Allison Eby and Brett Varley dazzle in novice pair; Joseph Phan jumps into lead in novice men’s competition

OTTAWA: Coach Kevin Wheeler had an inkling that Allison Eby and Brett Varley would be an entertainment twosome, given that they had always shown a little bit of moxie in his club in Cambridge, Ont.

He matched the two together, not because he thought they’d have booming throws or endless lifts or soaring twists. He just thought, as a team, they’d have a lot of energy and appeal.

And so they have. Skating to “Black Bottom Stomp,” Eby, 11, of Ayr, Ont., and Varley, 19, of Thedford, Ont., won the novice pair short program at the Canadian Tire National Skating championships. They had enough technical tricks too to muster the win: a double twist, a throw double toe loop, double loop jumps, and a step sequence and a combination spin that both got level four for difficulty.

They will take 40.25 points with them into the free skate, and this, even though this is their first season together. “Both had to learn the pairs moves right from the start,” Wheeler said. They had been singles skaters. Varley had done some ice dancing. “We didn’t know what to expect ,” he said. “They had to learn the basics. But they get along really well.”

Keelee Gingrich and Davin Portz of Alberta are in second place with 38.62 points, and Naomie Boudreau and Cedric Savard are third with 38.17.

Wheeler, a former senior national competitor in his day, has here novice and one junior pair in his stable, but was disappointed when his novice stars Renata Wong and Henry Su withdrew from the event. “We had big expectations for them this year,” he said. “They’ve been skating really well.”

However, the day of the long program at the Challenge competition, Wong suffered a knee injury while practicing a twist on the floor. She fell awkwardly and the injury has taken a long time to heal. Wheeler had witnessed the accident.

“They were very disappointed they weren’t here,” he said. Su is 19, Wong 14, and they are in their second year of pairs – his veterans on the team – and they had been working on triple throws. “We wanted to show them off,” he said. They will have one more chance to do this, at the Ontario Winter Games in March.

Even though the number of pair skaters is small at these championships – there were 10 pairs and 12 had been entered and the novice level – Wheeler is encouraged by what he has seen at pair practices at the novice and junior level.

“They were very exciting,” he said. “They are training some extremely difficult tricks. He’s seen junior pair skaters attempting two triple throws and moves with a lot of quality. “They will fit well into senior,” he said. “I see it being very exciting for the future. I’m looking forward to seeing this. And it’s not as if they are landing the odd one. They are landing them solidly.”

At this stage, there are a lot of talented pairs in Canada that are currently eligible for the world junior championships later this season.

In the novice men’s short program, Joseph Phan of Montreal delighted the little crowd with his victory, by showing off his easy flow across the ice and a deft set of tricks, including a triple Salchow – double toe loop and a triple toe loop. He is only 12 years old, and coached by Yvan Desjardins.

Phan is on top with 42.40 points, ahead of Josh Allen, 15, of Ottawa, with 37.11.

Zachary Daleman, 13, of Newmarket, Ont., is in third place only two hundredths of a point behind (37.09.) He had an impressive cheering section: his sister, Gabby, who just made the Olympic team in the women’s event, watched her brother compete.

Beverley Smith

Madelyn Dunley stars in junior women’s short program; Bent and MacKeen head up stellar junior dance category

OTTAWA: Madelyn Dunley of Campbellville, Ont., was the star of the show.

The 16-year-old – who was novice champion in 2012 – sparkled with a triple Salchow-triple toe loop combination, a high-flying effort for a group still trying to find itself. However, Dunley underrotated a triple loop and fell on it. Still, she finished first at 45.66 points.

She did get level fours of difficulty for her combination spin and a step sequence, and she’s in perfect position to win the junior women’s event, after being third last year.

In second place after the short is Julianne Delaurier, a 15-year-old from Kelowna, B.C., who skated to Chopin’s Fantasie Impromtu. In third place going into the free program on Wednesday is Kim DeGuise Leveillee, 15, of Sorel-Tracy, Que., after finishing sixth at Challenge in December.

Kelsey Wong delivered a stunning layback spin that ended in a Bielmann, but she fell on a triple loop and a triple Salchow.

Sandrine Martin attempted a triple Lutz, but fell and then singled a loop.

