Canadian Skaters Head to Czech Republic for Sixth Stop on ISU Junior Grand Prix Circuit

OTTAWA, ON: Canada will be sending 9 skaters to Ostrava, Czech Republic, from October 2-5, 2013, for the second last ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating event of the season. Canada will have a total of six entries: one each in men’s and pair, and two entries in both ladies and ice dance.

Mitchell Gordon, 17, Vancouver, B.C., is the entry in men’s for Canada. Last season, Gordon competed at two ISU Junior Grand Prix events, placing eighth in Linz, Austria, and 12th in Zagreb, Croatia. He also placed seventh at the Canadian championships, competing as a senior, and 16th at the 2013 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships. Gordon is coached by Eileen Murphy and Keegan Murphy at the Connaught Figure Skating Club in Richmond, B.C.

Julianne Séguin, 16, Longueuil, Que., will be one of the two Canadian entries in ladies. Séguin placed sixth at her first ISU Junior Grand Prix assignment this season in Mexico. Last season, she competed at two ISU Junior Grand Prix events, finishing tenth in Slovenia, and seventh in France. She also made her senior international debut at the ISU Four Continents Championships, finishing 11th. Julianne is coached by Josée Picard and Marc-André Craig at CPA Brossard.

Kelsey Wong, 15, Burnaby, B.C., will also represent Canada in ladies. This will be her first ISU Junior Grand Prix assignment. Wong placed fourth at the 2013 Canadian championships in the novice category. She is coached by Joanne McLeod and Neil Wilson at the BC Centre of Excellence.

Julianne Séguin will also represent Canada in pair, with partner Charlie Bilodeau, 20, Trois-Pistoles, Que. Séguin and Bilodeau placed fifth at their first ISU Junior Grand Prix assignment in Minsk, Belarus. They are coached by Josée Picard and Patrice Archetto in Chambly, Que.

Madeline Edwards, 17, Port Moody, B.C. and ZhaoKai Pang, 18, Burnaby, B.C., are the first of two teams representing Canada in ice dance. Edwards and Pang won silver at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Mexico earlier this season. Last year, they competed at two ISU Junior Grand Prix events, winning bronze in both France and Turkey. The 2013 Canadian junior champions also placed 12th at the 2013 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships. They are coached by Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe at the BC Centre of Excellence.

Danielle Wu, 15, Burnaby, B.C., and Spencer Soo, 16, Burnaby, B.C., will also represent Canada in ice dance. This will be the first international assignment for Wu and Soo, the 2013 Canadian novice ice dance champions. They are also coached by Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe at the BC Centre of Excellence.

Carolyn Allwright of Kitchener, Ont., will act as the team leader and Dr. Erika Persson of Edmonton, Alta., will be the Canadian team doctor. André-Marc Allain of Gatineau, Que., and Debbie Islam of Barrie, Ont., are the Canadian officials at the event.

For results and full entries please visit

Canadians win two bronze at Nebelhorn Trophy

OBERTSDORF, Germany – Jeremy Ten of Vancouver and ice dancers Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam of Barrie, Ont., won bronze medals on Saturday at the Nebelhorn Trophy senior figure skating competition.

In men’s competition, Nobunari Oda of Japan took the gold with 262.98 points, Jason Brown of the U.S. was second at 228.43 and Ten followed at 205.56. He ranked third in the short program Friday and fifth in the long.

‘’This is quite exciting,’’ said Ten, 24. ‘’I’ve worked really hard over the summer and it’s great to finally see it pay off this early in the season. Today I wasn’t at my best so I know there’s a lot of room to grow. In the whole program there was a lot tweaking involved to get all the combos in. I didn’t let anything go and fought through the mistakes at the beginning.’’

Ten was coming off a tough 2012-13 campaign which included an eighth place finish at the national championships. Now he throws his hat into the ring as a contender for one of those three available Olympic spots after achieving the qualifying score Saturday.

‘’This off-season, I just needed to have a reset and reevaluate where I was in my career,’’ he said. ‘’I changed my training venue for a month this summer and that really set me up for the year. I remembered the reasons I was skating and fell back in love with the sport.’’

