“I wasn’t ready.”
This is the Canadian figure skater’s perspective Keegan Messing when asked why the two-time Olympian – who turns 31 this month – has decided not to hang up his skates for good once the Olympic year is over.
Instead, he called the 2022–23 season his last.
“Many athletes like to end their careers in the Olympic year,” he said olympics.com in an exclusive interview last month. “That’s all the preparations for the quad and [then] this might be the perfect time to say goodbye. I actually thought about it a lot, but I just wasn’t ready. I wanted more.
That “more” is now Messing being greeted like a hero Skate Canada International in October, his last home Grand Prix. This week he will travel to Oshawa, Ontario for his final national championship – and where he is the current titleholder.
“I’m trying not to think about it being the last time,” Messing explained, recalling the excitement he felt during the huge party at Skate Canada. “I want to leave with everything on the table. I don’t want to have to say, “Oh, I’d like to do that.” I’d like to do that. And the funny thing is, it’s a lot more annoying. It gets on my nerves a lot more when I have such high personal goals.”
The part of Messing finishing on his own terms can be traced back to a single event in early February 2022 when the skater tested positive for Covid-19 on his way to Beijing 2022 Winter Olympicsforcing him to miss the team event – and arriving just in time for the men’s singles event where he finished 11th.p.
“It’s something I really wanted to do,” Messing said of the team event, sitting on the sidelines in 2018 when the three-time world champion Patrick Chan was used for ice skating.
Another important moment in life awaits Messing: him and his wife Alley are expecting their second child in mid or late January. He even misses the gala at the nationals to go home.
Keegan Messing: Skating for others
While Messing has become an audience favorite thanks to building an international resume and a strong relationship with both Canadian and global audiences, the two-time Grand Prix medalist became a father in July 2021 when his son Wyatt born.
Wyatt became a mainstay of skating events – via Messing’s phone: Keegan held up a photo of his baby as he sat kissed and cried as he waited for the results.
“This is who I am: I love to share,” said Messing. “I’m such a proud dad [that] I wanted to share my boy with everyone. I’ve always felt this connection with the crowd… connecting with them on a personal level. Being in a kiss and a cry, wanting to share with the audience and people off screen so much more. I just want to have more contact with them.”
Messing, who lives and trains in Anchorage (he grew up in Alaska but started skating in Canada in 2014), said Wyatt only broadened his perspective as an elite athlete, even as he added more responsibilities – and less sleep – to his dad’s schedule.
“[He’s] actually made roller skating and nerves easier because before roller skating was my life and still is but roller skating was all for me,” Messing explained. “But now I have such a life outside of skating. I feel like a weight has been taken off me and I feel like I can go out and skate more because I love doing it.”
“And no matter how I’m doing, I have a life to come home to,” he added.
In 2019, a few weeks before the start of the skating season, Keegan’s brother Paxon died in a road accident. Keegan competed in the first Grand Prix of the year at skate Americadedicating his gala performance to his late brother, saying at the time, “Just being on the ice the last few weeks has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.”
“Coming here this week was a huge decision for me.”
Beijing Olympic Games: The Long Way
Another difficult journey – but in a completely different way – was Messing’s trip to Beijing in February. After winning his first national title a few weeks earlier in an empty arena due to Covid protocols, the skater was very cautious before heading to Vancouver to process the team en route to the Games.
But it did: He tested positive for Covid-19 and was ordered to quarantine only to test negative within a few days for a chance to compete in the Olympics. days of the games.
After testing negative after several days of quarantine, Messing embarked on a 40-hour journey that took him from Canada’s west coast through Europe to Beijing (the only possible flights that could be diverted to China). allowed once it has arrived. He did so with hours to spare before his last men’s training opportunity.
“There were these curtains that go into the arena where they keep the skaters, and I stopped there and looked up and saw the rings,” recalls Messing. “I had to shut down the emotions because we only had time to work. At the very end of practice, I looked up at the center of the ice again and just thought, “We made it.” Thank you. I still can’t believe I made it.”
However, he missed the team competition as part of his ongoing motivation to skate in the 2022-23 season: World Team Trophy will end the year after World Cupand Messing would love to be there – in both competitions.
“That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to ride this year,” Messing said, noting that Canada needed to be in the top six countries in the world to qualify for the World Tream Trophy.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to say goodbye than a non-qualifying competition. I will be there with all my friends. I will be there with the countries where I met all my friends and the country [Japan] who absolutely loves ice skating. I just think it’s the perfect place to just hang up your hat and say goodbye.”
Keegan Messing and the Last Dance
The “hat” is also famous because Messing would often wear a cowboy hat while kissing and crying, one of his trademark personality traits, and would sometimes do a backflip on the ice after skating, either after free skating or at a gala.
These are the elements of his signature style that made him unique and led him to this final season, even if it is a post-Olympic season.
Messing has also always been known for his big jumps and will be happy to land another quadruple Lutz – one of the hardest quad jumps – at the Canadian Championships or (if he gets the chance) at an international competition later in the season.
“It’s a jump I don’t understand,” he said. “I get consistency and when I start to perfect it, it seems to be beyond my reach. I really want to finish the jump at 30.”
With Montreal set to host the 2024 World Cup (Saitama, Japan is hosting this year), Messing is tempted to go on for one more season.
It’s not happening, he said.
“I’ve been on the ice for 27 years and it’s hard… my body hurts – everything hurts! I’m tired and I think this is the perfect time to say goodbye. One year after the Olympics, there’s really no pressure. And I hope I can just go out and have the best time of my life there.
Messing said he especially loves gala skating, but also has another post-competition career in mind: joining his father (and two generations of the family before that) as a firefighter.
“Everything is in the air and I go where the wind takes me,” he said. “There are so many things I want to do in life and spending time with my family is a big thing. I don’t want to worry too much [what comes next]but I also want to take care of my family.”