By Claire Cloutier, Team FSO contributing writer
Photos by Robin Ritoss
Trennt Michaud is a familiar face to pairs skating fans. The 26-year-old has represented Canada internationally since 2014, first in junior pairs with Hope MacLean and then in seniors with Evelyn Walsh. Last season, Walsh and Michaud placed 6th at the ISU World Championships in Montpellier, France, and appeared poised for further success.
However, in August 2022, Walsh announced that she was ending her skating career to focus on university studies. After six years, Michaud was suddenly left without a partner. But he never considered retirement. Michaud and his coach, Alison Purkiss, soon started looking for a new partner.
Enter 18-year-old Lia Pereira. When the 2022-23 season began, Pereira was competing in the junior women’s ranks and placed top 10 at two Junior Grand Prix events last fall. Recognizing her talent, Michaud reached out to Pereira to suggest a pairs tryout. Pereira had previously skated novice pairs for one season with James Robart-Morgan, and Michaud’s offer piqued her interest. Her coach, Nancy Lemaire, was supportive.
When they tried out together, Pereira and Michaud quickly realized they were a good match. Only four months into their partnership, they competed at their first international competition, Golden Spin of Zagreb, and won a bronze medal. Next came a bronze medal at the 2023 Canadian National Championships, and they were named to Canada’s team for the ISU Four Continents and Worlds Championships.
At Four Continents in Colorado Springs, Colo., Pereira and Michaud continued to impress, performing strong technical content for a new team. They featured a triple twist and a throw triple Salchow in their free skate, finishing just off the podium in fourth place.
After their free skate in Colorado Springs, Pereira and Michaud spoke with Figure Skaters Online (FSO), telling us how their partnership started and why it clicked so quickly.
FSO: Congratulations on a great finish at Four Continents. You guys were in the fight for the bronze medal. Did you expect that coming in?
Pereira: We try not to put too much pressure on placement and scores, especially when we haven’t been out internationally very much. This is only our second competition internationally. So our goals are just putting out good skates and putting these elements [out] under pressure. Also, showing people what we’ve been able to accomplish in the past five-and-a-half months. It was on our mind a little after the short. But we tried to just put our heads down and do what we know we can do.
Michaud: Yes. Just trying to control what we can control. Obviously, that’s all we can really do, in general. After the short program, we were super-happy to be in the last warm-up group with three of the Grand Prix Final teams.
FSO: Let’s go back to the beginning of your partnership. How did you decide to try out and get together as a team?
Pereira: Well, I did pairs about five or six years ago, and I worked with our coach, Alison [Purkiss]. So once Evelyn [Walsh] had decided to move on, I got a message from them, asking to try out. Things just went from there. We did a couple days and then said: “Okay. See you tomorrow?” And we just kept saying that, and things kept rolling. I think we’re both very happy with how that all worked out.
Michaud: Yes, exactly. After Evelyn decided to move on, Alison asked me if I wanted to keep going. I said, “Of course.” One of our first options/picks was Lia. Nancy [Lemaire, Pereira’s coach] and Alison have been close friends for a long time. So Ali called Nancy, we had a meeting, and we started skating a little bit. When Lia got back from Courchevel, at the end of August, that was when we really started skating together.
FSO: So the thought of retiring never crossed your mind, Trennt?
Michaud: Not even once. I wanted to continue, for sure. I love competing. I love skating.
Pereira: I think that’s something we share and have in common, just how much we love to skate. Every day we go to the rink, and we’re happy to be there. Every time we compete, we always remind ourselves that there’s nowhere else we’d rather be. We just love and take in every moment of it. It’s nice to share that.
FSO: So which clicked first–your personalities or skating styles?
Michaud: Honestly, it was a little bit of both. We worked with Paul McIntosh; he’s an ice dance coach. Alison sent him some videos [of us]. And right away, he said there were a lot of things that were already really well-matched, without us even working on it, like our backward stroking pattern. There were a lot of things that matched naturally. And our personalities gelled really easily.
