A chat with Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea

By Leah Adams and Heather Carrelli
Photos by Leah Adams and EDEA Skates

In early December, 2015 U.S. bronze medalists Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea traveled to Croatia to compete at their last international event before the 2016 U.S. Championships in January.  At Golden Spin of Zagreb, Kayne and O’Shea took home the pairs bronze medal after winning the free skate.

Figure Skaters Online recently caught up with Kayne and O’Shea to ask them some questions about their season so far and preparing for the 2016 U.S. Championships.

Figure Skaters Online (FSO): Tell us about your season so far. You started off by winning in Salt Lake City, then you went to Skate America, then it was off to Russia (Rostelecom Cup), and finally you finished up at Golden Spin with a bronze medal. What are your overall thoughts on how things have gone for you to this point?

Danny O’Shea (DO): So far, the season has gone pretty well. We started off with our first international win at the U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City, and while Skate America was a bit of a disappointing performance for us, we felt that we were able to redeem ourselves a bit through Russia and Golden Spin and pick up some momentum heading into U.S. Nationals.

Tarah Kayne (TK): The season has kind of felt ‘up and down’ to me. It hasn’t necessarily been as smooth as I would have liked, but I think, in general, we have been steadily improving and we have really been in a good place going in to U.S. Nationals.

Tarah and Danny with their bronze medals at Golden Spin in Zagreb, Croatia

FSO: How did it feel to win the free skate at Golden Spin, especially when there were other renowned skaters competing against you?

TK: I knew we had a really strong free skate, but we didn’t actually know we won the free skate, despite the fact we were sitting and watching everyone else. I don’t think I was paying too much attention to the scores until way after we heard we got third that our coach, Mr. Peterson (Jim Peterson) texted us and said, ‘Oh my goodness, you guys won the free skate!’ and I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ So I was pretty excited. I think it was fitting that our program received the recognition it deserved.

DO: I love skating our long program. It’s a program we fought hard for this season. The music (“Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera) did not receive the best acceptance when we first announced what we were skating to, but it was something we both really believed in and is obviously working well for us in this competition, as well as Cup of Russia. We train really well on a regular basis and we were very happy to put ourselves up against the other best skaters with it.

FSO: Just a few weeks before Golden Spin, you competed at Cup of Russia, your second Grand Prix event, where you finished just off the podium in 4th place. Talk about the competition.

TK: Going into Cup of Russia, I knew it was going to be a good competition for us. I had a feeling about it. I was excited about competing in Russia for the first time. We didn’t have the best start with our short program, but I knew we were in a prime spot because of our long program elements. I think we found a good place. The long program went very smoothly and there was never a moment of panic between us or a question of doubt.

DO: This was a very comfortable competition. Funny, because Skate America was almost the opposite. Maybe it was our first Grand Prix or the pressure of skating at home, but Skate America had a lot of push and pull. It didn’t feel easy. Things didn’t feel like they clicked and Russia was smooth. All the practices were business as usual. We felt like we made Russia our home.

TK: Skate America did not feel like that. It felt like a constant struggle and we never found our footing while we were there.

DO: We’re happy to have learned from that and out last two completions have gotten better.

FSO: What is the biggest thing, good or bad, that you’ve learned from your competition season so far?

DO : Our coach, Jim Peterson, always says that every competition is a very heightened learning opportunity in a little package. I feel that we learned a lot from each competition about ourselves and about our programs this year. The biggest thing for me is probably just the experience of our first year on the GP Series, and getting those newbie jitters out of the way.

TK: As Danny said, this being our first Grand Prix season, this is the most we have ever competed internationally within one competition season – we definitely had to learn how to pace ourselves within practice so as not to be overtired for the next competition.

Tarah and Danny’s free skate at Golden Spin

FSO: Have you achieved any of your goals for this season so far?

DO: While there are small goals that we achieve on a daily and weekly basis, I think the big ones still have a little more time until they come to fruition. I would ask us that question again in April.

TK: Some of them, yes, but most of them, no. We have a lot of time left to achieve our goals, so that’s okay. We are moving in the right direction.

FSO: You recently changed your short program music and program. What brought about that change?

DO: Well, I don’t think it is any secret that our short program has not scored well this season. So we started searching for why exactly that was, and though there were technical mistakes at times, the real issue we decided was our connection to the music and the program. We have made great strides this year with our long program at becoming artists and really connecting with the program and the story as a whole, and we wanted to feel this same connection in our short program as well. The new music (as announced in their latest journal) was something Mr. Peterson had thought about and mentioned to us as an option for next year, and the three of us collectively decided that now was the right time to move on to it. The program has come extremely naturally and smoothly in such a short time.

TK: Although we initially really enjoyed the fire-y nature of our old short program, we never really got to a comfortable place with the program. We had discussed the possibility of switching to new music but wanted to give the program time to mature and develop. At some point in time during our Grand Prix and Challenger season, we knew that the program just wasn’t a good fit for us and we started discussing what our goal for the program really was; to skate to music that inspired us to skate, like our long program did. So we found a piece that did just that.

