversational, we can definitely get by. I can read Cyrillic, it's fun for me. I think it also helps create relationships within the skating community too. A lot of the Russian skaters are friends of ours. That goes kind of for every country, actually. I think it's so fun that we all share so many things in skating, and yet everyone comes from such different areas of the world. It's fun to find friends all around. And having a common language really helps bond people.

Do you want to study other languages?

Kaitlyn: I grew up speaking Spanish. Not fluently, but that was what I studied at school. Russian was next. I need to work on my French; I feel it is severely lacking for me, especially since half of Canada speaks French, so that's next on the list.

What about you, Andrew?

Andrew: I grew up learning French. I wasn't always great at it, but that's something I wanted to really push myself to learn better. The more I learn Russian, the more I want to learn, so I want to try and learn that; it's a hard language but it'd be fun.

Kaitlyn: And we pick up little bits everywhere we go. Little bits of Japanese¬Ö then we go to Finland, we pick up "hello", "thank you", "goodbye" in Finnish. So we know a little bit of a lot of languages (laughs).

Andrew, one of your interests is cooking.

Andrew: Yes!

Kaitlyn: And I like to eat! (both laugh)

I was wondering what do you like to cook and whether you have a special meal for Kaitlyn?

Andrew: I always love to explore cooking, so I don't like cooking a single recipe all the time. I like to try new things and try to see what different flavors are out there and really see what the world has to offer. I'm always cooking a fish meal or a vegetarian meal, things like that. We try to stay healthy but we're also trying to explore different spices and things like that.

Do you have a favorite cuisine?

Andrew: We have a hybrid one. We like Mediterranean cuisine, but we also like Mexican, and Italian, Japanese... you know, we're all over the map. We always have a good luck fish meal before we go to a competition. It's always fish the night before we leave for a competition.

Kaitlyn: That started when I was a young girl. I think when I was five or six, at my first competition, I did well and I have happened to eat salmon the night before. So then my mom made it every night before I leave for a competition, as good luck tradition, and that carried on into our career too. I think we've been doing it... Well, my family has been doing it for over twenty years now.

So the night before any competition you'll have fish?

Kaitlyn: Yes, guaranteed. Without fail.

You've been together for ten years and you've been saying that you got along from the start. Are there any first impressions that changed over the years?

Kaitlyn: (pointing at Andrew) He's got a good story!

Andrew: Well, the first day that we had our try-out together Kaitlyn said "hello" and "thank you". That was it. Did not speak the whole time. I think she was nervous, but we've learned that it's now the opposite in our relationship. I'm more of "the quiet one" and she will bring out all of the conversations. It's been a great journey so far and we've bonded really well, for sure.

You've been saying that you're still not thinking about the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, but we're halfway through to it, so have you started thinking about it maybe in your preparations for the season?

Kaitlyn: It's impossible not to, I think. It still feels far away, but it's not. You always have to have an eye on the future. Especially now, with choosing the next season's music. You want to know - OK, what should I do now, so I can save something for next year too? You need to be strategic with your choices. But it's exciting. The Olympics were one of the best moments of our lives, even just as people. Not necessarily in the stadium, just to be around all these athletes and in that environment was unbelievable. So it's exciting to know that's coming up. The Canadian team has many preparations that they do. The Olympic team meets once a year now, leading up to the Games. And it's fun to share your experiences with the other athletes. Again, it's connecting in different ways with people that you wouldn't normally see. It's very exciting but it's also a time to get down to business. It's the ultimate goal, so it's exciting.

How much time do you have for rest after you've finished CSOI before you start preparing for the new season?

Andrew: Right now we've scheduled probably a week or two of just rest time, to try to recuperate and get our bodies rested and ready for the season. And then we're back at it, preparing for the season in October and we're ready to go.

Do you have any ideas already for your free skate?

Kaitlyn: I've got a list. Inspiration is everywhere; I'm always finding new ideas, Andrew too. But no decisions have been made. I think it's going to be very interesting with the short dance options; there are so many different avenues. So that will be a very interesting conversation once we sit down with our coaches and try and decide what to do, it's exciting.

What was your favorite program over the years?

Kaitlyn: Oooh, tough choice. Favorite program... It's different being in the moment thinking about it and then looking at it in retrospect, but I loved being Maria de Buenos Aires... It will be close between "Je Suis Malade" and "Maria". Every day I loved being that character, and doing the tango with Andrew was a joy to skate every day. But looking back, I think we've had the most impact with "Je Suis Malade", I think that's the one everyone knows us for. Which is great. I think it's an incredible gift to have as a skater a signature piece. Not everyone has that, and I think when people hear that music they associate it with us which is the ultimate sign of success.

And to the last question. Do you have a favorite medal?

Kaitlyn: (looking at Andrew) First Nationals?

Andrew: Yeah, I think probably the first national title. It's probably one of my favorites, for sure. We worked so hard to get to that moment and it finally came in.

Kaitlyn: I can think of two. Our first national medal, in our first year together - it was the bronze, in 2007. It was such a surprise, we had no idea that ever was going to happen; we were just in shock and awe. We were two kids up on the podium with Marie-France and Patrice. But another one was our first Grand Prix Final title. I remember again being in such surprise, and I think that's when it's fun - when you don't expect it. We were so excited to come home with that title.

And we hope Kaitlyn and Andrew will have many more medals and titles earned in the seasons to come.

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