Calgary's Kaiya Ruiter, 16, competing at World Junior Figure Skating Championships

Kaiya Ruiter will skate at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships happening from Feb. 27 to March 5. (Danielle Earl/Skate Canada - image credit)
Kaiya Ruiter will skate at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships happening from Feb. 27 to March 5. (Danielle Earl/Skate Canada - image credit)

In November 2021, Calgary figure skater Kaiya Ruiter suffered a devastating injury.

Her skates tangled together in the middle of a jump in practice, she said, and she ended up falling on top of her skate's blade.

It tore through her calf muscles. But more than pain, Ruiter, 16, said she felt disappointment.

"Especially after the pandemic, when I just wanted to be on the ice, and then to have to get off the ice again was just so frustrating," she said in an interview with The Homestretch.

"It's been a fight, but I'm just so proud of where I am now…. I'm just so happy to be back on the ice."

Since her return, she's won a silver medal in the senior women's event at the National Skating Championships in January and a silver medal at her senior international debut in Austria in November.

Now, she's the only Canadian competitor skating in the women's category at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships, taking place Feb. 27 to March 5 at WinSport. She's also the only Albertan competing.

WATCH | Kaiya Ruiter performs at the national skating championships in January:

Scott Davis, Ruiter's coach, said she's the most driven athlete he's ever worked with in his 20 years of coaching. In her early teens, she'd already mastered all her triple jumps, he said, and has just continued to progress.

"I've never experienced anyone that has that drive and passion for the sport and also the self-motivation, which is amazing," he said.

"I'm really excited for her to have another opportunity to compete on the world stage and also to do it here in Calgary."

Although Ruiter will be doing her best to put up a good score, she said she's focused on enjoying the moment and improving on her own personal best.

She said she's proud just to be representing Canada.

"It's the greatest honour you could ever imagine," Ruiter said.

"I mean, getting to wear the maple leaf and be on that ice, representing my family and my city and my country, my province, everything. There's no greater prize."

'Sky's the limit'

As the event nears, Ruiter will continue to prepare, including conditioning on and off the ice.

The event will include the best junior figure skaters in the world between the ages of 13 and 19 competing in men's, women's, pairs and ice dance categories. (Men in pairs and ice dance can be under 21.)

LISTEN: Kaiya Ruiter describes what it's like to be competing in the junior competition:

The number of spots in each category, one to three, is determined by how well a country does in the competition the previous year, Davis said.

"Probably in the back of her mind she wants to do well so that Canada could earn a few more spots for next year," he said. "But ultimately, it's more about her just going out and enjoying ... all the work and dedication she's done over the last couple of years."

After her injury, mentally, Ruiter said she was ready to get back on the ice right away. But it took some time to get through physiotherapy and rehabilitation. She also lost out on competing in some major competitions.

But it's all made her more determined to take advantage of whatever opportunities came along, including her silver medal performances over the last few months.

Danielle Earl/Skate Canada
Danielle Earl/Skate Canada

"It's really inspired me just to keep working and keep building up my program so that I can hopefully skate another personal best at these championships," she said.

"I love performing and I just love the freedom, just being out there all by myself and the warm feeling of being out there and putting on a show."

Davis said it'll be a welcome boost to have friends and family cheering Ruiter on from the stands as she competes in front of a home crowd next week.

As for Ruiter's future, he said anything's possible.

"With her work ethic and dedication and talent, the sky's the limit."