FSO: The U.S. National Championships are coming up soon. Tell us about your preparation for this event: How do you get yourselves ready for the busy week of training and competing on such a large stage?

DO: Lots and lots of run-throughs! But seriously, nothing prepares you like actually being ready, and feeling and believing that you are ready. Having the confidence that you can do everything in the program and have done it many times at home gives you a sort of calm that you can carry with you through what could be a stressful situation.

TK: We have just been training what’s in the program and drilling our weak points into the ground until they are no longer our weak points. I have also been concentrating on my physical therapy so I can feel as healthy as possible.

FSO: Tarah, you had  hip surgery in the summer of 2014. How are you feeling this season?

TK: I had a hip repair in July 2014. It doesn’t bother me too much anymore. It was a very, very long rehab. There were days I couldn’t skate and weeks we couldn’t do elements or jump. Throws were out of the question completely.

DO: We had to learn to train a different way. We have always trained really hard with a lot of repetitions and trust that we did one rep and did it well. Therefore, that’s all we needed to do and leave it. We had to trust that one was enough. We had to build our confidence in the past year and a half. It was odd and trying at first.

TK: I remember going into competition last season and we only did Zagreb, Nationals and Four Continents, but thinking at Zagreb or perhaps Nationals, that I’ve only done my free skate three times with all the elements. That was difficult. This season is so much different. My physical therapist has been fantastic and he did a great job with me.

FSO: Did the adversity knowing your partner has had such a serious surgery…

DO: She’s pretty amazing! Have you seen this girl?

TK: It gave me more confidence in myself knowing I had surgery, came back and I could conquer even a minor injury. If my jump isn’t quite working, I can figure it out because I did after my operation. The belief that Danny had in me and stood by me through all of that helps me whenever we have smaller challenges. That mess, that hardship and horrible year then nothing is going to give us much of a problem going forward.

DO: She is incredibly strong and stronger than anyone else understands. I am proud to have her as my partner. We continue to keep ourselves healthy. We want to show everyone what we can do at Nationals, which is so close.

TK: I feel like we just started the season.

FSO: Do you like living in Florida?

TK: I’ve always lived in Florida. I was born in Florida so it is the only lifestyle I know. I get excited when I see snow.

DO: When we were in Russia, after we had finished the gala, we walked outside and it was snowing. I said to her, ‘It’s snowing.’ And she exclaimed, ‘It’s snowing!’ Then she started to cry.

TK: I cry at everything. If I’m mad, excited and happy. I got overwhelmed and because the snow was really pretty, I cried.

DO: I love Florida. It’s a great change of pace. I grew up in Chicago and my family is still there. I enjoy visiting and getting a taste of the cold. because it is a wonderful city. It’s great to leave the rink after being there from 8:00 a.m. and teaching through 5:00 p.m. and you walk outside to thaw out.

FSO: Danny, you mentioned coaching. What is it like to be on the other side of things?

DO: I do just a little coaching. We both coach to give back.

TK: I like coaching because I like kids a lot. So when I’m with the kids, I can stay the extra time because it brings more to our skating.

FSO: Does explaining to a student reinforce anything?

DO: Being able to teach jumps gives you another layer of understanding of what you’re actually doing.

TK: I find myself repeating the same things I need to focus on and I repeat things Mr. Peterson says to me.

Tarah and Danny with coach Amanda Evora, two-time U.S. Champion and 2010 Olympian.

FSO: In addition to Mr. Peterson, you also work with two-time U.S. Champion and 2010 Olympian Amanda Evora.

TK: Mr. Peterson is our primary coach and then the whole team works with you. Amanda is the other pairs teams primary. We do take from Amanda and she travels to competitions with us.

DO: We are very comfortable with Amanda and Mr. Johnston (Lyndon Johnston). We have lessons with Mr. Peterson every single day, whereas with Amanda and Mr. Johnson, depending on the week, it is two or three days.

TK: They defer to whatever Mr. Peterson wants to work on. He delegates because he is our head coach.

DO: There’s one umbrella and they do a very good job of team coaching.

FSO: In closing, if you could be a super hero, who would you like to be?

TK: I don’t think she’s a super hero, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She is, by far, the most kick butt, female head strong and also very witty and funny. Sometimes, people think I look like her. She also has slayer strength, which means if she gets hurt, she heals quickly and that is always something I could use in my own life.

DO: I’ve always said I would be either Batman or Ironman, because they are normal guys. They don’t have a super power that goes along with them, but they use their intelligence to create some cool gadgets. Just to be a normal guy that does amazing things. I would aspire to be someone like that.

TK: That’s lame! You know you want to be Thor. He’s a god.

To learn more about Tarah and Danny, check out their official website.