by Anne Calder | Photos by Daphne Backman
Junior ice dancers, Juliette Shadid (18) and Lucas Shadid (20) recently qualified for the 2023 U.S. National Championships. The brother-sister team has competed together for over a decade. However, since the pandemic, they have also struggled with injuries and illnesses that have kept them off the competitive ice.
“Because of Covid, they didn’t see other teams. Also, they’ve not shared their story. They kind of disappeared for a while. No one knew what happened to them. Because we’re on the West Coast, we’re not in the mix all the time. So it was like, WOW! Did you take a three year vacation,” Coach Christine Fowler-Binder said during an IDC interview at the Ice Dance Final in Norwood, MA.
“Many of the skaters here assumed we had quit,” Lucas added.
Instead, Juliette and Lucas hit a three-year road block that frustrated them at every turn.
The siblings’ skating journey began twelve years ago after Juliette watched the 2010 Olympic Winter Games televised from Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN. Then a few months later on career day her friend Olivia Oppegard’s mom, who is Michelle Kwan’s sister and a skating coach, came to talk to their class.
“She brought one of Michelle’s dresses and let all the kids touch it. I knew immediately I had to skate,”Juliette said. “I went home and begged and pleaded for lessons, and my mom gave in.”
“I ended up in the same “Learn To Skate” classes,” Lucas said. “I had to go with them to the rink anyway, so my mom thought it was better for me to be on the ice instead of playing video games in the stands.”
“We would stand in the corner during the classes trying to figure out how to spin together,” Juliette said. “A coach suggested we could skate as a team, so together we started learning basic stroking.”
A neighbor who had a daughter in figure skating advised them to go into ice dance.
Two years later the juveniles qualified for the 2015 U.S. Championships in Greensboro, NC, where they won the bronze medal. The next season on the intermediate level they finished ninth in St. Paul, MN at the 2016 Championships.
Kimberly Shadid, the dancers’ mother was born in Canada and has duel citizenship, so the duo opted to move north and train in Calgary, Alberta as a Novice team. After summer competitions in 2018, they qualified and skated at the 2019 Canadian Nationals in St. John, NB. and placed 12th.
Shortly thereafter, they returned home to Southern California and began skating in Irvine at the brand new Great Park Ice complex. At novice, they competed at several events before qualifying for the inaugural 2019 Ice Dance Final in Hyannis, MA, where they won the bronze medal.
Beginning with the 2019-2020 qualifying season, a National High-Performance Development Camp replaced competition at the US Championships for the juvenile, intermediate and novice athletes. The top nine ice dance teams were invited to participate. The event was held the 2-3 days following Nationals in Charlotte, NC.
Juliette and Lucas thought the The Camp was fantastic and were honored to get their Team Jackets.
The team had high hopes for 2020 and a move up to Juniors where there would be more opportunities to compete internationally. In preparation, the home-schooled siblings trained daily for three hours.
Unfortunately, by March and April, Covid-19 had begun raising havoc with the skating community. Rinks were closed, competitions were cancelled while virtual and zoom classes became the norm.
The Shadids fortunately lived together and could train off ice with each other. They also had a small gym set up in the family garage. During the summer, Lucas suffered a pinched nerve in his back. Juliette skated alone to maintain her solo skills and also worked out a lot with a trainer at the gym.
“I started to develop back pain that felt muscular and pushed through it until after Christmas,” she explained. “In January, I went to the Doctor to get an x-ray because I’d been in therapy for months, and it wasn’t getting better. I had two fractures in my L5 Vertebrae.”
“My first doctor advised me to be off-ice for one month to let it heal. It didn’t get better, so I pushed through for another month, before I went to a second doctor. He told me to take another two months off, which I did.
“Afterwards it still wasn’t any better, so I just kept pushing and pushing until we finally went to a third doctor who said I needed to take off at least three months.
“It was summer, so I could go to the beach with friends, but no swimming. I just had to sit on the sand. At home I had to sit in a chair – no running – absolutely nothing. I cried a lot.”
“It was so mentally tough not being an athlete, let alone not being physically active at all,” she added. “The doctor told me that if this didn’t work, I was done.”
Her mother added, “He said she might never skate again and would have to find another sport or something else. He was quite blunt. I remember she listened to a lot of sad music that summer.”
“I honestly didn’t think it would work, but it did, said Juliette. “I thought I would be quitting. Lucas moved on and skated with someone else for a little while, but he didn’t compete.”
“Rafaella Koncius didn’t have a partner, so we skated together for a while,” Lucas said. “She wanted to compete, but I wasn’t sure if Juliette was coming back.
“I didn’t want him to wait. I felt I was holding everyone back. I didn’t know if I could come back. I cried a lot. It was like the summer of unknown certainty.”
In January of 2022, after starting physical therapy, Juliette tentatively returned to the ice with a back brace.
“We had this whole plan that we worked out with milestones that we had to hit before our first competition,” said Juliette. “The whole plan was completely wiped away because I got a brutal case of Mononucleosis, and I was out for a while.
“Finally I got rid of the Mono, and we were going to our first summer competition in June at Chesapeake, and I felt sick again a week before we were set to leave, but It was just a regular cold.
“We actually did compete, but didn’t do well. We were not prepared for our first competition. We had done only three run-throughs before we went. We did it for ourselves. It was rough. Our confidence was shaken very badly. Ever since the Mono, I get run-down easily.”
In August, they competed at the Silicon Valley Open.
“It was not our best competition,” said Lucas.
Four months later at the Ice Dance Final, Coach Fowler-Binder commented after their Rhythm Dance. “This was their first sectional in three years. That is amazing, so we are very happy with the skate today. Tentative was the way they skated, but who wouldn’t be?”
Team Shadid shared their thoughts on the performance.
“We’re proud of ourselves,” Juliette said. “We’ve come a long way for us. We’re ready to do the Free Dance.”
“It was much improved. I’m happy with it,” Lucas added. “I didn’t feel that tired – not as tired as I expected.”
“Relieved,” Kimberly Shadid said. “I tried to not get nervous, but WOW! My legs were jumping while they were skating. I just wanted them to have a clean skate, something they could build on and have confidence about. That was exactly what you needed to do today.”
And we did it,” Juliette chimed in.
Coach Fowler-Binder had the final words. “I was very proud. It’s been a long road coming back and just for them to go out and skate the way they did, confidently, calmly. It was great. Tomorrow will be icing on the cake.”