Article by Francesca S. | Photos by Melanie Heaney & Robin Ritoss
Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz graciously set down with Team IDC’s Francesca in late April after their practice at their training base Centre Gadbois.
IDC: Let’s recap the past season, which was a rollercoaster for your team. You had some impressive showings: fourth after the SD at Skate Canada, you won Spanish Nationals, and you ended the season just outside the top 10 at Worlds. Yet, you missed qualifying for the Olympics. Talk us through the emotions, how you motivated yourself after missing the Olympic team to keep training for Worlds, and how the strong end to the season set yourself up for the next one.
Adrian: We were ready, trained and prepared to get the Olympic spot. But sometimes things happen in life, for a reason. At the beginning it was hard to accept, the first month of training after the decision was tough, but we supported each other. After that month everything went back to normal, people came back from the Olympics, and we kept training again together for Worlds. It was hard during the Games not being there, but we watched the ice dance event.
Olivia: I said I was not going to watch, but then I did. It was on the cable at 9pm, and I knew everyone was going to watch, I’m glad I did. It was a good event.
Adrian: We did all we could do to qualify, and we felt good. Wwe are proud of what we did and we couldn’t control what happened after. The difference between our scores [with Hurtado/Khalyavin] was minimal, and the decision was taken according to criteria that the federation had decided beforehand.
Olivia: Everyone in the skating world knows what happened in Zagreb [the investigation and subsequent resignation of a judge of the ice dance event]. We didn’t take it lightly, but we didn’t want to cause any more conflict. Things like these can happen in skating and unfortunately they happened to us. That gave us motivation for Worlds and to prove that we could have been the ones at the Games, and set ourselves up for the next four years and the next Games.
Adrian: It felt so good to have a good competition at Worlds afterwards. We felt so light, it’s a feeling that all of the skaters want, to finish the season with two good performances, season best, good scores.
Olivia: It was a positive relief finish. I never had that feeling at the end of a competition before. We felt like we deserved to celebrate.
Adrian: And that was after two months of not competing, we thought it was going to feel awkward after not competing for a while, but it went well.
Olivia: We were more relaxed than other teams, as we didn’t do Euros or the Olympics, which I think benefitted us. Score-wise and placement-wise we had no expectations, so we were happy when we got our scores.
IDC: This will be your third season together. How has your partnership evolved up to this point? Where do you feel like you have grown, and what are you still working on?
Adrian: Our relationship changed a lot. I feel like I am skating with a very mature partner by the way she reacts to certain situations, this has been the biggest change from the beginning. I think we are ready to compete with the top teams who have been together for long. I feel like the intention and the effort has turned it into a professional and serious relationship.
Olivia: The relationship does not feel forced at all, both on the ice and off the ice. It comes naturally and we get along really well. We have taken the same direction and the same mentality for our career; we are on the same page. I feel like I have grown personally a lot in the three years, and the one person who sees that as much as Adrian is my mom, even if we don’t leave in the same country. I used to feel like the baby of the group, but it doesn’t feel weird anymore being around the top skaters. I am shocked to think it’s ‘only’ three years, it feels like it has been a lot longer. Other people have said that to us, and that’s the best compliment. We have other things we want to work on and develop for the future, but we have a good basis.
Adrian: Actually we have a four year plan, or else I’d be in Barcelona in the sun, but yes, it’s a clear, respectful and mature partnership. There is nothing extra.
IDC: Tell us a bit about the programs from the past season. I can say your short dance was one of the most fun and entertaining ones, you both looked very comfortable with the choreography. What did you think of the Latin rhythms, and was it hard to get the levels on the Rhumba?
Olivia: Actually, we got a lot of level 4s at competitions, but in training, the Rhumba was up and down. It was harder to please the coaches, as their expectations were very high. They are very picky, but this is what gets the best out of their teams. The week before Worlds we were working at it a bit more, but I remember being so happy at Worlds when we saw level 4 on the screen and Marie [Dubreuil] was smiling. But overall, Latin was really fun. We were excited at the beginning of the season and worked a lot off-ice with our ballroom teacher Gigi [Ginette Cournoyer].
Adrian: Finding music was a little harder, but then we started with tango and realized Latin music was very easy. Before choosing the music, I did not picture it how we ended up doing it. I thought it would be more different, maybe more classic, but after we chose the music it was a lot of fun, especially the last part. The coaches were not very convinced about the more ‘disco’ part, but it’s a big difference just listening to the music compared to when you see it on the ice. It was really fun to skate, especially with a big crowd.
