Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, a figure skating team, have discovered a winning formula while competing in a sport where synergy is at the core. They are on their way to qualifying for the Winter Olympics.
LeDec jokes that the secret to the duo’s success is “dad jokes and puns, basically.” “and a ton of laborious work. We can exert a lot of effort and go beyond our preconceived limits.”
The American duo claims their relationship off the ice has an impact on their skating, which has helped them reach new heights.
In Nashville, Tennessee, last month, Cain-Gribble (left) and LeDuc competed in the US Figure Skating Championships.
Over the course of their careers, they claim they have frequently found themselves at odds with the standards and demands of skating.
Timothy and I didn’t feel like we belonged for a very long time because we didn’t feel like we were represented, Cain-Gribble tells CNN Sport.
“And for a very long time, people spoke negatively of us. Even when we worked together, they continued to criticize Timothy’s sexuality or my body. People will continue to say things like that.”
Cain-Gribble, who is five feet six inches taller than the majority of pairs skating competitors, has previously discussed how fat shaming nearly led her to give up the sport.
I believe for us, it’s about leading with authenticity, being our actual selves in public, and fostering a very inclusive environment, she continues.
They have had to do things their own way, particularly when it comes to their costumes, in order to cultivate that environment. While Cain-Gribble frequently competes in a long-sleeved unitard rather than a dress, the two wear clothing in colors and designs that are comparable.
According to Erica Rand, author of “Red Nails, Black Skates,” their free skate program, “Two Pillars of Strength,” which they perform to music from the “W.E.” soundtrack by Abel Korzeniowski, is about “showcasing two equally strong skaters.”
According to Rand, “They are doing a lot of the same routines and similar things: throw jumps, lifts, and side-by-side jumps.”
“Additionally, I observe a lot of focus on just the powerful skating work. The emphasis on some matching work in their spirals, which are skaters’ versions of arabesques, and a general sense of immense strength may also be seen in other skaters.”
Like other couples skaters, Cain-Gribble and LeDuc have chosen not to include love stories in their programs.
LeDuc tells CNN Sport that “the girl is extremely delicate, or she is kind of the flower, and the male steps in to save the woman, or it’s a romantic Romeo and Juliet story that’s often told.”
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with those stories, but frequently they’re concentrated and considered the only ones you can represent, the only one deserving of being a champion or succeeding.
“Because we’ve never written a love tale together or been a romantic couple, Ashley and I are simply different in that regard. We’ve always been about equality and showcasing the union of two exceptional athletes to produce something lovely.”
“Artisanship and athletics”
In Nashville, Tennessee, last month, Cain-Gribble and LeDuc won the national title after breaking the previous US scoring record in the short program with 79.39 points and clinching it with 145.84 points in the free skate.
Along with Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, the 2021 US champions who were forced to withdraw from this year’s competition because Frazier contracted Covid-19, that enabled them to qualify for Beijing 2022.
Cain-Gribble and LeDuc, who are trained by the parents of the former, Peter and Darlene Cain, and Nina Mozer, respectively, each had reservations about the future of their careers before their brilliant performance at the national finals.
Cain-Gribble, whose father was a professional figure skater and represented Australia at the 1980 Winter Olympics, claims she was about to give up skating before switching from singles to pairs with LeDuc in 2016. LeDuc took a two-year break from competitive skating in 2014 and worked on a cruise ship.
The opportunity to compete in the Olympics is both the fulfillment of their long-standing goals and a pleasant turn in their up-and-down skating careers.
As soon as he saw the Olympics, LeDuc says, “I started fantasizing about them. I immediately fell in love with this incredible blend of creativity and athleticism, and I knew I had to be a part of it.”
They continue, “Whether we made this squad or not, becoming an Olympian is about seeking excellence and a dream, and that’s something that Ashley and I have worked very hard to do.
Being the first nonbinary athlete from the United States to compete in the Winter Olympics will provide LeDuc with a platform to inspire other athletes. She says, “Hopefully… people watching us can feel like they can lead with authenticity, that they don’t feel like they have to change things about themselves in order to reach their success in sport and to chase their dreams. I had to create my own route to success, and Ashley had to do the same. “I’m glad that’s what the narrative focuses around and not necessarily about me,” the speaker said. “We did that by being truly ourselves and leading with what makes us different and special.”
“Excellent skating work”
Authenticity is a key component of the pair’s skate philosophy, but it can be challenging to find in a tradition-rich activity, as Rand, professor of gender and sexuality studies at Bates College, argues.
The International Skating Union didn’t officially alter the term used to refer to female skaters from “ladies” to “women” until July 2021, according to Rand.
“To me, that really shows you how traditional this sport has been since things like costume expectations, cosmetics expectations, etc. all reflect the idea that women are supposed to be ladies.”
However, Cain-Gribble and LeDuc have defied some of those patterns.
“Women’s pair skater Ashley Cain-Gribble is not your normal skater. She is not the traditional skater described or known as a “little pair girl,” and instead is not short and not exceedingly little, which is one reason why they both find each other attractive “Rand explains.
“You never see somebody appearing to be a weak person who is being cradled or anything like that.”
Now that they have the opportunity to showcase their unique approach on the Olympic stage, Cain-Gribble and LeDuc want to make the most of their time in Beijing.
To maximize the experience, LeDuc says, “that’s kind of been what we’ve been looking at for every race this season.”
“We want to feel like we gave everything we had when we left that ice,” the author says.