For Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, the 2010 BMO Canadian Championships were a homecoming party. Returning to the Canadian Championships in their hometown of London, Virtue & Moir also returned to the site of their first Canadian Championships at the senior level. Everyone was talking about them in 2005 because they were expected to be the future of Canadian ice dance. In 2010, people were still talking about them, although this time the buzz was about Virtue & Moir being a favorite to take gold at the Olympic Winter Games next month in Vacouver. No one doubted that they would win the national title this time, and, given their successful season thus far, win by a wide margin.
On Saturday night at the Canadian Championships, Virtue & Moir closed the day’s events with a breathtaking free dance, a gentle interpretation of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Their final score of 221.95 eclipsed the Canadian record set five years earlier by Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon — in the same arena. Their original dance featured all level 4 elements that received all +2 and +3 GOEs, and their free dance was almost just as strong, technically. In the free, both of their step sequences were called level 3, and as one of the medal contenders heading into the Olympic Games, they will certainly be pushing to improve those to level 4. With high marks for their program components — almost all in the 9s — they have generated plenty of momentum for their first Olympics and have much to be proud of in winning their third Canadian title.
The real battle at the Canadian Championships was for the silver medal — and the final Olympic team berth. Just as predicted, it came down to the wire for Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier and Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje.
Crone & Poirier took the compulsory dance by a few hairs, edging out Weaver & Poje on the technical aspect of the Tango Romantica. In the original dance, it was Weaver & Poje who came out ahead, taking the technical mark as well. Going into the free dance, Weaver & Poje led Crone & Poirier by .02, and in the end, a margin of only .30 separated the two teams.
At first glance, it seemed like Crone & Poirier had lost their chance when Crone fell on the first part of the twizzle sequence. Despite weaving a gorgeous program to Lucia Micarelli’s “Nocturne” and moving seamlessly from element to element, what was left in one’s mind after the performance was the second or two that she spent on the ice. On another day, with different judges, the results may have gone the other way. It was that close. However, the fall was only a couple of moments of discord in a beautiful program. After the fall, Crone bounced right back up, completed the second twizzles (which would not be counted, regardless), and the team skated the rest of the program like their lives were at stake. It was a phenomenal recovery.
Weaver & Poje skated after them, though, and had to have known when they took the ice that Crone & Poirier had not posted an unbeatable mark. With so much on the line, Weaver & Poje looked a bit tight and nervous, even from the beginning. Poje made a mistake on the second element, a level 3 circular step sequence, and they never looked completely settled after that. They skated well, but failed to create the magic that they had when they electrified the crowd at Skate Canada earlier this season.
Although both teams had a mistake, it was easy to assume that Crone & Poirier’s fall would be more costly, but that was not the case. On a twizzle sequence, if one partner falls, the judges are only required to deduct 2 from the GOE that they would have given otherwise. Since Crone & Poirier had done exquisite twizzles, and perhaps also since Crone had bounced up and completed the rest of the sequence, their GOE ranged from -1 to -3, with three judges giving them a -1. Only one judge scored the element a -3. Furthermore, since the element was downgraded to a level 1, the GOE was factored. They lost only -.83 total, giving them 2.67 points for the element. In comparison, Weaver & Poje’s twizzles were level 4 and they earned +.58 factored GOE for a total of 6.08 on the element, a difference of 3.41.
Weaver & Poje’s mistake, on the other hand, was on a level 3 circular step sequence, with a base value even higher than that of a level 4 twizzle sequence. Seven of the eight judges gave the element a -1, and since the GOE was not factored, they lost a full point, for a total score on the element of 6.20. Meanwhile, Crone & Poirier chose to do a serpentine step sequence, instead of a circular, which was also given a level 3. The base values for the elements were the same, but Crone & Poirier’s sequence was done so well that seven judges scored it with a +2. They earned two full points of positive GOE, bringing their score for the element to 9.20. On the two similar step sequences, Crone & Poirier came out ahead by three points.
On the rest of the elements, Crone & Poirier only needed to make up .41 to break even with Weaver & Poje’s technical score, despite the downgrade and the fall. Because the vast majority of their marks for their other elements were +2s, Crone & Poirier made up the difference and even surpassed Weaver & Poje by .3 on the technical elements score, 45.64 to 45.34.