In ice dancing, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the U.S. were the winners at 147.11, Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin of Russia were second at 142.14 and Paul and Islam, the leaders after Friday’s short program, followed at 141.99.

“It was a tough ending to a really great competition for us,” said Islam, who joined forces with Paul in 2009. “There were some technical issues today that hurt us Still it’s a building block for the rest of the season and we have lots of positives to take forward.”

The couple were anxious to unveil their new programs to the international skating world.

“This year we’ve been really working on our performance,” said Paul. “We also got all new lifts which are more impressive and should bring us better technical scores. Today we gained a lot of confidence knowing that with a few mistakes we can still pull through.”

In the team standings, Russia ranked first, the U.S. second and Canada third.

Louis Daignault

Determined Mallet shines in international debut

OBERTSDORF, Germany – Persistency has paid off for 19-year-old Veronik Mallet of Sept-Iles, Que., as she placed fourth in women’s singles in in her international debut Friday at the Nebelhorn Trophy figure skating competition.

Elena Radionova of Russia won the gold medal with 188.21 points, Miki Ando of Japan was second at 162.86 and Ashley Cain of the U.S. third at 162.39.  Less than three points back from Cain was Mallet at 159.67.

‘’I`m very satisfied,’’ sad Mallet.  ‘’I didn’t come here with expectations because I had never competed against such a field.’’

Mallet needed to improve her triple Lutz and triple toe flip over the summer to gain an international assignment.

‘’This is the first year I have those two jumps in my program,’’ said Mallet.  ‘’I trained really hard to achieve those jumps, and now I understand them and can do them.’’

In pairs, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia finished ahead of three German couples to win the gold medal.

Natasha Purich of Sherwood Park, Alta., and Mervin Tran of Regina were sixth in their first competition together.  Tran,  born in the Saskatchewan capital, won a world championship bronze medal for Japan in 2012 with former partner Narumi Takahashi.

‘’We really came out here with a blank canvas and really wanted to show we can compete at the senior level,’’ said Tran.  ‘’Our big challenge this year is to show the unison that experience teams develop after many years.  We had a good start and really went for it today.’’

In Friday’s men’s short program, Jeremy Ten of Vancouver posted the third best score at 76.49.  Nobunari Oda of Japan leads at 87.34 and Jason Brown of the U.S. is second at 79.41.

In Thursday’s short dance, Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam of Barrie, Ont., topped the field with a personal best 59.06.

The free dance and men’s final are on Saturday.

Louis Daignault

Canadian pair fifth at ISU Junior Grand Prix stop

MINSK, Belarus – Julianne Séguin of Longueuil, Que., and Charlie Bilodeau of Trois-Pistoles, Que., placed fifth in pairs on Friday to conclude their first international assignment at the fifth stop on the ISU Junior Grand Prix figure skating circuit.

Kamilla Gainetdinova and Ivan Bich of Russia took the gold with 142.38 points, Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage of the U.S. were second at 131.66 and Vasilisa Davankova and Andrei Deputat of Russia were third at 130.46.

Séguin and Bilodeau were in the medal mix finishing three points behind third place at 127.42.

In women’s competition, Polina Edmunds of the U.S. was the winner at 165.77, Elizabet Turzybaeva of Kazakhstan second at 150.83 and Rika Hongo of Japan prevailed in a tight battle for the bronze at 144.97.

Both Canadians were in that fight for third with Madelyn Dunley of Campbellville, Ont., sixth at 141.78 and Alaine Chartrand of Prescott, Ont., seventh at 141.09.

In ice dancing after Friday’s short dance, Carolane Soucisse of Chateauguay, Que., and Simon Tanguay of Montreal are sixth and Jessica Jiang and Tyler Miller of Abbotsford, B.C., are 12th.

In Thursday’s men’s short program, Roman Sadovsky of Vaughan, Ont., was 10th.

The men’s free skate and the free dance are on Saturday.

Louis Daignault

Mervin Tran dons the maple leaf with new partner Natasha Purich

It’s nothing new for a skater named Tran to navigate unexpected turns in his life and his career.

