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2013 Canadian National Championships

 

 by Beverley Smith


(5 February 2013)

SENIOR DANCE

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje stood wistfully, on the wrong side of the boards during the ice dancing event.

Weaver sported a large black cast that stretched up to her knee, and was adorned by a white flower. She was on crutches, still recovering from breaking the fibula, the small bone in her lower leg.

“We had to get into a different mental state,” said Poje. “It was hard, especially during the dance event, seeing that and knowing we should be out there. But we just take the best of the situation and make sure that we turn it into a positive thing because we know that we’re going to come back stronger.”

Canada may send three dancers to the world championships in London, and they have left the third spot open, in hopes that Weaver and Poje, seemingly poised on the brink of a medal, can make it back in time.

Weaver still hadn’t received medical clearance to start training again while they were at the Canadian championships. About five-six weeks before the Canadian championships, Weaver went feet first into the boards while doing a warm-up stroking pattern. Their slip was a freak accident. They tried to stop each other, but before they knew it, Weaver crashed.

Poje returned to the ice while Weaver went for x-rays. It didn’t seem serious at first: coach Anjelika Krylova suggested that perhaps Weaver could take the weekend off and return Monday. But then the x-rays revealed the fracture. Surgery followed.

“It’s been very sad,” Weaver said. “I can’t tell you how hard it’s been to be here without being on the ice.”

Weaver said if she had to break a bone in her lower leg, the fibula was the better of the two bones; it’s smaller and less weight bearing than the tibia. “But we’re one of the fastest teams in the world,” she said. “And it can be a bad thing if you’re fighting against the boards.”

Weaver was told not to put weight on the leg until the bone heels, in about six to eight weeks. “Then, really, no one knows how it’s going to react, when I’m going to weight bear and get my muscles strengthened,” she said. “We can’t argue with the physiology. We just have to make sure that we’re smart about it and of course, preparing for next year is of utmost importance.”

They won’t rush back if Weaver is not ready. Weaver says she is following every order and believes that will pay off. “But you can bet your bottom dollar that we will do everything to get back,” she said. “We’re not giving up, that’s for sure.”

Weaver has been recovering and undergoing rehabilitation in Toronto; her trainer is a sports medicine specialist in Toronto. Under that direction, she’s been working her whole body, and especially the ankle. “It’s important for both of us to stay in tiptop shape because when it’s go time, it’s going to be immediate,” Weaver said. “I don’t have time to waste. It’s a pretty busy schedule, rehabbing.”

Meanwhile, Poje is back in Detroit, training hard. “I have my drill sergeants on my case every day to make sure I’m working as hard as possible,” he said. “I get to do little patterns with coaches, but it’s not the same as having Kaitlyn.”

Sometimes, he skates with Krylova. “It’s fun and scary, for me, not for her,” Poje said.

It’s a tough break for Weaver and Poje, who had worked their way to fourth place at the last world championship and who would like to mount the podium at home in London, Ont.

Without Weaver and Poje, the race for the top two spots seemed to be sewn up at the Canadian championship, but the real challenge was among teams trying to get the third spot, in case Weaver and Poje could not go. Two teams encountered heartbreak along the way, hustling for that bronze medal. And even world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir hit a few ruts.

Before the Canadian championships, Virtue and Moir made many changes to their short dance. “We wanted to make sure we felt the program and we wanted to be able to express the story a little better,” Moir said. They worked with dancer Jennifer Swan, with whom they’d worked on Carmen, and decided to bring a “special element” to the short dance that they have in the free.

Basically, they simplified the short dance story, making it less character based. “It is almost our story, the history, the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs,” Virtue said. “We tried to showcase the reality of our relationship and truthfully, it’s just two people who enjoy each other and dance to beautiful music. I think we started with a really complicated story line, and it’s hard to get across in three minutes – and include all of the technical elements as well.”

So they decided just to create beautiful movement. They changed footwork sequences, including the side-by-side line in the short dance. Mostly they made changes between the elements and just tried to maintain a flow; the previous version of their short program had many stops and starts. “That didn’t read very well,” Moir said. They had some tight pattern issues to address. They no longer stop during the program. They cleaned up the last lift, the one in which they bobbled during Skate Canada in Windsor. They changed the lift immediately after that event.

With all of those changes, they admitted they were nervous for the short program, but what they produced was a faster skate, and they wove a spell, right to the end of the performance when their lips almost touch, teasing the audience once again.

Virtue and Moir earned 79.04 for that dance, well more than their previous highest score this season, a 71.27 at Grand Prix Final. But then, it was in Canada.

They did it by earning level fours for all elements, and it was easier to count the +2s than the +3s on their GOE card. The midline step sequence that they changed was worth 8.00 points, but they increased the value of it by 2.67 points, well worth the work they put into it.

Judges also gave them a rack of perfect 10s, mostly for Performance/execution, choreography/composition and interpretation.

