by Cara Zanella | Photos by Robin Ritoss
They describe their story as a “Cinderella” one. Both losing their skating partners. Both longing to stay in competitive ice dancing. Both looking for that glass slipper, or ice skate” that would belong to the perfect partner. The only problem was, they were an ocean apart – one in Canada and one in France.
Coach Romain Haguenauer had just arrived in Montreal, Canada when he received a phone call from French ice dancer, Romain Le Gac, asking him if he would be able to try out in Montreal. He was seeking a new partner after dissolving his four-year partnership with Estelle Elizabeth. Haguenauer’s thoughts immediately centered on Canadian ice dancer, Marie-Jade Lauriault, as a possible match. One week later, the fairytale partnership began.
Lauriault, 19, started skating at the age of 5. At age 8, she started working with Coach Pascal Denis to begin learning ice dancing.
“My first impression of competition when I was six was that I hated the make-up and the dresses,” she remembers. “Now, I’m all about it!”
One of her freestyle coaches noticed that she loved stroking around the ice and doing dance. The coach contacted Josee Piche and Denis to look for a partner for her. She was paired with Pierre-Richard Chiasson with whom she competed 10 years.
At age 13, Lauriault took 8th place in Novice with Chiasson at the Canadian Championships. It was at that moment when she realized her passion for the sport and that she wanted skating to be her career.
“Sara Hurtado really inspired me to push myself and see the impossible as possible,” Lauriault said of the former Spanish ice dancing champion who also trained under Haguenauer.
Le Gac, 21, had his introduction to the sport at age 6 when he would frequent the local ice rink with his mother and sister.
“My first impression of skating was that it was easy,” Le Gac said. “I quickly realized that I was wrong. After one week, I decided to stop. I was just falling every time, but my mother motivated me.”
Le Gac pursued freestyle until age 8, but due to his dislike of jumping, decided to ice dance instead.
Lauriault and Le Gac have skated together since 2014. Taking their storybook relationship one step further, the couple married in December 2015.
The team began competing at the senior level in 2014-15 winning a silver at Open d’Adndorra and finishing 9th in 2014 at the CS Golden Spin of Zagreb before taking silver at the French Championships. The couple decided to compete at the Junior level in 2015-16 winning two medals, silver and gold, in the Junior Grand Prix series. In 2016, they won gold at the French Junior Championships. They took 8th place in the 2016 World Junior Championships in Hungary. This season, the team will return to the Senior level and have been invited to compete in the Grand Prix in France and Japan.
“Skating with Marie-Jade is really motivating,” said Le Gac. “She is a hard worker and with her there is no time for a break! She is always ready to try something new on the ice or off ice. She is not afraid to keep going even if it’s hard and that is why we have a nice time together on the ice.”
The skaters train daily starting with a one-hour warm up and then four hours of ice dancing. They also study ballet and ballroom dancing and cross train in the gym.
“For us, a training day begins with either school or skating,” Le Gac said. “One hour warm up off ice, one hour stroking with one of our coaches, three hours of skating and we finish the day with one hour of ballet, ballroom, dancing, or the gym.”
The team said that despite their move to Seniors, their training regime did not change much. They both embrace the training schedule and the coaches who inspire them to stay motivated and passionate about ice dancing and competition.
“To train in this team is the best thing that could happen to a skater,” Le Gac said. “Our coaches understand us and push us to our maximum. You can feel their passion for what they’re doing and that’s the best way you can ever be taught something. To train with our coaches is always fun and full of laughter.”
The team is coach by Denis, Romain Haguenauer, Patrice Lauzon, and Marie-France Dubreuil.
This year, the team selected a swing music selection as opposed to their hip-hop based free-dance program last season.
“We have a book with titles of music that we use for ideas as the season goes on,”Lauriault said. “We look to see what music will challenge us and what music reflects our personalities as skaters.”
The team says they are still trying to find their own style, which they admit takes time.
“I particularly love the fact that we really try to communicate a message to the audience by dancing,” Lauriault said. “We try to separate our relationship as partners and as a married couple. It helps because we know each other much better because we’re always together, but we don’t talk to each other on the ice the same way we do off the ice.”
The couple admits that between training and school, there isn’t much time for anything else.
“We don’t have a lot of free time,” Lauriault said. “Between the training, the school, the exams and homework, I try to relax by reading books.”
Le Gac agrees saying he enjoys playing video games, watching movies or taking a walk in the sunshine.
Lauriault is studying psychology and Le Gac is pursuing a career as an Osteopathe.
The team gives credit to their parents for being the force behind them and for making their success on the ice possible.
“There is not much to say about us except that we love what we are doing,” Le Gac said.