Pereira: Yes. We’re both just very happy. Our friends at the rink call us their golden retrievers sometimes. [Smiles] We kind of share the same personality in that way. Which is nice, because we can feel the same feelings. When we’re nervous, we can talk it out. And we just try to keep things light and fun. That’s what’s worked so far this season.
FSO: Yes. Lia, I was noticing in practice at Four Continents that you always seem to have a smile! [They both laugh.]
Michaud: Yes, exactly. It’s super-fun.
Pereira: We just love skating.
Michaud: Even in the stressful moments, we’re both like: “Okay, this is fun.” It makes it much easier.
Pereira: It’s a pretty cool job. [Smiles]
FSO: Lia, you come from a singles background. Did you have any concerns that doing pairs might negatively affect your singles career?
Pereira: Yes. I think my first initial reaction was: “How am I going to be able to pursue both competitively?” But right away, we talked with both coaching staffs, and Trennt, and we found a schedule that worked really well. I am still in high school, so that’s a factor too. But we figured that out pretty quick. It was like a week-to-week basis, on which ice we had available.
FSO: Lia, do you train singles and pairs in the same rink, or separate rinks?
Michaud: We’re pretty much 50/50 between two rinks, Brantford and Milton. [The two rinks in southern Ontario are about an hour apart.]
Pereira: My home club is Milton; that’s where I’ve skated singles my whole career. And they’re at Brantford. So we alternate. We just chat and see which works best for the coaches and ourselves.
FSO: And your singles coach, Nancy Lemaire, didn’t have any concerns about you skating both pairs and singles?
Pereira: No. She was actually the one who [first] told me about it. She said, “I think this is going to be a great opportunity, and we’ll make it work. We’ll figure out what works best for everybody.” And that was really helpful, to have the support from both sides. So I’m very grateful for that. It was a little tricky at first. Once Wednesday or Thursday rolled around, I’d need an extra cup of coffee in the morning.
Michaud: Our entire team all communicate really well, and they work together. There were still weeks where Lia was just exhausted. And our strength & conditioning coach was like: “Well, let’s taper. Let’s do this, let’s do that.” And then, we’d have the same talk with the skating coaches the next day.
Pereira: To figure out which programs we’d run, and try to work it out.
Michaud: So it was a big thing [managing workload], and still is a big thing.
FSO: Lia, with regard to strength and conditioning, do you need to focus on different areas for pairs vs. singles?
Pereira: I don’t have to necessarily focus on different muscle groups, but I definitely feel sore in different areas. Pairs is more upper body than singles, because of the lifts and death spirals. Just making sure I recover better in the upper body, as well as the lower body, has been a learning experience and something I’ve had to focus on.
FSO: Going forward, do you plan to continue with both singles and pairs?
Pereira: Well, we’ve had our heads down for the past two to three weeks, really focused on this competition. And we’re really looking forward to Worlds. There will be a discussion eventually, at some point. But we’re just trying to work and improve, and that’s our main goal right now.
Michaud: This is the longest we’ve actually had to prepare for an event, since we started skating together. It’s like, “Okay, we’ll get to that later.”
Pereira: Yes, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
FSO: You’re still a very new team, but you already seem to have a lot of confidence with throw jumps. Can you talk about how your throw jumps have evolved?
Michaud: Well, obviously, Lia’s already a great singles skater. So we didn’t really have to change much of our timing or anything for jumps. Luckily, it was pretty natural. Obviously, [there were] little setup things [to address]. Then that was pretty much like, “Checked, okay, we can move on to the next stuff.” I think with her being very good at jumping and also very body-aware, the throws just kind of [developed].
Pereira: It just came a little bit naturally. The rotation part was not an issue; it’s more just the checking out. Normally, I’m checking out as I’m touching the ice. This time, I’m all the way out there [in the air]. So that was a bit of a hurdle to jump over. But we made sure to take it slow; we put a lot of reps [repetitions] in with the double throws. Then we started training the throw triple [Salchow] before Canadian Nationals, and it worked out really well.
Michaud: Everything’s still improving, every day. We’ll get the [throw triple] loop in for Worlds. That’s the plan.
