Throughout her rise to the top of Canadian women’s figure skating and a spot on the Olympic podium, Kaetlyn Osmond has often paused for a moment to share some of the credit for her success with her Edmonton-based coach, Ravi Walia.
Turns out Osmond isn’t the only woman from Newfoundland Walia has groomed in the sport.
“I love the role I have here,” said Jessica Gosse, formerly of Whitbourne and now one of Walia’s coaches at the Ice Palace Figure Skating Club. “He’s such an amazing coach and person. He’s definitely brought out the best in me as a coach.”
Like Osmond, Gosse arrived in Edmonton from Marystown, where she coached at the Ice Crystals club for 10 years.
Two of Gosse’s pupils then were the Osmond girls, Natasha and her little sister, Kaetlyn, who wasn’t even old enough to tie her skates when she first took to the ice.
Like Kaetlyn Osmond, the newly-minted Olympic bronze medalist, Gosse has been in Edmonton over 10 years now, entrenched in her coaching with one of Edmonton’s top clubs, which operates out of the Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre in Edmonton and the rink at the West Edmonton Mall.
It’s a long way from the Trinity-Placentia club in Whitbourne, where she started as a competitor and later made the move into coaching while she just 16 and still in high school.
It was some time in the mid-1990s Gosse was contacted by Ice Crystals president Barb Cribb about a job opening as club coach in Marystown.
“It was a paid coaching position, and there weren’t very many hours,” Gosse recalls. “The club was quite small, and I knew I had my work cut out for me.
“But I was young and eager.”
The Ice Crystals were, at the time, somewhat of a recreational club, with few, if any, skaters attending provincials, let alone Atlantics or nationals.
But Gosse punched in the time, and her skaters in Marystown were eager to learn. One of the them was Natasha Osmond, barely able to stand on her blades.
“I remember being on the ice with Natasha, and Jackie (the girls’ mother) in the stands holding Kaetlyn in her arms and saying to me, ‘Won’t be long now and you’ll have Kaetlyn out there, too.’”
Over the next couple of years, skaters from the Ice Crystals began placing at regional competitions, “and next thing you know,” Gosse says, “we were winning medals at provincials.
“Then I started to get this little, talented group coming up. They were good, I mean really, really good.”
Gosse reached out to former national skater and current coach Josee Picard of Montreal, who last year was inducted into the Canadian figure skating Hall of Fame.
“I remember going to a provincial seminar where Josee was a guest coach,” Gosse recalls. “I had brought a group of girls with me, and Natasha and Kaetlyn were part of it.
“I told Josee I wanted to learn, that I needed to be better for them, and she just took me.”
Turns out Picard liked Gosse’s drive and determination.
Apparently, so did the parents of her students. In Marystown — as is the case with the majority of rinks in Newfoundland — once the minor hockey season ends, the ice comes off shortly afterwards.
“I told the parents that we needed to get the kids on the ice year-round, so I’d pile them in my car and take them to town (St. John’s) to stay at my sister’s house, anything just to get these kids some extras ice time.”
Throughout it all, Gosse was brushing up on her coaching skills, and learning about ballet and off-ice conditioning, things which she’d pass on to the skaters.
“And then the next thing I knew, I had a little girl (Caitlin Coady) who wanted to skate pairs. She was talented, and I found a boy from St. John’s (Andrew Freake), who was looking for a partner.
“So, he ended up in Marystown with me.”
Not as comfortable coaching pairs as she was with the singles skaters, Gosse reached out to Picard again, who put her in contact with former national team skater and future coach Bruno Marcotte.
“I didn’t know anything about pairs. I’d never done pairs because we hardly had any pairs teams in Newfoundland.
“So, I called up Bruno and said, ‘If I fly you to Newfoundland, pick you up and bring you to Marystown, will you come help me out?’ He said “Sure!’
“I had Bruno Marcotte in Marystown, NL, helping me teach pairs.”
Gosse would later take Coady and Freake to nationals, where they won a Skate Canada junior/juvenile championship.
Determined to get her skaters better coaching and more exposure, Gosse for a couple of years took groups to Montreal to train with Picard for four and five weeks through the summer.
“We’d rent a house, and one of the parents would volunteer to come up with me,” she said.
In 2006, Gosse’s now ex-husband, a chemical engineer, was offered a job in Alberta. It was a move the two welcomed.
“I wanted to be in a bigger facility, to see what I could do as a coach, too,” she said.
Shortly after arriving in Edmonton, Gosse was invited by Jackie Osmond to drop over to the rink and see the girls skate.
“I loved it at the Ice Palace. I loved how structured it was, and you could see how Ravi wanted to make all the kids better.”
Then fate intervened. One of the coaches at the Ice Palace was pregnant, and Walia was looking for a replacement.
“He was looking for a new coach, and I happened to be looking for a job,” she said.
Now in her 22nd year coaching with an NCCP Level III coaching certificate, Gosse is one of Walia’s assistants.
She travelled with Walia and Ice Palace skaters to the 2018 Skate Canada nationals in Vancouver in January.
Gosse, however, no longer coaches Osmond. She’s Walia’s student.
“I’m in one of the largest clubs in Canada, working with one of the best coaches in the world,” Gosse said, “but it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t sacrificed back then in Marystown.
“And it was a sacrifice, from both a money and time standpoint. But I also know that, looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.”