By Adena Ali
Piper Gilles almost competed in the Sochi Olympics.
She and her partner Paul Poirier were the alternates for Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. An injury to Poirier kept them from training enough before the Canadian Olympic trials.
Now, Gilles is a creative industries student at Ryerson and is training for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“You can accomplish a lot in four years,” said Gilles, 22. “So you have to be all in now or not in at all.”
Gilles was born in Rockford, Illinois, and began skating when she was two years old. She moved to Canada and officially became a Canadian citizen last December.
Gilles and Poirier, who studies at the University of Toronto, follow a very strict routine. A typical day begins with a three to four-hour skate, followed by a two-hour workout, six days a week.
Depending on their school schedule, that workout is usually followed by a ballroom dance class. They do all of this while balancing the pressure of competitions with the demanding workload of a university education.
She designs her own outfits and wanted to enroll in fashion, but the program did not fit in well with her skating schedule. Instead, she is specializing in fashion and communications within the creative industries program.
“I wouldn’t have been able to manage [fashion] because the classes were all held in the mornings,” she said. “In the creative industries program I am able to balance both my studies and skating.”
The pair recently returned from the 2014 Skate Canada International competition in Kelowna, B.C. where they took home the silver medal. It was their first medal in a Grand Prix competition.
The pair is now preparing for the 2014 Trophee Eric Bompard competition coming up at the end of November in Bordeaux, France.
“We just run through the program. We have really hard weeks and weeks where we don’t push as hard,” she said. “It’s best to get the kinks worked out now.”
“How you plan your training makes a difference,” Poirier said.
“It distinguishes the strongest teams from the not so strong teams. You’ve got to be smart about it,” Gilles added.
While she would have liked to go to Sochi this year, Gilles is using the experience to push her toward 2018. She knows the road to the Olympics isn’t easy but that the work will be worth it.
“Sometimes I wish there were more hours in the day to get more stuff done,” she said. “I don’t know what I would do if I had too much free time.”