BY TALIA BACHEKJIAN
MONTREAL (Horizon Weekly) — Tina Garabedian is no ordinary 18-year-old girl. Besides school and personal life, she trains multiple hours a week to be able to accomplish her dream: representing Armenia in the 2018 Olympics as a figure skater. It is thanks to her loving family and supportive friends that she has the strength to continue. We both attended l’École Arménienne Sourp Hagop and I recently had the opportunity to get to know her a little better through this interview.
Talia Bachekjian: Tell us a little about yourself: when did you first start skating? What attracted you to this sport?
Tina Garabedian: My name is Tina Garabedian and I am 18 years old. I attended l’École Arménienne Sourp Hagop until the 7th grade but had to change to a sports-study program to help my skating schedule. I am currently at Cégep Gérald-Godin in the sports-study program with a focus on business. This allows me to miss days from school for my international competitions. I started skating at the age of 5 thanks to my mother. She loved how graceful Josée Chouinard, Canadian champion, was and wanted her daughters to learn the sport. As years passed by, my love to this sport grew stronger. I used to freestyle (skating alone) until the age of 14 when I joined my sisters’ synchronized skating team in “Les Pirouettes Junior” for a year. Finally, I found myself a partner at the age of 15 and started Ice dancing (as a couple). I skated 2 seasons with Alexandre Laliberté. We went to the Junior World Championships 2015 representing Armenia and then changed partners once the season ended. Currently, I skate with Simon Proulx-Sénéchal, a great skater that I get along with.
T.B.: How do you train for a competition? What is your schedule like?
T.G.: Practice makes perfect. We skate and train hard as much as we can with our crazy schedules. I have five classes in Cegep and one online course. Whenever I am not in school, I am at the skating rink. Some days, I start with school in the morning and other days, I begin my day skating. One day of the week, I go skate in between my classes. Thankfully, the rink where my coaches train me is at “Sportplexe Pierrefonds 4 glaces” which is only 3 minutes away from my school so they are very close in distance. Less stress.
T.B.: When was your first competition? How did it go?
T.G.: I have been competing since the age of 6 so it’s hard to say, but I know I wasn’t in first place. I made my way up and I’m happy with how my competitions go. Each competition allows me to learn from my mistakes and improve for the next event.
T.B.: How do you balance your school life and training?
T.G.: As I mentioned earlier, it’s not easy to manage school and compete for a sport that takes almost more time than school. I have a busy schedule during the day, come home around 5, eat, and have to do homework or study or even go to the gym to train. Basically, I have no break. That’s the hard part, because I do get exhausted mentally and physically. It’s sometimes very hard to keep up with both parts of my life that are extremely important to me. On top of that, I miss school days because of my international competitions. Last year, I participated in 4 competitions. Each competition lasts a week, which means that I missed 3 Cegep weeks out of 15. Let me tell you that the teachers were not happy to hear that news. Thankfully, since I am in a sports-study program, they have to accept my absences.
T.B.: When was the moment you decided to pursue skating professionally?
T.G.: I don’t think there was a moment and I’m not sure if what I do currently is skating “professionally”, but I love my sport and want to pursue it until my dream and goals have been accomplished.
T.B.: Do you have a special routine to calm down your nerves before you perform?
T.G.: I do actually. I get pretty nervous before my competitions, which is completely good and can be helpful at times. When my nerves are too high and are not helping me perform the way I would like, I tell myself one thing : «contrôle les contrôlables»! I mean I can’t control how my partner performs, I can’t control how stressed my coaches are, I can’t control what levels the technical panel will give, I can’t control how much the judges will like us, I can’t control how the other couples will skate. All I can do is concentrate on myself and just go out there and show them what I’m capable of.
T.B.: Which professional figure skater do you admire the most? Why?
T.G.: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moyer are the gold medalists at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. They are the reason why I started loving dance and wanted to find a partner. They are so beautiful to watch and the best skaters I have ever seen, by far. I would love to skate like Tessa one day.
T.B.: Where have you traveled to compete?
T.G.: Until last season, we were representing Canada so all of the competitions were within the country. After getting my Armenian passport, a lot more opportunities were available for us and I am so thankful for that. We went to Ostrava in Czech Republic, Dresden in Germany, Budapest in Hungary and Tallinn in Estonia. This season, we have been to Graz in Austria. In 2 weeks we will be traveling to Zagreb in Croatia. We will also be heading to Bratislava in Slovakia, a competition in Germany and hopefully Boston for the Senior World Championships 2015.
T.B.: What’s your favorite moment so far as a figure skater?
T.G.: I don’t have one favorite moment, but I love finishing a program, either the “short” or the “free”. I love seeing the audience, friends and or coaches applauding and cheering you on telling you how good you are. Encouragement is always a good reason to keep going and getting better.
T.B.: What were some of the obstacles/challenges you’ve faced?
T.G.: I’ve had injuries, moments when I wanted to give up, bad communication with my partner, bad days, too much stress, too many school days that I had a hard time with, having jealous people around putting me down and telling me that I should stop and have a life. I’ve had accomplishments and good results, but I have also experienced the bad. I have faced a lot of obstacles in my skating career, but all I’ve done to get over them is talk about the problem and getting help.
T.B.: Your ultimate goal is to represent Armenia during the Olympics. You are so close to making that dream a reality. How does it feel?
T.G.: The qualifications for the Olympics are during the 2017-2018 season, which means that we have to work extremely hard for the next two years to try and qualify for it. I feel like there is a lot of pressure, but I would like to think that it would be a good motivation to do my best and accomplish this amazing dream of mine. I am very excited and anxious to see how it will turn out and I can’t wait to share my experiences with you all.
Tina, I wish you all the best in your future plans and dreams and hope to cheer you on at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.