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Interview With Caryn Kadavy

Photograph of American figure skater and Olympian Caryn Kadavy

After winning the bronze medal at the 1987 World Championships, Caryn Kadavy was clearly destined for amazing things. After contracting the same 'Olympic flu' that nearly put Liz Manley out of commission at the 1988 Winter Olympics, Kadavy was forced to withdraw after skating her short program but the great things she was destined for were really more than most skaters could ever dream of. She went on to have one of the most successful careers in professional figure skating history, touring with the World Cup Professional Champions and Elvis Tour Of Champions tours, winning just about every professional competition known to man and starring in shows around North America and the world for almost two decades. Now living in Minneapolis, Minnesota and a successful coach and choreographer who just completed her certification with the American Ice Theatre, Caryn (who was just too much fun!) took the time to speak with me about her careers in both the eligible and professional worlds, IJS judging, the Sochi Olympics, working with Toller Cranston and much more in this fabulous interview:

Q: Looking back at your "amateur" competitive career, including your bronze medal at the 1987 Worlds, trip to the Olympics, four medals at the U.S. Nationals and win at Skate Canada in 1985, what are your favourite and least favourite memories?

A: My favourite experience? Oh my goodness, there are really several. I would have to say winning the bronze medal at Worlds in 1987 in Cincinnati would be my favourite. I think the hardest was getting sick and not being able to compete my long program at the Olympics. That was probably the hardest one. It's amazing how you can experience such an incredible high and wake up the morning of short program with that 100 temperature and know that it's going to be 103 after you finish that short program. In a way, that was hard but in a way every little experience opens your eyes to make you realize what you're grateful for and what you're able to do. Not that I didn't do that to some extent, but I think I appreciated it more after I got better from being sick. Sometimes you need a fall to create that high again. It taught me it a lot.

Q: What was working with Toller Cranston like and how do you think it bettered your skating?

A: He is incredibly passionate about what he does. He's an artist. He really expressed to me the passion of skating. There was a story behind every move and piece of choreography. He was like a little kid inside and made me feel like skating was about the joy and what it brings to you personally. He really expressed to me his life and his experiences. They came out when he was teaching me a move and the choreography at hand. Toller really cared about the choreography and the skating but he also cared about you as a person. I think that whole experience was really well rounded. He wanted to help you but he also wanted to get to know you. He did so much for me - personally, on the ice and through his art. I wanted to skate well for him.

Q: Being completely frank, you are probably one of the most successful competitive professional skaters out there. In the 1990's, you won the U.S. Pro-Am Championships, U.S. Open, Ladies Professional Championships, Canadian Professional Championships, Ice Wars, Miko Masters and other events with ease. Firstly, what do you think was the biggest key to your longevity and consistent success in professional competition?

A: I think it's amazing when you get on that consistent flow of having a high standard of wanting to do well and working hard to be able to do that. It was really a vicious cycle! I think it was very exciting to be able to compete professionally and I don't think I really reached my peak as an amateur. There was a lot more in me and a lot of that came from wanting to express and create at a higher level. I think with professional skating that combination of having to be able to show your skills and artistry were a great match for someone wanting to continue with their career and still be competitive. There were so many great events that came out of that whole Tonya/Nancy thing in 1994 and I was at the right place at the right time. What really prepared me for all of those events was the World Cup tour. I did over one hundred shows in that tour. I had so much training and experience performing that I found that when I just wanted to compete, I was so well trained I was able to do well and take advantage of all opportunities that were presented to me. That's how it worked. You skated well, you got asked back. So it was really a cycle of being able to prepare and feeling really excited about 'what am I going to be able to do next?'. After, you know, just doing one program as an amateur, it became really exciting to be doing three, four or five - sometimes all in the same event. I was able to keep up all of my jumps and display what I could do and it was wonderful to be able to continue my career in that way. I was very lucky that way.

Q: I've seen so many of your programs and one of my favourites would definitely have to be your program to Céline Dion's "It's All Coming Back To Me Now". Where did you come up with the idea of skating to this song and who choreographed this beautiful program?

