Patrick Chan sits in second place going into Friday’s free program in Sochi

It was as expected in the men’s short program: Patrick Chan and Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan have locked horns and left the rest of the field scrambling to catch up. With 11 points for them to make up, it’s a tough task.

The Toronto-trained Hanyu was spectacular and relaxed to set a world record of 101.45 points in the short and he’s now the first man to crack the 100 threshold in the short program.

Chan made a bobble on his nemesis jump, the triple Axel, and finished with 97.52, still only about four points off Hanyu’s pace.

Behind Hanyu, Chan, nine men are within 3 ½ points of each other in an intense battle for the bronze medal, starting with two-time European champion Javier Fernandez of Spain in third with 86.98 points and stretching down to Japanese skater Tatsuki Machida in 11th with 83.48 points.

Canadian silver medalist Kevin Reynolds saw his quad Salchow slip away from him and then his triple Axel (both under-rotated) and is currently in 17th place. He’d hoped for more, after finishing fifth at the world championships last March, but boot problems all season have made preparation difficult.

Liam Firus finished 28th after missing his triple Axel and failed to make the cut for the long program. Only the top 24 advance. “I couldn’t get comfortable,” Firus said. “I was just nervous and had jittery legs.” He’d never been to a world championship and had only one Grand Prix event.

But the big shocker of the day was the withdrawal of 2006 Olympic champion Evgeny Plushenko, who had helped Russia win gold in the team event. He had already been complaining of his back pinching him when he doubled a couple of jumps in the team long program.

But on Wednesday, during practice, Plushenko fell on a quad toe and immediately felt a problem in his back. He practiced the morning of the short program, but did no jumps at all. He said he couldn’t. “I skated maybe seven minutes maximum,” he said. “I tried and tried and tried today.”

In the warm-up before the short program, Plushenko did a triple loop and a triple Lutz, but when he stepped out of his first triple Axel attempt, he felt “terrible pain” in his leg. The second one, his body twisted and he had a terrible landing on it. “I couldn’t feel my legs after it. It hurt and that was it. I had to withdraw.”

He admitted he almost cried. The audience went silent after he left the ice. “It’s hard, believe me,” Plushenko said. “This is not how I wanted to end my career.”

Fernandez said he wasn’t surprised by Plushenko’s withdrawal because he had been complaining about his back after the team event. He thought it was too much for him to skate two more programs.

“If I was Plushenko, I would have given my place to another person if I wasn’t 100 per cent. But Plushenko is Plushenko, and he can decide what he can and can’t do.”

Plushenko’s coach Alexei Mishin said that the morning after the free skate of the team event, the Russian skating federation should have made a change, but Plushenko seemed fine after that. “We didn’t do anything that wasn’t fair play.” With Plushenko at out this point, Russia fielded no men’s skater at all.

Hanyu, who started skating because of Plushenko, said he wasn’t even aware of the withdrawal until he went to skate and saw the Plushenko’s name wasn’t on the leaderboard. He was disappointed.

So was Chan, who wished him a quick recovery.

Without Plushenko in the rink, the moments belonged to the top two skaters. Hanyu said he was “over the moon” to break 100 points and even surprised by the score.  “I took it one element at a time,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to clear 100 points. I was just trying to turn in the best performance I possibly could – and I did.”

He didn’t show it, but admitted he was nervous and his legs were shaking. “I was certainly feeling the atmosphere of the Olympics out there,” he said.

Coach Brian Orser told him he was proud of Hanyu. That warmed Hanyu’s heart.

Chan said he didn’t care if he was in second. “It was nice to see a 97 after an 89 in the team event,” he said. “I had a bumble on the Axel, so I am happy with 97.” Chan slightly outscored Hanyu on the components mark: by only .57 points.

He was surprised by Hanyu’s lofty score. “I’m going to pace myself,” Chan said. “I have a plan.”

And he feels he’s in a good spot. He likes being in second place. “I like the chase,” Chan said. “I can enjoy the Olympics during the free skate, while Hanyu has a target on his back. At the Olympics, the target is bigger.”

He said he’s made up four points before in a long program and has “quite an arsenal” to rely on. He said his triple Axel is getting more confident, and bigger. “I got a bit more height and I over rotated on the landing,” he said. “It was a challenge, though, to be honest, doing the short program.”

Chan’s lofty quad toe-triple toe earned him 16.40 points. He supplied one of 19 quads attempted in the event – well 18 with the withdrawal of Plushenko. Only seven completed them, eight if you count Fernandez turning out of his quad Salchow. Those who did were: Hanyu, Chan (in combination), Peter Liebers of Germany, who skated the performance of his life (quad combo), Brian Joubert (quad combo), Alexander Majorov, Machida (quad comb), and Reynolds (quad combo). None of them matched Chan’s mark, although Liebers was closest with 15.69 points.

Reynolds said sadly after the event: “It was a disaster out there. I was coming off such a high after the team event and I felt ready and confident this morning. I lost it on the first jump and it just snowballed from there.”

Among other contenders: Daisuke Takahashi sits in fourth after under-rotating and two footing his quad; Liebers gets fifth, Jason Brown of the United States thrilled the crowd with no quad and is in sixth place: Joubert finally got his first good Olympic skate in four Games to be seventh; the promising 17-year-old Chinese skater Han Yan is eighth, and Denis Ten is ninth after stumbling out of his quad. Machida doubled his Lutz and is 11th.

Shortly after Plushenko withdrew, U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott, a training mate of Chan, fell forward on a quad attempt, drove his hip into the ice and crashed into the boards. He lay there for 15 seconds, and just as everyone thought he was finished, Abbott rolled to his feet and landed a triple Lutz – triple toe loop in the opposite corner. It was a comeback for the ages. Abbott is in 15th place with 72.58 points.

Beverley Smith

Chan: ‘I’m ready. I think it’s time’

The last thing Patrick Chan needs right now is a history lesson.

The three-time world champion knows the math. He need not be reminded that no Canadian – most notably the seven men’s world champions to come out of this country – has ever captured a men’s figure skating gold medal at the Olympic Games.

A nation is turning to its 23-year-old champion to change that history.

