„(…)I think we are ready to move up to the senior rank”. Interview with Junior World Champions- Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha

          Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha are a Canadian ice dance team, reigning junior world champions and junior wolrd records holders in Rhythm Dance, Free Dance and overall score. I had a big pleasure to ask them a few questions after JWC in March 2019.

A.K.: First of all- Congratulations on the great achivement at Junior world championships. How does it feel to be the World Champions?

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M.L.: Thank you. It feels amazing and almost unreal! It took me a couple of weeks to even realize it (laugh). We had so many disappointing results, like missing the podium by 0.03 at JGP final in our home country, that we didn’t know what could happen at Junior Worlds. Knowing that the hard work we did payed off is just amazing, we train exactly for moments like those.

Z.L.: It feels great. It’s the best way to finish our junior career. Even though we had a lot of disappointing results over the past two years (6th at the JGP final at Nagoya, from second in the SD to 4th overall at the 2018 Junior Worlds Championships, 4th at the JGP final this year in our own country with only 0.03 points away from the podium). We never gave up and after each competition, we always sat down and took the time to analyze our performances and results, trying to understand our mistakes and find out what were the things that could raise our scores. We are happy that the hard work finally payed off.

A.K.: Do you feel ready for making the next step and turning into seniors next season? Have you already made a decision about that?

M.L.: Of course coming into Seniors as the Junior World Champions give us confidence, but junior and senior is really not the same game… throughout our junior career, we trained not to be good juniors, but more to get ready for senior, so do I feel ready for it? I feel that we have a good base, but we are not ‘there’ yet, which is normal. We have lots of work to do but that doesn’t scare us at all.

Z.L.: Yes. We already knew at the beginning of this season that it would be our last one as junior skaters. In fact, we never trained with the mind to be junior champions. Our coaches always trained us letting us know that they wanted us to be future senior champions. With all our teammates, we learn a lot and we can’t wait to compete against them. But I think we are ready to move up to the senior rank.

A.K.: As you look back at past seasons- is there anything that you would change, for example in your skating, performences or music?

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M.L.: No I wouldn’t change anything, even if we made mistakes, we learned from it, so no.

Z.L.: No. Every program that we chose as a team helped us to develop and improve. We were getting more and more mature over the past 4 years. Each program was a special one for us.

A.K.: Every teenager has dreams and goals for the future, can you share your own with us?

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Marjorie and Zach’s first competition (Marjorie Lajoie’s archives)

M.L.: My goal in the future, regarding skating is of course going to the Olympics. Outside skating is hard to say, because I’m so much in my sport that I feel that I don’t really have time to think about that (but I know I should, everyone tells me that one day I’ll stop skating and that I need to have other goals in life). Of course I love acting, so maybe doing something that allows me to do that, like giving conferences, or I love skating so maybe coaching, I’ll see. Or maybe both, why not?

Z.L.: Of course, one of my dream would be to dominate the field of ice-dance for an Olympic cycle. That would make Marjorie and myself one of the greatest ice dancers ever. Then after my career as competitor, I would like to become a figure skating coach and be able to create champions as well.

A.K.: What skating element do you find to be the hardest, most complicated?

M.L.: I’ll say footwork, because to have your turns it needs to be really precise.

Z.L.: For me, the most complicated element technically is the footwork. All the edges must be perfect if you want to have the highest level. Physically, the spin, in my opinion is the most demanding.

A.K.: What are you doing to prepare yourself for competition mentally? Is it hard to be focused on every element during a performence?

M.L.: For me its not hard at all to be focused during a performance. We do so many times a full program that we are used to stay focused for a long period. When the music starts, we are telling a story and you can’t do that if you are not 100% in the performance. To prepare myself from the moment I’m leaving the hotel until the minute I’m on the ice, I have a mental and physical routine that really grounds me. I need to keep my head busy and do a good warm up. Music is a big part of my preparation too.

Z.L.: We work a lot with mental trainers. In fact, one of their objective is to make us be able to always focus on our performance no matter what situation happens. It can be difficult at the beginning. I usually stay in my zone the day of the competition. I barely talk to anyone. This helps for my concentration.

A.K.: Who are your role models and why?

M.L.: The people I’m training with are really inspiring for me, I’m looking up to them. I’m so lucky to train with the best in the world! And of course Tessa (Virtue- author’s note)  and Scott (Moir- author’s note) , when they were training with us, seeing how everyday they worked hard and be content in every full programs they would do and their exceptional connection. I’m just so grateful to say that I have the chance to share the ice with all my role models.

Z.L.: I have a lot of role models and they aren’t all from the world of figure skating. For example, someone that I look up to the is the tennis man, Andre Agassi. I got the chance to read his biography. This guy had really hard time with the sport he was doing at the beginning, but he kept up and created a goal for himself and was so successful. Finally, he used the success he got to help other people. He created a foundation for Education. I particularly like the statement related to his foundation: „With Education, There is Hope”.

