After the music stopped and the program was over, Jean-Luc Baker, down on one knee, gave a smile and a small fist pump before turning his head toward his partner Kaitlin Hawayek, who had her face buried in her hands in an expression of pure joy. Baker, a native of Edmonds, and Hawayek had just completed their free dance in the ice dancing competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and the crowd at the SAP Center in San Jose, California, was on its feet in appreciation.
“I looked at (Hawayek) when we were bowing and thought, ‘This is why we’re doing this,’” Baker said in a phone interview from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where he and Hawayek are based. “The whole arena was on its feet and everyone was as invested as we were. It was so thrilling to prove to ourselves that no matter what one experience does to you, you can still overcome.”
Not only did the moment serve as redemption from a year earlier, it also served as a possible pointer to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.
The 24-year-old Baker, a 2012 graduate of Kamiak High School in Edmonds, and the 21-year-old Hawayek, who hails from East Aurora, New York, first became a team in 2012. They immediately found success together, going on to win the gold medal at the 2014 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. During their six years together they’ve formed a close-knit bond that’s allowed them to deal with the challenges that come from competing at the highest level…… read more here