Keegan Messing’s figure skating career will come to an end after the World Championships

Keegan messing, figure skating

It was a pivotal moment for Keegan Messing, a week that stabilized the young figure skater’s precarious career, which had been hanging on the precipice.

He was 22 when competition began at the 2015 Canadian National Championships in Kingston, Ontario.

Messing, a promising junior American figure skater who grew up in Girdwood, dropped out of the U.S. figure skating team and hadn’t competed internationally in more than a year. He decided to skate for Canada, where his mother was born. The transition took a couple of years, and while Messing won bronze at the Skate Canada Challenge to qualify for the 2015 nationals, her future was still opaque.

Keegan messing, figure skating

“I don’t know if I would have continued, to be honest,” he said. “So many times I was on the edge of not knowing where I wanted to be or what I wanted to do.”

Messing finished fifth, not in the medal position, but it was a positive development. He would hold her, he decided.

And not only did it stick, it went away. Since nearly hanging it up in 2015, Messing has become one of Canada’s most decorated figure skaters, with Grand Prix medals, a pair of Olympic appearances and two Canadian national championships.

Keegan messing, figure skating

Eight years later, Messing, 31, will retire this week after the World Championships in Saitama, Japan.

Messing, now a father of two, said stepping down from the competition will make it easier for him to spend time with his family. And it will be easier for his body, which has endured more than 25 years of constant training and hard falls on the ice.

“It’s getting harder and harder to hurt, to come to a cold ice rink every day and push your body to extreme levels of pain and keep going,” he said. “If I had to compete all the time, I think I can keep going. But in the same breath, I’m tired. My body hurts.”

Two-way greeting

While Messing’s skills have brought him success in Canada, his personality has made him a fan favorite. He is connected to his fans with his reactions and interactions in the “kiss and cry” area, where he showed family photos.

Figure skating from four continents

“All It’s about being the real me,” she said. “I’m not trying to be somebody else, but every time I take a step forward with who I am, I feel like I’m accepted.”

That was evident when he skated at the 2023 Canadian Nationals earlier this year in Oshawa, Ontario. Even before the start of the competition, in the practice skates, Messing was drawing lively cheers from the audience.

“The crowd is pretty good, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “And it really stuck with me, like, ‘Wow, these people are trying to say goodbye to me as hard as I’m trying to say goodbye to them.'”

Messing won his second consecutive national title in Oshawa. And while the process of making his final performance at Canadian nationals was an emotional one, he also had big family changes on his mind. His wife, Lane, would have their second child the day he collected the title.

Canadian figure skating championships

“The last competition I did was very emotional and very emotional,” he said. “Trying to say goodbye…it’s hard. Having little Mia due the same day I was competing in the long program was nerve wracking, but I was on the phone with my wife almost the whole time, and we were in a happy state of hope (desire).”

Mia was born a few days later.

“He wanted to see his dad,” Lane Messing said. “He wanted Dad to be here.”

‘Without a doubt’

Keegan Messing with his coach, Ralph Burghart, is almost unmatched in this sport. Burghart, a seven-time Austrian champion and former Olympian, has coached Messing for 25 years.

Keegan messing, figure skating

Their relationship has predictably evolved over the years, with Burghart starting as a tough taskmaster and becoming a consultant.

“You can’t treat a 12-year-old like a 6-year-old or (treat) an 18-year-old like a 12-year-old, so I’ve had to change. He’s matured as a person,” Burghart said. “I’m handling a lot. I’m in his eyes on the ice… I’m his motivator and I don’t necessarily teach him technique. There’s no technical skill he can’t master now.”

Although he is currently out of competition, Messing is skating better now than he has ever had in his career. She finished in the top 15 at the 2022 Beijing Olympics and the 2022 Worlds. On the heels of Canada’s second national championship, Messing won silver at the Four Continents Championships in Colorado last month.

“I always thought his last years would be the best and he would be amazing at the end of his career,” Burghart said. “It’s later blooming, later mature.”

Keegan messing, figure skating

Burghart knew almost immediately that Messing had a special talent, a combination of physical attributes and a rare level of fearlessness.

“There was no hesitation,” Burghart said.

Messing developed in the US program, earning a silver medal in the junior competition at the 2009 US Championships. But it hit a development wall and struggled with boot issues.

The switch to competing for Canada was a stabilizing factor. There, he received more support, both financially and emotionally.

“Honestly, I still wonder, if I hadn’t skated so well at nationals that year, I don’t know if I would have continued because it would have been three years of pushing something that my heart was almost ‘no more,'” Messing said.

“But then as soon as we got into the Canadian club, we started getting calls and emails saying, ‘Hey, how can we help you?’ And we started this support group.”

“Always on Team Alaska”

Although he has had a lot of success with Team Canada, Messing has coached in Anchorage his entire career and has a large following in Alaska.

Keegan messing, figure skating

“Alaska is a very nice place, and the community here is amazing,” he said. “No matter what team I’m on, I’m always on team Alaska, and Alaska has always supported me 100%.”

Although he has focused more on balanced performances, training has still taken place throughout the year. Not being ready to continue giving skating his sole focus is the driving force behind his decision to retire: “Being a father, being a husband, being a person who contributes more to the community and not being the only person. shooting at the goal,” he said.

Keegan messing, figure skating

Messing plans to spend some time on the figure skating show circuit in the next couple of years, but hopes to earn her credentials to become a firefighter and start working for the Anchorage Fire Department. His father is a third-generation firefighter.

Messing’s retirement will also be a change for Burghart, who has coached Messing for 25 years as his professional priority. Not sure if he will continue in Alaska, but he has been doing youth training both here and in Texas.

Keegan messing, figure skating

Messing’s first performance on the ice will be in the short program at Worlds, scheduled It will air in Alaska beginning Wednesday evening and air Thursday morning on USA Network. He looks forward to finishing his career in Japan, where his great-grandfather lived before immigrating to Canada.

He hopes to have another emotional weekend with a final farewell to friends and competitors in the figure skating world. It’s a spirit of support that Messing has carried through decades in the sport.

“This is sport too hard to wish ill on anyone else,” he said. “We work at least five days a week, several hours a day, on and off the ice, to get in the right physical shape to be able to show up for a competition. The margin for error in a jump is so small. It’s much easier for everyone to have fun and hope everyone goes out and skates the best of their lives.

“And you know what? It’s more rewarding to be on that podium when everyone skates their hearts out.”

Keegan messing, figure skating

[How to watch the 2023 World Figure Skating Championships on TV and via live stream]

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