A champion skater struggles and resets life away from rink


TORONTO — For the better part of two decades, Kaetlyn Osmond knew exactly what she’d be doing every day. Her world was figure skating.

She retired last May and hasn’t competed since winning gold at the 2018 world championships. And while she’s at peace with her decision, the months since haven’t been all that smooth.

“It was a big change,” Osmond said. “Not having the rink to go to every day — the rink was a safe spot for me. Skating was my job, it was my hobby, it was all my friends, it was just a great place for me to be. And I knew exactly what my purpose was every single day.

“Losing that was a lot harder than I was expecting it to be. I didn’t have a team of 15 people telling me where to be and what to do. I had to figure that out on my own. And it felt like I had to grow up really quickly.”

The 24-year-old Osmond is Canada’s most decorated female skater, with three Olympic medals and two world championship medals. But she has faced some demons and has been an open about them on social media.

“When I retired I realized I was having a lot more issues than expected, some with body image, some with just confusion and not knowing which way to go,” she said.

On Instagram a few months ago, Osmond said the prospect of starting a new life was daunting.

“I was terrified and angry,” she said. “I hated the way I looked and the way I felt. Feeling like the minute I saw the people I would be touring with, they would want nothing to do with me.”

Her social media posts began “very selfishly,” she said. “I just wanted to rant and get it off my chest.” But people reached out to her, and she realized she wants “to be a voice.”

“I want to continue that and hope to keep people positive, not even in the athletic world but just young female and young athletes in general,” she said.

Osmond certainly isn’t alone in battling body image issues. According to Canada’s National Eating Disorder Information Centre, female athletes in esthetic sports — figure skating, dance, gymnastics — were found to be at the highest risk for eating disorders. Those in weight-class sports such as wrestling and endurance sports such as distance running were also at elevated risk.

Among female skaters who have been vocal about eating disorders are Canada’s Gabrielle Daleman, who won bronze at the 2017 world championships in Finland, where Osmond captured silver, American Gracie Gold and Russia’s Yulia Lipnitskaya.

“You’re put in the spotlight quite a bit,” Osmond said. “We’re also in a judged sport, which is an incredible thing because it makes it very unique. But I’ve been literally put in front of judges since I was 4 years old so it’s hard to get that aspect out of my mind. The feeling of being continuously judged is definitely there. That being said, I don’t regret anything I did, I love everything about skating.”

Osmond has been busy in retirement. Apart from skating in the cross-Canada Rock the Rink Tour last fall, she performed in Stars on Ice and tours in Switzerland and South Korea. She’s does coaching seminars and has started a development camp in Newfoundland.

Next week, the Canadian championships are in Mississauga, Ontario. Osmond won her first national title at that rink, and as a young girl she watched her older sister compete there. She calls it “a very special place” for her.

“I’m excited to be able to go there,” she said, “and see who’s going to have that special moment again there.”

The Associated Press