When American ice dancer Jean-Luc Baker suffered a concussion during preseason training in August, his season with partner Kaitlin Hawayek could easily have gone off the rails. They lost training time and weren’t able to compete before their first Grand Prix event of the season, NHK Trophy in Japan in November.
But instead, after a careful recovery, the team went on to have a breakout season on the Grand Prix, winning gold at NHK and qualifying for their first Grand Prix Final.
“Once we were able to start training again, it was training as quick as possible to get ready for NHK, then we had [Internationeaux de] France a week later, and the next thing you know, we made the Final,” Baker said.
While it was a huge breakthrough for the team—who have twice finished fourth (2018, 2015) and fifth (2017, 2016) at U.S. Nationals—it meant that the first half of their season was a whirlwind. They didn’t have time to hunker down with their new coaching team in Montreal (the formidable trio of Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, and Romain Haguenauer) to refine their programs until after the Final in December.
“We’re really excited to show the improvements since the Grand Prix Final,” Hawayek said in the team’s media teleconference ahead of the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. “One big takeaway was the importance of the quality of the elements that we do, and how a single increase of a GOE for an element can boost your score up a lot. We’ve been working on the quality of our elements, so some elements, we changed a little bit to increase the quality and cleanliness. Others we haven’t changed, but we’ve worked on increasing the quality and the cleanliness as well.”……… read more here