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.”

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Sports

From left to right: Arlington’s Kierra Reese and Stanwood’s Ellalee Wortham, Ava DePew and Presley Harris. The foursome, called “Awesome Mix 12,” won the High School Elite division in 2023 and returned to Spokane Hoopfest this year to claim the Women’s Competitive division title. (Photo courtesy Sarah Reese)
Winter Wesco rivals, summer hoopfest champions

Arlington’s Kierra Reese and Stanwood’s Ava DePew, Presley Harris and Ellalee Wortham teamed up to win back-to-back 3-on-3 titles.

UW Husky rowing will be well-represented in Paris at 2024 Olympics

The U.S. eight competes in heat racing on July 29 with finals on Aug. 3.

Golden Knights center Chandler Stephenson (20) skates with the puck during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Flames at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, in Las Vegas. (Ellen Schmidt / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chandler Stephenson’s deal about broader Kraken goals rather than dollar value

The former Golden Knights centerman signed a seven-year deal for $6.25 million with Seattle last week.

Chandler Fry makes a short birdie putt on Hole 6 on Kayak Point Disc Golf Resort’s Red Course. Fry is a professional from Olympia, Wash., and he has tallied 31 career wins. He will be one of the players in this year’s Mixed Pro Open (MPO) division. (Photo courtesy Andy Jaynes)
Disc golf tournament to bring hundreds of competitors to Kayak Point

The fourth annual Kayak Point Open will feature some of the best players in the state and the region this weekend.

Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh (29) celebrates his two-run home run with a trident as he high fives teammates during the first inning against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Arlington, Texas. (Elías Valverde II / Tribune News Service)
Statistics show just how terrible Mariners’ offense has been | Analysis

Seattle leads the AL West, but situational hitting has been a setback.

Everett AquaSox outfielder Lazaro Montes, the Seattle Mariners’ No. 4 ranked prospect, smiles while running onto the field prior to Everett’s game against the Spokane Indians on June 26, 2024 at Funko Field. (Photo courtesy Evan Morud / Everett AquaSox)
AquaSox week in review: Big-prospect Montes one stop closer to dream

RJ Schreck and Will Schomberg lead split against Vancouver.

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Logan Gilbert throws in the first inning against the Cleveland Guardians on April 7, 2023, at Progressive Field. (John Kuntz / Tribune News Service)
Mariners righty Logan Gilbert earns first MLB All-Star nod

Gilbert has made 18 starts this season and averages 6.5 innings per start, the highest in the AL.

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Bryan Woo #33 reacts after striking out San Francisco Giants’ Casey Schmitt #6 in the second inning of their MLB game at Oracle Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, July 3, 2023. Woo played for Alameda High School. (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)
Mariners’ Bryan Woo, Gregory Santos in line for rehab outings with Everett AquaSox

The 24-year-old pitcher has been on the injured list since June 25, and his next rotation is Saturday.

Pictured are some of the bracket winners from last year’s Lake Stevens Classic pickleball tournament. (Photo courtesy Pablo Granados)
Registration for Lake Stevens pickleball tournament still open

The 2024 Lake Stevens Classic is July 11-14, no strings attached.

The group of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Justin Rose on the third green in the second round of the 2015 U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., on Friday, June 19, 2015. Spieth finished 5 under par for the tournament, making him the sixth player in history to claim both the Masters and U.S. Open titles the same year. (John David Mercer / Tribune News Service)
With no U.S. Open in sight at Chambers, Pierce County ponders Saudi-backed LIV Golf

Various U.S. Open venues are scheduled through 2042, but the 2015 host is not on the list.

NHL.com Jessica Campbell has been hired as a Seattle Kraken assistant coach and stands to become the first woman behind a bench in NHL history when the hockey season opens in October.
Kraken name Jessica Campbell the NHL’s first woman assistant coach

The 32-year-old strives to ‘carry this torch’ and ‘be a representation to women with the same goals.’

Berkly Catton is selected by the Seattle Kraken with the eight overall pick during the first round of the NHL Draft at Sphere on Friday, June 28, 2024, in Las Vegas. (Bruce Bennett / Tribune News Service)
Why the Kraken must add more offense despite wave-making moves

Seattle added Montour and Stephenson on Monday to help bring in a veteran presence.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.