“It was good to see that we had a triple-triple from Madelyn Dunley,” said Michael Slipchuk, high-performance director for Skate Canada. “It was good to see junior girls starting to do triple-triples. They are still developing at this point.”

Never mind that there are junior-eligible women such as Gabby Daleman who are already competing at the senior level – and in fact Daleman, at age 15, has already earned an Olympic spot. “Only two years ago, they were here,” Slipchuk said. “It does change pretty fast. You’ve got to start trying triples at this stage. A year from now it’s [junior women] going to be a lot stronger. Some of them have been on the Junior Grand Prix circuit. It’s a good learning experience for them.

“It’s all about development.”

The junior dance category seems in good hands. Mackenzie Bent, 16, of Uxbridge, Ont., and Garrett MacKeen, 19, of Oshawa, Ont., won the short dance on Monday with 59.63 points. Silver medalist last year in junior dance, Bent and MacKeen are trained by Carol Lane and Juris Razgulajevs.

Youth surged to the fore in Melinda Meng, only 14, and Andrew Meng, 17, of Montreal. With their Pink Panther routine, they finished in second place with 56.89 points. Trained by Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, the Mengs were sixth last year in this category.

In third place are Brianna Delmaestro, 18, of Port Moody, B.C., and Timothy Lum, 18, Burnaby, B.C., with 54.60 after a scintillating midline footwork sequence.

Other gems: last year’s novice champions, Danielle Wu and Spencer Soo of Burnaby, B.C., are blasting up the ladder, with a fourth place finish in the short dance. Channelling Gene Kelly’s Singing in the Rain, Wu and Soo were brilliant, although a twizzle went awry. They are less than a point behind the more seasoned Delmaestro and Lum.

Beverley Smith

Central Ontario dance duo continue smooth transition to novice ranks; Sarah Tamura leads after novice women’s short program

Hannah Whitley and Elliot Graham have fast feet.

And so far, at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, tiny Whitley, 13, of Barrie, Ont., and Graham, 15, of Angus, Ont., are bounding up the ice dancing ladder at the speed of light. After the Cha Cha Congelado and the Argentine Tango pattern dances, they are in first place with 27.18 points, just a hair ahead of Quebec team Valerie Taillefer and Jason Chan with 27.01 points.

Megan Koenig-Croft and Jake Richardson are in third place at 25.45.

Only last year, Whitley and Graham were pre-novice champions. With the big step up to novice, they figured they might finish in the middle of the pack. They’re exceeding their expectations.

“They skated with confidence,” said coach/choreographer Kelly Johnson. “They’re really capable of good transitions. They’ve got fast feet.”

They both started out in small clubs, she from Creemore, Ont., he from nearby Stayner, Ont., – from the same club as the current MiniBlades champions from Battle of the Blades. They teamed up when she was only seven, he nine. Already they have been together six years.

Both were singles skaters, too, but Whitley dropped singles skating last year, Graham two years ago to focus on dance at the Mariposa Club in Barrie, Ont. “I don’t like doing jumps,” Whitley said decisively. Graham likes the company on ice, someone to share the experience, to talk to.

They have come to this event with an extra skip in their step: they train with Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam, who just earned a spot on the Canadian Olympic team last weekend. They work with Islam’s father, David, head of the dance program at Mariposa.

“At first, it (dance) was just for fun,” Whitley said. “We grew into it and started doing better.”

On Monday, they preferred the tango to the Cha Cha, in which they missed a step. “It’s really hard to stay on time [in the Cha Cha],” Whitley said. “It’s a dance that people don’t normally do,” Graham added.

Later, the mittened crowd was treated to a tour-de-force performance by tiny Sarah Tamura – all of 12 years old – in the novice women’s short program. Tamura is leading with 42.48 points after she thrilled the spectators with her hand movements, her triple Salchow-double toe loop combination and a triple loop. Her layback spin was a thing of beauty. She showed extreme flexibility, laying over to the side first, then to the back, her head down her back like a pearl – and then it all changed into a beautiful Biellmann. The girl in the bright lime costume was coached by Joanne McLeod.

