The truth of the matter is Josee and I have moved in the same skating circles for a really long time. I announced her as a competitor and was in the building when she won her 3 Canadian titles. I have talked to her superficially and we have “air hugged” lots ot times over the years. I wasn’t at all prepared for the woman I got to know in Vancouver at the Olympics where we were both working at figure skating.

This is a woman with a mesmerising combination of charm, warmth and natural smarts; packaged in a whirlwind of energy which is totally captivating. To say we laughed in Vancouver would be an understatement. Our friendship bonded due in no small part to the fact that Josee has a great sense of fun and is someone who does not take herself too seriously – even when lots of people around her do. She says in a telling statement that her 3rd trip to the Olympics, her first behind the scenes, was the best for her. It was awe inspiring to appreciate all that goes on at the Games, not on the Field of Play, which is something she didn’t see when she was focused as an athlete competing.

Where has she been and what has she been doing since you last saw her?

Skating has been at the centre of everything in her life and when asked about what it has given to her, she became thoughtful and said: “Skating destroyed me and built me.” Wow. I looked at her face and expected to see pain or bitterness registered there. Instead, I observed an appreciation for the lessons she learned by not achieving all that she had hoped for. She went on to say: “To learn the hard lessons as a young person helped me to realize who I am.” More than anything, it is this confidence that “the sun will come out tomorrow” even after disappointment, that makes her such a valuable resource in her current incarnation as a coach.

Josee is at the Granite Club in Toronto , where she is the Head Competitive Coach. She talks with pride about loving the technical aspect of the sport and gets a real kick out of “sharing moments” with the skater. Having been an elite skater, she knows first-hand what has to happen and explains that her entree into the coaching realm was by way of seminars and consulting while she was still skating and performing. Then came the moment of truth: she took over the skaters for fellow coach Tracy Tutton who went on maternity leave; all 26 of them! It was this experience where she really cut her “coaching teeth” and she realized that there was a lot more to the art than meets the eye. She fell in love with the connection to the skater inherent in coaching and moved away from consulting Her strength she says is in the technical realm but she also knows that a good coach has to create and manage a team that supports the skater. It is a multi-faceted approach to skaters and skating that seems to work for her.

The biggest difference she says between being a skater and being a coach is clear. The rewards for the skater can be immediate: they either land a jump or skate well in a competition or they don’t. By comparison, the rewards in coaching are not always immediate and that improvement takes time. There is nothing more rewarding though, she says than having a skater come back at a later time to say that they have never forgotten what she said.

Her other passion? Twins! Her own 5 year olds Fiona and Noah. Do they skate? “Of course” she says with a giggle “They are Canadian. They know how to skate and swim.” she continues laughing: “They went on frozen water before real water. One sport is for safety and one is patriotic.”

Josee Chouinard, still a Canadian sweetheart.

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