Canada's Kevin Reynolds was hoping to use his breakthrough year on the men's figure skating circuit as a springboard for greater success during the current Olympic season.
Instead, equipment issues have forced him to withdraw from this week's Grand Prix event and it remains unclear when he'll be ready to make his return to the ice.
Reynolds pulled out of the Cup of China because of problems with his skating boots. He has been unable to get them to fit properly this season and it has hampered his training.
Not exactly an ideal situation for a potential medal contender at the Sochi Games.
"When you're dealing with equipment, sometimes you get a pair of skates and they're the same make, same model you've used for years and sometimes the fit just isn't right," Skate Canada high-performance director Mike Slipchuk said Thursday.
"It just seems that he hasn't had much luck this fall with even a few backup pairs that have come in. They've been having a hard time finding a pair that fit like his previous ones did during the (previous) season."
Reynolds used a different pair of skates last season when he had his breakout victory against a tough field at Four Continents in Japan. Those skates are too worn to be used again this season, Slipchuk said.
Reynolds and coach Joanne McLeod were not available for comment.
However, McLeod did discuss Reynolds' equipment challenges in early September at the team's high-performance camp in Mississauga, Ont.
"One of the boots that he received was twisted to the sole," she said after watching him at practice. "Sometimes boots can warp. It just didn't sit right. He toughed it out. It wasn't like he was complaining. He toughed it out and tried to make it work and I was pushing him hard with that boot.
"But it just became complicated and frustrating. And you don't want to have any regrets (in an) Olympic year."
McLeod said the issue could present challenges for the upcoming season although she was hopeful they would get past it.
"So yes, things might be rocky -- you have to alter, you might have to cancel a couple things," she said. "But you don't want to have any regrets. You don't want to be going into an Olympic year thinking, 'Darn, I should have switched that boot because it haunted me for the entire season.' You don't want that."
In addition to his victory last season, Reynolds reached the Four Continents podium in 2010 with a third-place effort. The 23-year-old North Vancouver native was fifth at the 2013 world championships.
Although Canadian teammate Patrick Chan has garnered most of the men's figure skating spotlight in recent years, Reynolds has made significant strides and could be in the mix of contenders in Sochi. In addition to the individual competition, Canada is also a medal favourite in the new team event.
"The No. 1 priority now is to get into a pair of skates and get out and compete because it's a big season and you don't want to be starting in January at (nationals)," Slipchuk said. "The months of January and February are going to come fast.
"You need to get those programs out for not only your training, but for the judges to see and prepare for the season. Time is ticking quick. We're hoping this can all be rectified soon and he can get back out and get competing."
Some skaters change their skates two or three times per season. When a new pair arrives, it can take anywhere from a day to a week or longer to work them in.
Reynolds usually breaks in new skates every six months -- traditionally in early January before the nationals and then again in early July.
Slipchuk said equipment choices are primarily left up to the athlete, adding it can be quite common for challenges to pop up. When they do, it can often take time to sort out.
"It's not like you can just go down to the corner sporting goods store and pick up a pair," Slipchuk said. "For any elite athlete, it's a very highly built and highly tuned piece of equipment and specific for what they're doing.
"Often if a skate has to be remade, it does take a little time for that to happen. The companies are good, they get the equipment out fast and hopefully they're able to get this all rectified."
Slipchuk said he was planning to get an update from Reynolds and his team by the weekend.
"If you ask any skater, there is a process for breaking in new skates," McLeod said. "It's not like a car, you get into it and (drive) and everything is just amazing. It's a little bit different than that.
"The boots are very hard and it takes the skater's mobility with their ankle and their leg strength to break it in in a certain way."
Reynolds is scheduled to compete at the Nov. 22-24 Grand Prix event in Moscow. The national championships are set for Jan. 9-15 in Ottawa and the 2014 Sochi Olympics will be held Feb. 7-23.