With a lead of 1.02 on the components as well, 45.29 to 44.27, Crone & Poirier came out ahead in the free dance, even with the mandatory one-point deduction, to take the silver medal. They were officially named to the Olympic Team the following afternoon.
While it was not given the same high profile in the media, a final battle occurred for the remaining two places on the national team. Just over three points separated fourth and sixth places, but the Canadian national team is traditionally only the top five finishers in each discipline.
Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill were fifth last year, in their first year competing on the senior level. After a disappointing ninth-place finish in the compulsory dance, never their strength, they came back in the original dance with one of the hallmark performances of the entire event. Their African Gumboot folk dance was joyful, free, and exhilarating. They brought the audience to their feet, even skating early in the second group, and at the end of the weekend, Ralph & Hill were given the BMO Possibility Award for their original dance. Fourth in the original dance, but fifth heading into the free dance, they skated another clean program in the free to vault themselves into fourth overall.
Last year, Allie Hann-McCurdy & Michael Coreno found themselves off the national team after a career-best third-place finish the year before, at the 2008 Canadian Championships. This year, with new motivation and new coaching from Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva, they set out to prove that they could not be counted out just yet. Despite a sixth-place finish in the free dance that was due, in part, to a couple of downgrades on their serpentine lift (level 2) and combination spin (level 3), Hann-McCurdy & Coreno finished the event with a score of 168.31 to hang on to fifth place — and a spot on the national team — overall.
If Ralph & Hill were the delightful surprise of the second group in the original dance, then Tarrah Harvey & Keith Gagnon, competing on the senior level for the first time, filled that spot in the free dance. Their Chaplin-themed free dance earned a partial standing ovation and big marks from the judges. With 84.21 points, they were ranked fifth in the free, but finished sixth overall, just over a point behind Hann-McCurdy & Coreno. Second last year on the junior level and second at Challenge heading into the Canadian Championships, Harvey & Gagnon were flying under the radar, although over the course of the season, they were one of the most consistent teams outside of the medal favorites. They will certainly be a team to watch next year.
Although Andrea Chong & Guillaume Gfeller won the award for improving their season’s best score by the largest margin, it was easy to see that they were disappointed with their seventh-place finish. Last year, they were one of the surprises of the Canadian Championships when they finished fourth and earned their first national team berth. This season, they fought injuries over the summer, and unfortunately, had a rough outing at Skate Canada. After a fourth-place finish in the Tango Romantica, it seemed like their season was turning around, but they fell to seventh in the original dance and eighth in the free dance. With 162.58 points, they were seventh overall.
In their second season together, Mylène Girard & Jonathan Pelletier moved up one ranking from ninth in 2009 to eighth this year. While the couple’s excellent chemistry and soft lines make them extremely pleasant to watch, they are, unfortunately, prone to making small errors. In such a close competition, every tenth of a point counts, and Girard & Pelletier lost ground in their engaging Indian original dance on their level 3 twizzles (-.08 GOE) and their rotational lift, which was downgraded from a level 4 to a level 3. They came back with a much stronger effort in the free dance, which was ranked seventh, but their total score of 160.20 put them in eighth overall.
2009 Junior Canadian Champions Karen Routhier & Eric Saucke-Lacelle dropped one place after the original dance to ninth in the free dance. A downgrade from a level 4 to a level 2 on their curve lift cost them a few points, as did a deduction for an extended lift, but their tango interpretation in the free was sharp and feisty. With 156.98 points, they were ninth overall.
The new pairing of Sarah Arnold & Justin Trojek rounded out the top ten. After a 12th-place ranking in the Tango Romantica, their energetic “Czardas” original dance and their emotional rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” in the free helped them climb two places in the ranking. They finished the competition with a score of 142.19.
Megan Wilson & Marcus Connolly, who were worried that their season was over when Wilson suffered a groin injury in the fall, finished 11th with 136.27. Sophie Knippel & Benjaman Westenberger, skating in their first season together, were just behind them with 134.29.
Hélène Létourneau & Kevin Boczar went to Junior Nationals in 2008, but this was their first Canadian Championships. They finished 13th with 125.67 points. Sarah Lysne & Christopher Steeves, another new partnership, were 14th with 124.66. Rebecca Fowler & Iliya Koreshev, who had to withdraw from the 2009 Canadian Championships after the original dance, finished 15th with 118.39 points.