In Vancouver four years ago, at just 19 years of age, Chan admits he put too much pressure on himself to try to get to the podium in an Olympics on his home soil. Instead, he struggled to harness his emotions, finishing fifth, a result he has referred to as “disappointing” ever since.

This time around, despite the three consecutive world championships in his back pocket, Chan isn’t putting the weight of the country on his shoulders.

“Vancouver was a lot of pressure,” Chan admits. “I was young, I was 19 and I was like ‘Yeah, I’m going to win a medal and how cool is it going to be to stand on a podium in Canada?’”

“In four years, you can learn a lot. I’ve won three world titles in that time. I’m a much different person now, on and off the ice.”

Pressure or not, Chan knows the eyes of Canada will be on him when the curtain lifts on the men’s short program in Sochi Thursday.  The earlier team event – where Canada won silver – may turn out to be blessing in disguise for Chan, who struggled to an unlikely third-place finish in the men’s short, placing behind current nemesis Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Russian legend Evgeni Plushenko. Chan admits it wasn’t the skate he wanted, but says the team event gave him a chance to go through a program at the Olympics, to settle the nerves and get his proverbial feet under him.

Call it a dress rehearsal of sorts.

On Thursday, it’s showtime.

“After getting the silver medal it’s really a lot of pressure off me,” Chan says of the team event.

“It’s cool to finally have a medal in your hand and say that it’s your own,” he told a press conference earlier this week. “I didn’t have that chance in Vancouver.”

While most of Canada will be holding its breath watching Chan attempt to chase history, don’t count out Kevin Reynolds, who laid down a sterling performance in the men’s free program at the team competition. Coming off a fifth-place showing at the world championships in London, Ont. 11 months ago, if the door to the podium opens even slightly, Reynolds could walk right in and grab a medal.

After spending most of the year away from competition dealing with boot issues, Reynolds rolled out his rocking, AC/DC-driven short program at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships last month.

On Thursday, Reynolds will showcase the program to the rest of the world. If those two-plus minutes don’t get your feet tapping, you may want to check your pulse.

Liam Firus, another B.C. native, will also be competing in his first Olympic Games.

In the months leading up to these Games – in fact, since he claimed his first world title in 2011 – talk has revolved around Chan being that guy to finally break the Canadian Olympic hex. Chan is well aware of the chatter, having lived it for the past four years, but he is trying hard not focus on names like Browning, Stojko, Orser or Buttle.

No, instead, Chan has his sights set on the likes of Yuzuru Hanyu, Javier Fernandez, Daisuke Takahashi and yes, Plushenko, just a few of the imposing obstacles that stand in the way of his quest for gold.

“What I’ve been working on the last two or three weeks leading up to these Games is not busying myself thinking, ‘Am I training as hard as the other skaters? Am I a better skater? Are my quads better than Yuzuru’s or Daisuke’s, or whoever?’”

“It’s been a constant battle, like the devil on my shoulder and the angel on my other side. It’s a constant battle between positive and negative thoughts, thinking ‘am I going to beat them even if I’m at my best?’”

This Olympic crown is what Chan often refers to as his “Holy Grail”. It is the only thing missing from his sparkling resume.  No matter what happens over these next couple of days, Chan knows the sun will come up the day after – in Sochi and in Canada.  Gold or not, what happens in Sochi will not define his legacy.

“If I win or not here, people will go on with their lives,” he says. “I will go on with my life.”

It’s all about the pressure, and Chan is determined not to put too much on himself. He knows what is at stake.  After four long years, Chan’s Holy Grail is once again within reach.

“I’m ready,” he said before leaving for Sochi.

“I think it’s time.”

Marty Henwood

Outstanding performances from Canadian pair teams at first Olympic Games

It took Olympic moments to get onto the podium in the Sochi pairs event. Mistakes could be crushing.

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch had an Olympic moment, skating with speed and flair, putting themselves into first place for a time. But Moscovitch had doubled a triple salchow – without Moore-Towers even seeing it. She celebrated at the end, jumping up and down on the ice with glee. Then she found out.

“We feel we were pretty great,” she said afterward. “I was very happy with the performance. We were knocking things off one by one.”

Their small glitch did not interrupt the program. “I still think it was great,” she said. “I’m just so excited”

They both skated with comfort and ease and sailed into fifth place in a tightly fought contest, although it was their first appearance at an Olympic Games. They defeated Canadian champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford by 2.57 points after their friends made mistakes, just a few too many to swim upstream.

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch finished ahead of the Canadian champs in the free skate with 131.18 points and in the overall total score of 202.10.

Duhamel and Radford chalked up a season’s best mark of 127.32 in the long program and finished seventh overall with 199.53.

Of course, nobody could touch Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, even on a day when they didn’t skate their best. Despite a handful of tiny miscues, the Russians won the free skate with 152.69 points and a final score of 236.86. Trankov threw his fist in the air when he finished, sunk to his knees, then kissed the ice during a standing ovation.

Their compatriots, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov – junior skaters a couple of years ago – delivered the best performance of their lives under pressure and earned the silver medal, with 218.68 points, 18.18 points behind the gold medalists. It was a personal best for them. “That’s the way you have to do your job if you want to achieve success,” Stolbova said. It’s the first time since the 1998 Nagano Olympics that Russians have stood one-two on the podium, a far cry from the 2010 Olympics four years ago, when none did.

It was a heartbreaking day for four-time world pair champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, who had stayed around for four years to improve on the bronze medal they had in Vancouver. Actually, they spent four years in search of gold. This time, they won bronze again, and Szolkowy had to comfort a tearful Savchenko on the medal podium.

The gold slipped out of their hands early in the program when Szolkowy fell on a triple toe loop combination. Points flew out of their grasp. They tried to pull out all the stops by including a throw triple Axel at the end, but Savchenko fell on it. They finished with 215.78 points.

Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China were fourth with 209.88 points in their final Olympic performance, after having troubles in the jumps early.

Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers were 14th, with troubles on their double Axels, and a fall on a throw triple loop. They took bows upon bows upon bows, with Lawrence admitting she just didn’t want to get off the ice. “That was fun,” she said.

“I fell on the throw loop, but I got up really fast,” she said. “Honestly, I was enjoying myself the whole time. I was in the moment and enjoying the music. I was living out the dream I’ve had since I was a little girl.”