From September 25 to 28, Mervin Tran will find himself at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany with his new pair partner, Natasha Purich, a fiery redhead from Alberta who will compete in only her second senior competition. Nebelhorn will mark their first competition together and the start of a promising career.

The good news is that Tran, a world bronze pair medalist for Japan at the highest levels, is now skating for Canada. It’s where his heart is.

Tran is the son of a Cambodian mother and a Vietnamese father, who came to Canada as refugees, unable to speak English. Mervin was born in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Figure skating wasn’t at the top of the family plan. Obviously the Trans had cleverly clued into the fact that in Canada, boys play hockey, so young Tran took up hockey in Regina. When coaches told Tran he needed to learn how to skate first, and suggested he enrol in CanSkate, Tran took the road less travelled and became a singles skater.

He competed in singles until 2007, when he reluctantly became a pair skater. Tiny Japanese skater Narumi Takahashi had been tugging at the sleeve of Montreal pair coach, Richard Gauthier for a couple of years, asking for a pair partner from Canada (pair coaches and male pair skaters in Japan being as scarce as mittens on a Miami beach). As luck would have it, pair coach Bruno Marcotte was driving from Vancouver to Montreal for a new job working with pair coach Richard Gauthier, and remembered Tran along the way.

Tran wasn’t at all interested. He told his coach in no uncertain terms: “No.” He thought pair skating was a sport for competitors who couldn’t cut it as singles skaters. “I was close-minded,” Tran said. His coach, however, advised Tran not to knock it until he tried it. The Montreal coaches convinced him to come to the Quebec City at least for a good shopping experience. That worked.

In Montreal, Tran fell in love with the speed of pair skating. Once he tossed Takahashi into a throw, he was hooked. And after five years with Takahashi, skating for Japan, the twosome won a surprise bronze medal at the 2012 world championships in Nice, France. “It still feels like a dream,” Tran said. “It all happened really fast.”

Their success bred new dreams: What about the Olympics? At first Tran had no intention of getting his Japanese citizenship, required of an Olympic competitor, because it also meant he’d have to renounce his Canadian passport. Then Takahashi and Tran had helped Japan win a World Team Trophy – and the Japanese team had always had to depend only on its strong singles skaters. Now they had a world class pair. And there was to be a new team event at the Sochi Olympics.

Tran tweeted: “I will continue to think critically about my decision as I would very much like to go.” Japan had been supportive when things were tough. But another wrinkle in the plan: rules required that Tran would have to maintain residency in Japan for years to get citizenship, and considering that the pair trained in Canada, it seemed impossible. The president of the Japanese Olympic Committee said he would make a special request to the government to help Tran become part of the Olympic team.

Tran weighed how long it would take him to become a citizen of Canada again after the Olympics were over. “I do want to live the rest of my life in Canada,” he said. “I love this place.”

After looking into it for a while, Tran found the difficulties were insurmountable. Takahashi found a new Japanese partner in February of 2013 while recovering from shoulder and knee surgery and by March, Tran hooked up with a very Canadian Purich.

The breakup wasn’t easy for their fans, because Takahashi and Tran had developed a relationship over the years and “people won’t forget that soon,” he said. “But Natasha and I are starting something new. It’s only been six months. We haven’t been able to build that yet, but we’re hoping to go forward many, many years.”

Ironically enough, Tran will meet his old partner, Takahashi, at Nebelhorn with her new partner, Ryuchi Kihara, a junior-level skater who had been tenth at the 2011 world junior championships in singles. Takahashi and Kihara train in Detroit under Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen.

Purich has spent her career as a promising junior in both singles and pairs and she’s taking a big step into the big leagues. “It’s a whole new ballgame,” she admitted. “It’s exciting to be able to compete at this level with somebody who has been there. I got really lucky.”

Purich is only Tran’s second partner, but they knew each other. Purich was already skating in Montreal with Sebastien Arcieri, with whom she won the junior national silver medal last season. In women’s singles, she finished fourth at the junior level, missing a medal by only .14 points.