A: Brian Boitano invited me to do his Skating Romance show and I think it was Brian who picked out that song for me do at his event. I went to Connecticut to work with Lea Ann Miller and it all came together so fast with both of us working together on it. I loved Céline Dion, the program and the feel of the music. It was just a good combination of passion and was just skateable - it told a story. I think I do well if I feel the music and then it becomes more of a passion and a moment for me.

Q: Working as a coach and choreographer within the current IJS system, how do you think it has both bettered and hurt the sport? What would you change and keep the same if it were solely up to you?

A: You know, at first I didn't really like it as much because at the time I was working with a student that was very numbers oriented. He only knew the IJS system but he was very focused on the numbers side of it. I wanted him to not focus so much and worry about what numbers he was getting and to just feel that the whole performance was what he was focused on - how he did overall and not being so devastated over a GOE or plus or minus. It gets very critical and micromanaged sometimes with every single item and level. I feel sad about that in some ways but I think knowing that the skating level is there is what's important. I was at the top of the game when I was gearing up for Olympics too and all those skaters who are now are just wonderful skaters too. The only problem is, not every skater can do eight revolutions in that spin. Not every skater can do a Biellmann spin or get that feature. There are a lot of things that are required that are hard for the average skater to be able to do so that they can be competitive on a higher level. It becomes such a high level that they're striving for but the system is trying to create less subjectivity for the sport sport which makes things more understandable for coaches, choreographers and skaters. There are now ways of trying to understand the way that you're judged other than 'WHY DON'T THEY LIKE ME?'. Now we can say 'hey, that was a little more fair than in the 6.0 system'. I actually feel like I've grown to like and get used to this system. As for today's skaters, that's all they know so they have to like it.

Q: Who are your three favourite skaters of all time and why?

A: Definitely Janet Lynn and Robin Cousins. I would have to say that I have three more skaters I also really admired through my career. They were Charlie Tickner, Robert Wagenhoffer and Lisa-Marie Allen. Make that four. And Peggy Fleming! Those are 'my group'. I was really taken by the people that could just stand there and command the audience's attention with just one push... or just by standing there. Robin and Lisa-Marie both did that: 'Here I am and look at me'. The length, the body and the power within that exuded in their performances and skating quality was just great. Those are my idols.

Q: With the Sochi Olympics already underway, the U.S. looks really ready to contend with one of its strongest teams yet. Of the current crop of U.S. skaters, who do you think are America's best medal contenders?

A: I would have to say Meryl and Charlie for sure. I feel that Gracie Gold could do well as well. I know Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds are very strong but we also have the Russian girls, Yuna Kim, Mao Asada, Carolina Kostner. It's anyone's night. The ladies field in Boston was so strong and the ladies field at the Olympics is so strong too. It's so hard to say. With the men, Jeremy Abbott is just beautiful. I love his skating. It's going to be so tough though. Look at Patrick Chan - he's amazing. I honestly don't know who's going to be on the medal stand. I haven't really been up on the pairs so I can't speak on that level. Of course you want the U.S. skaters to do well though. You want those U.S. skaters on that podium! I haven't been watching everything that's going on. I haven't seen Europeans yet and there are so many strong skaters coming out of Europe too. It's going to be a very exciting year.

Q: What's one thing about you most people don't know?

A: At the Battle Of The Sexes competition, the prize was a motorcycle and when the women won, nobody else wanted the motorcycle. I was like 'Are you guys crazy? I'm taking it!'. And I did. I won it for a year then I decided to buy it after that year. It's a 1997 Heritage Springer Softail Harley Davidson and I love to ride. I also play tennis all year round and have been playing golf for twenty five years.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to every skater in the world, what would it be?

A: Well, I think for me honestly... you have to just keep working hard. Passion and love for the sport definitely pulls you through but the fact that when you get through not only the best but the hard times, when you continue to try to strive through that it really pays off. It's going to be hard and tough at times. You think you can't do it anymore then you push through it. Those are the times to keep continually keep believing in yourself. Hard work will pay off in the end. Never give up and remember the reasons why you started to skate. In the end it will pay off.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":