Okotoks skater lands on podium at nationals
Figure skating: Thomas Williams and partner Nicole Orford hoping for invite to Worlds
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013 06:00 am
An alumnus of the Okotoks Figure Skating Club felt he had a slight stumble towards the end of his final skate, but thankfully it was not enough to keep him off the podium.
Okotoks’ Thomas Williams regained his balance and landed on the podium at the Canadian National Figure Skating championships in Mississauga, ON on Jan. 20.
Williams and his skating partner of three years, Nicole Orford, finished third in the National Figure Skating Championships in the ice-dance competition.
“I had one little stumble near the end but it wasn’t very noticeable,” Williams said. “I noticed it obviously.”
If the judges did notice, it didn’t show too much on the duo’s score. The pair was rewarded a score of 91.04 — good enough to secure them the bronze medal.
Williams and Orford went into the free-dance sitting in fourth place, 4.5 points behind Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam.
The 21-year-old Williams and his partner skated before Paul and Islam hit the ice for the free-dance, so he wasn’t getting his hopes up too high in regards to winning a medal.
“They had a really good lead — 4.5 points is a lot in the free-dance,” Williams said. “When we got off the ice Nicole and I were backstage looking at a laptop that tells you the details of the score we got. There was also a TV that showed the skating and out of the corner of our eyes we noticed (Paul and Islam) went down. So we stopped and watched.”
Williams was calculating figures like a NASA rocket scientist, but he didn’t believe the fall would move him into third.
“We were waiting for about five or six minutes but it seemed like forever,” said Williams, who grew up in Okotoks and still has family in the area. “When they put up their scores, Nicole and I hugged. It was unbelievable.”
Their combined score in the short-dance and free-dance of 152.56 put them .83 points ahead of Paul and Islam for the bronze medal.
Williams and Orford ended up standing side by side on the podium with the Canadian champions, Tessa Virtue and Scott Muir, the 2010 Olympic gold medalists in Vancouver.
“It was funny, when we were on the podium they accidently started to put the gold medal around my neck,” Williams said with a laugh. “I didn’t notice — someone else did and Scott joked: ‘What are you doing? Trying to take away my medal?’ He’s really a nice guy.”
There’s a reason why top skaters like Williams and Moir share a kinship. They have all been through the countless hours of practice for the four minutes of competition in one of the biggest pressure cookers in all of sport.
Williams and Orford were back at practice in Vancouver, Jan. 23, after arriving in B.C. early in the morning from Ontario due to a flight delay.
When Williams and Orford completed the biggest skate of their careers they looked at each other in the eyes and said “Thank-you.”
It’s just a natural thing to do, according to Orford.
“You couldn’t succeed without the other,” Orford said. “You’re thanking them for being there the whole way through and supporting each other.”
She said the duo has evolved over the past three years.
“The first year, we were two skaters skating at the same time,” Orford said. “Now we are two skaters who are skating as one.”
She said Williams sharing the same drive as she does, makes the pair compatible.
“I don’t want to feel like I am pulling someone along with me,” Orford said, who admitted, ironically, Williams is literally pulling her along during her performance.
Their third-place finish means they have qualified for the Four Continents championships in Japan this February. They are also sitting on pins and needles to see if they will be picked for Team Canada at the World championships in London, ON in March.
Moir and Virtue and Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, who finished second at nationals, have already been selected. Williams said the third spot is likely slotted for Kaitlyn Weaver and Alexander Poje, who finished fourth at the World championships in 2012. Weaver could not compete at the Canadian championships in Mississauga, because of a broken leg.
As a result, Williams and Orford are like Stamps’ back-up quarterback Kevin Glenn, they know they could be thrown into the spotlight at any time.
“They are trying to get ready for Worlds, but if they aren’t ready we are likely going to be invited,” Williams said. “We have to continue to train like we are going to Worlds. Even if they (Weaver/Poje) get invited, they might not have enough time to train. We might get the phone call two days before Worlds.
Both Williams and Orford are focused on the Four Continents in Japan in February. He admits competing in the Games in 2014 in Sochi, Russia is on the back of his mind.
“We obviously have goals of making the Olympics, there is nothing that is higher in this sport,” Williams said. “It is in the back of our minds, but right now we have to focus on this year.”
At 21 and 20 Williams and Orford could possibly consider the 2018 Olympics.
“That is along ways way,” Williams said with a laugh. “I don’t even think we have talked about it.”
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