Life After Gold
Winning a world championship was something I never imagined. I never believed I had the ability to accomplish something that prestigious. I never put my name beside the likes of Barbara Ann Scott, Petra Burka, or Karen Magnussen – they were the gold medal women of Canada, I wasn’t one of them. Until one day, I was.
The night I won, I felt so light. I felt like I was floating up over the world and no one could pull me down. I was awake, I was alive, I felt beautiful. I could relax, I could breathe, I could smile without force. That high lasted about three days, and then I collapsed.
Following the world championships in Milan, Italy, I headed straight to Japan for “Stars on Ice”. I got there a day before rehearsals to catch up on sleep. I slept for eighteen hours straight, waking up long enough to eat some extremely unhealthy room service, and then going back to sleep for another ten hours. Nothing I could do would wake me up. It was wonderful.
The world got busy again. With the rest of the cast arriving in Japan, we all headed to the rink for a week of long hours of rehearsals for the show. It was great seeing and chatting with everyone and getting to the work I love…PERFORMING. What I noticed that week was how quickly winning a world championship can be forgotten. I wanted to celebrate and embrace the fact I did something worth celebrating, but no one seemed to be on the same page as me. Throughout the rehearsal week, I felt my championship drift further and further away, dragging a large part of me with it. My high was left in Milan, only exhaustion remained.
Then something magical woke me from my slumber.
“World Champion, Kaetlyn Osmond.”
I was behind the curtain, about to step out on the ice when I heard those words boom through the speakers for the first time. Those words, that belief, that reality, lifted me up and guided me forward. Every single time I heard those words, it seemed otherworldly. I was a part of a new dimension. The world was dark, except for the spotlight illuminating a circle onto the ice. It was just me and the ice. It was just my breathing. It was just my own body working. It was my world where there was no hiding. Those words got me through months of shows and celebrations
Finally, the shows for the season were done and so was I. I couldn’t stay up in the clouds anymore. I needed rest. I needed quiet. I went on vacation, leaving all my technology behind. I laid down on a couch for a week, never turning on my phone. I started spending some time with friends on my third week off, and then it was time for me to get back on the ice. I didn’t want to as I still didn’t have the physical and mental rest I needed, but I got on the ice anyway.
Strangely the ice no longer felt like home, it felt like foreign territory over which I had no control.
Talk of my world championship slowed to a nonexistent topic. The next season was already the main focus. I wasn’t ready for that. I wanted to live in my post World’s high longer, but the world didn’t work that way. I forgot how to skate. I was falling on doubles and not understanding why. What I did understand was I needed to take the Grand Prix season off. That decision led to the decision to take part in the “Thank You Canada Tour”.
That tour was something remarkably special. No words can explain the love amongst the cast and the connection to everyone in the building. But I lost who I was.
The performing that I lived for wasn’t giving me anything anymore. I was determined to find it though. I took the rest of the competitive season off and agreed to more shows. I skated in “Art on Ice”, club shows across Canada, a tour in Korea, and “Stars on Ice” in Canada. Every show day made it harder to make it to the next show day. I started having anxiety attacks before getting on the ice and as a result, lost any remaining belief in myself.
During all these shows and dealing with an overwhelming amount of emotions, home stopped feeling like home. Edmonton was where I trained to accomplish all these unbelievable dreams, but the memories of that were too painful for me to stay. So, I left. I left my home for Ontario, in search of a new home. I contemplated never skating again. I contemplated never stepping foot on the ice for any reason. I felt guilty to be called World Champion. I felt undeserving of that title. I didn’t want to be connected to anything that brought me there. That title and those words went from being something that gave me life to being something that broke me down and made me want to disappear.
Friends convinced me to get on the ice to coach. Something I didn’t necessarily want to do, but it got me out of the house. Seeing kids motivated to train and willing to listen to me, made me slowly appreciate the magic of skating again. When it came time to agree to the “Rock the Rink” tour, I hesitated. Scared of myself and scared of trying again. But with the help of friends and the skaters I was coaching, I agreed. They helped me get training again. They helped me take it step by step, the same way I was teaching them. I took comfort with my long-time choreographer Lance Vipond to choreograph a program that explained my emotions and aimed to inspire the girls I was connecting with. I was scared, but I got to the rink every day.
The “Rock the Rink” tour was my last round of shows. At the beginning of the tour, I was
embarrassed of myself every time I stepped on the ice. Towards the end of the tour, I began feeling inspired and my views on my skating changed. I stopped living in the life of a World Champion. It meant nothing in the real world. Being compared to who I was when I won, was breaking me. So, for the second time in a year, I changed my life completely.
I moved to Toronto. I moved into an apartment on my own. The first time I was ever truly alone. It wasn’t easy, it still isn’t easy, but I needed to distance myself from anything and anyone that was connected to the days that I could win.
I was no longer winning, and I needed to learn how to deal with that reality. I needed new inspiration to make me win myself over again. I connected with new people. I reconnected with old friends, I applied to school, I started a new website, I tested new cafes and ate at new restaurants, and walked through new parks. I wanted everything I did to be new.
That included a new me on the ice. I worked with Jeremy Abbott, Kurt Browning, and Jessie Garon for the first time and told them I needed to be different. I didn’t want to be compared to who I was because that isn’t who I am anymore. I am not one to control my emotions or pretend everything is perfect, I am someone who is living in the world of the vulnerable and not afraid to show it.
I am looking forward to the person I can become. Using the knowledge of my past, with my excitement of the future to discover who I am now. It isn’t easy. Life before gold wasn’t easy, so why should I expect the aftermath to be.
Life after gold is a discovery, one without a direct path or the instant gratification of competition.
Life after gold is a self-learning process when you are no longer relevant in the topic of conversation and no longer trending on social media.
Life after gold is finding comfort in yourself when everything is changing around you. I am proud of what I accomplished on the ice and the people I
connected with, but I am also proud of my search to find a completely different person since then.