Vanessa Grenier and Maxime Deschamps take your breath away with the speed at which they master their craft.
On Wednesday, they won the junior pair title at the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, even though Grenier had never skated pair before this season, and had never even had a pair tryout until 11 months ago.
Grenier, a former singles skater from Sherbrooke, Que., decided that she needed a new challenge. She’s now 21 and has it. She didn’t start working with Deschamps until June, because she had to finish school and she doesn’t live in Montreal, Que., where they now train with Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte.
Grenier and Deschamps won the pair event at the 2014 Skate Canada Challenge in December but finished second to Julianne Séguin, 17, of Montreal, and Charlie Bilodeau, 20, of Rimouski, Que., in the short program.
The free skate, with only eight pairs in it, was very encouraging, with a number of teams trying difficult elements. The top two teams stood out remarkably. Séguin and Bilodeau are a wonderfully dynamic team and may have taken the win if not for a slip on a triple Salchow jump, and a singled throw.
Grenier and Deschamps won the free skate with 98.28 points and overall gold with 149.51. Séguin and Bilodeau were close behind them, second in the free program with 91.28 points, earning the silver medal with a total score of 147.82.
The bronze medal went to Mary Orr and Phelan Simpson with 121.90 points. They landed an impressive throw triple Lutz, although she put a hand down on it.
“It’s my first year doing pairs,” Grenier said. They started out with a beautiful double twist , and landed two triple throws (toe loop and Salchow) and two triple jumps (a Salchow and a triple toe loop – double toe loop combination!), and they earned level fours on two lifts and two spins.
“A year ago, I did not know what a death spiral was, or a throw,” she said. Deschamps has been skating pair for six years with an array of partners. Within two hours, Grenier and Deschamps knew they were made for each other in the pair game: they had the same kind of stroking and jumping.
They started off with the basics, but on their third day together, Gauthier suggested they do a triple throw. And they’ve been doing them since.
When they first got together, it was not their goal at all to win the junior championship, Deschamps said. Next year, they will be senior skaters. “I don’t regret at all my decision,” Grenier said. “I expected it to be more difficult, but we’ve been working hard. And we work well together.”
Denis Margalik, a 16-year-old, born in Buenos Aires, was a silver medalist in the junior men’s event last year, so he figured there was no way to go but up. That means pressure to win, of course, but the skater from Mississauga, Ont., took some confidence from having won the 2014 Skate Canada Challenge, and delivered a knock-out punch to win the junior title with 181.43 points.
Bennet Toman, 16, of Mississauga, Ont., was only 11th last year in junior men, but he picked up the silver medal with 173.83 points.
Nicolas Nadeau, 16, of Boisbriand, Que., had led after the short program, but multiple mistakes put him back into fourth place, allowing tiny 12-year-old Eric Liu to win the bronze medal with 171.54 points.
Margalik switched coaches to Andrei Berezintsev (coach of Gabby Daleman) over the past year and has found success from the trainer’s demanding regimen, he said. He improved his personal best mark by 12 points.
Margalik left Argentina with his Ukrainian-born parents when he was only three for Canada. The second of three brothers, Margalik says he tried all sports – diving, karate, swimming, gymnastics and trampoline but he liked skating best. He’ll move to the senior ranks next year and hopes to get some Junior Grand Prix assignments.