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
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