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Help Build an Olympian: If the skate fits

The Help Build an Olympian campaign has partnered with Canadian Olympians. Read their stories to learn about how the six performance pillars propelled our athletes to Olympic success.

At Sochi 2014, Kevin Reynolds won a silver medal with his Canadian teammates in the mixed team figure skating event—but he almost missed the chance to compete at the Winter Olympic Games because of equipment problems he experienced that season.

Kevin (centre) and the Canadian figure skating team celebrate their team silver medal. Photo: Winston Chow

Kevin (centre) and the Canadian figure skating team celebrate their team silver medal. Photo: Winston Chow

To compete at their best, figure skaters need to be comfortable in their most important piece of equipment: their skates. Kevin says, “You want to be confident and have nothing else on your mind. If your equipment isn’t right, you are fighting an extra battle on top of the competition in front of you. Elimination of all distractions is important to success; being comfortable in your equipment takes you to a level playing field, whereby you can rely completely on the countless hours of training and preparation you have put in.”

However, figure skates are expensive, and high-quality skates are necessary to compete against the world’s top skaters. “The skates are two parts – you have to buy both the boots and the blades separately. The cost is significant, as boots run about $500 to $800 a pair, while a quality pair of blades are another $700 or $800 on top of that,” Kevin says. While some figure skaters get personalized skates, “I find that personal boot customization is still in the experimental stage, and so I use stock boots and blades like most skaters.”

Kevin competes in the Men’s Free Skate at Sochi 2014. Photo: Winston Chow

Kevin competes in the Men’s Free Skate at Sochi 2014. Photo: Winston Chow

Since his boots aren’t customized, though, that leaves room for discomfort. In the Sochi 2014 qualifying season, Kevin experienced several problems with his skates. He couldn’t find a pair of boots that would fit his feet properly, and as a result almost missed qualifying for Sochi 2014. “There were seemingly endless problems with improper fit, and then separate problems of rapid deterioration of the ankle support. It was a true test of willpower just to get to the Games because of this,” Kevin recalls.

Normally, in one season, Kevin says he goes through one or two pairs of skates. “However, in the 6 months leading up to the games alone, I went through around a dozen pairs one after the other.” Since a complete pair of figure skates can run upwards of $1,500, the cost was exponential.

Other figure skaters are having similar problems with their stock figure skates as well, he says. “It has unfortunately become increasingly common in recent years, as the demands of the sport have increased dramatically, while equipment manufacturers have scrambled to keep up in improving their technology. I think figure skating remains far behind other sports in this regard, but at least there is now recognition of the problem and efforts have begun to address it.”

Thankfully, Kevin was finally able to find a pair of skates that lasted him through qualifying and competing at Sochi 2014. He says winning the silver medal with his teammates is his greatest accomplishment to date. “Being able to live out a childhood dream of competing at the Olympic Games representing Canada was a thrilling experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. When we took our leap up on to the podium, it was an unforgettable moment for me, made even more special by sharing it with longtime teammates.”

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