Purich has competed at the senior level only once before with pair partner Raymond Schultz, when they finished eighth at NHK Trophy during the 2011-2012 season.

At Nebelhorn, they will also meet the current world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia. There are 19 pairs at the event, 13 of them trying to qualify for Sochi. Canada has already qualified a maximum of three pair spots for Sochi, so Nebelhorn will be about experience for Purich and Tran. Takahashi and Kihara will need to qualify a spot for Japan at Nebelhorn.

“We want to show that we are a competitive team,” Tran said. “Our main goal is in the long run. We’d love to do the Olympics, but we are looking four to eight years down the road. We feel like we have nothing to lose. It’s going to be an exciting year.”

Beverley Smith

Skate Canada Honours Monica Lockie with the Community NCCP Coach Developer Award

OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada is excited to announce that Monica Lockie is a recipient of the Community NCCP Coach Developer Award, created by the Coaching Association of Canada and presented by Investors Group.

The Coaching Association of Canada (CAC) created the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) Coach Developer Awards to recognize outstanding individuals who go above and beyond to develop certified and trained NCCP coaches in their sport, their communities, and beyond.

“Monica has been an excellent ambassador for our sport and a champion of our learn to skate program, CanSkate. Her knowledge of the sport and her passion to drive information and ideas has been critical in the success of the development of CanSkate,” said Jeff Partrick, Skate Canada Director Coaching and Skating Programs.

“We have always appreciated and valued our coach developers who are out in the community inspiring coaches to be the best that they can be,” said Cyndie Flett, Vice-President of Research & Development at the CAC. “I am excited we have a tangible way to honour these dedicated individuals.”

Richard Irish, Vice President, Community Affairs and Marketing Support at Investors Group said: “Investors Group is committed to recognizing community leaders who motivate others to become active in their communities. We are honoured to have teamed up with the Coaching Association of Canada in celebrating these inspiring people.”

Lockie was presented with the award earlier this month in front of her peers at the Skate Canada Board Meeting.

About the Coaching Association of Canada
The Coaching Association of Canada unites stakeholders and partners in its commitment to raising the skills and stature of coaches, and ultimately expanding their reach and influence. Through its programs, the CAC empowers coaches with knowledge and skills, promotes ethics, fosters positive attitudes, builds competence, and increases the credibility and recognition of coaches.

2013 Sports Day in Canada

Calling all skating clubs across Canada — it’s time to lace up your skates and get ready to show off our sport! On Saturday, November 30, 2013 communities across Canada will be participating in Sports Day in Canada.

Sports Day in Canada is a national celebration of sport, from grassroots to high-performance and is an opportunity for all Canadians to celebrate the power of sport, build community and national spirit and facilitate healthy, active living.

Skate Canada wants to encourage you to get your club and community involved by hosting a Sports Day in Canada event. Your event could take place anytime from November 23-30 and could be a variety of different activities, including, a try-it day, registration, open house, gala, competition, meet-and-greet, or community-wide festival! The options are unlimited!

Together with the festivities that week on Friday, November 29, Sports Day in Canada will host a national jersey day. Show your love and support for skating by wearing your Skate Canada gear!

Sports Day in Canada, presented by ParticipACTION, CBC and True Sport will support your event through different activations:

  1. Register your event and enter the ‘Get Out and Play’ contest by October 15, 2013 for a chance to have your event featured on the Sports Day in Canada broadcast!
  2. Event manuals and promotional tools are available on the website:
  3. Register your event by September 27, 2013 and you will receive a FREE Event Celebration Kit with posters, t-shirts, banners and fun giveaways (while quantities last).

Don’t miss this opportunity to showcase our wonderful sport of skating to your community and encourage more Canadians to get out on the ice and skate for life!

Let’s ‘Get Out and Play’ this November for the love of sport!

Canadian Skaters Travel to Germany for Nebelhorn Trophy

OTTAWA, ON: Canada will send six skaters, for a total of four entries to Nebelhorn Trophy, a senior international competition in Oberstdorf, Germany. The event is held from September 25-28, 2013, at the Eislaufzentrum Oberstdorf. Canada will be represented in all four disciplines: men’s, ladies, pair, and ice dance.

