The opportunity to interview Chad Hawse was a pretty cool one. For starters, he's originally from right here in Atlantic Canada! With his former partner Samantha Marchant, he won the Canadian junior pairs title in 1996 and was certainly a contender internationally on both the junior and senior levels in the nineties. He's also a four time Canadian FOURS medallist and now a coach in of all places, Hong Kong. Chad spoke quite candidly with me about his experiences in competitive skating (both the highs and lows), what life is like for him today and the skaters, people and things in life that have shaped the person he is today. This one's a must read - trust me!:
Q: You had some incredible moments in your career skating pairs, including winning the 1996 Canadian junior pairs title after finishing second the previous year, competing at the Junior World Championships and on the Senior Grand Prix and earning a bronze medal at the Nebelhorn Trophy in 1996. Looking back on your competitive career, what moments stand out as the highest highs and the lows?
A: Samantha Marchant and I had a good career together. We experienced many highs and of course a few lows. Making the Junior World team was exciting. That was my first international and the first time to wear a blue Canadian team jacket. We had success in junior and one of my proudest moments came in 1996 when we won the junior pair title. In the long, the audience was standing after the fourth element and they were so loud at times we couldn't hear our music. It was an awesome feeling. Turning senior and skating in front of seventeen thousand people at Nationals was a rush. We ended up skating well and made the senior national team. That gave us the opportunity to compete against some legends in pairs skating, like Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao and Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitriev on the senior Grand Prix circuit. That was during the the 1997/98 season. The lowest low also came that year. We did Skate Canada in Halifax and NHK in Nagano. It was a season filled with injury and it took us until NHK to get our skating on track. On Boxing Day, three weeks before Nationals, I broke my hand. We were working on a brand new lift for the short and the pressure from an unfamiliar handhold snapped my fourth metacarpal. It was devastating and I thought the Olympic bid was over. I worked with our team doctor and he came up with a cast on my hand that allowed me the use my thumb and first two fingers. We tried it out in practice and modified some of our tricks. By the time we were at Nationals, we were doing everything again. We opened with our double twist in the short and it was really big - too big - and the catch was too hard to control with my cast. It was over before I knew it. Samantha was gliding backwards but almost on her back. I remember looking up into the audience at that moment and realizing it was over. That moment and the decision to withdraw from Nationals was the lowest moment in my career. That was to be our only shot at the Olympics and we parted ways after that season.
Q: You're actually a four time consecutive senior medallist at the Canadian Championships in FOURS skating! How did you get involved in the discipline and is fours skating something you think could or should make a resurgance in skating today?
A: Fours was a tradition in our club. The year I started skating with Samantha was also the first time I did Fours. We were paired up with another pair team once we knew we were going to Nationals. That first year we skated with the amazing team of Corey Watson and Tina Muir. It was nice to have another event at Canadians to perform our tricks... an extra run-through on the big rink! Also performing the 'toss' was fun. We skated into what looked like a regular lift entrance but with four skaters. The front man threw the first girl over his head and the second man caught. Then we would continue with side-by-side lifts. Both positions were fun. It could make a comeback if the interest was there. It can be a fun and creative event. It was a nice way to blow off some steam and get the nerves worked out before the long program.
Q: The era in which you were competing was one of considerable depth in Canadian pairs skating, with Sargeant and Wirtz, Menzies and Bombardier, Higgins and Rice, Savard-Gagnon and Bradet and Saurette and Fecteau all in contention for senior medals. Was moving up to the senior ranks unnerving or did you enjoy the fight?
A: Winning junior gave us lots of confidence and we loved to compete. Moving up to senior was exciting for me. A few years before that my father put a cardboard sign in my window that read "I LOVE TO COMPETE". I didn't think much of it at first. By the time we moved up to senior I relished the challenge and realised that sign had a big impact psychologically. I started skating better in competition then in practice. I definitely enjoy the fight and the rush competing at that level.
