KINGSTON, ONTARIO – Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje say they’ve been working nine years for this moment: to win the Canadian title at the 101st Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships.

They remember their first meeting, when they agreed to a cross-border tryout in 2006. It was July, late in a season to be finding a partner. But suddenly, Weaver discovered that her “dream partner” was available and she found herself driving to Canada, all pins and needles. She had resigned herself to skating by herself for the next season.

Weaver didn’t say a word the first day, but she had plenty of thoughts. “I remember thinking this was the real deal,” she said. “This might be something really good…I thought this might be the opportunity I was looking for.”

“My first thought was, this girl was quiet,” Poje said.

Weaver admitted she was intimated by the 6-foot-3 “gorgeous” Poje, who was more accomplished in his skating career than she was at the time. Weaver called him her dream partner. Now Poje says that he feels lucky to have Weaver as a partner and “now she proves to me every day that she is better than me.”

Coach Rebecca Babb took Weaver aside and told her: “Kaitlyn, it’s okay to smile.” Weaver had been so intent and so nervous about winning Poje’s hand that she forgot to be herself.

On the second day of the tryout, Weaver began talking (and hasn’t stopped since.) “From the beginning, we knew it was something unique and something we definitely knew would take us far,” Poje said.

It didn’t take long at all for Weaver, born in the United States, to feel like a Canadian. “The people of Waterloo and Andrew’s family made me feel so much at home immediately,” she said. I was so nervous, thinking I was an outsider. I didn’t want to be the American in the crowd. I didn’t want to stand out. And they took me in right away. Those kids at the rink, I can’t thank them enough.”

Weaver and Poje had their first international completion only six weeks after they joined forces. Right then, Weaver felt like part of the Canadian team.

The secret to their success is their friendship, Poje said. They complement each other. “We are not the same people,” he said. “We’re opposites in some ways, but that definitely helps us when we are going for that gold.”

“We seem to know what each other is thinking before the other knows it,” Weaver said.

Some people never find what Weaver and Poje have. And it has taken them far.

They are two of hundreds of skaters who have shown up this week in Kingston. They helped Canada win an unprecedented 29 medals this season in both junior and senior competitions.

Canada will welcome three new senior champions on Saturday and Patrick Chan, sitting out the season, will be in the arena on Saturday to watch.

Sponsors such as Canadian Tire, Sony, Via Rail, In Bloom Flowers, Black Dog Hospitality and Pita Pit and others are the wind beneath Skate Canada’s wings at this event. Kim Saunders, vice president of sport properties for Canadian Tire calls this championship a “special event.”

Among other things, Canadian Tire is financing a series of skating bursaries for novice and junior champions to the tune of $1,500 for each. “These kids will put this money to good use,” said Skate Canada CEO Dan Thompson.

There will be 20 hours of television coverage of the event on CTV/TSN. A Japanese network is picking up the feed. Thompson said that 12 million Japanese viewers watched the Skate Canada International gala from Kelowna, B.C. last November.