Messing Makes Canadian Olympic Figure Skating Team
By Marc Donadieu
Glacier City Gazette
Girdwood’s Keegan Messing earned a silver medal at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Vancouver, British Columbia.
In February, he will compete for Canada in the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea. Messing’s dual citizenship allows him to compete for the Canadian National Team.
Girdwood’s soon-to-be Olympian spoke with the Gazette to discuss recent achievements.
GCG: What have the past few days been like for you?
Messing: The past few days have been an absolute whirlwind. It’s one thing after the other.
GCG: You had a pretty big weekend. What can you say about it?
Messing: I tried to take one thing at a time. It all seemed to work out in the end. The short program was a little rough. I was going for the quad toe triple toe combination, which was one of the hardest elements to be thrown. I ended up taking off a little funny, so I missed the rotation on the first jump. I put in the triple toe right after it. I was scrounging for points on the short form. I ended up placing third and putting up enough of a score to keep me in contention for the Olympic team.
For the long program, Canadian skater Elladj Baldé skated right before me. He is a long time, good friend of mine. It’s his last year skating at Nationals. He’s retiring. He skated before me and just completely rocked it! I watched the last half of his program.
I was getting pretty nervous coming up to my free skate because it’s Olympic trials. I just had to perform and was getting in my own way. When I saw him skate, he was performing. I forgot about myself. I was pulling for him. I was clapping and cheering him on like everybody else. It was a fantastic moment.
I got on the ice feeling great at that point. All my nerves were washed away. This is just a show. It’s just a fun competition. There’s no need to get worked up. I went out in my program and just took one element at a time, fought for everything and gave the audience a show.
GCG: How have you developed as a skater in the past two years?
Messing: I’ve been able to calm my skating down a little bit and gain much better control over it, which has done a lot for me in the component scores. If you watch the video, the commentators were really commenting on that part, the growth of my skating. Everybody was impressed how I was able to reign in my skating, keep the exciting part of it and make it look more controlled out on the ice.
GCG: What do you attribute that growth to?
Messing: A lot of it goes to my new choreographer Lance Vipond. He put both of the programs together that I’m skating right now. They’ve worked fantastically for me. He’s tough on me. He’s calling me and having us send him videos and having him send us videos just to work on problem areas in the program, just to make everything perfect. He doesn’t accept anything that’s not perfect. It’s putting me to a higher standard. That extra challenge really helped.
GCG: How do you deal with nerves and the mental aspect of skating?
Messing: Going into Skate Canada Grand Prix this year, I got very nervous, and I didn’t skate very well in the long program. I went from a decent spot in the short to eighth place overall in the long. I asked the Skate Canada veteran skaters, ‘What do you do when you get nervous? How do you guys deal with the nerves?’ They said, ‘You realize you’re getting nervous, what are you going to do about it?’ Ok, I’m nervous. Accept it. Make it a challenge. That’s something I’ve applied to my skating this year. So far it has worked at the NHK Trophy in the Japan Grand Prix and at Nationals.
GCG: How important is confidence in skating competitions?
Messing: Confidence is probably 80 percent of what we do out there. Between the edges that we step on, take offs, you have to have this complete confidence in yourself, and confidence in your equipment to do some of the moves we are attempting out there. I’m not even talking about jumps at this point.
You have to have complete confidence in yourself to step on an edge and have absolute confidence that it will be there and it will react the way you know it will react and not have a doubt that something will go wrong. If you have any sort of doubt, you’re going to mess up.
GCG: What are you looking forward to at PyeongChang?
Messing: I don’t even know what to look forward to at this point. It’s so big. It’s such a prestigious event. I’ve been dreaming about this as long as I can remember. Just the fact that I can say I’m going to the Olympics is unbelievable. It really hasn’t hit me yet. Everybody is congratulating me, and I feel amazing at this point. The phrase ‘living the dream,’ I’ve never understood it as well as I do now. I don’t think it’s going to hit me until I walk into that stadium, see the rings and feel the moment.
GCG: What does it mean to you to represent Canada in the Olympics?
Messing: It means quite a lot to me. My great, great grandfather was the first Japanese immigrant into Canada. His name is Manzo Nagano. My mother is Canadian. My grandmother is Canadian.
I’ve always wanted to skate for Canada, to be able to put on the maple leaf and represent Canada. When I switched over to Canada, they supported me more than the U.S. ever did. It’s an amazing feeling. I’m so proud to represent.
GCG: What does this Olympic honor mean to your mother and grandmother in Girdwood?
Messing: I don’t even know if they could put it into words. When I was up onstage and they were presenting the team with the Olympic jackets and announcing the team, I couldn’t even make eye contact with my mom or else I would have started bawling. It was such a long journey. It was such a hard journey. It’s so unbelievable.