“Coming in, I was so excited to skate. Every time I’m out on the ice, I don’t ever want to get off. That’s why I kept curtseying. I wish I could stay out there and curtsey to every single person. It’s really been the experience of a lifetime.”

Trankov admitted that he and his partner dealt with huge pressure. “Today was a big day for all of Russia,” he said. “It was the hardest job of our lives.”

Volosozhar, usually cool at all times, appeared overwhelmed after the final pose. “To be honest, I was crying because I felt so many emotions, nerves, concentration,” she said. “I’m still nervous and shaking, but I’m also so happy. We did really well today.”

They had taken a nine-point lead into the free program and they started off spectacularly, with a huge triple twist. Their triple toe loop combination jump lost a tiny bit of unison, as did a side by side spin. Volosozhar put a hand down on a throw triple loop.

Duhamel and Radford, third at the world championships last year, had such high hopes and left the rink feeling disappointed. Duhamel fell on a triple Salchow, and then touched her hands to the ice on a throw triple Lutz. Their final spin lost unison. They had started strongly with a triple twist, and a triple Lutz jump that just sailed.

“I don’t know what happened,” Duhamel said. “We felt really good. We were in the zone. The first half of the program was great. I don’t know what went wrong. I surprised myself on the Salchow. It wasn’t our best.”

Radford said they felt very strong and well trained when they went out onto the ice. “Somehow, things just didn’t work out,” he said.

But, he added, they were very happy with their Olympics. It had taken them both years to get to their first Games. She is 28, he 29.

Beverley Smith

First-time Olympians start strong in pair competition

It took absolute perfection for teams to elbow their way to the top in the pairs short program at the Sochi Games.

The Canadian teams weren’t far wrong. Yet forward landings on side-by-side triple Lutzes and a slight bobble in the footwork section, threw Canadian champions Meagan Duhamel and EricRadford into fifth place with 72.21 points, just short of their season’s best.

And Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch entranced the crowd at the Ice Palace into silence for much of their Motley Crue routine, lost some levels on their death spiral and are in sixth place with 70.92 points.

The leaders, as everyone expected, are Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia, who were at the top of their game and set a world record mark of 84.17. The Russians now hold seven of the top marks ever scored in pair skating.

Their triple twist was the ultimate effort. They were the only skaters in the competition to get a level four for it. And every single judge awarded them a +3 for grade of execution. That element was one of their big point-getters, earning them 8.30 points. They also got 8.40 for a lift.

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, feeling that their short routine wasn’t quite up to tackling the Russians, took a risk 10 days before the Olympics and decided to switch their short program routine. They took a successful old sod, the Pink Panther long program from three seasons ago, and cut it down to fit the shorter time slot, complete with the tricks they needed. It was a harrowing time to make such a switch, but it worked for them.

They were spectacular, landing a huge throw triple flip, but their perfection wasn’t enough. They finished second with 79.64 points. They earned only a level two on their death spiral.

In third place is an emerging Russian team, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, who had been having troubles with a throw triple flip in practice all week. But they chose to land it in the short program with aplomb and finished with 75.21 points, nicely ahead of 2010 Olympic silver medalists Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China.

Canada’s third team, Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers, who have never competed at a world championship, skated well to finish 13th with 58.97 points, six points higher than their previous best.

Duhamel and Radford had to skate directly after Stolbova and Klimov, with the crowd standing wildly and cheering. “It was very difficult to skate after the hometown team,” Duhamel said. “It sounds like a hockey game out there. We made some minor mistakes, but I’m proud of what we were able to do in that circumstance.”

Skating to Radford’s composition “Tribute,” Duhamel and Radford opened up with a nice big triple twist, and then Radford fought to keep from pitching his hand onto the ice on the side-by-side triple Lutz. They did land a perfect throw triple Lutz, the most difficult of the competition. Their death spiral was rated only a level two. As Duhamel walked off the ice, she said to coach Richard Gauthier “It was hard.”

Radford said they enjoyed every minute of the skate. “Being out there, every moment is an amazing and unforgettable memory.” Both are competing at their first Olympics, although they are in their late twenties.

Is there a chance of a medal at this point for last year’s world bronze medalists? “We want a medal really bad,” Duhamel said. “But for us, skating the free of a lifetime would be worth more than gold.”

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch had the crowd clapping to the intriguing rhythms of their music at the beginning, as they launched into a triple twist that was not as big as some of the other teams, but they got a level three for it while Duhamel and Radford got a level two. The triple toe loops went without a hitch and so did a throw triple loop. By this time the building went silent, before they started to clap again in time to the music as they executed their sit spins. It was a charming, high-quality routine. Their Achilles’ heel? A death spiral that earned them only a level one.

With her brother, Jesse, (a champion bull rider), in the audience as well as her parents, Lawrence was mesmerized by the Olympic experience. She skated with a groin injury that has bothered her all season, but said she’s about 80 per cent recovered.

Their triple twists were good and then Lawrence stepped out of a triple toe loop. But they barrelled back into focus with a pair spin, and then they went for a throw triple Lutz. Lawrence put a hand down on it. Their score of 58.97 was about six points better than their previous personal best and the pair was grinning. “It was fun,” Lawrence said. “The whole time, I’m thinking: ‘I’m at the Olympics!”

“This is our first Olympics,” she said. “We have never even been to worlds before. So when we stepped on the ice, I kept saying, ‘This is awesome. This is so awesome.’”

Lawrence and Swiegers weren’t part of the Canadian team silver medal win, and feel separated from it. “It feels like our time is now,” she said.

Stolbova and Klimov helped Russia win its team gold medal and actually won the long program for Russia. Klimov said it was easier to skate in the pair short program than in the team event because “we already knew what to expect,” he said. “We felt even more support from the audience tonight. It helped us a lot.”

It was an unforgettable moment for unforgettable Russian pair skaters. “We were so nervous today,” Volosozhar said. Trankov said the gold medal that they won in the team event put pressure on them to repeat their performance again. They managed their emotions.

“The crowd was incredible,” Trankov said. “It’s very special. We are so happy to have such a moment and this amazing competition in our lives….I will never feel the same.”

He said there were moments when he was quite nervous, and other moments when things seemed easy and “I thought I was just flying,” But he had to contain himself and focus on the elements. And so they did.

