On the road to the 2018 Olympics

Paul Poirier talks bal­anc­ing his ice danc­ing ca­reer with be­ing a nor­mal high school stu­dent by Nikki Gill

Bayview Post - - Life -

Paul Poirier is well on his way to com­pet­ing in his sec­ond Olympics, which will also be his first with part­ner Piper Gilles.

The ice dancers were first paired up in 2011 about a year af­ter Poirier com­peted in the Van­cou­ver 2010 Olympics with his then part­ner Vanessa Crone.

Al­though he’s cur­rently in train­ing for the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, he says he’s on the ice about the same amount he was when he was a high school stu­dent at École Se­condaire Éti­enne Brûlé.

“It was morn­ings in ice dance, and all of the evening I would be do­ing my sin­gles train­ing, and that was my re­al­ity between all of el­e­men­tary and high school,” says Poirier.

With such a hec­tic train­ing sched­ule, Poirier says he’s thank­ful for the flex­i­bil­ity his high school gave him.

“It re­ally helped that Pa­trick Chan also went to Éti­enne Brûlé, and he’s a year older than me. So there was also this prece­dent,” he says. “They un­der­stood the re­al­ity.”

The school al­lowed him to take six cour­ses per year rather than eight, so he would com­plete high school in five years in­stead of four. Poirier was able to com­plete his morn­ing train­ing, go to class and have a lunch break be­fore his two af­ter­noon classes.

“Just hav­ing that lunch break, the 40 min­utes to in­ter­act with my peers and it be­ing a much smaller school … I re­ally got a chance to get a semi-nor­mal high school ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says.

He grad­u­ated high school the same year as the Van­cou­ver Olympics but says his coaches first planted the idea of com­pet­ing in the Olympics within him many years ear­lier.

“It was 2003 when the Olympics in Van­cou­ver were an­nounced, and my coach said, ‘You guys should be aim­ing for this,’ ” al­though he was only 12 years old then.

But fast-for­ward seven years and the pair qual­i­fied for the Olympics and placed 14th.

“I think the Olympics are spe­cial no mat­ter what, but hav­ing it at home and hav­ing that crowd be­hind you, it was re­ally, re­ally ex­cit­ing,” he says.

One year later, Poirier part­nered with Gilles and the pair were aim­ing for Sochi in 2014 when Poirier shat­tered his an­kle in 2013.

“That was my first ma­jor in­jury in sport, so [Gilles] was a big part in help­ing me get through that, as well as my coach­ing team,” he says.

Over the last six and a half years that Gilles and Poirier have been skat­ing to­gether, he says they are now at a point where they are re­ally jelling.

“In my part­ner­ship with Piper, we’ve re­ally been able to cre­ate a team iden­tity, a team brand and a body of work that I feel is re­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive of some­thing deeper than sim­ply try­ing to get re­sults, be­cause we do have that artis­tic ap­proach to our sport,” he says.

The pair have just fin­ished de­vel­op­ing their new rou­tines, which they will be com­pet­ing with at the Olympics, should they qual­ify in Jan­uary, and their com­pet­i­tive sea­son kicks off in Septem­ber.

“The qual­i­fi­ca­tion process should be a lit­tle bit less stress­ful than the last two times I’ve been through this Olympic-qual­i­fy­ing ringer, which also al­lows us to fo­cus more on peak­ing for the Olympics and not sim­ply peak­ing for the qual­i­fier,” says Poirier.

“We’re look­ing to en­ter th­ese Games not just to par­tic­i­pate, but re­ally to be podium con­tenders, and given the in­creases of our scores over this whole qua­dren­nial, we are on track to do that.”

Poirier is hop­ing to com­pete in his sec­ond Olympics in 2018

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