A Good Match Knows No Bounds… Or Borders

Newly Canadian, Kaitlyn Weaver Competes for Olympic Berth

Houston figure skater Kaitlyn Weaver’s Olympic dreams may have begun one Christmas long ago in Ohio. Gift wrapped beneath the tree was her first pair of figure skates. Now, Weaver is two months away from a potential berth in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. It won’t, though, be for Team USA.

Weaver skates with the Canadian national team as the lighter half of an ice dance duo with Waterloo’s Andrew Poje. It is a career-making partnership. They are one of a few ice dance pairs with a serious chance at Vancouver 2010.

Living in Connecticut as a young teenager and U.S. junior team skater, Weaver trained three summers at an arena in Kitchener-Waterloo. “I always had so much fun there, because it was a new environment and everyone was so friendly,” Weaver said. “Everyone always respected the Canadian team.”

When asked who her ideal skating partner would be, her answer was always Andrew Poje. The problem was, he had a partner, Alice Graham. When Graham decided to retire in 2006, Weaver got her chance to live in an ideal world. Her coach knew Poje’s coach and they brought the two skaters from two countries together.

There was an immediate spark. “When I skated with Andrew it was just magic,” Weaver said. “I knew something had to be done because he was my opportunity. We both knew that it could be very special.”

This was August 2006. Weaver informed her mother, who was surprised at Weaver’s determination to skate with Poje, that a move to Canada was imminent.

“I wasn’t sure what to think because not many people switched countries,” Weaver said.

She and Poje were a good match physically, both tall, both with long legs – the “first thing you look for,” she said. On the ice, they matched strides and enjoyed a certain chemistry.

They flourished on the ice, capturing a bronze medal at the 2007 World Junior Championships. That year they won a bronze medal at the Canadian Championships, earning a berth in the (senior) World Championships. Now in their fourth season together there is only one goal: Vancouver.

Earlier this year, Weaver received Canadian citizenship at a ceremony in Kitchener, Ont. Officials there asked her to deliver a speech to fellow immigrants about her story and the excitement of Canada being an Olympic host. When she spoke she saw some people crying. Weaver said the reception was more than she ever would have imagined. “It was above and beyond.”

She feels humbled to know that she could be a memory of that special day for the other new Canadians. “That I could be an inspiration to follow your dreams and anything can happen,” Weaver started. “It’s one of those days I’ll remember forever.”

Weaver said she was initially worried about how she would be received by the Canadian team and what would happen with her friends in the U.S. It has turned out so far for the best. She remains close friends with her American pals and all is well – other than friendly competition for that Olympic berth – with Team Canada.

“Some people in the sport probably weren’t thrilled that Andrew and I came together so fast, made the world team our first year and walked right in the door,” she said. “But people know we work hard, and I feel Canadian so it’s not like I’m trying to take a spot from someone else. I feel that Canada is my home.

“Just because two people grow up in different places doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be allowed to skate together.”

Her own coach might agree with that: Shae-Lynn Bourne became the first Canadian ice dance world champion with her partner – born and raised in Germany – Victor Kraatz. The 10-time national champions had two fourth-place Olympic finishes.