Beverley Smith

Friends and rivals, Canadian pair teams set to live Olympic dream in Sochi

Mere seconds before the defining skate of his life, Dylan Moscovitch almost went looking for a hug.

Stepping on to the ice with partner Kirsten Moore-Towers for their pair free program at last month’s Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Ottawa, Moscovitch stole a glance at the kiss and cry. Close friends Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers, who had just heard their free program marks, were caught up in the emotion of having just guaranteed themselves a spot on the podium – and, with it, all but locking up a berth on the Canadian Olympic Team.

As Lawrence succumbed to the emotion of the moment and wept, Moscovitch, for a fleeting second, wanted nothing more than to show a little love.

“I looked over at them in the kiss and cry, and saw Paige crying, and I was like ‘wait, wait, I can’t skate yet, I have to go hug them’,” laughs Moscovitch.

Such is life for Canada’s trio of pair entries at these Sochi Games, with three-time Canadian champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford joining Moore-Towers, Moscovitch, Lawrence and Swiegers to carry Canada’s hopes in the event. Competitors and rivals, teammates and friends, each will realize their own dreams Tuesday when the individual pair competition – an oxymoron necessitated thanks to the just-completed team event, where Canada claimed silver – gets underway at the spectacular Iceberg Skating Palace.

Press rewind to that Saturday night special in Ottawa last month. During the free program, all Moore-Towers and Moscovitch did was go out and set a new Canadian record, seemingly setting the table for their second national title.

Not so fast.

That record lasted about five minutes, before Duhamel and Radford broke it again to pull off a national title three-peat. It was skating’s version of history repeating itself. The previous January, at the Canadian championships in Mississauga, Ont., Moore-Towers and Moscovitch shattered what was then the Canadian record, only to have Duhamel and Radford topple it minutes later.

For those keeping score, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch have the unique distinction of owning two Canadian records for about ten minutes combined – and have a pair of silver medals to show for it.

When Moore-Towers and Moscovitch won their Canadian crown in 2011, it was Duhamel and Radford taking silver.

Radford has called Moscovitch “my best friend and archrival”.

“They’re very good and I think they’re a major key to why Eric and I are as good as we are,” Duhamel says of Moore-Towers and Moscovitch. “I think that whether they know it or not, they push us and they make us better. It’s great the rivalry we’ve created.”

“Canadian pairs skating is definitely at a high right now and we’re proud to be pushing one another,” adds Moore-Towers. “They push us and never make it easy on us and I think we do the same.”

For the better part of the past four seasons, the two teams have waged a back and forth battle for Canadian pair supremacy, with Duhamel and Radford holding the slimmest of upper hands. Quietly, without the fanfare and attention given their pair teammates at these Olympics, Lawrence and Swiegers have been writing their own storyline. The bronze in Ottawa was their fourth consecutive third-place showing at the national championships.

Off the ice, Moore-Towers, Moscovitch, Lawrence and Swiegers have formed an unbreakable bond, a friendship that is bigger than the colour of the medal draped around their necks.

“I think I was as happy for them (Lawrence and Swiegers) making the Olympic team as I was for us,” says Moscovitch. “We’ve all grown up in this sport together, so to see us realize our dream together is great. We get to share it with close friends, which makes it pretty special.”

“When it comes to the program, we leave it out there,” says Swiegers. “We do our best, and let the cards fall where they may. We’re all great friends, and we’ve all worked hard to get here. We’re going to enjoy it.”

The three teams will carry the Canadian flag at the pair competition at these Games, and realize they have their work cut out for them. Not only is there the unenviable task of trying to put a chink in the armour of reigning world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia, but also trying to block the path to the podium will be four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany.

Not exactly a lot of elbow room to squeeze into the medal ceremony, although Duhamel and Radford will carry the confidence of a bronze medal earned at last year’s ISU World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ont.

As one would almost expect, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch were right on their heels in London, placing fourth. Old habits die hard, as they say.

In their post-event press conference in Ottawa, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch light-heartedly lamented their short-lived Canadian record, their second in as many years.

“I’d like to keep the record one of these times,” laughed Moscovitch.

A little joke between friends.

And rivals.

Marty Henwood

Canada’s Figure Skating Win Silver Medal in Inaugural Team Event in Sochi

SOCHI, RUSSIA – Canada has reached the podium for the fourth time in two days at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Patrick Chan (men’s short program), Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (pair’s short program), Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (ice dance short program and free program), Kaetlyn Osmond (women’s short program and free program), Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch (pair’s free program), and Kevin Reynolds (men’s free program) captured silver in the Figure Skating Team event in Sochi.

“The introduction of this discipline at the Olympic Games has allowed Canada to show the world the depth, creativity and brilliance of our national figure skating program. The performances by our skaters had Canadians and skating fans on their feet, here in Sochi,” said Marcel Aubut, President, Canadian Olympic Committee. “On behalf of the entire Canadian Olympic family, and all Canadians, I congratulate our Canadian Olympic skaters on this silver medal and wish them success as they pursue more Olympic glory in their individual events.”

Canada now has four medals at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games (1 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze).

Release and photo courtesy Canadian Olympic Committee

Silver medal-winning Olympic team just so proud, so Canadian

They were so proud, so poised, so gracious.

So Canadian.

Sure, the colour of the medal may be a shade off from the one the Canadian Olympic figure skating team quietly envisioned as the inaugural team event dawned last week, but this team, one that spends much of their year competing against, and not for, one another, made a nation proud under the shadows of the towering Olympic flame Sunday night.

And as for that silver medal earned, they’ll wear it well.

Sometimes, even when your dreams are a little loftier, being second-best is good enough. If you watched the performance of the Russian team in Sochi – from Volosozhar and Trankov to Lipnitskaya and Plushenko – you got the sense destiny was on Russia’s side, to win this maiden team competition, gold on home soil after a dismal Vancouver Games four years ago. There seemed to be a feeling after that first day – when Russians took 19 of a possible 20 points – that everyone else was skating for silver.

In the eight events making up the team competition, Russia claimed the maximum 10 points in five of them.

