Piper Gilles and partner Paul Poirier at the Scarboro Figure Skating Club, where they train. (Curtis Ng/Toronto Observer)

Piper Gilles seeks Canadian citizenship in time for Sochi 2014

American-born ice dancer says if it doesn't come through, there's more to life than Olympics

There are less than four months to go until the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, but ice dancers Paul Poirier and Piper Gilles still don’t know whether they’ll be able to take part.

In 2011, Gilles moved from her hometown of Colorado Springs, Colo., to Toronto in order to partner up with Ottawa native Poirier.

Since then, they have been training out of the Scarboro Figure Skating Club and, unfortunately, waiting for Gilles’s citizenship application to process.

“Of course it’s on your mind because you have to run around and do all these forms and making sure they’re correct, but when we’re skating, it’s not really something that we can dwell on,” says the ever-smiling Gilles. “If we don’t get in this Olympics, it’s not the end of our careers.

“We want to skate for a couple more years after that and the next Olympics, so if it takes us all the way to the next Olympics, then we’ll still be around.”

Poirier explains that an important factor in a successful figure skating team is being on the same page as one’s partner.

When they first paired up, he says one of the very first things they discussed was the road towards Canadian citizenship for Gilles and the potential obstacles along the way.

Although they would obviously like to compete for Canada in Sochi next February, there doesn’t seem to be a hint of worry or negativity in either 21-year-old.

“The thing is, our main job is skating, so as much as the passport is a requirement for going to the Olympics, a much more important part of it is performing at the level we need to in order to get to the Olympics,” says Poirier, who is studying linguistics at the University of Toronto.

“So if we’re in this negative training environment worrying about the citizenship and not working, the passport is inconsequential if we’re not performing at the level we need to get named to the team.

“Our main focus is skating our best because that’s all we can really control.”

Gilles has until Jan. 13 to acquire her passport. If she doesn’t get it in time, the pair will have to cheer on their mates from home.

The 2014 Olympics however, aren’t the be-all and end-all of their careers.

“We have [the World Championships] in March after that, so that will be our main focus if we don’t go to the Olympics,” says Gilles. “We’ll have to continue to train. If not, we’ll probably go to [the 2014 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships] or something like that.”

In addition to completing the 2013-14 figure skating season, they also have school to keep them busy. Gilles is studying Creative Industries at Ryerson University, which she says is “a mix of everything: journalism, communications, fashion and business media”.

Despite potentially missing out on an Olympic Games, both Gilles and Poirier are remarkably upbeat about the future.

“There’s always another one, it’s not the end of the road,” says Gilles. “We’re still young enough. As much as we feel like we’re getting old, we’re not that old.”