Kim Decelles of Baie Comeau, Que., was second with 41.38 points after doing a triple toe loop-double toe loop combination and a triple Salchow, earning a level four for a combination spin.

Megan Yim, another Joanne MacLeod trainee, was impressive in the warmup, but fell on a triple Salchow and put a step between the triple toe loop-double toe loop and is in third place with 39.72 points.

Beverley Smith


OTTAWA – Skate Canada today announced their 17 athletes who are formally nominated onto the figure skating team for the men’s, women’s, pair, ice dance and team events for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The three men’s singles athletes: Patrick Chan, Kevin Reynolds and Liam Firus; the two ladies singles: Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman; the three pairs: Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford, Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch and Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers; and three ice dance teams: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, and Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam were nominated during an announcement at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa.

“I have thought about this moment for such a long time and it is finally here. I can’t say how honoured I am to be named as a Canadian Olympic Figure Skating team member,” said Eric Radford from Balmertown, Ontario, a Sochi 2014 hopeful. “We will all keep working and training hard in preparation to represent our country in Sochi.”

“When I was little I always imagined what it must be like to go to the Olympic Games,” said Kaetlyn Osmond, from Sherwood Park, Alberta and Marystown, Newfoundland. “Now I am going for sure and I’ve never felt so proud knowing I will represent Canada in Russia. I can’t wait to skate for all Canadians on the Olympic ice.”

“We’re very excited about our figure skating team going into Sochi,” said Marcel Aubut, President, Canadian Olympic Committee. “All of our skaters are very strong contenders and we have tremendous hope heading into the Games. Canada will cheer their skaters on as they compete in Russia to show the world why we are winter.”

The Canadian Team for Sochi 2014 was finalized following the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Ottawa. With 17 skaters, Canada has qualified the largest figure skating team of any country for Sochi 2014: 3 men, 2 ladies, 3 pairs and 3 ice dance. Canada was also the top qualifying country for the team event which will make its Olympic debut in Sochi.

“Canada has a long tradition of excellence in figure skating, and we are proud of the team that has been named to represent our country at the Olympic Winter Games in a few weeks,” said the Royal Galipeau, Member of Parliament (Ottawa-Orleans). “Congratulations to our skaters! Many Canadians will follow you and encourage you as you face some of the world’s best athletes. Good luck!”

The Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games will take place from February 7-23, 2014. The Canadian Olympic Team has set a goal to contend to be the top nation in overall medals won.

List of Figure Skating athletes nominated to the Sochi 2014 Canadian Olympic Team:

Women Singles:

First Last Hometown
Kaetlyn Osmond Sherwood Park, AB; Marystown, NL
Gabrielle Daleman Newmarket, ON

Men Singles:

First Last Hometown
Patrick Chan Toronto, ON
Kevin Reynolds Coquitlam, BC
Liam Firus North Vancouver, BC


First Last Hometown
Meagan Duhamel Lively, ON
Eric Radford Balmertown, ON
Kirsten Moore-Towers St. Catharines, ON
Dylan Moscovitch Toronto, ON
Paige Lawrence Kennedy, SK
Rudi Swiegers Virden, MB

Ice Dance:

First Last Hometown
Tessa Virtue London, ON
Scott Moir Ilderton, ON
Kaitlyn Weaver Waterloo, ON
Andrew Poje Waterloo, ON
Alexandra Paul Barrie, ON
Mitchell Islam Barrie, ON

These 17 figure skaters now join 10 speed skating athletes, 10 Curling athletes, 16 bobsledders, seven lugers, four skeleton athletes, 21 women hockey players, eight biathletes, five snowboarders, 25 men hockey players and three skiers as the next members on the Canadian Olympic Team. Up to eight more teams will be announced between now and February.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir win gold in Ottawa, Ready to peak in Sochi

Yes, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won their sixth Canadian title in front of a house that gave them a standing ovation. Teddy bears rained on the ice. And so it should be for the Olympic champions that wove a spell with their floating quality on ice.

But the tears came for two teams who train together every day, and hope to be Olympic bound when the decision is made Sunday.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje missed the Olympic spot four years ago by .3 points and this time they snared it easily. And their training mates, budding young stars Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam took the bronze medal, a year after their own heartbreak when they suffered a fall in the free dance that cost them a spot at the world championships in London Ont.

