Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker: “It’s not fun to be competitive in a negative way”

Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker
Photo by David W. Carmichael

The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating continues this Friday with the Shiseido Cup of China. The 2018 Four Continents champions, 2018 NHK Trophy champions, and 2019 U.S. national bronze medalists Kaitlin Hawayek and  Jean-Luc Baker are among the competing skaters.

They talk about their programs, their ultimate goals for this season, tough competition, and more.

Last season, you struggled a lot with injuries. Is everything OK now?


Everything’s okay. I had a concussion at the beginning of last season, which held on to me for quite a while, pretty much through until the end of Worlds. But the recovery process was really good, and my team, including Kaitlin, the coaches, and U.S. Figure Skating, were extremely supportive in every step.

Earlier this year, there were some organizational changes in your club in Montreal. Did they affect your training process somehow?


No. Our training is the same, it’s incredibly structured, thought out, and intentional. I think that the changes in the structure of our Academy, the ice dance Academy of Montreal, are more to help have the Academy grow in the future. There haven’t been many major changes lately, but it’s really nice to know that our coaches are thinking long term for all of us, both within our skating career and post-skating career.

Let’s talk about your programs. Your free dance is very different from what you usually do. How comfortable do you feel?


Actually very comfortable. We love this program a lot. It’s refreshing to do something different.

Last year we really loved our tango, so we wanted to do something with the same intensity, but also something that really brought out a unique character with us, because we do both have big personalities. The whole concept of Marie Antoinette meeting flamenco was a unique one, and we fell in love with it right away.

Your rhythm dance is also great. Would you please tell me about it?


We’re doing disco from the Saturday Night Fever musical. It’s been a lot of fun. Like we said, we both have big personalities, and so we are able to show off those personalities in a very fun, energetic way. I think it’s reminiscent of some of our show programs that we’ve done, and we both jumped on the opportunity to be able to do a competitive program that brought out that same character.

Do you like musicals in general?


I like some of them. I’ve been able to see a few on Broadway, and it’s incredible. The ability for the actors, the performers to act, sing, and dance is something that I can’t imagine in my wildest dreams, and they do all of it. I really enjoy seeing live performances, and movie musicals are fun, too.

Top 3 U.S. ice dance couples train together. How difficult is it for you to share the coaches’ attention? Do you feel competitive when you train?


I don’t think it’s an issue.


Yeah, there’s no issue at all. They’re incredible about making sure that everyone gets attention,  everyone gets time. Our coaches treat everyone as if they’re winners and champions, so it’s never been an issue.

We get to train with the best couples, and we’re able to build strong bonds with them as well. It’s not fun to be competitive in a negative way. To be able to have such positive relations with our two top competitors, it only drives us all forward.

Being the national bronze medalists, does it give you extra motivation or extra pressure?


I think for us it’s a stepping stone. We know that we’re not satisfied with third; we will obviously want to continue to be the best. Do we have a long way to go? Absolutely. But do we think it’s possible? Absolutely. So, bronze for us was a really big achievement and a great milestone, but it’s also in the past. That’s not in our focus right now. We’re only focused on each day of training, whatever competition we have coming up.


We’d like to go into the mentality of winning the competitions. We know that they’re very steep, but we’re excellent competitors ourselves.

Thank you so much for the interview. Good luck!

Ludmila ORLOVA