But we learned something about this Team Canada over these past few days. Not just about those nine athletes who contributed to bring Canada its fourth medal of these Games, but also the team members who weren’t called upon to compete, who yelled and cheered themselves hoarse all week long. We learned that in a sport that is often as individual as can be, this team element was something different, something special, something always to be remembered.

This was a team letting each teammate know, “You go out and do your thing. We’ve got your back.”

“It’s incredibly meaningful to us to be able to share it with the whole team,” said Tessa Virtue, who claimed ice dance gold with partner Scott Moir four years ago in Vancouver. “There were a lot of personal bests here and I can’t wait to stand on the podium with everyone.”

“It was a great event for the young skaters,” added Moir. “We had Kaetlyn Osmond out there, 18 years-old, and we asked her to do two skates at an Olympic Games. The great thing about the team is that everyone pulled their weight. We’re so proud of our team.”

On this final day of the competition, although they weren’t saying it out loud, you knew deep down the Canadians conceded they weren’t going to be climbing up to the top step of the podium. But when High Performance Director Mike Slipchuk went to the bullpen and summoned Kevin Reynolds for the men’s free, the 23-year-old delivered.

Despite spending most of the season on the shelf trying to correct a tedious skate boot issue, Reynolds, having lived in the shadow of three-time world champion Patrick Chan in recent years, went out and laid down a dazzling performance that rubber-stamped the silver for Canada.

“I’m glad that I could get the performance that I did tonight out the way,” said an elated Reynolds. “Considering that I didn’t know for sure if I would get to participate until only a few days ago, I think I did great. I’m glad I was able to contribute here.”

“It was amazing,” Reynolds told CBC after the competition ended. “From start to finish I could hear Team Canada cheering me on in the background.”

Like Reynolds, Osmond was unable to compete for most of the season as she battled injuries. The youngster made a memorable return at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships last month, winning her second straight Canadian crown. Eight weeks after celebrating her 18th birthday, Osmond more than held her own against the world’s best in her first Olympic appearance.

“It feels good,” said Osmond. “I’m glad I could contribute to the team. I could feel the support of my team and I put out two good skates. I’m very happy with that.”

Now, with the team competition in the books, the Canadian team will go their separate ways to chase Olympic dreams in their individual events. No doubt, there will be both high and low moments over these next 10 days – there are the Olympic Games, after all – but you get the feeling this team may have a few more surprises left in store yet.

“I think it’s easy for a lot of us to get carried away with the medals, and wanting to bring more medals to the table for Canada,” Chan told CBC. “I think what we can all take from this event is we all got a chance to go out on the ice and really enjoy skating.”

“Each of us had a moment on the ice, and we all enjoyed it.”

“We’re all so proud to represent Canada,” beamed Virtue. “It’s so special to be part of this event. I think Canada really showed its true colours.”

Red, white and silver, indeed.

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Marty Henwood[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Canada wins silver medal in Olympic figure skating team event!

Despite all of his skating boot issues and a lack of international competition this year, Kevin Reynolds clinched an Olympic silver medal for Canada in the team event.

Canada has been the favoured team going into the event, but faced an onslaught of talented Russians, including a rejuvenated Evgeny Plushenko who won the men’s long program. He was helped by a 15-year-old sprite, Julia Lipnitskaia, who won both the women’s short and long programs, the number 2 pair team, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov and by a second Russian dance team, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, who finally unleashed their talent.

Reynolds got help from Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch finishing second in the pair long program, Kaetlyn Osmond snaring fifth in the women’s long, and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir finishing second in the free dance.

Patrick Chan finished third in the men’s short program, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford finished second in the pair short, Virtue and Moir were second in the short dance, and Osmond didn’t put a foot wrong in finishing fifth in the women’s short program.

The bronze medal went to the United States.

Reynolds missed the entire Grand Prix season and the Olympic Games represented his first international competition of the season. What a way to start. “I definitely didn’t get the experience I wanted this year, especially going into an Olympic Games,” he said. “But I got in three good weeks of training and I’m happy with what I did. It’s a great start.”

Reynolds has gone through eight pairs of boots to find the right fit. He calls his current pair “tolerable.”

The Canadian silver medalist found out only a few days ago that he would do the long program in the team event.

Plushenko fired off a quadruple toe loop off the start, landed a couple of easy triple Axels, then double a couple of jumps (Salchow and loop) at the end of his program. His 168.20 points was only .28 points better than Reynolds’ effort.

Reynolds showed the old king that others can do quads, too, and in combination. In all, Reynolds landed three quads in his routine, his first one a big, long quad Salchow, then a quad toe – triple toe loop combo, and then eventually a quad toe loop, with perfect calmness and ease. He stumbled out of a triple Axel, but was mobbed by his teammates when he finished with 167.92 points.

Tatsuki Machida of Japan, landed one quad, two big triple Axels, and just about everything else, and finished third with 165.85 points. “I really thought I had a chance to win this group,” Machida said. “I needed to finish first to give the Japanese team a true shot at a medal. There was no room for error. I feel bad for letting everyone down.” He said he was never so nervous.

Plushenko said he felt of pain in his back during his doubled Salchow and blamed that for his mistakes. “Now I cross my fingers for a gold medal,” he said. He said he will try two quads in the individual event. “Today is just a warm-up,” he said. “I’m not skating with Yuzuru or with Patrick Chan, so we decided on no quad today but just land clean.” (He did land a quad toe loop.)

He said he also has a triple Axel – triple flip combination in his back pocket, one nobody else in the world has done.

Osmond set the stage for Canada, gaining 110.73 points at her first Olympics. She took a hard fall on her hip on a triple Lutz, and doubled a triple flip, but picked herself up and finished the plan. “We had Kaetlyn Osmond out there, 18 years old and we asked her to do two skates at an Olympic Games,” said Moir, the team captain. “The great thing about the team is that everyone pulled their weight. We’re so proud of our team.”

Lipnitskaia said she got nervous in the middle of the program and doesn’t know why. It’s unlike her, calm at all times. Errors crept in. She admitted she was nervous to skate after Plushenko because she didn’t want to let the team down. “He was very happy for me at the end and congratulated me in the kiss and cry,” she said. Lipnitskaia was called for doping control late the previous night, after she had finished the short program quite late. “It was quite difficult for me.”

