Ready to Peak: Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud on their Olympic hopes

Ready to Peak: Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud on their Olympic hopes

All photos (incl. cover photo) courtesy of Danielle Earl Photography and Evelyn and Trennt’s Instagrams.

In the autumn of 2019, Trennt Michaud reached out to former Olympic Champion Maxim Trankov – who at the time was touring Canada as part of the Rock the Rink tour – to help him and partner Evelyn Walsh with some of their pair elements. The trio and coach Alison Purkiss got together when Trankov was in the Toronto area.

“[It was a] pretty cool thing,” Michaud remarked. “Especially for me, Max and Tatiana (Volosozhar) are my favourite of the newer age of pair skating pairs. They’re my favourite pair team, besides Jamie (Salé) and David (Pelletier).”

“It’s such a different way to look at [skating] and to see where they’re coming at for the pair elements. Obviously Russia is very dominant in the pair world right now and used to be for a long time. Max and Tatiana really took them back up to the top. So it was really, really cool to work on things and really exciting. And then we still carry a lot of what he had taught us through to today.”

Favourite quality about each other?

Evelyn: For Trennt, it’s his passion. He goes – I tell him this all the time – but he goes 110% into everything he’s super passionate about. If he sets his mind to something then you know he’s doing it to his full capability and I admire that a lot about him.

Trennt: For Ev, it’s her love and caringness for people. She really, really cares for the people in her circle and will pretty much do anything for those people, so I admire that.

Michaud with Volosozhar and Trankov
© Trennt Michaud | Instagram
Both Trennt Michaud and Evelyn Walsh’s figure skating journeys began in hockey skates. For Michaud, he first took to the ice as part of a Tim Hortons’ sponsored hockey program but was kicked out as he didn’t know how to skate. He then enrolled in his local “Learn to Skate” program run by Skate Canada and was inspired to try figure skating after watching a male figure skater at the rink.

“My coach at the time, Lisa Conley, had mentioned that I could probably – potentially – do pairs with a girl at the rink. I had no idea what it looked like or what it was all about. So I went home and googled pair skating and the first one that popped up on YouTube was Jamie and David’s Salt Lake program – their Love Story program. So ever since then, I’ve been absolutely sold on being a pair skater.”

For Walsh, she began with hopes to become a goalie when figure skating caught her eye.

“I remember being on a CanSkate session and seeing girls in figure skates and boys as well. And they were doing jumps which looked kind of intriguing to me. So I asked if I could get a pair of skates and I got some old pair with toe picks. And from there it kind of took off. I loved the idea of spinning and jumping – passing a ring or a puck around didn’t really seem as appealing.”

The two had done some pair elements in shows together and in 2016, after Michaud and his previous partner had split, their coach Alison Purkiss asked if they’d like to partner up for a week on a trial basis. “[Purkiss] said we’ll check back in and I guess the ongoing joke now is we never did check back and we just kind of kept going with it,” Walsh laughed.

© Trennt Michaud | Instagram

Easiest and Hardest element to do?

Our hardest element is definitely our side by side spin.
We don’t want to jinx our easiest.

Just over four months into their partnership, they won the Junior National title at the 2017 Canadian Championships, which is a highlight for them both. The duo were chosen for the 2017 Junior World Championships, held in Taipei City, Taiwan, which is also a fond memory for Walsh.

“When we came fifth there – that kind of was eye opening to me like, oh, this could be the kind of thing I pursue. I just remember that season going by so quickly, but everything was also so exciting because there’s so many new things and opportunities for me that I never experienced through singles.”

The following year, whilst still competing as juniors internationally, they decided to compete as seniors at Nationals. “It was pretty crazy because it was the Olympic qualification event,” Michaud recalled. “There was a lot on the line. We were joking, that you could smell the sweat and the stress in the air as soon as you walked into the rink. So for us coming fifth that year – especially with the top four above us – felt just like winning nationals that year. We couldn’t have been any happier with that.”

The 2020/21 season saw the pair only compete one time, at the World Championships, where they placed twelfth. Like many other skaters they faced rink closures due to the pandemic. For a while, they weren’t even allowed to do pair elements together on ice because of a rule the province had in place.

“It’s weird, because [doing elements with a partner] is something we’re encouraged to do,” Walsh said. “Obviously, that’s what our whole discipline is about and then to not be allowed to do that? But, also, we were allowed to do it off the ice, but we couldn’t on the ice. It was a challenging concept for us to grasp.”

