Kayleigh Maksymec (19) and Félix Desmarais (21) are a new senior ice dance team who will represent Switzerland this season.
Tell us about your individual skating journeys, including any early special memories.
Kayleigh Maksymec (KM): I picked up skating as a fun winter activity when I was 5 years old at an ice rink close to my house. I insisted that I wanted to skate more so my mom put me in skating classes a few times a week. I felt so free & I fell in love with the feeling of gliding, spinning and jumping. One of many special memories, was when I was so excited because I got my first skating dress which was light blue with sparkles, which I wore it when I passed my first skating test.
Félix Desmarais (FD): My mom was a skater and it was important for her that I learned to skate for fun. By practicing this sport, it gave me a great opportunity to learn gliding while keeping my balance. When I was young, I did not have lots of opportunities to practice really often because it was far away from home. However, it was a place where I was able to see my friends so, I continued to go. Throughout the years, I have started to develop more interest in skating but it is only when I started ice dancing that I truly appreciated skating.
What drew you to ice dance?
KM: I love the creative choreography and performance part of skating and I feel like I can express myself and make people feel something through dance and movement. As a former single skater I used to get extremely nervous in competition. At the age of 15 I had an injury that put me out of the first part of the season. I had always wanted to try ice dance. In the fall of 2019, I was asked if I wanted to switch to pairs at a camp with Bruno Massot & Stéphane Lambiel in Switzerland. I found the twists & throughs terrifying and preferred the dance & more performance part of skating so ice dance was the best way I could focus on the performance I was giving and sharing with my partner rather than worrying about the jumps and being alone on the ice. I felt ice dance was the best way to continue my skating career.
FD: When I was ten years old, my mom and my coach decided to match me with my coach’s daughter. At the beginning, it was just another activity that I was appreciating and learned a lot from it. Gymnastics was still my main sport at that time. It was when I grew up that I realised all the potential of ice dancing. It is fascinating how precision and technical skills are needed as well as good artistic skills in ice dance. At the age of 17, I decided to stop gymnastics in order to pursue my career in ice dancing and reach my goals.
Tell us how your partnership started (Partner Search, training mate, etc.) Describe the tryout.
KM: Felix came to IAM originally for a tryout with another girl, which didn’t work out. I (Kayleigh) had been training in Montreal for 2 months. We got in contact and had a tryout. We got in contact and had a tryout, and it went really well. We really clicked from the beginning as we have a similar mindset, values and goals. Our coaches were also excited about our partnership and thought that we were a good match. We have been skating together for around three months now, and really enjoying it.
What is it that you already like most about dancing with your new partner?
KM: We have great communication, which is essential to a successful partnership. We also laugh a lot together while we work on and off the ice which makes our journey really fun and enjoyable.
FD: I like her perseverance and hard work during practice time on & off the ice. Kayleigh is dedicated to her sport and works hard to reach our goals as a couple. She is also open minded and willing to try anything such as coming to Montreal.
What experiences do each of you bring to the partnership?
KM: With my previous partner I trained in Lyon, France with Olivier Schoenfelder and Muriel Zazoui. I started there during pandemic times, so my first competitive ice dance season began in 2021/2022 and my first competition ever in ice dance was the Junior Grand Prix in Courchevel that season. I also had an opportunity to compete in a few other international competitions such as the Volvo Open Cup, the Egna Ice Dance Trophy & I went to Junior Worlds in Tallinn in 2022.
FD: As a retired national gymnast, I am used to rigorous work during practice time all year long in order to get ready for high level competition. Many of my skills gained throughout my gymnastic experience are in fact very useful in my skating career for example I have developed strength, flexibility as well as the ability to analyse body movements. As a dedicated ice dance coach, I also know some of the skating secrets.
What has been the biggest adjustment for each of you so far in the partnership?
KM: We are both strong skaters on our own, but our main challenge right now is just learning to skate together. Also, my previous partner was very tall, and Felix and I have less of a height difference, so that’s something new for me to get used to. But it’s going really well and I’m really happy.
FD: There has been no big adjustment since the beginning of our partnership. Kayleigh is a very easy-going partner. She is always willing to accept all suggestions I give her. It is fun to train with her.
Tell us about your training site.
The Ice Academy of Montreal is place to train. We feel like we can achieve our goals and develop as athletes & as people too. The environment is very positive & there is a lot of respect between our teammates as everyone is focused on doing their best. It s so inspiring to be sharing the ice with World class skaters & Olympians that I used to watch on TV. We mainly train at the Centre Gadbois in Montreal but in the off season we are between different rinks.
Who are your coaches?
We work with all the IAM coaches, which is a great pleasure, but our main coach is Romain Haguenauer.
KM: I relocated to Montreal at the end of January after being at home in Geneva for a few months recovering from an injury. It was always one of my dreams to train at IAM and now here I am!
FD: Even though I live on the south shore of Montreal, I still have to come closer to my training site and university.
Who is choreographing your programs. Is someone else arranging your music? If so, please share those experiences.
Romain is choreographed our Rhythm Dance and our Free Dance as well. We love his creativity and coming up with cool moves that enhance our different skills.
If you could have a lesson with any ice dancer past/present, who would it be? Why?
KM: I had an opportunity earlier this year to have some lessons with Madison Hubbell, and that was fantastic. I have long admired her skating and how she and Zachary Donahue skated with so much speed and power. I’ve also had an opportunity to train with Zachary, so it’s been very interesting to see both sides, and to learn from them.
FD: I certainly appreciate having lessons with Guillaume Cizeron. I would like to learn more about his way of moving as he seems to float on the ice as well as softness in body movements.
What is each of you looking forward to most this skating season? What will be your biggest challenge(s)?
KM: I’m really forward looking forward to be competing again and to be representing Switzerland!
FD: It will be an amazing adventure to represent Switzerland and training in a high level school such as Ice Academy of Montreal! My biggest challenge this year will be to manage my schedule as a skater, as a student and as a coach. Those three passions are really important to me. But I am looking forward to succeeding in those areas of my life.
Our biggest challenge will be debuting as a new senior couple. This will be the first year in seniors for both of us. We hope to make our mark by bringing fresh, original programmes & by showing parts of our personalities through these programs.
What is your debut competition this season?
We are in the process of figuring out our planning for the season but we aim to compete in a summer competition here in Quebec.
Please share anything you would like our readers to know about you as a team?
Outside of skating, we are both students. I am finalizing my credits to pursue international business and Felix is studying medicine. We also both have many outside interests alongside our skating, we both love to travel, and many of the outdoor sports that are very popular in Switzerland like hiking and skiing.