Photo: The Canadian Press

Canadians Set to Repeat at Worlds

On the first night of the 2013 Figure Skating World Championships, Toronto’s Patrick Chan made history in front of a roaring London, ON crowd, delivering a 98.37 in his short program – the highest score ever in a short program. Competition continues through Saturday.

With Sochi 2014 quota spots up for grabs, Canada will be sending a deep and talented team consisting of fourteen athletes and stakes will be high for those dreaming of entering Fisht Olympic Stadium next year as Olympic athletes in Russia. Among those representing the Red and White will be a couple of world champions including two-time reigning champion Patrick Chan (Toronto, ON) and the Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

For the 23-year-old Virtue, this event will be a homecoming for the native of London, ON. The ice dancing duo train regularly in London and will have a definite home ice advantage when ‘And The Waltz Goes On’ by Anthony Hopkins plays over the sound system to signal the beginning of the short program on Thursday.

“There is that pressure to perform and do your best for your home country and your hometown,” said Moir, 25, of nearby Ilderton, ON. “Tessa and I pride ourselves on being professional and we hope to rely on some of our experience from the Vancouver Olympics. We feel the warmth of the London crowd. We’re going to want to go out and perform for them. At the end of the day it’s a World Championships and we want it bad.”

COC Photo: Jenna Muirhead-Gould

Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue are looking to wow the hometown crowd this week with a gold medal performance. COC Photo: Jenna Muirhead-Gould

The duo has now been together since 1997 and has had an impressive season winning two events (Rostelecom Grand Prix and the Skate Canada Grand Prize) and adding silver in two more (Grand Prix Final and Four Continents Figure Skating Championship). Moir has mentioned how lucky he believes he and Tessa are to experience an Olympic Games and now World Championships at home during their career.

Needless to say, both athletes are excited to compete in Canada and looking to bring their best showing of the season for the crowd with the hope of duplicating a gold medal performance like they did in Vancouver.

“We’re building momentum and our programs have been better than they have all year,” said Virtue “The plan is to peak at the World Championships and we’re right on track. It’s exciting with a hometown World Championships and you want to feel prepared so you can take those opportunities to enjoy the experience and embrace the crowd.”

For Chan, this week will be all about making up for an inconsistent season after a 2012 that saw him go undefeated and claim a second consecutive world title. After an opening season event in which he finished last, Chan picked up a medal of each colour in his next three Grand Prix events and says he believes he’s on the right track in London for the three-peat.

Avoiding jet lag, foreign food and strange land are three key items Chan has pointed out as a big advantage for Canadian athletes competing this week.

“It’s never a disadvantage to skate in Canada,” said Chan. “I have a lot of experience skating in front of a home crowd thanks to Vancouver and the Olympics. It’s just more of a motivation and for me. It’s really special. I’m going to be really comfortable with the rink. It’s going to be a familiar environment and I love London.”

COC Photo: Jenna Muirhead-Gould

Patrick Chan is looking to find his 2012 form and become the first three-time men’s champion in more than a decade. COC Photo: Jenna Muirhead-Gould

No man has won three in a row since Russia’s Alexei Yagudin (1998-2000) and no Canadian has done it since Kurt Browning (Caroline, AB) from 1989-91. Winning would be a huge boost to Chan’s attempt to make up for a disappointing fifth place finish at the last Olympic Games.

“It would be really nice to win a World Championship heading into the Olympics,” said Chan. “The Olympics are really important to me and it would be nice to ride that wave to Sochi so that I can step on the ice there with a lot of confidence.”

A podium result will all but lock a spot on the 2014 Canadian Olympic Team for these athletes andwith 330 days left to the Games, these athletes are very much aware how close they are to the Iceberg Skating Palace in Russia.

“It’s hard to believe it’s coming up so quickly,” said Virtue. “We had the privilege to compete in Sochi in December and that made things more real. It seems like the last three years have flown by. We keep reminding ourselves that we have to enjoy the process and appreciate this chance we have. It’s definitely something we’re thinking about.”

Fans will be able to catch all Canadians in action from Wednesday, March 13th to Saturday March 16th on CBC.

– George Fadel