Tomas Verner has been representing the Czech Republic proudly since Junior Worlds in 2001, He says: “When I heard my name and country announced, I remember getting goosebumps on my arms, I am very patriotic.” It is this sense of patriotism that prevented him from withdrawing after a disastrous short program at the Olympic Games.
He is the first to admit that his entire season was a disaster starting with the H1N1 virus he think he caught on a plane on his way to Lake Placid for the 2009 Skate America event. He was fine for the first practice there he says and then the weakness set in. Not appreciating the severity of the virus, Tomas continued to train and tried to compete. He says in retrospect that he wishes that someone would have stopped him and gotten him to take the requisite time to rest and recover. As an athlete, he wanted to compete although he knows that there wasn’t anything that he was able to do that was really any good. Olympic seasons being what they are, it seems that any time off puts you off the pace, so if you can persevere it could be to your advantage; not this time though for Tomas.

Getting the chance to really sit down and talk with Tomas for the first time one on one, what I noticed most was intelligent eyes and thoughtful responses. He is open and friendly and says that the gift skating has brought him is the many new and different people who have entered his life. He goes on to say: “I have been lucky, I have only met good ones. I still see the world as pink and rosy.”

His optimism is infectious and is the perfect complement to his choice of short program for this season. He is skating to an instrumental version of Singin’ in The Rain. Inspired by both Gene Kelly and Kurt Browning’s interpretations, he went to work with choreographer Pasquale Camerlengo in Detroit to create the piece. He says: “I hope that the judges will recognize Gene Kelly at the beginning of the program” he goes on to say that the collaboration between he and Pasquale was so successful that they had many more ideas to include in the program than they had time for. He said of his experience “It was my first time working with Pasquale and it was fun, entertaining and exactly what I was looking for.” Turning the corner to talk about the free program, he becomes coy and says “It’s a surprise but I think people will like it.”

I asked him why he created 2 new programs this year and he told me that although last year’s programs were beautiful and he enjoyed them, he didn’t want any memories from last season to carry over into this. As he hits the ice, you can still see the residue of uncertainty from a season that unexpectedly went off the rails. Looking for a fresh perspective, Tomas has come to North America on a bit of a self-proclaimed search for a new coaching possibility. He says that he hasn’t made any decisions, but is considering his options and will have to make up his mind by the end of August if he is to make a change.

In the meantime, he is preparing for September Final exams at his university in Prague in order to complete his Bachelor of Sports Science before heading into a Master’s program. He is a man who has been able to cram all of his annual studies at University into 2 months a year. I would describe Tomas as a practical and intelligent man who will make the most of what life hands him on or off the ice. Of his philosophy on the ice he says: “There is only one champion anytime in skating but it’s important to be able to enjoy competition regardless of your level.” That enjoyment is evident as I watched him skate.

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