HELSINKI — Kaetlyn Osmond was just three when she first skated in front of a crowd, performing as a Teletubby in her skating club's annual ice show in Marystown, N.L.
"There was one year I was a flower. I looked pretty cute as a flower. I had a really big pink helmet," Osmond said.
Skating at such a small club in a town of about 5,500, she said, virtually everyone was invited to skate in the annual show.
"As long as I could skate on my own I was in the show," said Osmond.
She can't remember a time she didn't love the spotlight, and it's a big reason she has excelled in a sport where "you're literally in a fish bowl. . . and the world is watching."
On Friday night, the 21-year-old was last to step on the Hartwell Arena ice, and unleashed the performance of her life to capture a silver medal at the world figure skating championships. Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., won bronze. It was the first time Canada had put two women on the world medal podium, and the country's first medal since Joannie Rochette captured silver in 2009.
"You can't teach some of the qualities she has," said Ravi Walia, her coach of 11 years. "You can see now as an adult, she has a lot of charisma, and she's a very fierce competitor. She's always had that."
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won gold in ice dance, sending Canada home from Finland with three medals.
But it was Canada's two young women, who had flirted with international success all season, who stole the spotlight.
Osmond left Marystown for Montreal when she was just nine, to live and train with her older sister Natasha. They lived for a couple of months with coach Josee Picard before their aunt moved to Montreal "pretty much to be our nanny." A year later, her parents — mom Jackie and dad Jeff — who work in the oil business decided to relocate the family to Sherwood Park, Alta.
Osmond maintains strong ties to Newfoundland, where her older brother and sister live. During the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Tim Hortons there sold a pink "Kaetlyn Osmond" donut. Marystown has named a rink and a street after her.
Her solid skates in Helsinki were a major breakthrough coming only a year after she didn't qualify for the world team. She's been on the mend — emotionally as much as physically — after badly breaking her leg in the fall of 2014.
"I didn't know that there was still a bit of doubt in me. I doubted myself a lot last year and doubted my ability to be able to come back and perform at my absolute best," she said. "It wasn't until I hit my ending position that I realized that I am back. I feel so much better, and after everything that I've been through, it was worth it."
Daleman, who started skated at four, set her sights on the Olympics after watching Joannie Rochette finish fifth in 2006 in Turin. The 19-year-old was eight at the time.
"I told my parents 'That's what I want to do, I want to represent Canada, I want to go to the worlds, I want to go to the Olympics, I want to win medals,'" Daleman said.
"My parents know me, when I set my mind to something I'm very dedicated. I told my dad last year that I wanted to medal at worlds, and my dad took it as a joke. He was like 'OK, say what you want.' And then I come here, and he's like 'Wow, she actually did it.' When I set my mind to something, I'll go after it."
The emergence of the two ends a drought for Canadian women, who — other than Rochette and Elizabeth Manley before her — have largely skated in the shadow of the men, ice dancers and pairs teams.
Osmond and Daleman are the product of a new approach in Canadian skating, which long held the belief that teaching triple jumps at a young age could jeopardize their health as they were growing.
"What we started to see across the world was these young skaters coming up doing all the triples at a young age, at 13, 14, so when they went through their growth period, they didn't lose the stuff," said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director. "Whereas our skaters . . . after all the growth and maturity, were then trying to learn it, which was much harder."
Osmond reeled off six triples on Friday, while Daleman did seven.
"Kaetlyn, Gabby, Alaine (Chartrand), they're kind of that wave that came in behind where that thinking changed. Joannie was just such a talented skater that she grew and was able to develop through," Slipchuck said.
Slipchuk heads home pleased with the team's performance that saw all but one entry — pairs team Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau — finish in the top 10. They were 11th.
As well, Canada secured the maximum three spots in every discipline except men's singles for next year's Olympics. The world championships determine the numbers each country can enter in the four disciplines. The total of the best two finishes in each has to equal 13 or under. Patrick Chan was fifth, while Kevin Reynolds was ninth, meaning they missed by one.
The one big blow on the week was Eric Radford's hip injury that prevented him and partner Meagan Duhamel from having any real shot at winning their third consecutive world title. They finished seventh.
Canada's next event is the World Team Trophy in two weeks in Tokyo.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press