Far back in second was Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, together only 1 ½ years. Their short program was to Mary Poppins, and although it was less than perfect, they were pleased. “It means it still has room to grow,” Poirier said. “We worked really hard on the Yankee polka since the Grand Prix, the levels were much higher, the GOEs were better, and we felt like it was the strongest part of our performance, at least today.”

On the question of Gilles’ Canadian citizenship, she has filed her residency, and now she is at the stage of gaining the citizenship, which she expects will take six months, enough time to make it to the Sochi Olympics.

Does she feel more Canadian? Says the U.S.-born Gilles: “I’m starting to say: ‘Eh,” every once in a while. I find myself saying “flood” instead of a “zam,” or an “ice cut.” I’m slowly getting there.” She skated with fingernails painted with the image of the Canadian flag.

The short dance was a heartbreaker for Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill, fourth in Canada last year and hoping to be third this time without Weaver and Poje in the field. But Hill slipped and flailed out of a twizzle, which cost the team the entire sequence. They received no marks at all for that element. Hill appeared inconsolable and shell-shocked after they finished.

That miscue placed Ralph and Hill in fifth place after the short with 52.08 points, well behind two other teams that passed them. They lost eight points on that momentary slip.

Taking advantage of the incident was Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam, who had sparkled at their senior debut three years ago, while finishing third at the 2011 national championships. But they’ve had a rocky career since. Injuries stumped them last year. They decided to train in Detroit alongside Weaver and Poje with Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo over the summer and then decided they liked it so much, they stayed.

It’s worked very well for them, especially to be able to skate with better, world-class skaters. Islam appears to have added muscle to his slight frame, which adds stability to the team. They are faster. They skate closer together. Their work is more difficult. When they moved into third place with 66.24 points, it wasn’t a surprise.

They earned level fours for all of their elements except the midline step sequence. Their twizzles were magnificent, earned mostly +3s. They made no bones about it: they wanted to go to the world championships. Early in their career, many had compared them to Virtue and Moir.

In fourth place were Nicole Orford and Thomas Williams, the 2011 junior dance champions who are in their second year as seniors, also appearing on the senior Grand Prix. They had finished sixth at the junior worlds last year.

Skating under the tutelage of Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe, the handsome twosome did some smart level-four twizzles with +2 GOE, and also got high levels on one of their Yankee Polka sequences, as well as for a rotational lift. Their point total was 61.52.

The freedance? Virtue and Moir left the capacity crowd breathless with their Carmen routine, showing more spark and passion and on-the-edge performance level than ever. Needless to say, they earned a standing ovation.

And that’s why everybody was surprised when the marks came up. At first they were docked three penalty points, all for lifts that went too long, but later, the penalties dropped to two when officials studied replays.

Still, other surprises: They received only a level one for a spin. Then a level two for a straight-line lift that had been combined with a rotational lift (level four). Both of their footwork sequences earned only level threes.

In all, they finished with a technical mark of 50.66, and with their wildly artistic performance, got 59.53 for components, leading to a free dance mark of 108.19.

That score is just less than their best free dance score this year (108.56 at Grand Prix Final), but it can’t match Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s 110.19 that they earned in winning Grand Prix Final in Sochi.

Davis and White also have the second highest free dance mark on record, a 112.38, that they earned at the Grand Prix Final in 2011-12, the same competition that Virtue and Moir had 112.33.

Gilles and Poirier were less than six points behind them with 102.86. Orford and Williams finished third with 91.04 after Paul and Islam both fell during a diagonal step sequence, which cost them dearly. Like Ralph and Hill in the short, Paul and Islam looked downcast, realizing their world championship goal had ended before the marks went up.

Islam and Paul finished only fifth in the free skate with 85.49 points and drifted to fourth place.

Ralph and Hill defeated them in the free dance with 88.78 points but finished fifth overall.

But now Virtue and Moir now need to regroup. “We had monitoring sessions and everything was fine,” said coach Marina Zoueva of the lifts. “For me, it was a really strong performance, very clean both programs. That’s what we work for. Each competition better than the one before.”

At least, they have time to fix it before Four Continents, she said.

Virtue and Moir have had only one previous long-lift violation this year, at Cup of Russia in Moscow.

“We’ve been consistent with those lifts, having them under time,” Moir said. “So it’s a surprise for us. It’s one of the challenges of figure skating and we’ll have to work on that going forward.”

On one hand, they must hold positions for three seconds, but on the other hand, they must not lift for more than six seconds or 12 seconds. “I need a stopwatch out there,” Moir said. “Marina is going to be all over me now with her stopwatch for the next two months.”

Moir said it was disheartening to lose points in the spin, but it’s easier to fix problems like that than try to raise their components marks.

Their component marks at the championships could hardly have been higher. They received 30 marks of 10.00, out of a possible 40. Performance/ execution, choreography/composition and interpretation all had average marks of 10.00.

Virtue and Moir’s final score was 187.23, higher than the highest score earned internationally this season. That was by Davis and White, a 183.39 earned at the Grand Prix Final. Virtue and Moir’s official high score is 179.83.

