By Laura Flagg
The second Grand Prix event, Skate Canada, takes place this week in Mississauga, Ontario. Ten teams are competing in this very deep field.
Skate Canada marks the return to competition of 2010 Olympic Champions, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir. While the returns of other top skaters have not proven to be successful, Virtue &Moir, who now train in Montreal with Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, and Romain Haguenauer, earned excellent scores at their Challenger event, especially to their short dance, which is to selections by Prince.
2015 U.S. champions Madison Chock & Evan Bates are favorites for the podium at Skate Canada, but had a weaker start to their season. Chock & Bates, who placed second at the 2016 U.S. championships and third at the World Championships, collected silver medals at Nebelhorn Trophy and Ondrej Nepela Memorial, but finished behind teams they had beaten last season. Mistakes in their new “Under Pressure” free dance proved costly. They train with Igor Shpilband.
The third of the top medal contenders are 2014 World Champions, Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte of Italy. They placed second at Europeans and fourth, which was one slot behind Chock & Bates, at Worlds last season. However, they have already defeated Chock & Bates this season at Nebelhorn Trophy. Coached by Paola Mezzadri, their new Charlie Chaplin free dance, though charming, seems similar to that of previous seasons.
Canada is also represented by Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier, the reigning Canadian silver medalists, and Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam, who won the bronze at the U.S. Classic. Gilles & Poirier, who are coached by Carol Lane, have two of the better programs in ice dance, with their disco short dance being particularly fun and memorable. However, this tough field might make it difficult for them to get the placements they need to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, as they did two seasons ago.
Paul and Islam, training mates of Virtue & Moir, have been struggling for the past several seasons, and thus far have not turned their trajectory around this season, with relatively weaker scores at the U.S. Classic. While their free dance to “Liebenstraum” is lovely, they will go head-to-head with Americans Kaitiyn Hawyek & Jean-Luc Baker, who use the same piece of music more effectively.
Hawayek & Baker are competing in Canada for the second time this season. They also struggled last season, placing 5th at U.S. Nationals, but set a personal best at the Autumn Classic International in Montreal in September where they finished second. They are coached by Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova.
Russians Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin are coming in hot after setting three new personal bests while winning Finlandia Trophy. They placed 11th at the World Championships last season and are coached by Alexander Svinin and Irina Zhuk.
Laurence Fournier & Nikolaj Sorensen, who also train with Virtue & Moir, will be representing Denmark. They placed 13th at the World Championships and were third and fourth at their two Challenger Series events this season.
The other two teams in the field are Finland’s Cecilia Törn & Jussiville Partanen, who finished 18th at the World Championships, and are making their Grand Prix series debut, and Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu of China, who finished 22nd at the World Championships.
The short dance takes place on Friday the 28th with the free dance contested on Saturday.