“We understand the reasoning behind it. But I think when we were able to actually skate together, it made us realise how grateful we are for that. And we didn’t just take it for granted. The same with having ice time and the availability of booking ice. I think that was always just kind of given. When we didn’t have it [during the pandemic], we realised – and probably in all aspects – how fortunate we are. And how easy we do have it to just show up whenever and choose our times when we want to train, as opposed to not having any options or having only an hour before you have to leave the rink for cleaning. And then come back in and not being able to touch. All of it definitely gave us perspective. Now that we are able to skate together again, I think we kind of treasure it a bit more.”

Favourite program from another skater in any discipline?

Evelyn: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s “Latch”
Trennt: Jamie and David’s “Love Story”, Max and Tatiana’s “Jesus Christ Superstar”, Tessa and Scott’s “Moulin Rouge”, Patrick Chan’s “Hallelujah”

At the start of the 2021/22 season, Walsh and Michaud were scheduled to debut at Autumn Classic International, however, Walsh developed a chest infection that required two rounds of antibiotics. “We couldn’t train the programs full out,” Walsh said. “Because it was so early in the season, we couldn’t fall back on our previous training, like we might have been able to if it happened later in the season. It just didn’t seem right to push and force that event to happen if we weren’t ready for it. So we decided to drop out, and take the time to properly build up.”

Their next competitions were Skate America and NHK Trophy, where they placed eighth and sixth respectively. Both acknowledge that their performances weren’t great and are aiming to build off the momentum in order to peak where it’ll matter the most this season – the Canadian Championships.

“[There were] definitely improvements and we’re in the upward trajectory, but still not near where we want to be,” Michaud commented on their Grand Prix appearances. Walsh added, “I think we learned a ton from those skates and every skate. We feel like we better ourselves now in training. I think we’re just hungrier, and we’re training harder than we have, because we want it that much more.”

Do you have any superstitions?

Evelyn: I always crack my knees before I skate.

Trennt: I always put my left skate on first and always take my right skate off first. Every single day. I’ve been doing it since I was like 12 years old, I think.

© Evelyn Walsh | Instagram

If you could watch any past competition in person, which would it be?

Evelyn: 2018 Olympics. I think the energy there must have been incredible. And [Canada] winning the team gold is amazing. I would have loved to experience the energy in that building.

Trennt: The 1993 worlds where Kurt and Elvis were first and second. They were the top notch and the arena was completely full. They did that cool gala program out there together – like an “Anything you can do, I can do better” sort of thing. I think that would have been one of the coolest experiences to be in the building for that event.

On January 7th and 8th, Evelyn and Trennt will compete at their fifth Nationals together, and perhaps the most important one so far with two Olympic spots on the line.

Their main competition are two other teams – Kirsten Moore-Towers / Michael Marinaro, part-time training mates and good friends, and newly partnered up Vanessa James / Eric Radford.  Walsh and Michaud have won the silver medal to Moore-Towers and Marinaro’s gold at the past two Nationals and will be aiming to repeat that once again. James / Radford shocked the figure skating world early in 2021 by announcing their partnership and intention to skate for Canada. (James used to represent France). The two had both previously announced their retirements, and Radford had even choreographed programs for Evelyn and Trennt during his competitive absence. 

Walsh and Michaud found out “a day or two” before the official announcement.

“It’s sport, and anyone can do that– everyone has the right to do that,” Walsh said. “It gives us motivation and a real reason to push and we want that spot so much more. We want to go to the Olympics this year. So every day in training, we are doing the most we can and try to outwork everyone else. In the hopes that at Nationals, we can go into the event knowing we’ve done everything possible to prepare, and then we kind of let the rest take care of itself. But leading up to it, it’s a lot of hard training and detail work. I think it’s only going to make us better in the long term.”

“It’s great in a way that in Canada, the pairs become even more competitive than they already were before. Obviously it’s in the back of our minds, we would be lying if we said it wasn’t. But for us, we’ve always done super well when we just focus on ourselves, that’s when we do our best work. So that’s what we’re focused on right now. Yes, we want to obviously be on that Olympic team. That’s our goal. That’s what we’re striving for. But we’re just focusing on bettering ourselves every single day.”

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