Canadian figure skaters head to world championships
We’re shipping up to Boston!
It’s world championship time for Canada’s top figure skaters, including Patrick Chan, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. Competition begins on Wednesday, continuing through Saturday. Here’s a look at where the Canadians stand and some notable storylines:
Short Dance: Wednesday March 30, 10:45am-3:14pm
Free Dance: Thursday March 31, 7:30pm-10:50pm
Canada’s leading entry is Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who hope this is their year to win that coveted world title. They missed it in 2014 by just 0.02 of a point and then ended up with the bronze last year, snapping their undefeated season. This time around, there’s no pressure to maintain such a streak as they finished third at the Four Continents Championships in February after having won both of their Grand Prix events and the Grand Prix Final. But they didn’t skate well in Taipei, losing levels of difficulty all over the place in their free dance. Of course that’s nothing that five weeks of a little hard work couldn’t fix.
“We’ve actually risen with these challenges,” Weaver said on a pre-worlds conference call. “I can’t tell you a specific thing we’ve worked on because we’ve literally worked on everything from the fingertips to eyelashes to the power, the speed, every edge, every toe point, every glance, what it means, how we want it to read, everything has been under a microscope. And I believe that is exactly what we needed.”
Weaver and Poje’s traditional Strauss waltz short dance has received rave reviews since debuting at Skate Canada just two weeks after creation.
The ice dance event will be very competitive, thus tough to call and dependent on who can get their levels and enchant the judges. American siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani are strong technicians who could wow the home crowd. They’ve come on strong in the second half of the season, winning their first national title and Four Continents. Defending champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France once again have a free dance, created by their Canadian coaches Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, that was extremely well-received at the European Championships, their first international competition of the season after a concussion to Papadakis sidelined them early.
Canada’s other entries are Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, who will be hoping to break into the top five, and world championship rookies Elisabeth Paradis and Francois-Xavier Ouellette.
Short Program: Wednesday March 30, 6:15pm-10:37pm
Free Skate: Friday April 1, 6:45pm-10:52pm
Patrick Chan is skating at the world championships for the first time since he won his third straight title in 2013, allowing him to go in like it’s his first time again. After a year off, he is definitely not the favourite, especially considering the ups and downs of his season. Chan’s nemesis has been his choreographically complex short program, which has left him down in the standings in his international outings. But it was to push himself in that way that was the point of his comeback. Conversely, his free skate has been brilliant. It’s what gave him the gold medal at both Skate Canada and Four Continents, coming back from fifth at the latter with what he called an “out-of-body experience”, landing two quads and two triple Axels for a personal best score of more than 200 points.
Chan’s highest scoring free skate ever at the Four Continents Championships in February
But his 203.99 PB is well off of the world record 219.48 free skate score Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu racked up at the Grand Prix Final in December. The Olympic champion has the upper hand technically, with five quads planned across his two programs (two in the short, three in the free) versus Chan’s three total. Hanyu’s overall PB score is more than 30 points greater than Chan’s at this point. The other consensus podium contender is reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, who recently upped his difficulty to get his quad total to five as well. Not to be forgotten is China’s Boyang Jin, who has six quads planned, including the lutz in both programs.
“I’m just going to go about my plan,” Chan said on a pre-worlds conference call. “Of course it’s normal at the beginning of the season to look around me and look at Javi and look at Yuzu and see what they’re doing and say ‘I’m so much behind, I have so much to catch up on’ but at the end of the day that’s what makes figure skating so exciting. Come the day of the competition, anything can happen and that’s how I approached nationals and all the events after that.”
Canada’s second man is the third Cricket Brother, Nam Nguyen, who trains with Fernandez and Hanyu under coach Brian Orser. An impressive fifth last year, Nguyen has had his struggles this season, which included a fourth place finish at nationals that meant he wasn’t initially named to the world team. But in early March, national silver medallist Liam Firus withdrew, reasoning that a team of Chan and Nguyen would give Canada its best chance of regaining three spots for next year’s worlds, which would in turn give Canada a better shot at qualifying three berths at PyeongChang 2018. More on that below.
Short Program: Friday April 1, 1:15pm-4:53pm
Free Skate: Saturday April 2, 12:54pm-3:54pm
The cliché goes that it’s always tougher to defend than it is to win. Megan Duhamel and Eric Radford seem to be exemplifying that. They’ve still been winning, but something has just been off, unlike last year when they couldn’t put a blade wrong and won nothing but gold. Most recently they had to withdraw from Four Continents after the short program when Duhamel got struck by an awful stomach bug that left her vomiting for four days and 4.6lbs lighter off her 4’11” frame. But it was nothing that a planned week off and a lot of food couldn’t fix. True competitors, these two are fired up to finally lay down two great programs back to back. To do that, they’re not going to go for the quad lutz, which was a new element they attempted earlier in the season but now deemed an unnecessary risk.
Duhamel and Radford’s free skate en route to gold at Skate Canada in October
“Heading into Boston we’ve just had to sort of erase any sort of expectations that have been placed on us from other people or even from ourselves and just concentrate on going out there and really giving our best performances that we know we’re capable of and yet to show the world,” Radford said on a pre-worlds conference call.
Three of the top challengers to their title didn’t compete last year: Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, Olympic silver medallists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, and five-time world champion Aliona Savchenko with new partner Bruno Massot. Add in last year’s silver medallists Wenjing Sui and Cong Han and the pairs’ event will be fascinating to watch.
Hoping to help maintain Canada’s three spots will be Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch as well as Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro. Both teams are in just their second seasons together. Moore-Towers and Marinaro were late adds to the team after Grand Prix Final qualifiers Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau had to pull out with an injury.
Short Program: Thursday March 31, 12:10pm-5:54pm
Free Skate: Saturday April 2, 7:00pm-10:55pm
Canada’s young team of Alaine Chartrand and Gabrielle Daleman would both like to break into the top 10 for the first time. For national champion Chartrand, this is just her second trip to the worlds, following her 11th place finish last year. Daleman is competing for the first time since nationals after withdrawing from Four Continents with an injury. Both women have the technical goods, with triple-triple combos planned. This year they’re also coming from the Cricket club camp, a move that has had an extremely positive impact on both of them.
Alaine Chartrand’s short program at the Canadian championships in Halifax
The international storylines are numerous. In front of the home crowd, can Gracie Gold or Ashley Wagner put the US back on the ladies’ podium for the first time since 2006? Which Russian starlet, Evgenia Medvedeva or Elena Radionova, will shine brightest? Will Mao Asada’s world championship return be overshadowed by tiny teammate Satoko Miyahara?
The overall placements will decide how many skaters Canada will send to the 2017 Worlds in Helsinki, which will serve as the primary qualifier for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. In each discipline, the top two placements are added together. Any total of 13 or less (such as 6th place and 7th place or 1st place and 12th place) will earn a country three spots for the following season. Any point total from 14 to 28 will earn a country two spots (16th place and below equals 16 points).
CBC will be live streaming the entire competition and providing a great deal of TV coverage, for which you can find the schedules here.
Olympic.ca will be in Boston to cover the ISU World Figure Skating Championships, beginning with practices Tuesday March 29. Follow along on Twitter with @nichols_paula and daily recaps on Olympic.ca.