Virtue and Moir had a shaky entrance to a lift, but got it quickly under control to finish second with 107.56 points, far from their best score. Meryl Davis and Charlie White set a world record of 114.34 points although the timing was off on their entrance into twizzles.

Virtue came out with a new vermillion costume, decorated with gold. “We wanted to make a statement,” she said. “We’re performing this program twice and I wanted two dresses.” She’ll wear her pastel costume for the individual free skate.

Moir said they had a good skate but “the levels weren’t where they needed to be,” he said. “We skated strong and we put in a lot of hard work, so we’re happy to bring home a medal for Canada.”

He said five or six of the points they missed are on the technical side and they can work on that for next week.

“It’s a very demanding program but we’re still building on it,” Moir said. “Up until now, I’ve only thought about the team, but now it’s time to move forward.”

Virtue said it was incredibly meaningful for them to share the experience with the rest of the Canadian team. “There were a lot of personal bests here and I can’t wait to stand on the podium with everyone.”

Canada’s silver medal was watched by other athletes, too. On twitter, bobsledder Jesse Lumsden said: “So proud of our figure skaters getting some hardware in the team event. Pulling off all those Salchows and spinny things.”

Beverley Smith

Canada in medal position going into final day of the Olympic team event

Canada remains in second place behind Russia in the team event after Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir finished second in the short dance, Kaetlyn Osmond fifth in the women’s short and Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch second in the pair free program.

Russia leads with 37 points, to Canada’s 32, while the United States has moved up to third place with 27 points after a dismal first day. Japan and Italy have also qualified.

A twizzle gone awry left Virtue and Moir in second place behind Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Virtue fumbled her rotation on the second of three twizzles, but kept herself upright, stayed on her foot and soldiered on, finished with 72.98 points.

Davis and White finished three points ahead with 75.98 points, giving the United States the impetus it needed to try to win a team medal.

“I had a bobble on the twizzle,” Virtue said. “But our base value is so high that even with that, we’re in good shape.” They received a level four for the twizzle, and with the mistakes, emerged with 5.29 points on that element. Davis and White earned 7.36 for the same thing.

“I might have lost a little bit of speed up to the first one,” Virtue explained. “It wasn’t a mental lapse. I actually recovered. I stayed on the same foot.”

Moir admitted the miscue was a bit disappointing because they wanted to lead their team. Moir is captain of the team, Virtue the assistant. But he said they are still very happy with their performance. They earned level fours on all other elements but the midline step sequence, which was a level three – the same level that Davis and White got for theirs.

“Tessa and I take the team event very seriously,” Moir said. “There’s an Olympic medal on the line.”

Davis said she and her partner were very excited to be able to put the team back in the running for a medal.

“Charlie and I were definitely focused on our performance today.”

White, who is the captain of the U.S. team, said “the beautiful thing about our team is that all our guys know what we need to do.”

“It started before we got out there,” he said. “We had a good mindset and when you can do that, it’s that much easier.”

In the women’s short program, Julia Lipnitskaia, the 15-year-old Russian wunderkid, solidified Russia’s position at the top of the standings with a flawless performance, earning 72.90 points to defeat seasoned veteran Carolina Kostner of Italy, whose “Ave Maria” routine was breathtakingly beautiful. Kostner finished with 70.84 points and a simpler triple-triple combination. The intrepid Mao Asada tried her trademark triple Axel – seriously under-rotated it and fell, landing her back in third with 64.07 points.

Kaetlyn Osmond, competing at her first Olympics, electrified the crowd with a flawless skate, earning 62.52 points, just about half a point behind U.S. veteran Ashley Wagner with 63.10.

Osmond flew into her triple toe loop – triple toe loop combination, earning bonus points for it and actually outpointed Wagner, who had done a more difficult combination, a triple flip- triple toe loop, although she under-rotated the second jump and landed on two feet. That meant Osmond actually scored more points for her simpler triple-triple combo.

Osmond admitted she was a bit nervous before she set foot onto the ice, “but to go out and skate a perfect short program at the Olympics is great and it’s even better to do that for our team.”

A ferocious competitor, Osmond decided to think of the task as any other competition. “The ice is nice and even, though it’s a big stadium and a big event, it felt like I was at home practising,” she said. She went into the jumps with confidence although they felt shaky to her, perhaps because of the excitement, she said.

Before she skated, she was subject to a drug test on the day of the competition – before she skated. “I was in the middle of a nap,” she said, with her “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. “I knew there was a possibility of it happening,” she said.

For her, the team event is special, with an enthusiastic team behind her in the kiss and cry area. The bench almost tipped over, she said. “That would have been really funny,” she said.

Tiny Lipnitskaia stepped out onto the ice to a spectacle she had never seen before. “There wasn’t any silence for a single second,” she said. “That kind of support made me so happy.”

She heard “RU-SSI-YA” and “Julia” but her coach Eteri Tutberidze, told her to focus on the music all the way through. The background noise was so loud, it couldn’t escape her. She knew she had to be calm.

Kostner, who turned 27 the day of the short program, says she isn’t the type to celebrate it, but finishing second with an inspired skate was the perfect gift. And she did it for her team. “We have to be realistic,” she said. “For us, as a team from a small nation, it is an important opportunity to show that we can do.”

Asada apologized to her teammates for the fall, and was relieved that Japan made it through to the final. “I was unbelievably nervous,” she admitted. “I felt more pressure than I expected. It just wasn’t my performance. I‘ve got to settle my nerves.”

Her triple Axel did not go the way it had gone in practice, she said. She couldn’t land one in the six-minute warm-up. Those miscues followed her into the performance.


Strong performances by Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch kept Canada in second place after the pairs free skate on Saturday at the Olympics.

Russia is in first place, its lead strengthened by a team that has never been at a world championship, but that took centre stage and won the pairs long program. Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov skated to a very un-Russian theme, the Addams Family, to win with 135.09 points, about six points ahead of the Canadians with 129.74.

Only five teams returned to the pairs long program after France, China, Germany, Ukraine and Britain did not advance.

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch, skating to a Fellini medley, sped around the ice and impressed with their opening triple twist, and then a triple toe loop – triple toe loop sequence. Their main error came when Moore-Towers planted two hands down on the ice after a triple Salchow. A spin went slightly out of synch, but it was a performance that bolstered the Canadian team.