Gilles and Poirier finished second with 170.81, while Orford and Williams were third with 152.56, just edging out Paul and Islam by .83 points for the bronze medal.

SENIOR PAIRS

The sad thing about pairs in Canada is that only six teams showed up to fight for the three medals at the Canadian championships. The good news is that Mervin Tran, a 2012 world championship bronze medalist for Japan, will be back skating for Canada, once he finds a good partner.

The best thing about the pairs event here was the tooth-and-nail fight between Canada’s top two teams, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, who both made it to Grand Prix Final in Sochi.

While Duhamel and Radford appeared this season to have made a forward step in their performance levels, thanks to an acting coach, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch, who did not get to compete in Canada this year, looked devastatingly good in practice all week.

They had lots to prove, a miscue last year plunging them to fourth place at the Canadian championships and taking away their shot at competing at the world figure skating championships. Their goal for this season? To finish within the top three at the world championship. Duhamel and Radford have the same goal.

And Moore-Towers and Moscovitch did their best to prove it. They earned 68.23 points for their short program, a mark that exceeded their international best of 65.13, scored while finishing second at NHK Trophy this season.

They did it with a level two triple twist, a good triple toe loop, a back outside death spiral that got them level three, a throw triple loop - and level fours on a lift, a step sequence and a combination spin. A couple of judges gave them a +3 for their famous lift, in which Moscovitch presses his partner up into the air while he is standing up from his knee having been on the ice.

Duhamel and Radford were next up and they heard the marks. “We’d never scored 68 before, so when I heard that, I thought, okay, try to ignore it. Forget about it. But being the competitive people that we are, hearing that score just gave us a little oomph,” Duhamel said. “It gave us that push through the door.”

Radford said they know they can score about 70 with a perfect program.

Duhamel and Radford came out on top in the short program, with an excellent triple twist that got one +3 GOE, a lift rated level four, a back outside death spiral that earned level four – an extreme rarity this year – step sequences worth level four, and some of the most difficult elements in the world, a triple Lutz and a throw triple Lutz. This only mistake occurred when Radford flipped out of the triple Lutz.

Duhamel and Radford earned 69.04 for their short, just .85 points head of Moore-Towers and Moscovitch.

Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers finished third with long faces and a score of 54.42. She fell on a triple toe loop and Swiegers almost skated into her, and then her foot lightly brushed the ice while landing an ambitious throw triple Lutz.

They got only a level one on a back outside death spiral. Lawrence said : “Sorry” to Swiegers at the end. The toe loop has always been her Achilles, she said. And although it’s been going so well in practice, that it is now one of her favourite jumps, she tensed up going into it at the last second.

The fight for gold was just as intense in the long program as the short. Moore-Towers and Moscovitch had a shaky warm-up, but Moscovitich said: “As weird as it sounds, I prefer it that way.”

The team executed an excellent triple twist that earned them a line of +2s from the eight judges, and then landed a triple toe loop – triple toe loop combination. A triple Salchow followed. Every element they did received a level four, although Moore-Towers landed a throw triple loop on two feet, their only bobble. Again, they received several +3s for their long complicated, difficult lifts.

“I went to bed knowing [that performance would come,]” Moscovitch said. “I think we were more ready than we’ve ever been.”

Afterwards, Moore-Towers does not remember their words to each other when they finished. Moscovitch did. “She said to me: ‘It doesn’t even matter what happens. We did it.’ And I said I was proud of her and that she’s the toughest girl I know.”

They earned 136.31 points for the long, far higher than their international best of 119.54 at Grand Prix Final.

Duhamel and Radford figured this Canadians would be easier than last, and arrived relaxed. “We were so wrong,” Duhamel said when she finished the long program. “That was the hardest thing we ever had to do.”

To start off with, they saw the standing ovation that Moore-Towers and Moscovich elicited and they heard their lofty marks. Duhamel tried to pretend the crowd was screaming for her. Radford had mixed feelings. Moscovitch is his best friend. He was happy for him, but he also wanted to defeat him.

Duhamel and Radford won the long with 137.55, only 1.24 more points than Moore-Towers and Moscovitch. They didn’t start out well, with Duhamel landing their open triple twist on two feet (most judges awarded them +2 GOEs on that move, but only two caught the mistake, giving them -3 and -2.) and then, somehow, they put it behind them and skated as if on wings.

Triple Lutz? Swish. Triple Salchow – double toe loop- double toe loop? Check. Both their throws came well within the second half of their program, with the throw triple loop earning mostly +2s and a throw triple Lutz, the same. All of their elements but the twist were rated level four.

“Oh my god, that was the most amazing, exhilarating feeling I have ever had in my life,” Duhamel said. “It was like a million roller coasters that we just rode.”

Overall, Duhamel and Radford won with 206.63 points, a Canadian record. It’s the first time they’ve broken 200. They did set out to break that record of 198.27, set by Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison three years ago.

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch also broke the record and the 200-mark, too, finishing with 204.54 points.

Lawrence and Swiegers were third at 171.13, with a handful of mistakes.

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