OTTAWA â€” Kevin Reynolds’ rehabilitation from hip surgery took place in a gym adjacent to a skating rink in Burnaby, B.C.
The 26-year-old would watch the skaters at his training base at Eight Rinks, all the while not knowing if he’d ever skate again.
But the three-time national silver medallist announced his return to the international ice with a bronze medal at Skate Canada International in the fall â€” his first-ever Grand Prix medal â€” and is looking forward to competing at this week’s national championships.
“After a few months off the ice I started to really miss it, and knew I wanted to at least give it a shot and at least try to come back. And if there was pain, I would give it up at that point and move on,” Reynolds said. “But the signs were all positive. Step by step, I was able to work things through and manage it.”
Reynolds’ career has been an unenviable roller-coaster of injuries and ill-fitting skates. He famously had to withdraw from several major competitions while he searched the globe for skates that would fit his extremely narrow feet.
It was the hip injury â€” a labral tear and deteriorating cartilage in his left hip that was extremely painful â€” that threatened to derail his career for good.
The injury forced the Coquitlam, B.C., skater to withdraw from the free program at the 2015 Canadian championships, and he underwent the surgery three months later.
“There was no continuing without (the surgery),” Reynolds said. “Even with risk of not being able to skate again, there was really no choice.”
He rebounded to win bronze at last year’s Canadian championships. Then, competing in his first Grand Prix event since 2012, he laid down a stunning long program at Skate Canada in Mississauga, Ont., to reach the podium.
Because he’d tumbled well down the world rankings in his time off, Skate Canada was his only Grand Prix event this season. So while Canadian teammate Patrick Chan, who won gold at Skate Canada, went on to claim another gold at Cup of China and then compete in the Grand Prix Final â€” he was fifth â€” Reynolds was back in Burnaby training.
“I knew that getting a second Grand Prix would be (unlikely), so I was going to focus on doing as well as I could at Skate Canada and see what would happen from there,” he said. “So it was a little bit disappointing of course, but it definitely wasn’t unexpected.”
Reynolds took a brief break in December to focus on his final exams. He’s working toward hopefully being accepted into the international relations program at UBC. Part of his course load has been classes in Japanese and Reynolds, who enjoys a huge following in Asia, delighted the Japanese media at Skate Canada by answering a question in that language.
In December, he did a competition simulation in which judges offer their feedback and it went well.
“Now I’m feeling more confident than I have been since Skate Canada,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds, who said next season will his last, is thankful for this second chance. He’s looking at it like he’s got nothing to lose.
“I know it’s a very serious injury that I had and I knew probably the odds of coming back weren’t great, let alone coming back to the level I have been able to,” Reynolds said. “So I’m just thankful I do have this opportunity after so much struggle, after so much pain, and it’s really given me lots to celebrate, even getting to this point.
“I really look forward to the other opportunities that are coming this way.”
The senior events at the Canadian championships begin Friday at Ottawa’s TD Place.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press