Swiegers gives Ladwig the boot

Feb. 22, 2011, 12:29 p.m. (ET)

Mark Ladwig was trying to decide which would be better to fix his broken boot, duct tape or screws, when a replacement appeared out of nowhere.

When the U.S. figure skater flipped it over to check the size, Ladwig quickly realized the new boot belonged to friend — and competitor — Rudi Swiegers of Canada.

“I don’t even remember seeing him,” Ladwig said after he and partner Amanda Evora finished competing at the 2011 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei, this past weekend. “I just remember the boot being handed to me while I was trying to figure out what to do with my heel.

“Rudi showed the sportsmanship to be there in the moment. Even if (the boot) would have been too tight, I would have crammed in my toes and try to muscle through it.”

The heel of Ladwig’s left skating boot broke early in the pair’s short program on the first day of the competition as Ladwig leapt for a side-by-side triple toe loop.

“It’s not something you can plan on,” said Ladwig, who along with Evora finished 10th at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. “It’s not something you expect. I was able to complete the rotation to get the point value but the rest of the program would have been sacrificed.”

International rules give skaters three minutes to fix equipment malfunctions and return to the ice.

Swiegers, who had already skated with Team Canada partner Paige Lawrence, saw the broken heel and raced down from the stands to help.

“I realized there’s nothing he can do for that,” Swiegers said. “When the boot’s broken, the boot’s broken.

“In practice it happens every once in a while and (when they break) the day of practice is over. You can’t repair it right away.”

Ladwig threw on his friend’s loaner and rushed back to the ice, almost forgetting to fix the leg of his costume.

Ladwig and Evora were allowed to pick up their routine from where they stopped and finished strong despite Ladwig wearing someone else’s customized boot.

“Kudos to Mark for keeping a cool head under pressure,” Swiegers said. “(I think having) to go out there in two different skates and finishing the program would be crazy.”

Ladwig and Evora took sixth place in the short program and Ladwig patched his boot before the free skate the following night. Ladwig and Evora finished sixth there and sixth overall.

Thanks to his friend Swiegers, the trip to Asia wasn’t a complete bust.

“I don’t want to take all the credit,” said Swiegers who, along with Lawrence, finished third. “I say all I did was hand him my skate and he did all the work.

“I’ve been saying to people who asked me why I did it: I truly believe if the situations were reversed, Mark would have done the same for me.”

The two pairs became friends while training together in Ellenton, Fla. But Ladwig said the pairs skating community is close and he’s not surprised he got help from a competitor.

“We sit and eat breakfast together here at competitions,” Ladwig said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie between the pairs.

“Rudi knows I would be there in a heartbeat to help him out and give him any support I could to help him complete his competition. Once you’re done, you’re in the stands cheering for the remainder. And we all hang out after the event’s over.”

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Tom Glave is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.