Northern Lights #10: PCSD

I suffer from PCSD, or post-competition stress disorder. I am always extra stressed after competitions as I frantically try to catch up on the time I missed while I was away. And they are always “away”—competitions never come to Chicago. I make things even harder for myself by taking the cheapest way home, instead of the easiest or quickest way home. Many people I knew were home a few hours after the Skate Canada gala ended at 5pm on Sunday. I, on the other hand, did not get home until almost 9pm on Monday, after a grueling 9-hour drive from Toronto, and with only 10 hours to spare before I had to be back at work.

Of course, Skate Canada was worth it. It always is, and with the announcement of next year’s competition in Windsor, I am already planning on shooting for five Skate Canadas in a row.

Tessa & ScottCanadians at Skate Canada
In the most easily predicted result since, well, the week before, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (pictured, right) won their third Skate Canada title. Their impressive score of 178.34 ranked over 30 points ahead of the rest of the field, so it was not exactly a nail-biter. Despite close competitors, though, it was wonderful to see the champs in fine form. I was actually a little underwhelmed by their short dance, and by “home crowd” standards, the audience response was a bit tepid, too. The dance was the final program of the night, but it seemed like the only people who truly leapt to their feet were those who were also running towards the doors to beat the parking lot traffic. Don’t get me wrong—Tessa & Scott skated incredibly well, but I wasn’t blown away by their program and I didn’t find their chemistry to be as believable and mature as I would expect from one of the world’s best teams. I do appreciate that they didn’t just make this program a shortened version of last year’s free dance. While the music is mostly the same, some of the music has been remixed, and Scott said that it was a conscious effort to avoid having any of the same movements as last year’s program. However, I liked the opening to last year’s free dance better than this year’s windmill arms.

I was pretty blown away by their free dance, though. You might remember that I was a bit underwhelmed by their Finlandia performance, but seeing Funny Face live, even just in practice on the first day, really started to make me feel excited about what the weekend had in store for the Canadian favourites. Tessa wore her red competition dress in practice on Thursday, and I really think that it made a difference for me. It sounds a little silly, but the bright colour just made all of the choreography pop more. And in the competition on Sunday, their enthusiasm was absolutely electric. The program was so good for October. They have things to improve of course, but the faults are more a matter of small adjustments rather than actual mistakes. The dance flew by, and I was right with them for every second of it. We all were. The crowd leapt to their feet, Scott let out a patented SMo-fist-pump, and they were all smiles as they high-fived and embraced. I kind of wanted to hug the photographers sitting with me, too, but that might have been a little awkward.

“We shared a moment together,” Scott said later, in the press conference. Tessa talked about moments of improvisation, and even almost an hour after the performance, they were still radiant. Their program may have been a moment that they shared together, but a truly great team can invite an arena full of people into that moment, too.

Creating moments of their own in Mississauga were Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, still on the rise after their fifth-place finish at Worlds last season. After a second-place ranking in the short dance and a close third in the free, they won the silver medal with a score of 155.99. I have enjoyed watching Kaitlyn & Andrew since the beginning (anyone else remember the JGP in Taipei, possibly the first JGP to be live-streamed?), but I saw a new team on the ice this weekend. They just looked so confident and much more powerful than they have in the past. I think that their material this year is better than what they have had in the past, too. Tessa & Scott’s short dance left me underwhelmed, but Kaitlyn & Andrew’s left me completely overwhelmed. They absolutely nailed the rhythm, the chemistry, the expression. It was just the right amount of over-the-top for Latin ice dance, and the dance felt like it was only a minute long.

Tarrah & KeithThe free dance took an about face, and I can’t say how much I enjoyed seeing Kaitlyn & Andrew stretch themselves and perform to music that I haven’t seen before in ice dance. The program wasn’t perfect and I think that the segments I saw in practice on Saturday were more solid than in the actual competition, but they still drew me in on Sunday. I have seen some mixed reviews about their music, but I love it and I think that it suits them. The song is “Je Suis Malade,” a classic French ballad performed by Lara Fabian, and I believe that the first part of their selection is an original orchestration for them by Karl Hugo. I’m a sucker for orchestrations, and I love the way that the cello is used in this one. Kaitlyn addressed the “uplifting” issue in the press conference—they feel that their music meets the ISU rules because the drama of the music and the program create a powerful, uplifting effect. They do not feel that the rules must be interpreted to mean that every single team is required to perform a happy, over-the-top program this year. I agree with them, and so did the judges here. I know that this program is going to continue to grow, and I’m already looking forward to seeing it again at Canadians.

I thought that Tarrah Harvey & Keith Gagnon (pictured, left) also captured their own moments last week. In their Grand Prix debut, they told me they just wanted to skate like they knew they could and to prove that they belonged there. Mission accomplished, in my opinion. They may have finished seventh of seven teams, but they scored a completely respectable score of 122.80, up eight points from Nebelhorn in September with all new ISU personal bests. I thought they performed extremely well and capitalized on winning the support of the home crowd, a point driven home by the roar of approval when Tarrah lifted Keith at the end of their free dance. They didn’t skate with as much speed as the top teams, and sometimes pulled apart in their dance holds, but overall, I felt that they looked better prepared and more polished than several teams that finished ahead of them. I think that they would have liked to top 50 in the short dance, and with 49.65, they were so close! Their free dance to Rolling Stones music was also solid and it earned 73.15 points. It was so great to see them as the featured skaters in the Sony Photo Booth on the concourse (that’s where I snapped this photo), with a swarm of people waiting for pictures with them. Nice job for the new national team members!

Sectionals Underway
Canada did not have a dance entry at Cup of China this week, but Canadian dancers are competing across the country at sectional championships. Alberta/NWT/Nunavut, Western Ontario, and Eastern Ontario Sectionals all take place this weekend. A few of the dance events are exhibition events only, and I think that the only competition which will have to make a cut for advancing to Challenge is the pre-novice event in Alberta. Still, even though the competitions are small, Sectionals is always an important stepping stone in the season and one last opportunity to get feedback from judges and callers before heading to Challenge.

Eastern Ontario sectionals, featuring JGP medalists Mackenzie Bent & Garrett MacKeen in the junior dance event, are being streamed on Skatebuzz this year. Interested viewers can watch the pattern and short dances tonight (Saturday) from 9.05 to 10pm, Eastern time. Free dances are tomorrow, but will not take place on the ice surface with live video.

That’s it for this week’s belated edition of Northern Lights. I’ll be back next week with more Sectionals news, an NHK preview, and an interview with a new team. Contact me at [email protected] with questions, suggestions, and comments.