Virtue and Moir won the free dance with 117.87 points, ahead of Weaver and Poje with 110.86, a mark that shocked and pleased them. Paul and Islam couldn’t believe their eyes, either. They finally broke 100 in the free, with a mark of 102.97 points.

Overall, Virtue and Moir set a Canadian record of 194.03 points. Weaver and Poje finished up with 183.54 and Paul and Islam earned 170.64.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Moir, who added that it was good practice for Sochi to have to skate after Weaver and Poje who got a standing ovation. “When they bring the house down like that, it adds to the pressure,” Moir said.  “It’s more real, more what we’ll find in Sochi.”

Virtue admitted to a slip in their final twizzle. “The point is to peak in Sochi,” she said. “It would be alarming if we skated perfectly (at this point).”

Weaver and Poje are just as intent on finishing on the podium in Sochi as Virtue and Moir to take back their Olympic gold.

“We want to be on the podium,” Weaver said. “We want to be standing next to Tessa and Scott. I think we have every right, every ability to be there. Let the chips fall where they may. Let the judges do what they want to do, but we are going to prove to the world that we deserve to be there.”

Paul and Islam could barely speak afterwards. “It’s just an amazing feeling,” Paul said. “I can’t even express it.”

“This whole year, we believed we could do it,” Islam said. “But at the same time, when it happens, it’s still unbelievable. We’re ecstatic. We’re speechless.”

They said they found the day very nerve-wracking but they went into “autopilot” and shed the fears and the stress. “We trusted our training,” Islam said.

Their world championship miss has transformed them into Olympic wannabees. “That motivated the hell out of us,” Islam said. “And it has all year. “

Beverley Smith

Patrick Chan atop the Canadian podium once again

Perhaps it wasn’t so perfect, but it was perfect enough.

Patrick Chan won his seventh Canadian championship title with a goodly performance, a step-up from his short program where his mind wandered and played tricks on him.

This time, he had it mostly under control in a season that has been his most consistent on record. The crowd roared loudly when he landed his opening quad-triple, raking in 17.07 points for it. Then he mustered only a double toe loop in place of his second quad, and his hand flailed downward to the ice on a triple loop, but otherwise, the three-time world champion had his thoughts under control, thinking element by element. He got a standing ovation for his efforts and won the free with 188.30 points and the overall title with 277.42.

Kevin Reynolds’ battle was far tougher. He had to overcome boot issues that had scuttled his entire season, making this Olympic trial his first and only competition before Sochi. For a few fleeting moments, Reynolds Olympic bid looked vulnerable, when he landed his opening quadruple Salchow on two feet, and then fell on a triple Axel.

But Reynolds fought back, landed two quad toe loops, one in combination with a triple toe loop – double loop, and later, a triple flip – triple loop really sang.

He finished the free in third place with 164.16 points, six points behind Chan – although it was only a year ago that Reynolds had defeated Chan on the technical mark.

Still, Reynolds’ 242.45 total score was good for a silver medal.

“It was a fight the whole way through,” said Reynolds, who finished fifth at the world championships last March. “Nothing was comfortable out there. I’m just glad I was able to get this competition under my belt. I definitely needed this going into Sochi.”

Reynolds said the past two weeks have been very nervewracking, thinking his Olympic bid might be sunk by a pair of ill-fitting boots. Nine pairs of them, actually since the world championship. “Nothing had been going well in training,” he said. “To be able to do this even though it was far from perfect, I’m very satisfied with this week.”

Reynolds said in the next three weeks, he’ll just have to buckle down and ignore whatever is bothering him and push as hard as he can. “This does give me confidence that I can improve things and do a respectable performance even if things aren’t feeling great,” he said.

He said he would have been happy with the top three. He just wanted to get a spot to Sochi.

Strangely enough, Liam Firus, a 21-year-old who had been fifth at the Canadian championships, when he had landed his first triple Axel in competition, defeated Reynolds in the free skate, even though he fell on his triple Axel attempt. Reynolds still defeated Firus technically, but Firus earned top marks for his presentation, getting an array of impressive marks as high as 9.25 out of 10 for his lovely run on the blade.

