MATILDA FRIEND on training for the new season, coming from an unconventional skating nation, and her goals for the future

MATILDA FRIEND on training for the new season, coming from an unconventional skating nation, and her goals for the future

© Matilda Friend | Instagram

Matilda Friend is not only the 2016 Australian national champion (together with her partner William Badaoui) but she has also won five junior national champions titles; two with former partner Patrick Adderley (2011, 2012) and three with Badaoui (2014, 2015, 2018).

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Matilda started skating at age seven and fell in love with it. At just 19, she and William have represented Australia at Four Continents Figure Skating Championships four times and hope to qualify for Worlds this season.

We had the opportunity to catch up with Matilda this week about her (and William’s) new season, the meanings behind their programs, how she spends her free time, and much more.

Competitions

We absolutely loved your Lady Gaga/Adele Free Dance last season and are so excited to see your Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Game of Thrones programs this season. How do you go about choosing your music?

Thanks so much! As much as we loved our skating program, we were very ready to move on from that program and style. We don’t really have a specific process of choosing music, most of the time somebody, be it Will, myself or our coaches, has an idea and then if we all like it we go ahead. With this season we definitely wanted to take some risks and do something different from what we’ve previously done. Priscilla came about whilst Will, myself and our coach Monica were driving from NY to Lake Placid last year and when it was Will’s turn to play music ‘I Will Survive’ came on. We all started belting out the lyrics and then realised that this piece was from a musical, which was the theme for the 2019-20 Rhythm Dance. We went on to listen to the Priscilla Broadway soundtrack and decided on the spot that it was perfect. My favourite part about our rhythm dance is how Aussie it is, obviously the film was based in Australia and is very iconic in our country. We have made sure to include some strong Aussie accents in our music choices!

With Game of Thrones, it is something that our coach has been wanting us to do for a while, however, he wanted to save it for when he thought we were strong enough in our skating to pull it off and do it justice. It is going to be a big jump going from Priscilla to GOT, which I hope will showcase how we can be versatile and take risks in order to grow as skaters. Our FD music starts off with some classic GOT pieces, but has a bit of a twist which probably won’t be expected! It was really cool to choreograph this program as the final season of GOT was coming out episode by episode, and I hope that we can put out some programs that really capture the essence of, and do justice to this series which so many people have been invested in over the past 10 years.

Favourite Element

Lifts!

Least Favourite Element

Our spin, it will be the death of me.

Figure Skating isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when someone thinks of Australia, so how did you get involved in the sport and do you remember the first time you thought it could be something that you would pursue?

It’s most definitely not! I come from a family of footy players and even played myself for 4 years. My family follows the sport Australian Football, which is one of the more popular sports in Australia, unlike figure skating. I actually went along to a learn to skate class with a friend from school when I was 7, and the coach told a few of us to come back for a private lesson. Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I went along to the private lesson and then basically just loved it and the novelty of telling my friends “I’m going to ice skating practise”. 
As I started skating every day pretty quickly, growing up I was always looking at pursuing skating as I grew older. However, when I finished high school two years ago, it hit me that I wanted to fully commit to competitive skating and being an elite athlete. I’m so glad that I had that drive and even though it is a very tough and often gruelling path, I am grateful to have the opportunities I do and to be able to compete for Australia with my best friend.

© Matilda Friend | Instagram

It is going to be a big jump going from Priscilla to GOT, which I hope will showcase how we can be versatile and take risks in order to grow as skaters.

Matilda Friend

There was so much buzz when it was announced that Four Continents will be hosted in Sydney in 2021. How exciting is that for you? You usually have to travel so far for competitions!

I am suuuuuper excited for such a prestigious event to be held not only in my home country, but my home city! We are lucky to have had the opportunity to compete at 4CCs for the last few seasons and it will be so special to have our friends and family able to come and cheer us on. Of course, the lack of travel will be a bonus too! Unfortunately, Australia is far away from pretty much every international competition, and a 40 hour travel period prior to comps is not unusual for us, not to mention the financial side of travelling across the globe. It will be an amazing experience and also great to show our international friends our beautiful city, especially in the summer!

Skaters you’re inspired by?

Gabriella Papadakis, Vanessa James, Evgenia Medvedeva

Favourite Routine by another skater/couple?

I know it’s a cliche but if I could only watch one video for the rest of my life it would be Virtue and Moir’s Moulin Rouge FD from Pyeongchang.

What’s been your favourite program you’ve performed and why? And, especially with the Broadway theme for this season’s Rhythm Dance, is there a particular method you have for getting into character or somewhere you draw inspiration from?

My favourite past program of ours was probably our hip-hop blues program from the 2016-17 season. It was a really fun program which we were both terrified of at first, but I’m proud of what it evolved into and how it helped us to grow as skaters. We’re lucky to have had the opportunity to compete in both junior and senior since 2016, which has been a cool way of gaining experience as well as performing a few extra programs each year.

I think it’s really important to research your character or theme that you’re portraying in order to stay true to it and be tasteful. With Broadway this season, and particularly our choice of Priscilla, we have both re-watched the film and looked into some of the Broadway show’s BTS and outtakes. Priscilla is a great display of Australian culture, promotes the world of Drag, and also displays the challenges which people in the LGBTQ community experience, which is something that is close to home and important to both Will and I. In saying this, we have definitely drawn inspiration from the film as well as our own personal experiences in order to get into character and bring what we want to the program. With a Disco theme, we have taken classes with a disco dance teacher who has helped us to get a feel for the style as well as assisted in our choreography.

