Armenia’s Tina Garabedian & Simon Proulx-Senecal had a successful debut season, winning a bronze medal at the Golden Spin of Zagreb Challenger Series event as well as a silver medal at Bavarian Open. They qualified for the free dance at the European Championships, finishing 18th and reached the ISU minimum TES scores to compete at the World Championships where they placed 27th. They are coached by Shae Zukiwsky and Shawn Winter in Montreal.
Garabedian’s skating journey began at the age of 4 because her mother loved to watch figure skating. She was also a big fan of three-time Canadian champion Josée Chouinard, so she enrolled her daughters in the sport.
“At first, I was not happy with how hard the ice was, how cold an arena could get, how many bruises I could get in only one session, but I eventually fell madly in love with singles skating,” Garabedian said.
Garabedian was only drawn to ice dance after the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, when she began to look up to Tessa Virtue, the newly-crowned Olympic champion with partner Scott Moir.
“Being a singles skater before, I was always told that ice dance was boring and footwork and smiling were considered easy, because only jumps caught my attention,” Garabedian said. “It’s my mistake, because ice dance is the discipline that requires a lot of energy, strength, grace, expression and precision. If I had known earlier, I would have started ice dance sooner.”
At 14, she performed as part of the junior-level Pirouettes, a synchronized skating team from her hometown of Laval, Quebec. It was the first time she wasn’t skating alone, instead taking the ice with 15 other girls as part of the team.
The next year, Garabedian entered her first ice dance partnership with Alexander Laliberte. They finished 16th at the 2015 World Junior Championships representing Armenia. The team represented Armenia internationally because of Garabedian’s heritage.
Proulx-Senecal’s parents also put him on the ice when he was 4 years old, albeit in hockey skates.
“I started as a hockey player until the age of 7, but I didn’t really have fun playing it,” Proulx-Senecal said. “So I asked my parents if I could figure skate instead, because I really liked being on the ice.”
Proulx-Senecal’s figure skating club thought he had great ability and speed and encouraged him to do synchronized skating and single skating to improve his skating skills. At the age of 12, he asked his coach if it was possible for him to skate with a partner. She agreed.
“I always liked the idea of skating with someone, doing synchronized turns and jumps,” Proulx-Senecal said. “She then planned try-outs with a few girls. I’ve always admired the ice dancers on TV such as Shae Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz and told myself I would one day be a part of that world.”
He teamed up with Josyane Cholette to compete at the junior level from 2011-2012, followed by two seasons, also at junior, with Christina Penkov. Most recently, he and partner Melissande Dumas finished 12th at the 2015 Canadian Championships at the senior level.
In spring 2015, both partnerships ended and Garabedian & Laliberte were already skating at the same training center.
“It was almost planned in advance,” Garabedian said. “My coaches wanted us to skate together when I first started dance, but he was already 21 and had to move up senior and I was not ready for that then. We were good friends before our partnership began and we still are, which I really appreciate.”
“We have fun skating together and she is the first partner I can really be myself with,” Proulx-Senecal said. “We work hard and push each other to achieve our goals as a team.”
“Every morning, I am happy and excited to show up at the rink, to see my partner, my coaches and the other ice dancers,” Garabedian added.
After earning their two senior international as well as qualifying for the free dance at the European Championships, they are motivated for their second season.
“We are really looking forward to the new season,” Garabedian said. “Achieving goals like that only makes us realize what we are capable of doing and we think we can do even better as the seasons go by. Our goal this season is to do both programs at the World Championships and we have very high hopes for that.”
For the 2016/17 short dance, couples will skate segments of the Midnight Blues pattern dance. To accompany the blues theme, teams can choose between swing and hip-hop. Garabedian & Proulx-Senecal selected swing.
“Hip-hop does not come naturally to me,” Garabedian said. “I have already done the (swing) rhythm in junior three years ago and it was my best short dance. It’s a quick, up-beat tempo and I can’t wait to do it again.”
For their free dance, the team headed to Vancouver in May to work with Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe.
“We are having our free program done by someone else this season to see how much our scores can improve and how the comments will change,” Garabedian said. “We will probably even make our training methods harder with more skating hours, or use our time on the ice more efficiently and do more run throughs a day so we can be more than ready for competitions.
Like most teams, they balance multiple competing priorities, which includes their training schedule.
“We arrive at the rink around 8:30 in the morning to warm up for half an hour and then we get on the ice for about three hours of training,” Garabedian said. “Once a week, we have ballet class and ballroom class. We separately go to the gym at least 3 times a week to work out with our personal trainers.”
In addition to their training regime, both Garabedian & Proulx-Senecal are dedicated to continuing their education and attend school almost full-time.
“I take almost the same amount of classes as regular students,” Garabedian said. “I am now in Cegep, finishing next semester actually. I don’t really have a break this summer because in order to finish in December, I need to take a summer class.”
“As an international ice dancer, I can’t be apart of a full-time program in university, but I can manage 3 classes every semester,” Proulx-Senecal added.
Due to traveling for competitions during the spring semester, Garabedian missed four weeks of school (out of 15) and will miss two more weeks during the summer.
“That is the most difficult part of combining both I believe, giving your 100% in skating and school,” Garabedian said. “Nevertheless, I still manage to be at the top of my classes. I am a perfectionist and I want to excel in school as much as in skating to the best of my ability.”
While training and school take up the majority of their time, they are able to find some time enjoying other activities.
“I love to spend as much time with my family as possible,” Garabedian said. “They are the most important people in my life and I love disconnecting from skating on weekends and doing fun activities with them like going on a boat ride, swimming, having movie nights, and so much more.”
“I coach figure skating in my hometown club mostly everyday,” Proulx-Senecal added. “When and if I have free time, I enjoy hanging out with my friends and family.”
Both have plans for the future that would take them beyond the ice.
“I would love to attend McGill University next January probably for finance or something in that field of study,” Garabedian said. “I would like to get married and have a family shortly after I finish school, whenever that will be.”
“Since a very young age, I’ve always wanted to become an architect,” Proulx-Senecal added. “Skating has made me postpone that dream for now. However, I am currently in a similar program.”
Despite putting some dreams on hold for now, they both are grateful for the experiences skating has afforded them thus far.
“We get to travel around the world and do what we love with the people we love,” Garabedian said. “It has really been an amazing experience.”