Injury problems set back Firus’s season drastically, but he never doubted the Olympic dream. “I thought: ‘You know what? You’re going to be on the Olympic team,” he told himself not so long ago. “You’re going to work as hard as you can. It’s going to be tough. Nothing is going to be easy. This is my goal. I told myself I was going to be here. And I was.”

Firus pushed through to the end and ensured he had the best chance possible. During a long wait after Reynolds skated, Firus skated around with his headphones on while on the ice – a novel sight at a skating competition. He said he was listening to his favourite music: electric dance music, to get into his zone.

When Reynolds marks were announced, he covered his ears. “I shut it out,” he said. “I knew he was in first place, but I didn’t need to hear what his score was.”

In short, Firus’ plan worked splendidly.

Beverley Smith

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford take third consecutive Canadian pair title

For the second consecutive year, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford had to break a Canadian record set in the previous skate to win a Canadian title.

This time, there was more on the line: taking a third Canadian title into the Sochi Olympics.

Duhamel and Radford rose to the challenge and beat the Canadian record. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch had just set the record of 209.44 for their stirring free skate, but Duhamel and Radford, with their high-flying technical content, broke the mark again with a score of 213.62.

Duhamel threw her head back in utter joy while Radford buried his head in his hands. “I think this is the most emotional I’ve ever felt,” he said afterward. “This was even better than last year and even better than our first.”

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch took the silver medal while long-suffering Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers won the bronze medal and their first chance at an Olympic berth with 176.31 points.

“I don’t have words to express what I’m feeling right now,” Lawrence said. “I’m so happy and so relieved. It’s been a dream of mine for a really long time.”

“We’ve been working on this for 10-plus years.”

Lawrence has been suffering from a groin strain all season and skated this week with her left thigh bandaged.

In their free skate, Moscovitch fell on a triple toe loop that was supposed to be the first part of a triple-triple series. The fall cost them dearly. They lost not only a point for the fall, but earned only 1.98 for the entire move. Although Moore-Towers and Moscovitch showed off powerful speed, incredibly difficult lifts and an array of tough elements in the second half of their program, Duhamel and Radford won on the strength of their technical mark. Indeed, they have some of the toughest technical content in the world, with a triple Lutz jump and a throw triple Lutz. (Moore-Towers and Moscovitch battle back with the triple-triple combo and a loop and Salchow throws.).

The pair were almost equal in component (performance marks) while Duhamel and Radford won with 69.02 technical marks, compared to their opponents’ 65.62.

Duhamel and Radford weren’t perfect either: she fell on a triple Salchow while he continued on to do the jump in combination with a double toe loop.

Moore-Towers’ and Moscovitch’s faces showed disappointed after their opponents defeated them. “Of course, we wanted it to be gold,” Moore-Towers said. “We had a bit of a mistake in the long program. It was quite uncharacteristic and we don’t intend to let it happen again.

“It led us to second place. Meagan and Eric give us a run for our money every time. They’re tough competitors every time. I think all of us agree that it’s good for the sport and it’s good to have tough race.

However, Moore-Towers noted that she’d like to keep the Canadian record one of these times.

Moscovitch said their efforts and hard work and a ticket to Sochi will allow them to keep the ball rolling.

Duhamel’s legs were shaking long after the program was over. They had already dealt with accepting defeat, if it was handed them. They would have been okay with it. They had gone out onto the ice, having heard the announcement that Moore-Towers had set a Canadian record. They blocked it out and focused on themselves.

“I think it was the best long that we have ever skated,” she said.

Beverley Smith

Kaetlyn Osmond wins second straight Canadian title in Ottawa

When Kaetlyn Osmond finished her free skate at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, with the crowd standing cheering in front of her, she felt in shock.

It had been such a frustrating year for the 18-year-old native Newfoundlander with the sparkle and energy. One injury after another caused a change in plans again and again. But under coach Ravi Walia – a young coach who has never taken a skater to the Olympics – Osmond got to the finish line on Saturday with the best performances of her career and the highest points.

Osmond scored a total of 207.24 points, 24.77 points ahead of 15-year-old fireball Gabby Daleman, she of the wondrous triple-triple combinations and all the moxie to drive her to the top.