Jeremy Ten, 24, Vancouver, B.C., will be the Canadian entry in men’s. Ten placed eighth at the 2013 Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championship and seventh at the 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic last season. He is coached by Joanne McLeod and Neil Wilson at the BC Centre of Excellence.

Veronik Mallet, 19, Sept-Îles, Que., is the entry for Canada in the ladies category. This will be Mallet’s first international assignment. Last season, she placed fifth at the 2013 Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships. She is coached by Annie Barabé and Sophie Richard at CTC Contrecoeur.

Natasha Purich, 18, Sherwood Park, Alta., and Mervin Tran, 23, Regina, Sask., are the Canadian entry in pair. Both skaters have competed internationally with previous partners, but this will be their first international assignment together, after joining in February 2013. The pair train out of CPA Saint-Léonard and are coached by Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte.

Alexandra Paul, 22, Barrie, Ont., and Mitchell Islam, 23, Barrie, Ont., will represent Canada in the ice dance category. Last season, they placed fifth at this event and won silver at the 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. Paul and Islam also placed fourth at the 2013 Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships. They train at the Detroit Skating Club under coaches Pasquale Camerlengo, Angelika Krylova, and Massimo Scali.

Skate Canada High Performance Director Mike Slipchuk will be travelling with the Canadian team as team leader.

ISU Junior Grand Prix Makes its Fifth Stop in Belarus

OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada will send nine athletes for a total of six entries at the fifth stop on the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Minsk, Belarus from September 25-29, 2013. Canada will be represented in all four disciplines: ladies, men’s, pair and ice dance.

Canadian bronze medalist Alaine Chartrand, 17, Prescott, Ont., is one of two entries for Canada in the ladies division. Chartrand finished fourth at her first assignment on the ISU Junior Grand Prix circuit this season in Riga, Latvia. Last season, she competed at the ISU Junior Grand Prix events in Lake Placid and Zagreb, placing seventh and sixth respectively. She also placed eighth at the 2013 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships. She is coached by Michelle Leigh and Leonid Birinberg, and trains at the Nepean Skating Club.

Madelyn Dunley, 16, Campbellville, Ont., will also represent Canada in ladies. This is her first international assignment. Dunley is the 2013 Canadian bronze medalist in the junior category. She is coached by Nancy McDonell-Lemaire at the Milton Skating Club.

Roman Sadovsky, 14, Vaughan, Ont., will be the Canadian entry in the men’s division. Sadovsky placed 14th at his first assignment on the ISU Junior Grand Prix circuit this season in Riga, Latvia. Last season, he won bronze at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Lake Placid, USA, and placed 10th at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Bled, Slovenia. He is coached by Tracey Wainman and Gregor Filipowski at the YSRA Winter Club.

Julianne Séguin, 16, Longueuil, Que., and Charlie Bilodeau, 20, Trois-Pistoles, Que., will be the sole Canadian entry in pair. This is their first international assignment, after pairing up over the summer. They are coached by Josée Picard and Patrice Archetto in Chambly, Que.

Ice dancers Carolane Soucisse, 18, Chateauguay, Que., and Simon Tanguay, 20, Montreal, Que., will be one of two entries for Canada in ice dance. This is Soucisse and Tanguay’s first assignment on the ISU Junior Grand Prix circuit. Last season, they placed ninth at the Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships in the junior category. They are coached by Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon at the Centre Sportif Gadbois.

Jessica Jiang, 16, Shan Dong, China, and Tyler Miller, 19, Abbotsford, B.C., are the second entry in ice dance. This is their first international assignment, after pairing up in March. The team trains at the B.C. Centre of Excellence with coaches Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe.

Jacqueline Wickett Warren of Ottawa, Ont., will be the team leader at the event and Dr. Ed Pilat of Winnipeg, Man., will be the Canadian medial staff onsite. Janice Hunter of West Vancouver, B.C., and Jacqueline Wickett Warren will be the Canadian officials at the event.