Pereira: Once we get to Worlds, we’ll feel more comfortable and confident in the other elements, so we’ll be able to have room for a new element [throw triple loop].
FSO: How did your other pairs elements develop, such as lifts and death spirals?
Pereira: Well, I did do pairs before, although obviously, it was not to this caliber. We just focused on taking our time. There was a joke that I learned like 100 new things every day–which I felt like, most days. Just getting the repetition of lifts and twists off the ice, as well as on the ice, is helpful.
Michaud: She’d already done death spirals [in previous partnership]. So we had to do a little bit of work on them, but those came back pretty quickly.
Pereira: And naturally.
Michaud: Obviously, we just started with basic lift positions, because that’s what she had done before. But that part also was a little bit easier. [To Pereira] You joked that, when you were with James, sometimes the star [lift] wouldn’t go up in a program, right? And so you were like, “Whoa, now I’m always up here.”
FSO: Lia, do you find that you’re enjoying pairs skating?
Pereira: Yes, I do. I do enjoy it. I think it’s much more fun to do it as a team. I think I’m a very outgoing person, and it’s nice to skate and share these experiences with someone else.
Pereira: I’ve got to keep things chatty out there, or else I get bored. Although sometimes, you need your own alone time.
FSO: Aside from hopefully adding the throw triple loop, is there anything else you’ll be focusing on for Worlds?
Michaud: Probably just little things, like transitional work and cleaning up lifts. We’re still catching up on repetitions of everything. But yes, the main goal is adding the second throw triple, and just feeling more confident in the skating and the connection with each other. Because that part is obviously still relatively new for both of us.
Pereira: Yes, connection with each other, to the music, between elements, all of that. We’re just looking to improve.
FSO: Do you expect to get new programs for next season?
Pereira: I think so. We haven’t really had much time to think about that. But it’s fun to keep things fresh and to push [forward], especially heading to the Olympics, to have some experience [with] different styles of music, and pick which one suits us best. That’s something that we’re aiming to do.
Michaud: It’s also pretty easy when our coach is our choreographer. We’re very excited to go to Worlds and all that, but we’re also excited for the off-season, because we haven’t gotten to play with anything yet. We’ve had a few days, when we first get back from a competition, where we like to play with some new lifts or things for a show program. But we’re excited to do more of that. And that will lead into what we want to try with new music.
Pereira: We want to create our own little trademark things [transitions or elements], as well. Things that we feel comfortable doing, and that’ll be fun.
FSO: What are you interested in off the ice?
Michaud: I’m a sports fan in general. And I’m an avid disc golfer. That’s my second passion besides skating. Lia loves it. [Smiles at Pereira]
Pereira: I didn’t even know what disc golf was until I met him. Now I know all about it. [Laughs] I went the first time while we were here in Colorado Springs. It was an experience. I was not too good.
FSO: Lia, you mentioned that you’re still in high school?
Pereira: I actually graduated high school last year. But I went back and did a victory lap, to try out some new courses and find out what I really enjoy and want to head into university doing. So I’m taking a couple of business courses. And I’ve applied for university. It will probably be a part-time thing, like one or two courses, to stay in school. It would be local, [probably] in between Milton and Brantford, which would work nicely.
FSO: Trennt, are you still coaching?
Michaud: Yes, I coach a lot. I’m the director of our learn-to-skate program in Brantford with Alison [CanSkate Director]. So I coach a lot, I play a lot of disc golf, and I’ve started teaching power skating as well with my roommate [a pairs skater], which has been really fun and interesting. That’s pretty much my life. I go to the rink, I go and play disc golf, and then I go back to the rink. I also work sometimes at Sport Chek [Canadian sporting goods store]. They sponsor me; they’ve been really good to me.
FSO: Is there anything else you’d like fans to know?
Michaud: We’re just really excited to be skating together and really start showing what we’re working toward.
Pereira: We love performing. And we’re excited to do it at Worlds. This will be my first time in Japan. It’s going to be super-cool, especially with the audience. We love having an audience, but I heard their audiences are next-level. So I’m excited for that.