“It went well tonight,” Moore-Towers said. “There was a little brain fart on my part and I made a mistake that shouldn’t have happened.” They felt a build-up of pressure going into their free skate.

“Everyone wants it so badly,” she said. “We really wanted to do our part to help the team. I feel like the individual event will be easy-breezy after this.”

Klimov said he and his partner felt as huge responsibility but they were ready.

Stefania Berton, suffered an injury during the free skate with her Italian partner Ondrej Hotarek, after falling on a triple Salchow jump. Hotarek helped her off the ice. They had had to take three days off about 10 days ago after a bad fall from a lift, when she initially hurt her hip.

The final day of the team event begins Sunday with the men’s, women’s and ice dance free programs.

Beverley Smith

Strong first day as Canada sits second in Olympic Team Event

At an Olympics on home soil, Russian figure skaters mean business.

They have set aside the disappointments of finishing the Vancouver Olympics with no gold medals for the first time in memory, and are going for gold, early, in the team event.

Russia is in first place with 19 points after the men’s and pair’s team events, while Canada, ranked first going into the event, is second with 17 points and China is third with 15 points.

Canadian hope Patrick Chan finished third in the men’s short program behind Japanese rival Yuzuru Hanyu and a rejuvenated Evgeny Plushenko, competing at his fourth Olympics.

Zhenya, as they call him back home, has won one gold (Turin) and two silver medals (Salt Lake City and Vancouver), but has never had to contend with a team event before. Nobody has.

Skating to his short program that has garnered him world records in the past, Chan opened with a quad toe and landed it forwardly, just enough that he could stick only a double toe, rather than a triple, on the end of it. That earned him 12.17 points, compared to Plushenko’s powerful quad-triple ( 16.40). Chan then stepped out of a triple Axel and he landed a triple Lutz a little back at the heel, seemingly tense. It put him in a bit of a hole, but he finished with a good score: 89.71.

Hanyu didn`t do a quad combination, but opened with a quad that just soared, good for 12.44 points, more than Chan got for his quad combo. Hanyu skated with complete confidence, even swagger, finishing with near record 97.98 points (Hanyu holds the short program world record of 99.84.)

Plushenko is in second place with 91.39, a marvellous result for a skater who has competed only five times in the past two years. Plushenko appeared at the top of his game, skating with plenty of snap and verve, although he front-loaded his programs with jumps (it worked for him) and wobbled on his Lutz and a spin, for which he received a level two.

“All of the jumps weren’t great,” Chan said of his performance afterward. “But in a way, I’m glad I did that here. It was good to get the jitters out.” He’ll hand the baton off to Kevin Reynolds, who will skate the long program on Sunday.

“It wasn’t the best,” Chan admitted. “But I’ve learned that I enjoy what I do. The crowd was great and I could feel the energy out there. That’s why I do this. Winning and getting a medal would be great, but at the end of the day, it’s not why I’m out there.”

He said he did not watch Plushenko because he “wanted to get in my own world instead of someone else’s.”

The biggest letdown was by Jeremy Abbott, who missed both his quad and his triple Axel and finished seventh of 10 men. The quad didn’t snap into the air as high as he would have liked.

“It’s a very unfortunate day for my teammates,” he said. “I’m torn about it….Now I just have to shake off the demons. We all know I have a lot of demons…But I’ve had my Olympic disaster and now I can move on.” Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir helped the US rise to a tie for fifth position with a good skate. Only the top five teams move on to the final on Sunday. The United States had been rated third going into the event, but it still has strong dance and women’s competitors to come.

Canada’s world bronze pair medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford helped the Canadian cause by finishing second in the pair short program with one of the best short programs of their career, hardly putting a foot wrong. It is the first Olympics for both of them, although she is 28, he 29. When they skated, the Canadian kiss-and-cry area was packed with teammates.

Not only do they deliver the most difficult tricks in the world (throw triple Lutz and solo triple Lutzes), Duhamel and Radford also accomplished a beautiful triple twist, and a very interesting, difficult entry into a back inside death spiral, all to Radford’s own musical composition, “Tribute.”

“After the men’s short program, we had a little extra pressure after Patrick,” Duhamel said. “He was in third place. We were: ‘We have to do it for the team.’”

Radford said the experience was memorable. “It was amazing,” he said. “Everything about it. It all just happened. Our goal was to be top two….We just put ourselves in a little bubble. We had high expectations.”

Perhaps Plushenko had the hardest job, skating in front of his home crowd.

“It was so difficult to calm down,” he said. “So difficult with applause from there, from behind, from everywhere. It was like I was knocked down. It was difficult, but it also helped.”

“I am so happy I can skate with 18-year-old guys,” said the 31-year-old. “I skated for my fans and I skated for my young sons.”

On Saturday, ice dancers and women skate their short programs.

Photos: Patrice Lapointe

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Beverley Smith

Figure Skating Team Event in Sochi begins Thursday

OTTAWA, ON: Today in Sochi, Russia Canada announced its entries for the men’s and pair short program for the first ever figure skating team event at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The event features the top 10 countries, each comprised of one man, one woman, one pair and one ice dance couple. A country is allowed two substitutions between the short and long programs.

Canada will be represented by three-time world champion Patrick Chan, 23, Toronto, Ont., in the men’s short program.

World bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel, 28, Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford, 29, Balmertown, Ont., will skate the pair short program for Canada.

Reigning Olympic ice dance champion Scott Moir, 26, Ilderton, Ont., will serve as Canada’s team captain, and his partner Tessa Virtue 24, London, Ont., is the assistant team captain.

The event begins on Thursday, February 6 with the men’s and pair short program at the Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi, Russia.

The entries for the ice dance and ladies short programs will be made on February 7. The pair free program skaters will be announced on February 8 and the men’s, women’s, and ice dance free will be announced on February 9.

Canada will enter the competition as the number one ranked team. The other countries that have qualified, in order of points are: Russia, United States, Japan, Italy, France, China, Germany, Ukraine and Britain.

The top five teams from the short programs will advance to the free skates. Team standings will be decided on aggregate placement points for each skater/couple. First place earns 10 points; second place earns nine points down to tenth place earning one point.

For further explanation on the team event the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has produced a short video.