For results and full entries please visit

Canadian ice dancers fifth in Junior Grand Prix debut

GDANSK, Poland –  Brianna Delmaestro of Port Moody, B.C., and Timothy Lum of Burnaby, B.C., placed fifth in ice dancing on Saturday to conclude their international debut at the fourth stop on the ISU Junior Grand Prix circuit.

The Canadian couple only joined forces this past April after skating with different partners last season.  Delmaestro is also a former singles skater.

“We had a pretty good skate, very solid,” said Lum, 18, a year older than his partner.  “The whole day today was just amazing.  We are still learning to skate together but we felt we made a lot of progress this week.”

Brother-sister combo Melinda Meng and Andrew Meng of Montreal took eighth spot.

“It was a very good experience,” said Andrew Meng, 16, two years older than his sister.   “Even though I felt we could have skated better.  We had a couple of good elements including our twizzle and our combinations.  The technical side of our skating is what hurt us.”

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker of the U.S., took the gold.

In men’s competition, Adian Pitkeev led Russia to a 1-2 finish.  Nam Nguyen of Burnaby, B.C., posted the 12th best score in the free program to climb from 23rd to 16th overall.

“I was attacking more than the short program,” said Nguyen, 15, a two-time junior Grand Prix medallist.  “Still it wasn’t a great score.  I’m going to have to review what exactly happened this week when I get home.”

On Friday, Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., won the bronze medal in women’s singles.

Louis Daignault

Canada’s Gabrielle Daleman wins bronze at ISU Junior Grand Prix

GDANSK, Poland – Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., lost a hair clip in the middle of her performance but still won the the bronze medal in women’s competition on Friday at the fourth stop on the ISU Junior Grand figure skating circuit.

Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia took the gold with 179.96 points for her second victory this season.  Angela Wang of the U.S., was second at 152.36 and Daleman, fifth after Thursday’s short program, climbed to third scoring 148.29.

‘’I had to skate with the hair clip in my hand the rest of the routine,’’ said Daleman, 15.  ‘’My coach yelled at me to hang on to it and keep going.So it was in my hands for my footwork, the Axel and the last spin so I was a little distracted. Still it was a good skate.  I’m happy with it.’’

Last season, Daleman had a breakthrough year placing second at the senior national championships and took sixth spot at the world juniors.

‘’I’ve changed my programs for this season,’’ she said.  ‘’It’s a lot more difficult and I’m still working on it a lot.  I have a triple Lutz triple toe planned but we changed it today to a triple-double because I was so nervous about it.  I hope to have it ready for my next meet.’’

It was also an eventful day for Julianne Delaurier of Kelowna, B.C., who climbed from 12th to ninth overall in her international debut.  She developed a nose bleed after a spin early in her program.

“I lost my focus when the nose-bleed started but I was able to forget about even though it was a little gushy,’’ said Delaurier.  ‘’I never thought about stopping the program.  When I landed some jumps afterwards I kind of forgot about it.  It’s actually not the first time it’s happened.’’

In the short dance Friday, Brianna Delmaestro of Port Moody, B.C., and Timothy Lum of Burnaby, B.C., are fourth only 0.8 points out of third and and just over a point from second spot.  Melinda Meng and Andrew Meng of Montreal are seventh.

In Thursday’s men’s short program, Nam Nguyen of Burnaby, B.C., ranked 23rd.

The free dance and men’s free skate are on Saturday.  There is no pairs event at this stop.

Louis Daignault

Gilles and Poirier building their strength on the ice

One thing is perfectly clear: ice dancing is a dangerous, taxing sport.

The statement may have seemed absurd at one time, but no more, not with a judging system that asks so much of the ballroom breed. In the span of a few short years, Tessa Virtue has suffered from chronic Eexertional compartment syndrome in her legs; Kaitlyn Weaver broke a bone near an ankle joint while colliding at a high rate of speed into the boards during training last season, and now yet another Canadian ice dancing team has hit an untimely snag.

About four months ago, Paul Poirier was training a twizzle sequence with partner Piper Gilles when he “caught a little bit of air” and landed on his right foot – sideways.

