Olympian Rudi Swiegers took a break from competing after performing at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 with former partner Paige Lawrence. After living the thrill of the Winter Olympics, Swiegers felt the need to live a normal life for a while.
Less than a year later, he was eager to get back on the ice and do what he is good at; skating. Leaving Virden, Manitoba to do a trial in Calgary with potential partners in December 2014, Rudi notes; "I was amazed by what coaches Cody Hay and Annabelle Langlois had to offer, both pairs skaters who competed at the 2010 Winter Olympics. After seeing all the services that Skate Canada partnered with the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary were offering, I knew I wanted to train and compete again".
Rudi tried out with a few different skaters, but the chemistry happened with Hayleigh Bell, an 18 year old from Acton, Ontario. Bell moved to Calgary 2 years ago, for the training opportunities and the partner potential, as Calgary is now part of Skate Canada's National Performance Centre Network. When she tried out with Rudi in December, she knew this was her chance to do pair skating again. Rudi committed to Calgary in February, and the partnership began shortly after.
Their first meet as a pair will be in Thornhill, Ontario for the Summer Skate competition in mid-August. This is the first competition that is monitored by Skate Canada. Their goal is to secure a spot on the Grand Prix Circuit and a Top 5 at Nationals.
Hayleigh and Rudi recognize that they have a lot of work to do in order to be ready. The excitement is in their eyes as they talk about training. "Our focus is on technical training", Rudi says. The joy is obvious when Hayleigh starts talking about the throws, the twists and the lifts, which are her favourite elements in pairs skating.
They will build the choreography for the technical and the free program soon. They have weekly goals to fast track their progression. Rudi's is mentoring Hayleigh in the process. Rudi wants to be back in the top 5 at Nationals to secure the ranking on the National team. This would be a first time for Hayleigh.
For Hayleigh, this is a golden experience to skate with someone with experience and podium finishes. Rudi on his side believes that it's a new chapter with new goals and challenges. "It is exciting to be back on the ice in a new environment. We want to learn and grow as a team for the season."
Annabelle Langlois, co-head coach of the pairs program
"From their first tryout back in December, you could see that they had an ease on the ice together and that they both felt very comfortable around each other, something that's very important for any pair team."
Cody Hay, co-head Coach of the pairs program
"Watching them skate right from the get go, their speed and power was impressive, they have a great relationship and work really well as a team which has allowed elements to gel really quickly."
Rudi Swiegers, Olympian 2014 "I'm really excited to be coming on this new journey with Hayleigh, we are really comfortable together and we are achieving a lot on a day-to-day basis."
For media inquiries please contact Anabelle Langlois 1.587.435.0253
Written by: Elise Marcotte, Communications Lead Canadian Sport Institute Calgary
Photo by Dave Holland: @csicalgaryphoto