STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Consider it mission accomplished for Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.
Arriving in Sweden with their sights clearly set on a podium finish at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships, the reigning Canadian ice dance champions delivered when it mattered most Saturday, and now they’ll return to Canada with bronze medals draped around their necks.
Gilles and Poirier performed a spellbinding free dance to Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now, scoring a personal best 130.98 score for a 214.35 total, also a personal best, to claim their first world championships medal.
Starting the day less than two points off the podium, Gilles and Poirier’s riveting skate lifted them into third spot, less than half a point behind silver medallists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the U.S. (214.71). Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (FSR) won gold with 221.17.
“We’re absolutely thrilled with what we did today,” said Gilles. “Having a crazy season, like everyone else…but I’m so proud that we pushed through. We didn’t let the uncertainty of everything get in the way. We just love to perform and skate, and I think that came out on the ice today.”
“I’m sort of at a loss for words,” added Poirier. “It’s been a very long time for us, this is our eighth world championships together, and being able to accomplish this just feels like a nice relief.”
“I’m sure once we’ve had time to process it as well, and be home with the rest of our team, as well as our family and friends, I think it will feel that much more real. What we’ve been able to accomplish today is the product of so many people’s effort, and we want to be able to celebrate that with them.”
Making their first international start since the fall of 2019, Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen of Montreal, Que. scored 119.01 in their free dance to place eighth with a 196.88 total.
Marjorie Lajoie (Boucherville, Que.) and Zachary Lagha (Saint-Hubert, Que.), the 2019 world junior champions, had an impressive senior world championships debut, finishing 14th at 180.71.
In the men’s competition, Keegan Messing racked up 176.75 points in his free program to finish sixth with a 270.26 total, a new personal best. The showing was Messing’s best in three appearances at the world championships and guaranteed Canada two men’s spots for next year’s Olympic Winter Games.
Messing was the lone member of the Canadian team with an international competition this season, dedicating his bronze medal at Skate America to his Canadian teammates in October.
As his free program ended Saturday, he pointed to his teammates in the stands, pumped his fist in the air several times and placed his hand over his heart. As he waited in the kiss and cry for his marks, Messing looked into the camera and spoke to his best friend and teammate, Nam Nguyen, back in Canada.
“We did it together. We did it. Love you, buddy,” he said.
“I feel absolutely incredible,” added Messing minutes later. “To be able to go out there and to put that kind of program out. I said before coming here that Nam and I were going to do this together, and together we did it. He was there with me, backstage, on the ice, and gave me the strength to push through this program. I couldn’t have done it without him.”
Nathan Chen of the United States, in third spot after the short program, scored 222.03 in a flawless free program that featured five quads to win his third straight men’s world title with 320.88.
For Fournier Beaudry and Sørensen, it was a triumphant return to the international stage. Not only did the pandemic wipe out this past season, but they missed the entire 2020 campaign as Sørensen recovered from knee surgery.
“We just wanted to dance and give some hope to everybody,” said Fournier Beaudry. “We’re so proud to be here representing Canada.”
“We’re just really grateful and so happy to be part of this amazing team,” added Sørensen.
Team Canada left Sweden with a medal and three other top-eight showings. Earlier in the week, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro placed sixth in the pair event.
Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud were 12th in pair, while 2020 Canadian women’s bronze medallist Madeline Schizas placed 13th in her world championships debut. Emily Bausback, the 2020 Canadian women’s champion, missed qualifying for the women’s free program by less than two points.
To see final results, please visit the ISU website.