IDC: Tell us about your free dance. What is the idea/story behind it, who came up with it, who choreographed it? Also, how did you come up with the first spectacular lift (where Olivia is upside down on Adrian’s back) that always draws an audience reaction?
Olivia: Marie played that song at the rink [“It’s a Man’s World”] and skipped over it. We said we liked it, but she was not convinced. We kept listening to it for a week or two and going back to her, as we had fallen in love with it more and more.
Adrian: And then we texted her one night to tell her that we really wanted it, and finally we convinced her.
Olivia: And then she was looking for something to mix it, which was the hardest part. Marie and Patch [Lauzon] found lots of old school blues pieces by female vocalists, and then Marie played the Aretha Franklin song, telling us it was a well known piece, but we had never heard it. So, then I played it to my mom and my grandma, and they of course knew it and loved it. When we played the two songs together, there was too much of a contrast between Seal’s modern song with Aretha Franklin’s old- fashioned one. So we looked for a modern version of it, and we found the current one from “The Voice” by Amanda Brown. When we chose the music, we didn’t get the story right away—it wasn’t until we started to work on the choreography. We then took the idea of a program about the equality between man and woman, listened to the lyrics, and they added up well together. The first piece is more of a powerful piece for Adrian, strong but vulnerable, then the linking piece in between is more about finding each other and the equality between us. The last piece is about the woman being happy with him, he makes her feel strong, really empowering.
Adrian: The lift was something we tried the year before on ice and off-ice, I remember Olivia came up with this idea.
Olivia: I had this idea that we tried in our first year off-ice and was working great, but on the ice, it was not working. Then the new season started and we remembered about the old lift, tried it, and it happened super easily. We had the lift first, even before we found the music, and we knew it was going to go at the beginning. We didn’t even have to think about it, even before Marie said anything, it was fitting perfectly.
IDC: Can you already share something about next season’s programs? Do you have any music selected or ideas?
Adrian: We wish we could tell you something, but we are still talking with the coaches. We are still deciding about a style for the free dance and once it’s done, we will look for the actual music.
Olivia: So far the coaches are agreeing on the style, but Marie sees us with one thing, Patch sees with another thing. It’s good, because it gives us more variety, but now that we spoke to the coaches about the style, we at least know what to look for and are excited to start searching. It’s nice to hear what the coaches think when they see us skate or when they listen to a piece.
Adrian: For the short dance, well, we know it’s a tango… we may have something, but we are still working on it. There is less variety of choice than with Latin, but we also have the option to mix it with another style if we want.
Olivia: We are taking our time, we are not stressed about it.
IDC: It’s been a long time since the tango was the chosen pattern (for either compulsory or short dance). Did any of you already compete it in juniors? How are you going to approach learning a new pattern together? Are you looking forward to this rhythm?
Adrian: I competed the Argentine Tango, but I have never done the Romantica. Now, we are still trying to remember the steps while skating. But it’s interesting, there are lots of changes of holds and positions. I prefer this rather than the Rhumba, which was always in Kilian hold.
Olivia: I’m excited for us to do tango together. Actually, I had never done any of the pattern dances we have skated together so far.
Adrian: Patch and Romain [Hagenauer] are teaching us the steps. Marie at the moment is busy with choreography, but later she will add her own flavor and help with arms, heads, etc.
Olivia: It’s been fun to learn together with the other teams and to be on the ice with everyone.
Adrian: Yeah, [laughing] seeing other people falling on certain steps and knowing we have to look out for those.
IDC: Are you actively following the changes to the scoring system and the introduction of the new rules, or do your coaches figure everything out for you? What do you think about some new features introduced by the Rhythm Dance for next year, e.g. the Choreographic Sliding Element, Choreographic Character Step Sequence?
Adrian: We went to the meeting at Worlds, but we didn’t see the whole thing. We know there will be changes, but the coaches are doing the study. If we have a question while trying out new things, we’ll ask them. I’m looking forward to see what people bring with these new features.
Olivia: I have pain in so many places I didn’t think it was possible from trying out new things, but it’s exciting to see something different.
Adrian: I left the rink for a few days with my underwear completely wet… [general laughter and discussion on whether this should be the clickbait interview title]. I mean, I have a hard time seeing someone with a costume sliding on the wet ice.