A.K.: You’ve been skating together since 2011. How would you describe your partnership?

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Marjorie and Zach’s first competition (Marjorie Lajoie’s archives)

M.L.: Unique is the word to describe it. We are so different, and at the same time we understand each other so well! Being with the same person 5 days a week, 4 hours per day for almost 8 years, living ups and downs together creates a very special bond.

Z.L.: After 8 years of partnership, Marjorie and I are getting along better and better each new season. Even though we don’t hang out a lot off the ice, once we get in the rink we are good friends and enjoy our training together.

A.K.: You train in Gadbois, how does it feel to train with the best teams and coaches in today’s ice dancing?

M.L.: I’m just so grateful. Even if we were only juniors, the best skaters are taking care of us and motivate us, same for the coaches.

Z.L.: It feels great! A lot of skater to look up to and we learn things from them. The fact that we are going to compete against them next year will push our training to a next level.

A.K.: Marjorie, you have one of the most beautiful costumes every year. How do youcome up with ideas for them? Which one is your favourite?

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M.L.: Thank you! My dresses this year (season 2018/2019- author’s note) are my favorites, but I really liked all of my dresses. I think Mathieu Caron ( a designer who usually works with Gadbois skaters- author’s note) is amazing. Well I can tell you the story of my free dance dress from this year. We were in the coaches room, Zach, Marie-France, Mathieu and I, sitting around the table, and Marie just said: „Mathieu I want you to make a Junior World Champion dress”, then she left. And while our free dance music („Warsaw Concerto” by Richard Addinsell- author’s note) was playing on repeat, Mathieu took a pen and started drawing the dress.

A.K: Zach, I’ve heard that you play the piano very well, why did you choose skating over professional music career?

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Z.L.: In our home, we would rather sing instead of speaking. My both parents are engineers but above all, my father is a music lover and my mother a pianist. When I was young, studying music was not an option but something natural. Both my sister and I are skaters and pianists. All our environment (friends, activities…etc.)  revolve around music or dance. We would meet friends to plan concerts, play in concerts, go listen to concerts or just discuss about music. We would go see ballet, discuss dance and so on. It was very easy to develop a taste in fine arts given my childhood. So yes, at home we had discussions about whether I go full time studying piano, mainly after winning competition prizes and playing at finals in Canada National Music Competition. It is difficult for me to make a choice but since I can do both (skating and being a musician- author’s note), I will continue the same way.

A.K.: What is the most memorable gift that you have gotten from you fans? Do you like to be close with them?

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Marjorie’s lipstick- gift from her fans (Marjorie Lajoie’s archives)

M.L.: Once I received a unique, personalized lipstick (they needed to be like 6 fans to buy it, and my name was on the lipstick). I absolutely love to be close to them. Figure skating is a very judging sport, and sometimes people can be really mean, so knowing that we actually have fans on our side gives me confidence, and I want to say thank you by sharing time with them.

Z.L.: One of our fans from Japan, Dara, gave us a photo album of our competitions. She always supports us no matter what and it feels great to have such a big fan!

A.K.: You used very original music for this season’s (2018/2019) Rythym Dance, do you have any ideas for next year?

M.L.: We keep it a surprise until our first competition.

Z.L.: We didn’t start looking for music yet. But we will start soon.

A.K.: You broke a new junior record, what does this kind of an achievement mean to you?

M.L.: It means a lot, of course it’s just junior, but I’m still very proud of it.

Z.L.: It really means a lot! But the most difficult is to overcome from it. We must put this victory behind us now and look forward. A lot of good junior teams didn’t have the same success at senior level. So, we still have to focus and keep aiming for success in senior.

A.K.: Every time I do interviews with great athletes, like yourselves, who are my age, I ask myself” What am I doing with my life?” How does it feel for you to be young athletes? How would you encourage children to do sports?

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M.L.: Of course being a young international athlete means you dont have a normal life. I mean when I was in high school, I was ending high school at 12 pm, then training for 5 hours, coming back home at 7:30 pm, eat, study, then had to to go sleep early because I need energy for my training. Missing lots of partys and family vacations, but when you love what you do, it’s all worth it, and even more so when you have good results. I would say to children that sport can give you self-confidence and self-esteem; when you’re doing sport you are in shape and you feel great in your body. You don’t need to dream to go to the Olympics to do a sport, just find something you like and you’ll be happy and good at it.

Z.L.: I feel very grateful to my parents for registering me to figure skating. It is good to feel that an objective has been reached. I certainly feel proud of such an accomplishment. I would tell children about such a feeling of achievement when they perform in any sport and at any level. They would set a goal that they really want to reach. Once they find it, it is so much easier to train hard because everything they do would bring them closer to their goal. Every training session will bring them closer to their dream and the hard work will just become more fun to do. Try it, it works!

Photos: http://www.davecskatingphoto.com/index.html

 

Also, big thanks to Patrycja for helping me with this interview, you’re awesome!

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