Taking the bronze medal was Amelie Lacoste, who left no stone unturned to fight for one of only two Olympic berths for Canadian women. She left her home and French-speaking community in Montreal to train in Colorado, aiming high.  She fell short, with 166.69 points, a fraction ahead of another intrepid young Quebecker, Veronik Mallet. With 165.20. Alaine Chartrand was fifth with 161.46.

Daleman did by far the most difficult combination in the long program, a sabre-rattling triple Lutz – triple toe loop, a move that earned her 11.50 points. Osmond had a small margin of victory (2.28 points) over Daleman in the technical mark but she blasted the youngster with her performance marks. While Osmond earned 68.40 for her emotive Cleopatra program, Daleman earned 57.83.

Osmond, who said she’s skating better now than before her injuries, is even pushing marks of 9.0 in the program component (performance side.)

Osmond did only a triple toe loop- triple toe loop in the short program, and not in the long. Preferring to stick with her comfort-zone jumps that she did last season, especially after missing so much training time, Osmond is aiming for a top eight finish in Sochi (when she is actually chosen for the team). She’s not aiming for a podium finish. Coach Ravi Walia said it’s not realistic to expect her to top athletes who have say, five years’ experience doing formidable combinations. But who knows? Osmond finished fourth in the short program at worlds in London, with an overall goal of being in the top 10.

Daleman will turn 16 on Monday, and her idol, Joannie Rochette, also has a birthday on the same day. It could be a good omen.

When Daleman saw her marks, she looked overwhelmed and surprised. “It was great,” she said. “I was not expecting that score at all. I was not even focused on it from the beginning. I was more focused on what I needed to do to get the job done. I’ve been working really hard on my second mark. Just seeing that mark and getting over the 180 just made my day.”

Daleman’s previous highest mark was 174, she earned that earlier this season. She won the silver medal last year.

Osmond was getting ready to go on the ice and started to shake, just at the thought of what she has had to overcome this season. “I was actually nervous, but then I remember in practice I get nervous, but in practice the nerves are coming from if I don’t do a good program, I’ve got to redo it. But when the music started [here], it’s just like everything just went away and it was just like I was back home and just practicing in my own rink with my friends skating around me.”

“I’m really happy with that skate,” she said. “I was a little nervous, knowing what is on the line with Sochi but I just talked to myself, calmed myself down, knowing that I know how to do it, trust my training. I just felt great doing it. I just fought.”

Beverley Smith

Battle in pair event close with Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford in the lead after short

Meagan Duhamel hopped up and down like a little girl. Eric Radford clutched his heart. When their marks came up, they felt relief. They were in first place after the short program at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships with 75.80 points. These points are slowly and surely moving ever upwards on their road to Sochi.

Their arch-rivals and friends, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch earned a standing ovation for their flawless routine and finished second with 74.96 points. They glowed.

In third place are Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers, who both doubled their triple toe loops. “We’re trying to focus on the positives,” she said.

Lawrence still skates with a heavy bandage on a thigh from a strained groin that has hobbled her all season. “It’s doing a lot better,” she said. “But it’s one of those things that is pretty finicky and I just didn’t get the preparation and training without the bandage back home.”

Duhamel and Radford, third at the world championships last year, also earned a standing ovation for their emotional performance. Radford noted that the nationals are always a special competition and to bring it on home ice is particularly gratifying. They skated to Radford’s own musical composition called Tribute, which honours his former coach Paul Wirtz, who died some years ago. “I think that the story of this program is understood enough that people understands what it means to us and to me.”

“When I hit the ending position, I just felt a swell of emotions,” Radford said. “It was just an indescribable moment.”

The two-time defending Canadian champions, Duhamel and Radford earned top marks for a triple twist and they executed their difficult triple Lutz and throw triple Lutz. Radford admitted there were a few “sticky” moments but they can be ironed out before Sochi. “This sets us up perfectly for (the long program).”

Duhamel said they did not execute their throw as well as they can, and she feels they left a point or a point and a half on the table. “This is the ballpark we expected we can be in,” she said. They earned 73 points at NHK Trophy in Japan. The trend is going in the right direction.

Only .84 points separate the top two teams. They push each other perfectly.