Olivia: The step sequence seems cool so far. We were making jokes about everyone doing it on a warm-up at the same time, as you can’t predict the pattern and you don’t know where the other skaters are going. But it’s gonna be fun seeing how original we can all get.
IDC: Dancer/choreographer Sam Chouinard is an important part of your team. How is it to work with a someone from outside the skating world, what does he add to the choreography? What’s the off-ice work that you are doing with him?
Adrian: We worked with him for two seasons on both programs, they are very different. He hears beats where they don’t exist, I think he’s making them up.
Olivia: Yes, he worked on our SD this year and we had a shimmy before the diagonal steps on a part where nobody heard a beat. He asked us to do a shimmy on this beat, and we were like… where? But now that he did choreography on it, we can’t unhear it.
Adrian: He brings good energy, a good vibe even at 7:30 a.m. He learned to skate, and now he’s on the ice with us, he makes us work hard. He also records us so we get to see ourselves and our movements step by step.
Olivia: He does something different with everyone’s program. He worked with us on our contemporary FD the first year and then the blues this year. He had a big impact on both our programs.
Adrian: He’s from outside the ice skating world, so sometimes he asks for things that we don’t know if they are going to translate on the ice, so we just have to try. Sometimes we can’t do it on skates, but other times we find out new cool things.
Olivia: But this happens in ballroom too, it is very different to take things on the ice. I’m taking dance classes sometimes on my own because I really enjoy it. We are really good friends with him off the ice the ice so sometimes we just hang out and dance. He really has his own style.
IDC: Olivia, you switched from your native country Great Britain to represent Spain. How has the Spanish skating world welcomed you?
Olivia: At the beginning, a lot of people asked me if I was comfortable leaving. I was looking for a new partner after the split [with former partner Joseph Buckland], and I started to look abroad. as it’s really hard to find someone from your own country. But I had no doubts switching to Spain with Adrian. They have been very welcoming, and we received lots of help getting the passport, so I was really convinced they wanted us in the team. I get along with everyone as if I had know them for years in the federation. Dani Delfa has been a big part of our career together and he helped us a lot. He was the team leader at a few competitions. It’s a small federation, and that’s what’s best about it, looking at the big feds seems stressful. In our federation, we are like a little family, it’s very personal, we are closer, Nationals are a lot of fun. We also had had Celia [Robledo] and Luis [Fenero] traveling with us and competing with us as a team early on when we partnered up. It was nice to have them along. I always remember them from the beginning; they were very welcoming with me.
IDC: Adrian, how has skating in Spain changed since you started, with the increasing popularity of Javier Fernandez?
Adrian: It’s a long time since I have been there to see. It has gotten better on social media, TV, news, and with the results that Javi [Fernandez] has achieved, there has been increased exposure, but still not enough. Soccer, basketball, and other sports still take the biggest part in the news and get more financial help. I hope the project that Javi has in Spain with seminars and shows is going to help bringing people to skate, and put a dream in kids’ minds to become like Javi, but so far, none of us Spanish skaters trains in Spain. We all train abroad (Canada, Italy, Russia). In Spain, we need more rinks, more coaches, etc, so I think what Javi can do after his career can be that, that will make a difference.
IDC: What are your favorite programs from other skaters in the last few seasons? Both in ice dance and other disciplines.
Adrian: Wow, you should have texted us that question last night!
Olivia: Yeah, we would have been on YouTube!
Adrian: The free skate of Vanessa [James] and Morgan [Cipres] (“Sound of Silence”), from last year’s World Team Trophy. I loved the choreography and how they skated, and they are great people.
Olivia: Aliona [Savchenko] and Bruno’s[Massot] free program, “La terre vue du ciel.” I can only watch it so many times, I still have the chills.
Adrian: I didn’t even mention it because I’d kill whoever says they don’t like it!
Olivia: Yeah, I don’t know [anyone] who does not like it. I also liked Javi’s and Nathan’s short programs [Fernandez’s “Charlie Chaplin” and Chen’s “Nemesis”]. We had seen the same piece of music from Nathan used before by our training mates Marjorie [Lajoie] and Zach [Lagha] in their free dance. I loved that music, but it’s cool to see it on a single skater.
