SPORTS

Ice dancers Gilles and Poirier rebound after heartbreaking season

11/03/2014 07:00 EST | Updated 01/03/2015 05:59 EST
KELOWNA, B.C. - When Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier didn't make Canada's team for the Sochi Olympics, the ice dancers put themselves on autopilot.

It was the low point on a roller-coaster season of crazy highs and heartbreaking lows.

"We really had to keep moving forward, so we had to go home, take it one day at a time really, because we couldn't really dwell on: 'Well, that was it,'" Gilles said. "We had to turn our minds off for a little bit."

Gilles, from Toronto, and Poirier, from Unionville, Ont., captured a silver medal in ice dance at Skate Canada International on Saturday night, and reflected on how far they've come from last season.

"It's so nice to be prepared coming into the Grand Prix season this year, I think there are so many positives coming out of this competition," Poirier said.

Their Sochi Olympic campaign got off to a nightmare start when Poirier broke his ankle in May of 2013, a break so severe it took three plates and 13 screws to repair it. He wasn't back on the ice until August, and the two weren't able to do full run-throughs of their programs until about three weeks before their Grand Prix debut last November.

All the while, the American-born Gilles was nervously waiting for her Canadian citizenship, which she was finally awarded a few weeks before the Olympic trials, making her eligible to compete for Canada in Sochi.

It wasn't to be — they would finish fourth at the trials, narrowly missing the team.

"The first couple days (of Sochi) were hard for me," Gilles said. "I couldn't watch the first couple of days. But then once your competitors and your friends are all there, you're like, OK, I have to, because you want to cheer them on. And as hard as it is for you, it still gives you the motivation for the next four years."

Gilles and Poirier, who are both 22, didn't have much time to dwell on their disappointment. They were named to the Four Continents team, where they finished second, and then were replacements for Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir on Canada's team for the world championships, where they finished eighth.

"I think more at the end of the season, it was like: 'Aw man!'," Gilles said on not making the Sochi team. "But we did worlds and we had a positive worlds, so that kind of helped the negative part of it."

"It gave us a lot of momentum going into this season and we saw what we could achieve with training behind us, and we've tried to really embrace that this season," Poirier added.

Gilles and Poirier say they already have more training under their belts this season than they did all of last year, and with the changing landscape of ice dancing post-Olympics — both Virtue and Moir and U.S. Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White are taking the season off to contemplate their futures — are keen to position themselves among the world's best.

"We really want to make a big statement this year," said Poirier, who was 14th at the Vancouver Olympics with former partner Vanessa Crone. "We really want to show we're contenders in this quadrennial, and I think it has to start now. We've really been pushing ourselves because now is the time where we can really break into the ranks."

Looking back on the stresses of last season, especially the nerve-wracking wait for citizenship, Gilles said, "I wouldn't change it."

"We're still hoping for our goal, a medal, for the next one, so we're still pushing," she added.

"The end goal is still the same," Poirier said. "And we're still hoping to get there three and a half years from now. "

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