The Canadian National Figure Skating Championships were held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, from January 18 to January 24. Like their American counterparts, the Canadian championships started the week with lower levels before progressing to the elite Senior events on the weekend, where their champions were crowned and teams selected.
Some big scores were put up, but as always, the caveat that Nationals scoring never counts applies, and there were few upsets, though there were some welcome returns for familiar faces. Adding to the intrigue, no alternates were named for any event when Skate Canada announced the Championship teams at the end of the event...
As predicted, it was the Patrick Chan Show in the men's event. Chan sealed his eighth National title with two strong performances, including three quadruple jumps across both programs, two of which were done in combination. Though his short program was an imperious display of authority, his free skate did have a number of small errors that Chan will be wanting to rectify ahead of Four Continents and Worlds, including popping his second triple Axel into a double and also popping a late triple flip into a double, as well as dropping a level on his change camel spin.
A surprise second at this event was Liam Firus. The twenty-three year old had had a quiet season until this moment, finishing seventh at Finlandia and eighth at Golden Spin, but had a much improved showing at Nationals. He landed both the quadruple toe and triple Axel in the short program - albeit messily - and picked up three level fours to come in second behind Chan. His free skate was marred by only one major error - a fall on his second quadruple toe after successfully landing the first - and though it was only the third-placed free skate it was enough for him to hold on to silver.
Showing that fairytales do have a place in sport was bronze medallist Kevin Reynolds. At this time last year, Reynolds' career looked finished. Severe hip injuries were being exacerbated by boot problems and whether he would get out of the sport able to walk seemed to be the only question. But now after successful surgery to repair a torn labrum he is back, and even managed to land some of the quads for which he had once been famous at Nationals. He fell on the triple Axel in the short program, but picked up all level fours for his spins, while his quite strong free skate earned him the second-highest score of the night. He was plagued by under-rotation calls on his quad attempts, but that he is back and skating relatively well will be enough for his fans.
Four Continents: Chan, Firus, Reynolds
Junior Worlds: Nadeau
Worlds: Chan, Firus
Alaine Chartrand may have been last year's silver medallist, but she clearly came to make at statement at this year's Nationals and was rewarded with her first-ever Canadian National Championship. Chartrand turned in two solid performances to garner the highest total score (though she finished second in both segments of the event), turning up the heat after a quiet start to the season. Her triple Lutz-triple toe combination in the short program was spot-on, and the only errors in her free skate were a short-of-rotation triple toe on the end of her opening combination and a wrong-edged triple flip.
Gabrielle Daleman was second after turning in a magnificent free skate that earned the highest score of the night. Last year's National Champion stumbled in her short program, opting for the easier triple toe-triple toe combination and falling on her triple Lutz, but came back strongly in the free skate, landing every jump and earning level fours for every spin. Her only concern will be an under-rotated triple toe on the end of her combination, but otherwise, she was on top form.
Kaetlyn Osmond continued her return from her horror injury with a bronze medal at this event. Osmond was sidelined for the entire last season with a broken leg, but has been building quietly throughout the year as she comes back steadily. Osmond led after the short program, capitalising on her new more mature presentation style, but slipped back to third after struggling in the free skate, which included a wrong-edge Lutz and several popped jumps. With only two spots on the Canadian ladies' team for Worlds, her fairytale comeback will have to wait another year.
Four Continents: Chartrand, Daleman, Osmond
Junior Worlds: Tamura
Worlds: Chartrand, Daleman
There was never any doubt that Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford would repeat as the Canadian National Championships, and they did so in convincing fashion. Their short program took a little while to warm up, with the side-by-side triple Lutz popped to a double, but their long program was a commanding demonstration of pairs skating at its finest, including an ambitious throw quadruple Salchow, and showing that the reigning World Champions are in a fine way to defend their title.
The surprise pair of the season, Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau, continued their outstanding form by picking up the silver medal here. Their short program was extremely strong with no errors, and their free skate was just about perfect, with only a couple of dropped levels to nitpick. Their season so far has been strong and there will be plenty of interested eyes on them at the Championship events.
Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch were third, proving that waiting for her release from Russia was absolutely worth it with two excellent performances. Both programs were almost clean, with only a popped combination in the free skate to mar their protocol, and across both performances they collected seven level four elements.
Four Continents: Duhamel/Radford, Iliushechkina/Moscovitch, Seguin/Bilodeau
Junior Worlds: McLean/Michaud, Hoffman/Chudak, Brasseur/Ostiguy
Worlds: Duhamel/Radford, Iliushechkina/Moscovitch, Seguin/Bilodeau
It was a second National title in convincing fashion for Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. The couple hit five of the six keypoints in their Ravensberger Waltz pattern during the short dance, and picked up two other level four elements to take an early lead. They then proceeded to romp home in the free dance, collecting five level four elements to seal their title and making only one minor error when they held one of their lifts for too long. Their current form is ominous heading into the Championship season and there can be no doubt they will improve on last year's World bronze.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier came in second, repeating as the National silver medallists for the second year. They struggled with the pattern during the short dance, making only three of the six keypoints, but had two other level four elements and a high grade of execution to keep them in the running. They then turned out a superb free dance with five level four elements, securing their place on the Four Continents and Worlds teams.
Elisabeth Paradis and Francois-Xavier Ouellette finished third at this event, making a surprise run up the standings to improve on last year's fifth place finish. Paradis and Ouellette have been quietly building in strength this season, and they showed it here, hitting four of the six keypoints in their Ravensberger pattern in the short dance and making five level four elements in the free dance, even though they had one invalid element and two over-extended lifts. A couple on the rise, they will be ones to watch in the coming months.
Four Continents: Weaver/Poje, Gilles/Poirier, Paradis/Ouellette
Junior Worlds: Bent/Razgulajevs, Lajoie/Lagha, Meng/Meng
Worlds: Weaver/Poje, Gilles/Poirier, Paradis/Ouellette