As Vanessa James prepared to leave for Beijing to compete at the Olympic Winter Games, she savored having another opportunity to skate on Olympic ice. In her previous three appearances, James represented France. This time, she is skating with three-time Olympic medalist Eric Radford and representing Canada, the country in which she was born.
“It’s definitely a thrill and a new adventure,” said James. “I never would have thought I’d be back from retirement and training with someone new and at the Olympics after 10 months. It’s definitely been a really cool challenge for us to make sure we’re prepared mentally and physically. Now, we feel we’re the strongest we’ve ever been.”
James, 34, and Radford, 37, had each announced their retirements from competitive skating, but in spring 2021, they teamed up. It hasn’t been easy, but they’ve shown steady progress. Unfortunately, around Christmastime, they both tested positive for COVID-19 and missed about a week of training. They withdrew from the Canadian Championships after the short program but were named to the Olympic team.
“The stars have aligned,” said James. “I can’t think of a better way to finish my career than being on the world stage representing Canada.”
It took a while to get used to skating together—they are still a work in progress—but their long lines and musicality have received praise. “We were actually surprised that we have the same type of rhythm in skating,” she said. “We don’t have the mileage, but I think our unison matches quite well.”
She admitted that starting a new partnership in their 30s has been a challenge, but it invigorates them. Getting back into competition shape, having daily goals and seeing results have been great, and James said she made the best decision. “There’s no age limit to success,” she said.
It pleases James that she will again bring diversity to Olympic ice and she is sad that she will be the lone Black figure skater. “I’m going to feel quite a bit of solitude this time,” said James, who at the last two Winter Olympics was joined by French teammate Maé-Bérénice Méité. “It means a lot to me to be that representation for young girls and boys.
“If this is the first time they’re watching figure skating, it would be a shame for them to look at the sport and say, ‘There’s nobody who looks like me,’” she added. “I hope I inspire girls and boys to take up the sport.”