Do you have any rituals or superstitions that you do to calm your nerves before competing?

I am the most nervous person you could ever meet, especially before stepping out on the ice in front of a big crowd. Luckily Will is there to keep me calm, I honestly could never do it alone, big credit to all the singles skaters out there! There have been a few comps where I’ve randomly been in a really weird mood where I’m just dancing around and singing before I get on the ice and they seem to be the ones where I was less nervous.

Training

Earlier this year, the news broke about Macquarie Ice Rink, your home rink, being demolished. Due to petitions the decision was made that a rink will stay at Macquarie, but was that worrying for you regarding the future of your training?

It was very scary for me, not only has Macquarie been my home rink for the duration of my international career, but it is also one of the few rinks in New South Wales, as well as Australia as a whole. We didn’t get to the point of discussing our plans, as we were always optimistic about fighting to keep our rink, but it was definitely on our minds and impacted out training as the ordeal was playing out.

© Matilda Friend & William Badaoui | Instagram

When do you and William, along with your team, start to prepare for a season and what are your goals for 2019/2020?

It really depends on which comp we are starting the season with, as sometimes early comps mean starting everything earlier. But this season we started our training back in April and have been working hard on our new programs. We have our first competition, Autumn Classic, in just over a month from now and we have been doing very intense fitness training for the past two weeks. Our goals for this season include to gain the minimum TES for Worlds in the rhythm dance, which is why we have been focusing a lot on our rhythm dance and the technical aspects of it. Other goals include improving our PBs internationally, bringing home a gold medal at nationals at the end of this year, and it would be an absolute dream to represent Australia at the World Championships.

Go-to snack?

Vegemite toast <3

Describe your partner, William, in 3 words.

Sassy, Caring, Hilarious

You competed as both Juniors and Seniors in the same season, was it hard to adapt to the different pattern dances?

It’s definitely harder for some dances than others. With the waltzes and blues pattern dances I found it a lot easier to adapt than with the latin and tango pattern dances. Last season, we had to have two completely different rhythm dances and often struggled with the difficulty of the Tango Romantica, however it is all such great experience and we were constantly pushing ourselves and our skating.

© Matilda Friend | Instagram

Inspirational quote that keeps you motivated

“Passion first, and everything else will fall into place”

Holly Holm

Can you describe what a typical training day is like (both on and off-ice)?

I typically train five hours a day, 3-4 hours on ice and 2 hours off ice depending on my gym program. We start on the ice at 6am and train 3 sessions until 11 or 12pm, and I will then do my gym session or stretching session before or after work or uni each day. We do this from Monday-Friday and then also skate on a Saturday morning for just two hours, generally working on key points and technical elements.

We’ve been very impressed by the difficult positions of your lifts, how hard is it to train those?

Thank you! I am so glad that Ice Dance is becoming more acrobatic and really like to come up with unique and tricky lifts to try and stand out. Lifts take lots of practise off the ice, but as soon as you put it on the ice you’ve gotta go all in! It can be scary at first but it is so important to be brave and just go for it the first few tries otherwise you might have a fall or become anxious about doing the lift.

Life

We heard you attend Macquarie University at Universiade, can you tell us what you’re studying? Is there a particular career you’ve set your sights on for the future after skating?

I am studying Arts, majoring in Social Justice and Indigenous Studies. After competing and hopefully some show skating, I want to go into social work. I feel as though my sports career is very much something I do for myself, and being an athlete is something I am very privileged to experience thanks to my family and particularly my parents. But once I have finished up I want to give back to the world and help out those who are not as lucky as I am in life. I am interested in working with Indigenous communities in Australia, working within the criminal justice system or working with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but there are many avenues which can be taken in social work and I will decide that later in life.

Guilty Pleasures?

Eating too much chocolate, and watching too much Love Island!

Favourite thing to do in Sydney?

Beach!

Favourite song to sing loudly in the car?

Rich Girl by Hall and Oates or Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfeld

© Matilda Friend Instagram

What other hobbies and interests do you have?

I’m a big AFL (Australian Football) fan and love to watch my team the Sydney Swans playing. I’m always spending time with my family and my niece Saskia who has just turned 3 and is the light of my life. Another favourite is going to the beach or going out for a boogie with my friends on the weekend.

Once I have finished up [my athletic career] I want to give back to the world and help out those who are not as lucky as I am in life.

Matilda Friend

What do you do to unwind after training?

I don’t often have much time between training and uni or work, so unwinding can be difficult. I try to catch up on sleep, relax in the sunshine or get a remedial massage whenever I get the chance.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I feel like she knew what she was doing more than I do now!

Describe your perfect day from start to finish!

I would wake up whenever my body wanted me to rather than 4:30am! Have some classic avocado toast for brekky, head to the beach with my girlfriends. Eat a chicken burger for lunch on the sand, spend all day in the sun and then go and get ready for a night out dancing.

© Matilda Friend & William Badaoui | Instagram

Matilda and William will start this season with Autumn Classic International in Oakville, Ontario (Canada) from September 12th to 14th. Afterwards, they plan on competing at Asia Open (October 30 – November 1) and Open d’Andorra (November 20 – 24).

All photos courtesy of Matilda’s and Matilda and William’s Instagrams.

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