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Weaver adds red and white to red, white and blue

Canadian citizenship means Olympic-eligibility for her and partner Poje

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
(06/23/2009) - Texan Kaitlyn Weaver is now Olympic-certified after being officially sworn in as a Canadian citizen on Monday in Kitchener-Waterloo -- the community where she first joined forces with ice dance partner Andrew Poje in the summer of 2006.

"Overall, it was a really great day and I'm so happy and so honored to now, finally, be Canadian. I'm so excited to get the season started. It's just a really great feeling," said Weaver, who met with immediate success on partnering with Poje, taking a bronze medal in senior competition at their first Canadian championships in 2007 and another bronze at the world juniors a month later.

Because ISU rules require only one partner to be a citizen of the country they represent in international competition, the U.S.-Canada ice dance pairing has been competing for Canada for four years already. To compete at the Olympics, however, both partners must be citizens of the country.

Weaver, 20, now enjoys dual citizenship since becoming a Canadian does not require her to forfeit her U.S. citizenship. On hand for the ceremony held at city hall were Weaver's mother and Poje's family. Her father could not attend due to work obligations.

In all, 48 people from 26 different countries were sworn in. "They were from all over the world. It was really cool to hear where they came from and imagine what their stories were like," Weaver recounted.

Following the ceremony, the Poje family hosted a celebration at the German Alpine Club for all the people who have been part of the couple's on-ice journey or had a role to play in Weaver's successful citizenship bid and, of course, for Weaver herself. She noted that Poje's grandparents immigrated to Canada from Germany and the family has been involved in the club for years, while his mother was born in Slovakia.

Weaver spoke with icenetwork.com Monday evening as she and Poje, 22, drove back to Toronto where they live and train. With a television appearance slated for 7:40 a.m. Tuesday on Canada AM on CTV -- Canada's Olympic network -- to mark International Olympic Day, an extended celebration was not in the cards.

Kitchener-Waterloo will again play a significant role for Weaver and Poje, who grew up in Waterloo, come November as that city plays host to Skate Canada International. Weaver and Poje can't wait to show the home town fans what they hope will be a preview of the programs they will skate on Olympic ice in February, 2010.

The free dance -- choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne and Pasquale Camerlengo to a recomposed piece from Phantom of the Opera -- is already set, while Bourne is now making final decisions on the music choice for their original dance. This season that program is to depict a folk dance.

Bourne is Weaver and Poje's head coach in Toronto, but they are now training almost half the time with Camerlengo and his wife Anjelika Krylova at the Detroit skating club. U.S. singles champions Jeremy Abbott and Alissa Czisny and Italian ice dancers Frederico Faiella and Massimo Scali train there.

"We decided we need the competitive atmosphere that pushes us and can drive us to be better athletes every day, and last season we didn't get that even in Toronto very often," Weaver said, explaining why they decided not to return to Connecticut where they had worked part-time with Matthew Gates.

Weaver was honored to have been asked by the judge presiding over the citizenship ceremony to speak on behalf of her fellow immigrants. He suggested she incorporate an Olympic theme into her remarks so that the new Canadians would feel those Games belong to them, too.

"In eight short months, Canada will host the world, at our very own Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. This is where I hope to be, having the honor to compete for our country and help display Canada's strength in sport and camaraderie. I know that I will have extreme pride and honor to represent Canada in figure skating, but also in life," Weaver said in her address.

A day earlier Weaver had told icenetwork.com she was nervous about her high-profile assignment, but Monday was pleased with the reception her speech received. There were even a few tears, she said.

Poje was excited that he and Weaver are now one step closer to their goal to represent Canada at the home-country Games.

"I am so elated that Kaitlyn made the decision and sacrifice to become Canadian and now finally has achieved that goal... Thank you Canada for opening your arms and thank you Kaitlyn for reaching out and holding on!" he said.

Canada has just two berths for ice dancers at the 2010 Olympics. World bronze medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are all but guaranteed one of those spots, leaving Weaver and Poje to convince Skate Canada officials that they deserve the other ticket to Vancouver. The couple was overtaken on the national scene this past season by Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier, who will be looking to prove their smashing debut on the senior scene last season was no accident.

"We know what we need to do. We have to get stronger in our technical aspect. That includes the compulsories and also the levels for the elements. That's where we were weakest and mostly inconsistent," said Weaver.

"We have the things that are harder to get -- maturity, connection and storytelling. So, for us to work on these elements is a great goal for us. Our coaches already see improvement in that and we're also pushing the limit in finding things that are new and innovative and interesting. We think it's definitely achievable for us. That's something that's on our mind every day -- making the Olympic team and we won't give up no matter what," she added.

Weaver and Poje, whose Grand Prix season begins in China, also intend to come out of the gate strongly at the beginning of the season rather than building as the season progresses. That method of attack showed in their less-than-hoped-for Grand Prix results the last two seasons.

Weaver and Poje's first public performance of their new programs will come September 10 and 11 in the Olympic venue in Vancouver where Skate Canada will once again hold its fall training camp for the national team.