John Mattatall competing for spot on national team
TRURO - It has never meant more than this for John Mattatall.
The 27-year-old Wallace native and his pairs partner Mylene Brodeur are on the cusp of qualifying for the Olympics this week at the 2010 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships in London, Ont. Their short program performance will be broadcast live on CBC at 3 p.m. today with their free skate airing on CBC at 2 p.m. Saturday.
It would be the crowning moment in a career that's included competing at the International Skating Union's world championship for the pair.
So how do you approach such a critical competition?
You make sure you're ready.
"Exactly," Mattatall said over the phone while travelling from his home in St. Leonard, Que., to London. "No matter what happens, Mylene and I can walk out with our heads held up knowing we did everything we could."
That includes taking just five weeks off since May while putting in 15 to 20 hours of on-ice training per week and countless more off it.
But that's reality for a figure skater. The training to competition ratio of 95 per cent practice and five per cent competing, is much wider than most other sports. This season Mattatall and Brodeur will have performed their short program about 75 times, just six or seven of those will be in actual competition.
Naturally, all that training can wear on an athlete's psyche.
"Oh yeah," Mattatall said. "It's so difficult compared to any other sport so it gets tough sometimes."
But with such an opportunity hanging on the horizon, Mattatall doesn't need much motivation to get out of bed in the morning.
"The opportunity to do something like this comes once in a lifetime," Mattatall said.
"I mean, when you're a kid growing up, the Olympics is the pinnacle competition."
All the pair has to do to punch their ticket to Vancouver is finish in the top two in the senior pairs competition in London. But that's easier said than done. They'll be up against pairs teams Meagan Duhamel/Craig Buntin and Jessica Dube/Bryce Davison, both former Olympians.
But Mattatall and Brodeur, a 22-year-old Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu native, posted a third-place finish at last year's Canadian championship in Saskatoon, their best-ever together, giving them a spot at worlds last year in Los Angeles. Now they are confident they can finish higher this week, thanks to the work they've put in.
"We feel like we've put ourselves in the right spot," Mattatall said. "But anything can change at the drop of a hat."
That's a long way from almost quitting the sport in 2008 after a series of disappointing finishes. The past 12 months have given the pair a renewed enthusiasm, something that can only serve them well this week.
"Last year was such a big push for us," Mattatall said. "Nationals and doing worlds was such a great experience for us that coming into this season we said we were going to do everything we could to make the most of this year."
Mattatall and Brodeur have been working with coaches Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte and choreographer Julie Marcotte and have been competing this season on the ISU circuit, placing sixth in the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, Russia, and fifth at the NHK Trophy in Nagano, Japan.
Mattatall said he feels he and Brodeur are now at their peak.
"If we could pick an ideal way to go into this I think it's the way we did it," he said. "We feel good about where we are.
"The Olympics is the dream but if we don't make it it's not the end of the world," he added. "But, of course, we want to be on that Olympic team."