The 2018 NL Winter Games proved to be a homecoming of sorts for Taylor Keefe.
The 18-year-old figure skater from Churchill Falls is originally from Deer Lake and is well familiar with the ice at the Corner Brook Civic Centre where the figure skating portion of the Games took place.
For several years until moving away when she was 11, Taylor skated with both the Silver Blades Figure Skating Club in Corner Brook and the Deer Lake Figure Skating Club. Often she’d leave a practice in Corner Brook and make the 46-kilometre trip to Deer Lake where she’d step on the ice and do it again.
“My parents put me in figure skating when I was five because I’d go to general skating and sit on the ice and eat snow,” said Taylor, the daughter of Alphonse and Loretta Keefe. "I got into CanSkate and wanted to keep doing it.”
While she was skating five or six times when she lived on the west coast, that changed with the move to the Big Land.
For the last four years, there hasn’t been a coach with the Churchill Falls club, so Taylor made the four-plus hour drive to Happy Valley-Goose Bay for a two-hour time slot to work with a coach.
Often, she’d book an hour of ice at the Terry Smith Memorial Arena in Churchill Falls when she’d coach herself. Taylor’s dad would sometimes tape these practices, which gave her the opportunity to see her mistakes and attempt to correct them.
In the last year, another skater with coaching experience moved into Taylor’s hometown and they’ve been helping themselves and the club out.
In rural Newfoundland and Labrador, making long stretches to find quality coaching and ice time is a fact of life if you want to give yourself a shot at something bigger.
I marvel at the lengths some skaters would go to find ice time when I worked in Conception Bay North.
One in particular would leave Bay Roberts after school and head for Mount Pearl most nights of the week for ice time just to give herself that shot. That meant homework by cab light on most evenings and meals at inconvenient times.
The 2018 Winter Games was Taylor’s second time competing in the sporting event. She first participated in Clarenville in 2014.
The Deer Lake competition is bittersweet as it was likely her last competitive skate.
Taylor looks at it as the closing of a chapter. She doesn’t what the next one will bring but it is unlikely to include figure skating.
Figure skaters know when they’ve hit everything they need to in their routine. Through feel and execution, they know when they’ve put together a solid run on the ice.
A self-described jumper, Taylor felt she had a good enough performance to warrant a medal. Aside from stepping out on of her jumps early on, she knew she nailed everything she needed to win the gold medal.
Entering the last spin, Taylor felt tears sting her eyes and they didn’t stop there.
Immediately after learning of her victory, Taylor called her mom in Labrador. Just prior to the Games, she started a new job and couldn’t get the necessary time off to make the trip.
It was only the second time her mother wasn’t in the stands watching her compete in Taylor’s decade-plus career.
“(Mom) immediately started bawling,” she said.
If this was the last skate of this chapter, it was a heck of way to go.