Set to make her debut on the biggest stage in skating next week – in the midst of a global pandemic, no less – the 18-year-old from Oakville, Ont. can’t wait to dip her foot into the sport’s international waters for the first time.
Given the events of the past year, Schizas’s journey to Stockholm has been far from conventional, but she can’t contain her enthusiasm as she gets ready to proudly represent Canada when the ladies short program kicks off the competition Wednesday.
“I think everyone follows their own path, and this was just mine,” said the 2020 Canadian women’s bronze medallist on a conference call before departing for Sweden. “I think that I’m going into this event with a lot of confidence, even without having a lot of international experience. It’s really special to me that I’m getting to compete at Worlds, and I’m excited for the experience.”
It should be an experience unlike any other, on every level.
For most of team Canada, comprised of eight entries and 13 skaters, these world championships will be their first taste of international competition in well over a year. Only Keegan Messing, who holds dual citizenship and lives in Alaska while representing Canada internationally, competed on the ISU Grand Prix circuit this past season, earning bronze at Skate America in October.
Two months ago, Schizas, along with most of her teammates competing in Sweden, were able to get a taste of competition at Skate Canada Challenge, a virtual event where athletes had their performances recorded at their training rinks several weeks before being judged in real time during the event.
Schizas claimed her second straight senior women’s gold medal at Challenge and is hoping to ride that wave of momentum into Sweden.
“My training’s going really well, I feel really well prepared for this event, despite all the crazy things happening right now,” Schizas adds. “My coaches think that I’m probably in the best shape I’ve been in in my entire career.”
Schizas and reigning Canadian women’s champion Emily Bausback will represent Canada in the women’s competition at the world championships.
After the first wave of the pandemic subsided and the Ontario lockdown ended late last spring, Schizas returned to train at Milton Skating Club, her home club, from June through December.
As Ontario entered another lockdown phase just after Christmas, her home club shut its doors temporarily. With limited training options due to lockdown restrictions, Schizas, and coaches Nancy Lemaire and Derek Schmidt, went in search of ice time. They found temporary training refuge at rinks in Hamilton and Richmond Hill before Schizas returned to Milton shortly after Ontario’s latest stay-at-home order was lifted in February.
As she prepared for the world championships, Schizas admitted she was happy to have returned to a sense of normal.
Whatever normal is these days.
“For me, it was about getting back on a schedule, and knowing when I was going to skate, knowing where I was going to skate, and knowing when I was going to go to the gym,” she says.
And now, Schizas’s dream of representing Canada at the world championships has arrived. She is trying to erase all the background noise from the past year and isn’t putting too much pressure on herself. These world championships will determine how many spots Canada earns for next year’s Olympic Winter Games, but Schizas isn’t concerning herself on what-ifs.
“For me, a successful world championship would be skating personal best programs, which is something I really think I can do,” she adds. “That will get us however many spots we get (for the Olympics). That part is not in my hands, and that is what I’m trying to remind myself. I know I can skate consistent programs, and that is what I’m focused on.”
Schizas is doing her best to make sure the moment doesn’t get too big for her. She isn’t sure of what to expect from these world championships, but she knows she isn’t the only one facing that uncertainty.
“I’ve spoken with a lot of skaters who have competed at Worlds before, and the thing that they’ve all told me is this year is going to be different for everybody,” she says.
The women’s short program in Sweden is set to kick off Wednesday, March 24. For the full schedule and list of entries, please click here.