Beverley Smith

Patrick Chan on track for 7th Canadian title in Ottawa

Patrick Chan is still looking for the missing pieces of the puzzle he’s trying to put together to become an Olympic champion.

He found a few were missing on Friday at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships when he doubled a triple Axel and a Lutz.

He wanted the short program to be perfect and when he started off on Friday night with an absolutely powerful quad toe loop–triple toe loop combo that netted him plus threes across the board (earning 17.40 points alone for that first move), he let go of his plan.  He began to think ahead of himself, pleased that this could perhaps be the perfect short he was hoping for before the Olympics. “I kind of relaxed because I thought it was over,’ he admitted.

The program, “Elegie in E Flat Minor” had conquered Chan at the Grand Prix Final when Japanese champ Yuzuru Hanyu defeated Chan by a large margin and Chan was not able to make up much ground on him in the long.

“I had a rocky Grand Prix Final and …I think that’s the source of all this,” Chan said.

Chan said he was startled at the marks he received at the Final and the mistakes he made in the short and found it “hard to go back home and have that long of a time to think about it [before the Canadian championships].”

He realizes he needs to take one element at a time – which is what he did when he won the Bompard Trophy in Paris so brilliantly.

“I’m still learning at this point,” he said. “There’s this last missing piece that I need to slot in before the Olympics.”

Still, he won with 89.12 points with his Jeff-Buttle choreographed routine that had produced a couple of world records.

That’s about 10 points ahead of Liam Firus, fifth last year at the Canadian championships. Even Firus was taken aback by finishing second, after having an injury-plagued season, and taking a hard fall on his triple Axel in the short program.

Kevin Reynolds, fifth at the world championships last March, is in third place with 78.29 points, only .64 behind Firus. But he had troubles from the start. After a few seconds into his routine to AC/DC, the music stopped.

It was just a little too much to bear for Reynolds, who had missed all of his international competitions and everything else because of boot problems that have plagued him all season. “I really had to focus and get back into my space,” he said afterward.

He fell on his opening quad Salchow, and then had the presence of mind to squeak a double toe loop onto the end of his quad toe loop, allowing him a combination worth 10.27 points.

Among the other competitors trying to get those Olympic spots: Elladj Balde, also competing on the same old boot-new boot combination that he used at Skate Canada International. He was pleased to land a quad with a hand down and finish fourth and last year’s bronze medalist Andrei Rogozine is fifth.

However, the skater who got the loudest standing ovation among the men was 14-year-old Roman Sadovsky, who delighted the large crowd with his flair and his spins and performance to finish eighth at 68.59 points. It was the largest crowd he had ever faced having been only to a few junior grand prix events.

“It was different,” he said. I’m so used to performing basically to a wall.”

Beverley Smith

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform to perfect 10’s

A wash of perfect marks of 10 filled the scorecard of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir when they won the short dance at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships on Friday night.

Count ‘em up. There were 22 of them handed out by judges for the performance marks. Mind you, some of the higher and the lower would be dropped, but still, these measures of outstanding deliverance don’t happen all that often.

There were plenty of positives to take from their routine to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Virtue and Moir didn’t get a grade of execution lower than two (when the utmost is three, and the lowermost is minus three.) They received a perfect string of perfect 10s from each judge for choreography and composition, almost as many for interpretation.

Still, Virtue and Moir, ever the perfectionists, weren’t completely satisfied with their performance, for which they earned 76.16, a heavenly send-off for the 2010 Olympic champions. Their faces didn’t look as if they’d just garnered a bouquet of 10s.

“We felt like we had a couple of moments today that weren’t quite the way we have been training,” Moir said. “…It’s one we didn’t perform as well as we would have liked to. “

True enough, Virtue and Moir lost a point for a lift that went too long, but for Moir it was more. “It felt like I was battling a little bit with my knees and I wasn’t quite into the ice.”

“Maybe I was watching junior world highlights,” he said, referring to the Canadian junior hockey team that failed to win a medal at the recent world championships.

Virtue and Moir’s technical mark of 37.66 was only marginally behind that of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who are in second place with 72.68 points. Their technical mark stood at 36.09.

