Injury adds to Eisler's resolve to retire

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

KITCHENER -- After his final professional figure skating show in Montreal next week, there will be no more stunning triple lateral twists in Lloyd Eisler's repertoire.

That's actually good news for the retiring 41-year-old Seaforth native, who ends his rewarding 17-year pairs partnership with Isabelle Brasseur after two hand-picked farewell shows -- tomorrow night at Kitchener's Memorial Auditorium and next week in Montreal.

After years of lifting, twisting, throwing and spinning Brasseur in amateur and pro ranks, Eisler needs surgery to correct a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

The injury isn't why the two are retiring -- they made that joint decision a long time ago -- but it couldn't have come at a better time.

"I've got surgery scheduled for Nov. 1, the injury is a buildup of lifting for all those years," the four-time Olympian said after a pre-show practice in Kitchener yesterday.

"It hasn't affected just skating. I can't swing a golf club, I can't shoot a hockey puck. My (four-month-old) son Ethan weighs 17 pounds and I can only hold him for a short period of time.

"Hopefully, by next year, it'll be all cleared up and I'll be able to work on my golf game."

It's unlikely the Kitchener audience will notice anything different about Eisler except, perhaps, the rebellious piercing in his right eye.

There will be little pain in recalling the duo's great and bittersweet moments that culminated in two Olympic bronze medals, one world title and six world podium finishes.

"We've got everything in the program everyone would expect, the injury won't affect that," he said. "You deal with injuries as an athlete all the time and you just have to fight through it. I've had knee surgeries before, you get banged up but you just keep going as best you can."

If there's a theme to Eisler's career, it could very well be perseverance. When he outgrew the Seaforth skating community as a youngster, his parents drove him to Cambridge four days a week for further instruction and more intense practice.

"We were skating four days a week, which was unheard of at the time, everybody else was skating twice a week," Eisler said. "Now, you're no good unless you're skating six days a week. But it was something you had to do. I came from a small town in Ontario with 2,000 people and Isabelle came from a small town (St-Jean-sur-Richelieu) in Quebec, but we managed to skate together and had a wonderful partnership and now, in these last two shows, we want to thank all those people who helped us along the way."

Eisler inquired about having the show at the larger John Labatt Centre in London, but was told running a big-name show with talent like Kurt Browning, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, Nancy Kerrigan and Kurt Browning was simply too close to the Canadian championships, which will be held in the Forest City in January.

A five-time national champion with the 35-year-old Brasseur, Eisler hasn't decided whether or not he'll be in London at the nationals in January.

"I have a young son and it depends on how busy we are. After all these years, it would be nice to not travel for a while and just spend some time at home."

For many years, Eisler's home was Montreal, where he trained with Brasseur. It was a bold move at the time for a brash, young English-speaking skater -- relationships between French and English Canada at that time could best be described as strained.

"I went there with preconceived ideas and said I wasn't going to learn to speak the language, but after three or four years, things change," Eisler said. "I have a lot of friends in Quebec, I think it's a great place and everyone there accepted me as their own. They voted Isabelle and I into the Quebec sports hall of fame, which was a great honour, before we got into the Canadian sports hall of fame."

Eisler acknowledged his experience of skating in the Quebec culture added flair to his routine.

"It's different in Montreal. There's a bit of a 'look at me, look at me' attitude. You see it even in the way they dress," Eisler said. "I thought we took some of that Quebec attitude in the way we skated, it was something we never would have had if we skated in Ontario.

"In Ontario, it's a little bit more laid back."

But there's sure to be some emotion when Eisler and Brasseur skate in Kitchener tomorrow night, especially during the finale, which incorporates the theme song from the Carol Burnett Show: "I'm so glad we had this time together."

THE EISLER FILE

Nickname: Herbie

Born: April 28, 1963, in Seaforth

Pairs partner: Isabelle Brasseur

Began skating: 1969

Achievements: Olympic Winter Games bronze medal (1992 in Albertville, France; 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway); 1993 world pair champions; five-time Canadian pair champs

Personal: Canadian athlete ambassador at 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah . . . Turned pro in 1994 at age 32 . . . Resides in Kingston with wife Marcia and son Ethan.


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