That fleeting miscue had long-term aftershocks. Poirier suffered a fracture dislocation in his right ankle, requiring the ubiquitous Torontonian, Dr. Bob Brock, to insert four plates and 15 screws into the skater’s limb. Dr. Johnny Lau performed surgery on Weaver last season.

Ask Poirier nicely, and he’ll show you the x-ray on his smart phone, complete with a series of little bar-like structures wending their way up his bone, and then an alarmingly big screw at the ankle, anchoring it all. Poirier expects that only one of those screws will come out in future. Unless those screws pester him while he skates, they will be with him for life, a reminder of the perils of ice dancing. For now, he has a long, nasty scar that runs from his ankle to below his right knee.

“So far it’s been really good,” Poirier said, with not a shred of negativity or with a “woe is me” mien. “My body has reacted to it as well as possible.”

It’s not exactly optimum to have to overcome such a serious injury during Olympic season, when skaters usually want to push themselves as much as they can. “I think the hardest thing has been not doing too much,” Poirier said. “It’s more beneficial to do a little bit less now. What’s important for us is nationals.”

Their two Grand Prix events are, fortunately for them, late in the series: Cup of Russia and NHK Trophy.

Poirier says he’s been healing on a best-case scenario pace – ahead of schedule. Two weeks after surgery, he was back at the gym. “I’m not worried about my strength or my cardio in any sort of way,” he said. “My skills are pretty good for the most part.” They can’t do two-hour long sessions. They must train efficiently, and make the most of their time on ice. But they’ve come a long way. When Poirier first went back onto the ice, he could skate for only five minutes at a time.

“Every day, my ankle is getting stronger,” he said. “I can feel it.”

Piper has had to learn to skate without Poirier and keep a positive outlook. “So many emotions went through my mind when it first happened,” she said. “But we just have to look at it in a positive way, more than a negative way. The more negative it is, the more you just drown yourself and you don’t want to come into the rink.”

With Poirier off the ice, Gilles worked on lots of Finnstep patterns, lots of footwork, lots of twizzles.

Poirier wore a cast from his ankle to just below his knee for six weeks, and as soon as he got out of it, the twosome started to go through their programs off the ice, on the floor, every day.

“Because we couldn’t worry about the skating and we weren’t doing lifts and things like that, it really gave us a lot of time to work on character development, on the details and the expressions,” Poirier said. “We normally work on those things, but for a while, it was all we could do.”

Fortunately, they had choreographed their free dance in April, before the injury. “We were able to skate the program before the accident, so we were able to keep visualizing it in our head.”

And what visualization! They are skating to the soundtrack from the movie Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, a 2012 comedy-drama that traces the relationship that Hitchcock had with his wife and the lead actress of Psycho.

Strangely enough, Gilles and Poirier had pictured themselves skating to something dramatic this year, something they hadn’t done before, something meant to show a different side of themselves. (Mary Poppins was the vehicle last year.) They kept on stumbling over scores written by Danny Elfman. When coach

Carol Lane returned from the junior world championships last season, she told them she had seen the movie on the plane, and urged her pupils to listen to the soundtrack. Strangely enough, they found it was written by Elfman.

“It was so weird,” Gilles said. The program came together very quickly, unlike their free skate last year.

Their short dance was choreographed after the accident. Poirier watched it come together from the bleachers. “It was really quite a big group effort to get the program together and once he was able to do off-ice, he learned it on the floor,” Gilles said.

For their short dance, they use music from Caro Emerald, a Dutch jazz singer whose music has hit the top of the charts in the United Kingdom. The program is very “ballroomy,” Poirier says.

The style, said Gilles, suits their outgoing, bubbly personalities. It’s difficult, too. Most of it is done in closed dance hold, which is tricky to do, especially if you dance close together and quickly.

Because of the injury, they’ve had to work backwards this season: mastering the character, and then the technique. Perhaps they will find that it’s the way to go in the future. “We might find that this process works better for us,” Poirier said. “It’s really going to be a year of discovery. I think we’re going to come out of this stronger.”

Beverley Smith