Q: You're actually from right here in the Maritimes, growing up in Saint John, New Brunswick. Atlantic Canadian skaters have always faced a unique set of challenges in terms of getting their names out there with the best from the rest of the country. What can you share about your beginnings in the sport?
A: I was on the ice at two years old but I played hockey until I was ten. Apparently I was a good defenseman who really liked to skate and skate all over the ice. My father suggested I try figure skating. I thought he was crazy but I would try it. Right away, I realized it was the sport for me. It has so much to learn and found I was good at it. I was hooked! I am actually from a small town just outside Saint John called Quispamsis. I loved growing up there. I would practice there most of the year but go away in the summers. Ice time really was in short supply because of hockey. Hockey got most of it so it was hard to train enough to compete with skaters from big training centers. I did make it to Nationals as a singles skater living in New Brunswick but didn't even come close to the podium. When I was sixteen, my parents asked me if I wanted to move away to train. I said yes and moved to Cambridge, Ontario to train at the Champions Training Center. If I would have stayed in Quispamsis, I just wouldn't have been able to train the same hours. I would say that was the biggest challenge in the Maritimes because they do have some good coaches.
Q: What were your favourite and least favourite pairs elements?
A: My least favourite pair move was the triple twist. Ours was good and consistent. The problem was every time we had a big competition coming up, an errant elbow found my face. I had a tooth knocked out, I was knocked out and had a few stitches sewed into me. Fun stuff. I loved lifts and throws and going fast. Samantha liked to be thrown. We could do all of the throw triples except for flip and axel. The first time we tried throw triple loop she landed it. We actually did throw triple lutz in competition in the Karl Schäfer Memorial in Vienna in 1997. I think I always had a bigger a smile on my face when we did throws then she did. We were known for our speed. It was fun to be able to do the tricks at a high speed.
Q: Today, you live in Hong Kong. How has life changed for you since you retired from the competitive side of the sport?
A: I have been living and coaching in Hong Kong now for nine years. I teach figure skating and hockey at a private club called The Aberdeen Marina Club. It is a recreational club and one day I would like to get back into the competitive side of skating. Life in Hong Kong is for sure different than in Canada. It is crowded and hot but fun and convenient. I do other extreme sports I couldn't do as an amateur skater. The main one is downhill mountain biking. A few months ago I broke my tibial plateau biking in Hong Kong and have been sidelined ever since. I do it because it gives me the same kind of rush I got from competing.
Q: Who are your three favourite skaters of all time and why?
A: My number one favourite of all time is Gordeeva and Grinkov. From the start to finish, they were amazing. I tend to watch the guy and Sergei Grinkov was so strong under his partner. They made everything look effortless. They are the best pair team of all time. Brian Orser was my favourite skater as a young guy. The first big competition I remember was the 1988 Olympics. The Battle Of The Brian's was legendary. I looked up to him and wanted be able to skate like him. The third one is another pair team, Christine Hough and Doug Ladret. They were the first pair team I saw live. The pair elements they did were amazing and I remember thinking it would be so cool to do that - it must be so difficult! I remember watching them do a death spiral and saying, "wow that looks hard!" I was able to work with Christine Hough. She let me lift her and throw her and it was pretty great. We even did a throw double axel.
Q: What's one thing most people don't know about you?
A: I get my artistic side from my mother. She paints amazing watercolour paintings with emotion you can feel. I manage her website and not many people know that. Check her out at http://www.wandahawse.com.
Q: Why should singles skaters take up pairs?
A: Because it's AWESOME! It takes a strong skater to be good at pairs. You have to be a jack of all trades. You have to jump, spin, lift, throw... The thing is you get to learn so many tricks that it makes it always challenging and fun. When I started pairs it felt like a completely different sport. You also get to share your experiences with someone else which is very nice.
Q: What is the most important lesson skating has taught you in life?
A: My parents and skating shaped the person I became. Skating has taught me many things I can use in life. Competing in front of thousands of people is exciting but it's also difficult. I learned to be mentally strong from those experiences. It has helped me stay strong through the tough times.
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