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Locals ready to compete at national championships

There is something special about Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers. There is no doubt about it. The dynamic duo are loved by local supporters, their coaches, the judges and all who take in their performances.
Local figure skaters Rudi Swiegers and Paige Lawrence have their eyes set on the podium for the upcoming 2012 Canadian Figure Skating Championships. The duo will be in Moncton from Jan. 16 to 22 to compete against Canada's best.

There is something special about Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers.

There is no doubt about it.

The dynamic duo are loved by local supporters, their coaches, the judges and all who take in their performances. The charismas of the pair is noticeable both on the ice and off, and their skating ability has allowed them to travel all over the world.

Regardless of the places they have seen and the people they have met, there is nothing like skating on home ice for the two Saskatchewanites. With Lawrence born in Kennedy and Swiegers from Kipling, competing at the Skate Canada Challenge in Regina meant more to the duo than simply another competition.

"We don't often get to compete so close to home," said Lawrence. "So we both felt really lucky to have this opportunity. The support that we felt from the crowds at both of our performances was so encouraging and motivating. We appreciated every person that came out to cheer us on."

"I had a lot of family members and family friends from both the Regina area as well as the local area come out to watch us skate, and I just can't say enough about how blessed I am to know such great people and have them, and many others, giving their support to Rudi and I." Winning gold in front of that hometown crowd was the "icing on the cake" for the duo.

More than 500 skaters competed at the Skate Canada Challenge in Regina from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4 in order to secure their place at the 2012 Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Moncton. Competing in the senior pair category, the duo beat out any competition with a combined short and free program score of 168.43. The next-closest pair, Julianne Seguin and Andrew Evans of Quebec, had a second-place score of 139.61.

While Lawrence and Swiegers did have a bye to the 2012 Canadian Figure Skating Championship, meaning they were not required to compete at the Skate Canada Challenge, the duo decided to perform in front of their hometown crowd regardless.

"We had a bye, but chose to skate anyways. Up until that point, our competitive season this year hadn't been going quite the way that we had wanted it to, and we felt that we needed this competition to turn things in our favour."

"We have made some changes to our program styles this year, and have really put a lot of focus into the transitions and choreography. So some of our technical elements let us down when it came time to compete earlier in the season. We wanted to use Skate Canada Challenge as a positive milestone in our year, and because it was so close to home, we figured we should use this competition as a training tool."

So why make changes to their program styles when it has worked so well in the past? The duo has their eyes set on a bigger goal, and that goal is to compete at the 2014 Olympics.

"We started the season ranked 12 or 13 in the world," said long-time coach Patti Hole from Virden, MB. "We had a great year last year, and this year, we wanted to try new things, we wanted to try new styles. So this year, is a bit of a play year."

"The goal is to compete in the 2014 Olympics and in order to be the best in the world, the smoothness and interpretation of music has to be great. And while the two have always been good in that department, we wanted to work on making that score the 'great' that it needs to be."

"So what we are trying to do is further develop their program component scores, which is the choreography of their program. And this year is the time to do it because once you start that last year of two years [before the Olympic trials], you want to make sure your style suits you. And if you don't try different styles, you will never know what works best for you. It has been a lot of hard work, but it is really starting to pay off for them."

In preparing to compete at the 2012 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, held in Moncton from Jan. 16 to 22, the duo has the goal of being on that podium once again. Last year, the two took home the bronze medal at the competition.

"Our goal is always to have personal best performances, said Lawrence. "We have certain scores that we want to achieve or surpass in each program. Along with this, we are aiming to place top two in order to qualify for the World Championships."

The success of these two skaters is undeniable. The pair attributes their success to a number of factors. "I believe a lot of our success has to do with the amazing coach that we have, and all of the hard work that she puts into us. She has been our coach, mentor, cheerleader, manager, motivator, organizer, psychologist, friend, and number one fan throughout this entire journey, and I know that we wouldn't be where we are today without her."

"Our parents, families, and friends are amazing because of all the sacrifices they have had to make in order for us to go at this 100 percent, and people may not realize how large of a role they play in keeping us financed, happy, motivated, sane and normal!"

"And when it comes down to it, Rudi and I are both very committed to our shared goal and we both work hard. We both have to believe that hard work will pay off."

The two competitors truly have a love for the sport of skating, a characteristic that comes across not only on the ice, but off the ice as well. "I think for these two, the support that they have received from their fans, the media and people in general has just been amazing," said coach Hole. "Figure Skating is a sport that these two have excelled at, but in addition to that, these two are great ambassadors. They stay true to their sport and take the time to acknowledge whoever wants to speak to them. That is what makes them so great. They are true to their sport and they know where their roots are."

And for all of those youngsters out there who are spending hours on the ice with dreams of one day competing in Canada's national skating competition, Lawrence has some tips. "If you want it, you have to earn it. Work hard each and every chance you get. Truly believe in yourself no matter what, and be positive because there are going to be enough negative moments in your life without you adding to them yourself. And smile as much as you can."