This Canadian championship means far more to Weaver and Poje than mere point-gathering. Four years ago, they lost the chance to compete at the Vancouver Olympics by only .30 points and it crushed them. “It’s still a sore spot with me,” Weaver said. “I can tell you standing here right now, it makes me emotional about how we felt at this event four years ago.”

There is little danger they’ll miss the trip this year, but Weaver is very well aware, from all the incidents that have befallen them, that “You never know when something can be taken away from you.”

The desire to never let an Olympics be taken from them again lies beneath each hard training day. “It was a turning point for us,” Poje said.

Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam, who delighted Canadian crowds so when they first emerged as gems at a Skate Canada International several years ago, have struggled with injuries and bad luck sometimes since, and they don’t want to remember last year’s Canadian championships any more than do Weaver and Poje, who had to sit it out with an injury. Last year Paul and Islam were in third place after the short dance and in line for a trip to the world championships in London, Ont., when a slip plunged them to fourth. However, in the short dance on Friday, they flew around the rink, with big, deft beautiful movement, skating to “Crazy for You.” And took third place with 67.67 points.

Canada has three Olympic dance spots and one of the biggest battles of this event is for the third spot. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, overcoming injury this year, are in fourth place with 65.11 points, while last year’s bronze medalists Nicole Orford and Thomas Williams are fifth. Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill are sixth.

Beverley Smith

Kaetlyn Osmond energizes the Canadian Tire Centre with winning short program

Despite the lack of competition this season and overcoming two injuries, Kaetlyn Osmond ruled Friday in the short program at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships.

Still only 18, Osmond stepped out to the Big Spender, delivering a program made “comfortable” because of the injuries – and she still won by about nine points.

Her mark of 70.30 is marginally ahead of last year’s short program mark, when she won the Canadian title.

Former Canadian champion Amélie Lacoste, rejuvenated by a switch in training venue to Colorado Springs this season, finished second with her first clean short program in years, she said, and sits at 61.27 points. Gabby Daleman, only 15, is third at 58.38, while delivering the most ambitious combination: the triple Lutz-triple toe loop.

Osmond had planned this season to increase the difficulty of her combination to a triple flip – triple toe loop but because of her extensive time off the ice, she decided to stick with last year’s plan: the triple toe loop – triple toe loop. And her early idea of doing a triple Lutz as a solo triple, became a triple flip, which she scored huge grade of execution marks on (a couple of plus threes).

Osmond dominated both the technical and performance marks even though Daleman did a combination that many of the young jet-setting women do.

Lacoste had been working on a difficult triple loop – triple loop combination, but decided after practice on Friday to scale it down to triple loop – double loop. She’ll go for the triple-triple – she’s been landing it four times out of five – if she gets assignments for the rest of the season, like the Olympics or world championships.

Lacoste deserves top marks for keeping things together despite her horrendous trip from Colorado to Ottawa for the event due to bad weather.

Lacoste was at the Colorado Springs airport for her flight to Ottawa at 7 a.m. Tuesday, but her flight was cancelled. She took a shuttle to Denver to catch a flight to Ottawa via Toronto, but that flight was cancelled. It took her another three hours to get onto another flight to Calgary at 8 p.m. Tuesday. She arrived at 11 p.m. Finally she got the last seat on a plane to Montreal the next morning at 6 a.m., stopped to have lunch with her mother and a niece and took a train to Ottawa.

“After I experienced that, I am not afraid of anything,” she said.

Daleman, who competed internationally this year in junior grand prix, landed marginally behind Lacoste in the standings after doubled her flip and stepped out of it. “The flip didn’t go the way I wanted it to,” she said. “The timing wasn’t just right. Sometimes you go too fast or too slow. I think I just lost my train of thought for a second.”

But she’s still pleased that she landed the big combination. She says she doesn’t feel too much pressure at making the Olympic team, but she likes a little pressure. “Yes, I’m one of the youngest competitors but I’m really showing what I’m able to do at my age.”

Although Osmond has been hobbled by first a stress reaction injury (a precursor to a stress fracture) in her left foot and a right hamstring injury that caused her to pull out of Skate Canada International after the short program, Walia feels she is rallying at just the right time.

Beverley Smith