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Sports

Cedar Rapids' Timothy LeDuc follows rocky road to national title

Ogden column: But most championships come with a few bumps along the way

Ashley Cain and Cedar Rapids native Timothy LeDuc react after their performance in the senior pairs free skate competition during the 2019 Geico U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Little Caesars Arena. (USA Today Sports)
Ashley Cain and Cedar Rapids native Timothy LeDuc react after their performance in the senior pairs free skate competition during the 2019 Geico U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Little Caesars Arena. (USA Today Sports)
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The road to championships are rarely smooth.

They twist and turn, go up and down and often are filled with potholes.

Cedar Rapids’ Kurt Warner’s “rags to riches” story is well documented. Cedar Rapids’ Zach Johnson drove from tournament to tournament before making the PGA Tour and eventually winning The Masters and British Open titles.

There are very few “overnight” successes in sports or any walk of life.

The one thing these champions have in common is belief and the drive to never give up — even when they do.

Cedar Rapids’ Timothy LeDuc, with partner Ashley Cain, captured the pairs title at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend in Detroit.

“I mean, wow,” were the first words out of LeDuc’s mouth during an interview a week later. “It’s been crazy.”

His road — their road — was filled with many twists, turns and at least one huge pothole.

But all along, LeDuc “knew we could be the top team ... we knew that for some time.

“Winning the national title was very validating, but it was in line with what we knew we could do.”

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Inspired by what he saw at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, LeDuc’s skating story started when he was 12 after convincing his parents to sign him up for the “Learn to Skate” program at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.

“I couldn’t get ice skating out of my mind,” he said.

His road eventually took him to Indianapolis, at age 19, when he figured pairs skating was the best route to his Olympic dream. He had successes, but the road didn’t look as promising as it once did and the financial burden was putting up road blocks.

He retired in 2012.

“I retired for a lot of reasons and I returned for a lot of reasons,” he said.

He continued to skate in retirement, but on cruise ships with his sister, Leah. That was the best part — along with the money he saved to make his comeback two years later.

“I felt I had more to give to the sport,” he said. “I thought there was more ability I hadn’t tapped into.”

He was teamed with a new partner, Cain, someone he knew as a competitor, but someone he also knew shared his goals and dreams.

“From the moment we did our first lift off the ice, we just knew,” LeDuc said. “We had that synergy from the start.”

The two were Olympic alternates in 2018 in South Korea, the road looking clearer for 2022. But then that pothole surfaced and a wheel fell off during a competition in December, a month before this year’s nationals.

Cain fell on her head and neck during a lift, suffering a concussion.

“It was every skater’s worst nightmare,” LeDuc said. “It is the risk you take ... it’s what we signed up for.”

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But, he admitted, he “felt a tremendous amount of guilt.”

What got him through, what got the pair through, was “Ashley’s strength.”

“She was so courageous every day,” he said.

And now they are champions, heading to the World Championships next month in Japan.

“This is the year it was supposed to happen,” Cain said in a U.S. Figure Skating story.

“I thought there was a slim chance this could happen,” LeDuc said when he came out of retirement “... it worked.

“I want to win more.”

“Wow” is right.

l Comments: (319) 386-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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