Dr. Zhivago free dance at the Cup of China." />

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Weaver, Poje to unveil new programs in China

Dr. Zhivago to make a house call in Beijing

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje earlier this summer at Skate Canada's pre-season camp.
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje earlier this summer at Skate Canada's pre-season camp. (Stephan Potopnyk)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(11/05/2008) - Kaitlyn Weaver, a native Texan, is on the verge of becoming a Canadian while channeling her inner Russian.

Weaver and partner Andrew Poje, Canada's second-ranked ice dancers, have crafted this season's free dance to reflect the classic love story told in the film Dr. Zhivago. Weaver portrays Julie Christie's character, Lara, to Poje's Dr. Yuri Zhivago, the role made famous by Omar Sharif.

They will unveil their interpretation of the 1965 epic, fine-tuned with assistance from choreographer David Wilson, at this week's Cup of China.

"When we made our costumes, we joked about how I was going to have a mustache [like Sharif], and I was trying it out for a little while, but we thought there wasn't enough time between the original dance and the free dance to grow one," Poje joked.

"The costume mustache was just a little too fake, a little too cheesy, a little clownish or something like that. The mustache is out," he added.

As this season unfolds for Weaver and Poje, the paperwork required for her to attain Canadian citizenship is working its way through the government system. Although the American athlete can compete for Canada in ISU events, the Olympics rules require that athletes be citizens of the country they represent at the Games.

Weaver expects she could get the green light as early as the end of this year and definitely well before the 2010 Vancouver Games. This summer, she had to compose a letter for the bureaucrats' consideration explaining why she deserved to be a citizen.

"It was hard to convey what I've been doing my whole life, what my dream is and how I've committed my life to becoming an Olympian," she recalled.

"I said, 'It means so much to me to represent Canada, my adopted country, at the Olympics with Andrew. We've worked our lives for this, and we feel we have what it takes to make it, so granting my citizenship would help Canada out because we feel we can represent [the country] well, but it would also grant us our greatest dream.'"

The duo trains part-time with Mathew Gates in Connecticut but is primarily based in Toronto, where the couple works under the direction of 2003 world ice dance champion Shae-Lynn Bourne.

"This season, we want to start out with a bang. Last season, we kind of worked our way up a little bit and didn't quite have the greatest start. We don't have goals in terms of numbers, but, of course, we want to set personal bests," said Weaver.

Last year, midseason, Weaver and Poje left coach Paul Macintosh and Poje's hometown of Waterloo, Ont., after recording disappointing results at their two Grand Prix events.

Poje said, "We weren't happy with how we started the year last year. We want to start off on a strong foot and show that we want this year to develop throughout the whole season and not make it a late start."

The couple, who ranked 17th at the 2008 World Championships, have selected 1940s-style "swing and blues" from the Broadway musical Swing for their original dance.

"We love our programs, and we think they are great vehicles for us for the year," Poje said.

Weaver added, "This year, we've somewhat transformed ourselves and focussed a lot on details, being more together and on the technical aspect of our skating.

"We're very excited to show our programs this season at Cup of China. We've been to Chinese Taipei; it's close, but it's not quite China. We've been to Tokyo, and we're going there again for NHK [Trophy]."

There are only two ice dance berths available to Canada for the 2009 worlds in Los Angeles, and world silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, despite being sidelined right now because of Virtue's recent surgery, likely have a lock on one of them. The contest for the second will be intense.

"It will be quite a battle, but we've been working hard as a team, building our skating skills, putting more expression and character into our programs. I think we'll be strong this year and, hopefully, be right there for worlds," Poje said.

As for their life off-ice, Weaver and Poje share an apartment in Toronto, but they are not romantically involved.

"We're best friends, but we do not date, even though we try to make it look like that all the time [on the ice.] We want people believing that we are [a romantic] couple," Weaver said.

Last spring, Weaver had surgery to repair the torn labrum in her shoulder, which was damaged in a fall at junior worlds a year earlier. They trained and competed all of last season by managing the injury through intensive therapy and strengthening.

Weaver recovered quickly from the surgery and is back to 100 percent now.