Adrian: I agree on Nathan. And from previous seasons, Madi [Hubbell] and Zach’s [Donohue] “Hallelujah” 2015/2016 short dance. [We all agreed on this one.] Oh and the exhibition of Super Javi, that’s very entertaining! Now I have to think of ladies…
Olivia: I have to mention Ashley Wagner’s “Sweet Dreams” [2016/2017 SP], I watched that on YouTube so many times, super fun. I want to be entertained by a skater, unfortunately I am not a classical person. It doesn’t entertain me if I can’t feel the emotions all the way through. They really have to show some deep emotions, like Gabi [Papadakis] and Guillaume [Cizeron]. I can watch them doing classical because they are insane skaters and the intricacy of movements and emotions that they show is what draws you in.
IDC: What are you best competition memories together, of the fans, cities, atmosphere, teammates, etc.? Any stories or adventures to share?
Olivia: [laughs] well… one of my favourite memories is so sad. I have to say, this year after Spanish Nationals when we went to our hotel rooms and we both got emotional because we were upset [when they did not qualify for the Olympics]. We just laid on the bed, and it kills me to see a man crying, and we were both there crying in sync, and I will never forget that. I feel like that’s where we really connected. It’s a sad memory, but it was in a way uplifting after.
Adrian: Oh, I’m not embarrassed to say that I cried. The best memory for me on the ice was the free dance at Worlds, as we already said.
Olivia: It was an out of body experience, that’s why I watched the video a lot after. Even the feeling before the free dance, it was a very calm feeling. We had to wait because they were reviewing the scores of the Polish team, that took longer than what we are used to, but I was not nervous. I was taking my time, the crowd was making noises and Adrian squeezed my hands and said, “Look into my eyes,” and that was a nice feeling going into the program.
Adrian: Other memories are the two days we spent in Barcelona to do the paperwork for Olivia’s passport. That was an intense time, driving up and down with a scooter going from the police, the mayor, etc. It was stressful and new, but we made it a lot of fun.
Olivia: That was an adventure in itself. I had never been to Barcelona, it was nice to spend time with Adrian’s family at the end of the day…
Adrian: at the end of the night! It was almost 1 am when we finished.
Olivia: He showed me around, we saw fireworks, and then the Olympics rings showed up and we all got excited, I remember his mom tapped me on the shoulder to look up. The only competition we really went out was in Milan when we walked around Milan with Madi and Zach at the cathedral, with all the pigeons. Also the banquet at Milan Worlds, getting all dressed up… to be with Laura [Barquero] and Aritz [Maestu], our pairs team [Barquero&Maestu], [Javier] Raya.. We were the biggest Spanish team we’ve ever had, and it was a nice feeling to sit at the table with them and feeling good. And we have lots more memories to create!
IDC: Now something about your partner: what’s…
– Your favourite thing about them:
[awkward silence.. they are thinking hard! … laughter]
Olivia: His humor on the ice. Even in the most serious situations, he’ll say something that he might not even mean to be funny and we’d have a blast. We have a connected humor, and we make each other laugh. He keeps things light on the ice, even when we are both in bad mood we cheer each other up.
Adrian: Yes, my favourite parts are those moments, even in days when we work hard, we can have those fun and joyful moments together.
– A pet peeve about them:
Olivia: Adrian can catch me if I’m acting in a certain way or I’m in a certain mood even before I do, he knows me too well. Oh and he blames his gray hair on me, even though he has a fiancée and a girl dog!
Adrian: I spend a lot of time with you too, even more than with Madi! Nothing really bothers me about people, but it hurts my ear when Olivia says “me and Adrian” instead of “Adrian and I,” but I know you don’t say it anymore now.
Olivia: No, because every time I write it I think, “Oh, Adrian would kill me.”
Adrian: I’m the first one who doesn’t speak English properly, but when you are a kid and they correct you certain things, you don’t forget them. Maybe my mom slapped my face and said, “never again!” [joking].
Olivia: I remember writing an Instagram post when we were announcing our music, and sending it to you and Madi to proofread it, and I am a native speaker.
– Something that people may not know about them:
Olivia: Adrian is vegan! He followed Madi, but it’s hard for a Spanish, no chorizo, no jamòn.
Adrian: [laughing] I had no choice, she’s the one who cooks! So, people may not know… that Olivia went to a sit down massage in underwear!
Olivia: Oh my God!
Adrian: She forgot to bring shorts!
