Further to the north there is a place even colder than St Paul (though many US skating fans might disagree that anywhere could be colder than the frozen location of US Nationals this year). The Canadian National Championships will take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, from January 18-24, with the Senior events taking place on January 21-24.
Though Canada remains one of the powerhouse countries of figure skating, their Nationals, held at the same time as the US’, do not garner quite as much attention. This is usually because there is not the same depth in the different divisions in Canada as there is in the US, and the naming of the World teams (indeed, sometimes even the naming of the champions themselves) is often quite predictable.
That’s not to say that Halifax might yet have a few surprises in store…
There can be no doubt that the king of the Canadian men is still the Olympic silver medallist Patrick Chan, even though his comeback season has been one of ups and downs. A victory on home soil at Skate Canada, where he was generously rewarded for an excellent free skate, was followed by a fifth place at the truncated Trophee Eric Bompard and fourth place at the Grand Prix Final. His jumps have been unreliable, but the rest of his skating is as good as ever, and there can be no doubt he will repeat as National Champion.
Who will join him on the Worlds team is less clear. Nam Nguyen had a stellar Senior debut season last year, but his season so far has been erratic, with a fifth place at Skate Canada and a seventh place at Rostelecom Cup, and it remains to be seen whether he can recapture the sparkle that saw him light up the stage last year. Elladj Balde started the season strongly with a surprise victory at the Nebelhorn Trophy, but had a disaster at both of his Grand Prix events, finishing eleventh at Cup of China and the NHK Trophy. And what of Kevin Reynolds, the former Four Continents Champion? His last two seasons have been destroyed by hip surgery and he may never be the quadmeister he once was, but could post-injury maturity to his skating thrust him back into the mix?
Predictions: Chan, Nguyen, Balde
Katelyn Osmond may be in her first season back from a serious injury - a broken leg is no laughing matter in figure skating - but she has shown plenty of good signs in that return, with a more mature and elegant presentation, and seemingly no fear of her jumps. She won the Nebelhorn Trophy convincingly, but struggled on the Grand Prix, finishing eleventh at Skate Canada, and sixth at the NHK Trophy. Nevertheless, she will be determined to reclaim her title, and there's nothing to say she can't.
Gabrielle Daleman will be the main opponent standing in her way. The reigning National Champion has had a solid season so far, finishing fifth at Skate Canada and sixth in the shortened Trophee Eric Bompard, and will want to defend her title and go to Worlds once more. Alaine Chartrand has also had a mixed season, finishing fourth at Nebelhorn, but was twelfth at Skate America and sixth at Rostelecom Cup and will need a strong performance here to continue her season beyond Nationals.
Predictions: Osmond, Daleman, Chartrand
If Patrick Chan winning the men's event seems certain, then you could almost stake your house on the result in the pairs' event. It seems inconceivable that there could be any other winner in this division than Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. The pair are the reigning World Champions, Four Continents Champions, and National Champions, and have carried their commanding form into this season, winning both Skate Canada and the NHK Trophy, but slipping slightly with a silver at the Grand Prix Final.
Among those striving to join them on the trip to Boston will include Lubov Illiushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch, who have had a solid second season together so far. The reigning National silver medallists finished seventh at Cup of China and fifth at NHK Trophy, and are rapidly improving. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro have had a mixed season, taking a stunning bronze at Skate Canada but finishing seventh at Rostelecom, and will be eager to step up from last year's fourth-place finish onto the podium.
Predictions: Duhamel/Radford, Illiushechkina/Moscovitch, Moore-Towers/Marinaro
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje have also been in commanding for this season, carrying their World bronze form through to the new year and winning both Skate Canada and Rostelecom Cup, and completing the triumvirate by winning the Grand Prix Final in December. Canadian Nationals, for them, will be a nice staging point to launch the second half of their season as they look to take steps further up the World podium in Boston.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirer have also had a strong season so far, taking bronze at Skate America before finish second at Trophee Eric Bompard, and they will be looking to repeat as silver medallists and win their places on the World team. Last year's bronze medallists Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam have had a quiet season so far, taking silver at the Nebelhorn Trophy but finishing sixth at Skate Canada, and have some work to do if they want their season to continue beyond Nationals.
Predictions: Weaver/Poje, Gilles/Poirer, Paul/Islam
All times AEDT.
No, I have no idea about their zany schedule either. It is for the television broadcasts, I believe, since North American television likes to only broadcast the final group.
Short program: Saturday January 23 - 9:35am - 12:00noon
Long program (first half): Sunday January 24 - 8:50am - 10:35am
Long program (first half): Sunday January 24 - 12:25pm - 1:30pm
Short program: Saturday January 23 - 3:15am - 5:45am
Long program (first half): Sunday January 24 - 2:25am - 4:05am
Long program (second half): Sunday January 24 - 5:45am - 6:30am
Short program: Saturday January 23 - 12:15pm - 1:20pm
Long program: Sunday January 24 - 10:55am - 12:15pm
Short dance: Saturday January 23 - 6:00am - 6:50am
Free dance (first half): Sunday January 24 - 4:20am - 5:30am
Free dance (second half): Sunday January 24 - 6:50am - 7:35am