Jean-Luc Baker leads advanced students through a warmup during the Seattle Skating Club 2024 Your True Step figure skating seminar on Saturday, June 15, 2024, at Olympic View Arena in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Jean-Luc Baker leads advanced students through a warmup during the Seattle Skating Club 2024 Your True Step figure skating seminar on Saturday, June 15, 2024, at Olympic View Arena in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Patterson: What’s next for local Olympian Jean-Luc Baker?

The Edmonds ice dancer brought Olympic gold medalist Nathan Chen to town with Your True Step.

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — No, Jean-Luc Baker hasn’t hung up his competitive skates just yet. However, this past weekend provided a glimpse of what the next step may be for the Snohomish County-produced Olympic ice dancer.

The Edmonds native was back at the club where he first learned his craft on Saturday and Sunday, bringing Olympic gold medalist Nathan Chen and the Your True Step seminar to the Seattle Skating Club at Olympic View Arena.

Baker, Chen and skating choreographer Sam Chouinard took to the ice to instruct young local skaters not just in the fundamentals of skating, but the value of being true to oneself.

“Skating is a very judgmental sport,” Baker said about the inspiration behind Your True Step. “Frankly, that’s the world we live in now. Everyone has a hard time feeling fully comfortable being themselves. But when we lean into being our truest selves, that’s when we’re most happy, and it’s also when Nathan and I were our most successful in our sport. So we wanted to create a space with Your True Step for athletes of all ages to use movement as a vehicle to find their truest selves.”

In the process, Baker is figuring out where his true self now belongs as a competitive athlete.

Baker, 30, is one of the greatest figure skaters ever from Snohomish County, perhaps second only to the legendary Rosalynn Sumners. The Kamiak High School graduate is a four-time U.S. Figure Skating Championships bronze medalist in ice dancing alongside his partner, Kaitlin Hawayek. He was named The Herald’s 2021-22 Man of the Year in Sports after he and Hawayek placed 11th at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

However, injuries meant Hawayek and Baker did not compete during the 2023-24 season, and the duo, who have been together since 2012, are in the process of determining their future. Baker, who is currently splitting time residing between Edmonds and Montreal (where he’s trained since 2018), isn’t invoking the R-word yet. However, he’s also enjoying his time away from competitive skating.

“As of right now both Kaitlin and I took a step back from competing,” Baker said. “We’re in the process of slowly seeing what that looks like. But I’m enjoying it. I’m doing a lot of choreographing, a lot of coaching, a lot of creative work. It’s more about learning about myself. I can’t give a definitive answer right now (about his future as a competitive skater), but I’m very much enjoying this chapter.”

The current chapter was concocted by Baker and Chen during a team camp prior to the 2022 Winter Olympics. The two have been good friends since meeting on the junior circuit more than a decade ago — “We ended up rooming in 2013 at our first Junior Grand Prix together, I’m a significant extrovert and he’s the opposite, and it developed into an adopted-little-brother kind of vibe,” Baker said. With Chen, one of the greatest men’s figure skaters of all time, knowing he was probably stepping back from competing after the 2022 Winter Olympics, the two talked about how to maintain their friendship while their careers headed in different directions, as well as how to share what they learned from their time as competitive skaters with others. Your True Step was born from those conversations.

Over the weekend seminar attendees received a full day with Baker, Chen and Chouinard. They learned the importance of a good warm-up; were taught a choreographed dance off the ice, which was then translated onto the ice; went through an on-ice jumping clinic with Chen; then finished with a fun full-group on-ice session that included a dance battle.

A second Your True Step seminar takes place June 29-30 in Detroit.

“I’m so grateful to all the volunteers who have helped make this dream of mine a reality,” Baker said. “I know how amazing it was for me when I was younger to work with high-caliber skaters like Charlie White and Tanith Belbin. So it’s amazing to be able to bring an Olympic champion like Nathan and to give back to the community.”

And whether Baker decides to return to competitive skating or move on to the next stage of his career, he’s happy he can continue doing the aspect of skating he loves most.

“The biggest thing I love about competing is connecting with people,” said Baker, who also went out of his way to thank all the people who’ve supported him throughout his career. “I’ve loved the power of connecting with people when I perform. But I can connect even more as a coach and still be a performer in my own way — but with a different kind of stress. I love competing, but what I really love is connecting with the audience and different people. When you’re coaching, choreographing, doing seminars, doing shows, it allows for more opportunities to connect with people, and that’s something I strive towards.”

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