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Olympian Profile: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir

Paul MacIntosh tells people he’s just the lucky person who was standing by the boards when he saw Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir first skate together. “They could always move magically together,” he said, recalling the charismatic little twosome.

“From the beginning, it was small and it was tiny, and now, it’s big and huge,” he said. “They always were the best team in the world.”

He felt it all again when he went to the Canadian championships in Ottawa last month and watched them move. “It kind of starts from somewhere down in their ankles and knees and goes right through them,” he said. “It seems to have a reaction through the whole body, which interprets the music. They’ve done this since they were babies. They’ve always heard and interpreted music so well. I find every movement has a meaning.”

MacIntosh was watching Virtue and Moir, sitting with the father of Andrew Poje’s first partner, a New York City man, a skating dad who doesn’t know an inside edge from an outside one. When Virtue and Moir finished the first 45 seconds of their free skate – they hadn’t yet done a lift, a twizzle, a spin, nothing – the skating dad looked at MacIntosh and said simply: “Oh my god.”

MacIntosh said to the skating dad: “Look, they’ve just done more steps and more things in the first minute than the other teams will do in four. It’s just things they do, subtle little movements and turns and interactions with each other. They move like a unit.”

Sure, they were Olympic champions back in 2010, just barely turned 20 both of them, the youngest dancers to do so. There was a reason for that win. And now, with even more miles under their feet, more experiences, more experiments, more work, their timbre is even more finely tuned.

So what is it that they do so well that makes them the best ice dance team in the world, perhaps of all time (Robin Cousins once compared them to Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.)  Well, the way their bodies move, for one thing. They stretch their bodies. One canny expert explains that they straighten their knees and point their toes, they extend their necks upward, they open their chests, using their entire bodies to interpret music. Virtue in particular has a very mobile torso and they both arch their backs to create shapes, and they involve their hips and shoulders like no one else to produce movement that the style and rhythm of dance commands. Their movement is beautifully coordinated. They complete their movements, with extended legs and arms. The tension in their bodies’ changes as the music dictates. The tension is never static.

The foxtrot of the short dance this season calls for a sway – and they have a gorgeous sway – and the rise and fall of a soft knee. Says Ann Shaw, guru of international ice dance: “You’re supposed to have an elegant look, and use your knees in the foxtrot and have a syncopation of approach.  They have an elegant upright, light airy look, and they have the best interpretation of the rhythms required of anybody this year. They interpret the quickstep and foxtrot like nobody else does.”

Speed? It’s supposed to come from rhythmic knee action, since the rules specifically discourage excessive amounts of toe steps. This is no problem for Virtue and Moir, because, Shaw says, they are the most powerful skaters in the world. Speed is just the velocity across the ice, no matter how you get there. It is not the same as power. Some are fooled by speed, but how is it generated? Virtue and Moir have a hidden power, that comes from deep knee bends, and it allows them to float across the ice. Their stroking is so smooth and well-matched, that it appears effortless.

What’s more, Virtue and Moir can vary their speed and change direction seamlessly – important in the transitions category of the program component mark and also the choreography category to some extent. They can slow to a stop, and then regain top speed in three or four strokes. The variation of speed allows for the shades and light of interpretation. They change dance holds frequently, easily, eschewing the same-direction skating that is so much easier.  “Their movement from one hold to another is just like little rose petals unfolding,” Shaw said. “It’s superb. They skate in close relation all the time. But you are never aware that they are changing hold. They sort of fold into each other – and I think that is superior to anybody.”

Footwork? Virtue and Moir have challenging footwork with big curves.  The size of the curve that a skater’s edge creates is important, and never more so than in footwork sequences. Virtue and Moir trace huge arcs with their edges both into and out of their turns. They have dainty, precise feet.

Lifts? From a young age, when Virtue and Moir began to learn more difficult lifts, Virtue was taught to feel like she was doing the lift herself, rather than the male partner forcing the woman somewhere and the women reacts. “She moves herself from one position to another and she doesn’t wait for Scott to move her,” says Marijane Stong, known for her knowledge of dance, music, and costuming. “That was when she was quite young and she has maintained that. Ballet dancers don’t wait for the man to put them somewhere.”

In other words, Virtue has an ability to manage her own body in the lifts. Rather than Moir supporting Virtue, there are fewer points of contact between them during a lift, and Virtue extends her own free leg, without help from the partner. The positions in their lifts require a lot of strength in Virtue’s core and hips and back. Their style of stroking also is taxing on the legs, knees and thighs. This team is physically strong.

On the sidelines, MacIntosh is still watching. He’s seen Virtue and Moir’s peaceful, romantic skate to Mahler from the 2010 Olympics. Their free dance to “Seasons” by Russian composer Alexander Glazunov is also lyrical, pretty, but so different. He wasn’t sure when he first watched it, that it would do the trick. But by Paris, it had developed, as Virtue and Moir’s programs do. “I thought, oh my god, this is everything you said it would be,” MacIntosh said. “It’s magic. It’s totally different from Mahler. There is a totally different emotion at the end of it. Mahler is very peaceful. I find this very dynamic. It takes me on a journey. I love the music at the end.” (Choreographer Marina Zoueva used a proud piano concerto by Alexander Scriabin to finish on a strong note).

Their opening lift, says MacIntosh, sends shivers down his spine. “They strike a line that you know nobody else in the world can do,” he said. “Somebody might be able to do Tessa’s part. Somebody might be able to do Scott’s part. But not together. It’s just magic, and phrased beautifully with the music.”

And just to make things interesting, Virtue and Moir do a footwork sequence at the 3:30 minute mark of their free dance routine, a taxing idea. At Skate Canada, they got a level 2 for it. At Grand Prix Final, it earned a level 3. By the Canadian championships, they had nailed it: level 4. “It went whoosh,” MacIntosh said.

It’s a challenge they take. Indeed, they make everything challenging for themselves, creating new lifts every year, new twizzles, new rhythms, new styles. It’s just who they are, pushing their own boundaries, never content with the status quo.

Want to read more about the figure skaters who will compete at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi? Pick up Beverley Smith’s new book SKATING TO SOCHI! The book profiles the top 40 athletes/teams with full-colour photos! Order online:, (ebook) or iTunes (ebook).

Beverley Smith