Three years after quitting competition, Julianne Séguin’s life is still in jeopardy because of concussions. At 24, she depends on her parents for washing, cleaning, and preparing meals.
Nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, difficulty concentrating, hypersensitivity to light: she now lives with serious sequelae.
Originally from the South Shore of Montreal, the skater and her partner, Charlie Bilodeau, were the rising stars of the Canadian figure skating team in 2018.
Five months after the Olympics in PyeongChang, where they finished ninth, Charlie announces the end of his partnership with Julianne. From the outside, however, everything looked perfect. But in private, the two skaters were at their wit’s end.
A year before the Games, Julianne suffered three concussions. And they weren’t taken seriously, she says.
“The year before the Games, I was a robot,” she says bluntly. [Il y avait les commotions] and Charlie had knee surgery. I had symptoms that came back because the workouts were intense, ”recalls the young woman.
“You become a machine. Your goal in life is the Olympics. You tell yourself that no matter what sacrifice I have to make, I’m going to do it. In fact, it didn’t matter anymore whether I was tempted or not. I was like, “Do it or you’ll regret it.” You forget yourself. You make yourself a prison to be sure to perform. It creates an imbalance. This is not healthy.”
By her own admission, she should have listened to health professionals more. But at all costs she had to “get back on the ice, because there was not a minute to lose” to get to the Olympics.
Do not disappoint
Yet at that time, Skate Canada had a protocol in place to control the return to the ice of skaters.
Julianne says she did not follow him from her first concussion. The same goes for the next two.
“We had to wait 72 hours. I respected that, but after that, we started high-intensity training again, ”she says.
Julianne does not hide it, she wanted to return to the ice. She felt tremendous pressure to skate, to succeed.
She didn’t want to disappoint her family, her coaches and her partner who was waiting for her to recover.
Preserve its reliable image
In 2017, three days before leaving for a competition in Moscow, Julianne received a violent nudge in the neck from another skater, and fell on the ice.
She is dizzy and her nausea is intensifying. She and her team decide to go to Russia anyway.
“It was too last minute to cancel. You wonder what Skate Canada and Patinage Québec are going to say. You want to keep your image constant and reliable. It’s important, you don’t want an “x” on your file, ”she explains.
Julianne carries a ton of drugs with her. The plane ride is difficult and seems endless.
On arrival at the arena, the lights blind him.
“We almost didn’t go,” Charlie recalls. We wondered if we were pushing too much. I had my say … yes and no. Through it all, it’s the team that decides. ”
In training, Julianne makes a first triple [trois tours dans les airs] and falls violently.
“I felt like I was crooked [à 45 degrés dans les airs] and I fell so hard. I just remember my trainer telling me, “No, you’re okay.” It was an unusual reaction from my coach, and I was so mixed up on the ice, ”explains Julianne.
“[Durant la performance], I was gagging every two or three seconds, I just wanted it to end. ”
A smile of suffering
Julianne smiles as she has always learned to do, “but it’s a smile of pain,” she says as she watches her performance. That day, they finished fifth.
On the way back, Julianne is exhausted.
“I came back almost in burnout. I told myself that I was pulling the plug and that we would not go to the Olympics. I was no longer there. ”
She finds the courage to continue. They are then selected for the Olympic Games.
“We were at top, but we were more exhausted than ever. We tried to do everything. To put all our energies in the skate. We weren’t taking too much time off, ”Charlie explains.
“I was proud of what I was doing,” he continues, “but I had a hard time saying that I was an athlete, a figure skater. I was never able to fully take on what I was doing full time and I don’t know why. It shocked me at the Olympics. ”
When the Games return, exhausted, the couple must quickly return to training and prepare for another four-year cycle. Julianne is still grieved by the after-effects of the concussions. The team then lets her know that she must regain exemplary physical shape and lose weight.
But Charlie does not agree with these requests. The situation is tense.
“I had an awareness. I was no longer good in the training environment, in the dynamics. It had exhausted us. So I said to myself: if I have the energy to keep going, I’m going to change all that, but there was something even deeper, ”Charlie explains.
- Listen to journalist Marie-Christine Noël and Julianne Séguin, ex-figure skater, with host Jean-François Baril in his podcast Avantage NumériQ
In July 2018, the skater decided to end his partnership with Julianne and their coach.
For Julianne, it’s the end of pairs skating. But not for Charlie, who turns to another partner in 2019, before announcing his retirement a year later.
“We have been so trained to put the doubt, the uncertainties and the questions aside … But you have to listen to what emanates from that. When I re-embarked with another partner, I had doubts, but I did not go to the bottom [des doutes] because I was used to it. Then when I went to training there was a point where I was no longer able […] So I hit a wall. ”
At the time of their separation, Julianne had no idea that Charlie might have saved her life. He made the decision that she would never have succeeded in making, that of withdrawing to heal himself.
“I got out of this unhealthy situation thanks to him,” Julianne said with hindsight. The whole atmosphere was no longer good. I didn’t have the strength to pull through. He did it for his own good, but also for me. […] It was time for a change. It wouldn’t have worked another four years in the same bubble. ”
Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau (24 and 27)
- Pair figure skating
- Champions at Skate America, 2016
- Triple medalists at the Canadian Championships
- 9es at the Olympic Games in PyeongChang, 2018
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