RED DEER, Alberta – Wesley Chiu sure knows how to make a first impression.

Chiu, the reigning Canadian novice men’s champion, skated a new short program for the first time Wednesday, scoring 47.93 to lead after the short program at the Canada Winter Games. Maksim Chelmaev of Quebec is in second spot at 40.55 and Rio Morita of Ontario is third at 38.93.

“We put it together in less than two weeks and decided to give it a try here,” said Chiu of the new program. “I want to be comfortable for junior next year and since we don’t have a lot of time, we thought ‘why not?”

After his plane touched down in Vancouver following the Bavarian Open earlier this month – an event where he won gold – Chiu drove straight to his training rink where he met with coach Keegan Murphy. In no time, they had re-created a new short program. A week before the Canada Winter Games, Murphy asked Chiu if he wanted to try the new short in Red Deer.

Chiu said he was ready.

“I had no idea how it was going to go, because the harder elements are later in the program,” added Chiu.  “It turned out pretty good.”

In novice women, Kaiya Ruiter of Alberta – another Canadian champion – laid down a sparkling free program to score 49.86. Emily Millard of B.C. is second at 41.10 and Quebec’s Mélaurie Boivin third at 40.69.

“To compete at a Canada Games in my home province is just incredible,” said Ruiter. “I wanted to do my family and everyone proud. They’ve helped me so much and I can’t thank them enough. To have a skate like that here, on that ice, is amazing.”

In novice ice dance, Canadian bronze medallists Isabel McQuilkin and Jake Portz of Alberta set the early pace by scoring 32.06 in the pattern dance. Kiera Kam and Mathew Carter of B.C. and Sydney Embro and Eric Millar of Ontario are deadlocked in second at 28.84.

Jamie Fournier and Gabriel Farand of Quebec lead the novice pair event after scoring 42.88 in the short program. Mackenzie Ripley and Owen Brawley from Ontario are second at 37.91 followed by Caidence Derenisky and Raine Eberl of Saskatchewan at 36.71.

The Special Olympics Women’s Level II free program wrapped up competition Tuesday. Melanie Taylor of Newfoundland and Labrador claimed gold, while Ontario’s Ana Micanovic and Sarah Thomas earned silver and bronze, respectively.

For competition results, visit the Canada Winter Games figure skating page.

Follow the conversation on social media by using the #CWG2019, #CGFigureSkating, and #ThisIsOurMoment hashtags.

THEY SAID IT:

“The confidence is definitely there, but so is the pressure and expectations. I just want to do the best I can here, and see where I am.” – 2019 Canadian novice men’s champion Wesley Chiu of B.C., who leads after the short program at the CWG

“To me, skating, it’s all about the freedom. When I’m on the ice, I feel unstoppable. Untouchable.” – Eric Pahima, Team B.C. Special Olympian

“It’s about the sheer joy of sport. They just celebrate life. It’s just their joy. Don’t get me wrong, they want to win, there’s no doubt about it, but if they don’t, tomorrow’s another day. They’ve won by being here, by being included. They want to be part of the team. That’s the win.” – Barb Prystai, Special Olympics Coach, Team Alberta

UP NEXT: Medals in the pre-novice and Special Olympics events will be handed out Wednesday. The pre-novice free dance is the first event of the day, followed by the pair, men’s and women’s free programs. The Special Olympics Men’s Level III Free Skate wraps up Wednesday’s competition. Live streaming starts at 2:20 pm and can be viewed here.

Photo credit: Corina Cowie/2019 Canada Winter Games