Olivia: We have this masseur who does sit down massage in a chair instead of lying down on a bed. He texted me to remind me to bring shorts, but I was already on my way and it was a Sunday, so I couldn’t go buy some. So, I’m meeting this guy for the first time for the massage, just in my underwear, and he gives me this tiny towel. Now I check that I am bringing shorts all the time.
IDC: Both of you have dogs with popular Instagram accounts (@pugglebrothersx for Jaxon and Duke, Olivia’s puggles, and @supernovadh for Nova, Adrian’s pomsky). How do you manage them with your training/competition schedule and what’s the funniest thing they’ve done recently?
Adrian: When both Madi and I are at competitions, we have a girl who takes care of Nova. She lives in the forest, and Nova does races with her son and plays with other dogs. Yesterday, Madi left for Stars on Ice, Nova was barking the whole day at her because she knew she was leaving, and then she went to the windows to watch her going out, and moved to the balcony to follow her leaving. It was sad, but also interesting to see how much she understands.
Olivia: For me, two dogs are easier than one, with our lifestyle being out for hours training, they have each other to play with. It’s also been easier with the two of them growing up together and learning from each other. There’s a great girl who takes care of them when I’m away and takes them to the doggy day care to play with other dogs. When I came back from vacation after Worlds, they were exhausted because they played the whole time. They have been really calm the past couple of weeks, maybe because they reached a certain age when it happens. They have been enjoying the sun laying on the balcony the whole day, it’s gotten a lot easier. I love coming home at the end of the day. They are there waiting for me. I have grown up with dogs and I can’t imagine it any different.
The funniest thing they have done recently… Kaitlin Hawayek is staying with me right now. We are really good friends and she loves dogs. The dogs were outside on the balcony one morning and Kaitlin had just woken up and opened her door, and they ran straight from the balcony, down the stairs, into the room. One of them jumped onto the bed, but the other one slid right into the bed. They are super hyper with someone new, and they are clumsy.
IDC: Montréal is a lively city with a lot to offer. What do you guys like to do in your free time and do you spend time with any of your training mates?
Adrian: In the winter, we don’t do much. In the summer, usually we walk with Nova along the canal Lachine and go to Atwater market. I also like to bike on the path along the canal.
Olivia: I always look forward to summers in Montréal, the sun puts me in a good mood. I’m a big music fan, it’s good to be in a city with a lot of options: Jazz festival, Piknic Electronik, Osheaga… it’s nice to go out, sit in parks in the sun and listen to music. And in the summer, I used to take the dogs everywhere with me. We usually hang out with our significant others, but we are friendly with a lot of the skaters, in the summer we all hang out more together. I’ve gotten closer with Laurence [Fournier-Beaudry] and Nik [Sorensen], and we also did a lot of competitions with Shane [Firus] and Carol [Soucisse]. We all live close and we all have dogs, so we go to the dog park together like old people and stand and watch our kids run around. I’m good friends with Kaitlin [Hawayek] and Jean-Luc [Baker], who just moved to Montréal, so it’s gonna be nice having them around.
IDC: Adrian, you recently got engaged to Madison Hubbell. Congrats! Would you like to share something about the proposal, and is there a date/location for the wedding?
There is no date yet, it could be in the next four years or it could be after. Our intention is to have it both in Spain and the US. I had it in mind since before the Games. I had talked about it with Madi before and it made sense to move forward in our relationship. We already lived together, and we do everything together, so there’s not a big difference. I wanted to do it in Barcelona, since I am from there and she likes the city a lot. It’s a place I’m sure we can go and remember in the future. I doubted a little bit about where to do it exactly, but finally I did, and I don’t think she expected it.
IDC: Are you taking a break this summer and if so, what are your holiday plans?
Adrian: We took two weeks after Worlds. We will probably take another week during the summer but we have no plans yet.
Olivia: It was nice to be more relaxed this time, not having to think about music right away. Now we are getting back into things, we’ll take some time off before the season fully starts, after we have our programs.
IDC: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Adrian: Big, big, big, big thank you to Olivia’s family. I never get the chance to see them a lot, but I want to thank them for how much they are helping to fulfill our dreams, they have been very welcoming.
Olivia: They love Adrian. They have always seen potential in us, but it wasn’t until Worlds that they realized that it was real, I saw my dad crying. At Nationals, our families finally got to sit together, even though they don’t have a common language, it was really nice to share that time.