Question: When is the last time that it took me five days before I sat down to watch Grand Prix Final free dances?
Answer: Never, that I can recall! Even the years that the Grand Prix Final happened while I was covering Challenge, I still found time between events to catch up on the Final. So needless to say, things in my life have been a bit chaotic this week. And after a long shift doing retail during the Christmas season, what’s a better way to unwind after a long day than to kick back and ponder the minutiae of Grand Prix results?
It was a treat for Canada to have two teams in a home final, and both Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir and Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje delighted the crowd in Québec City. I am going to assume that most reading this blog would have also caught wind of Scott’s controversial remarks after Sunday’s free dance, when they were ranked second both in the free and overall to rivals and training mates Meryl Davis & Charlie White. In case you missed it, this CP article in the Globe and Mail covers the highlights. Or the lowlights, depending on how you look at it. I have a lot of thoughts on the matter, but I’m going to keep them to two points:
1) I understand why Scott said what he did. He’s a dedicated, highly competitive, and extremely passionate athlete who is, without a doubt, one of the best in the world. Of course he wants to win, and of course he knows that he is capable of winning. So when the free dance is marked that closely, and when the lost marks are coming from a different place than he expected, of course he’s going to be upset in that moment. That being said, I don’t think he should have said what he did to members of the press. Some remarks sit better when they are said to your mom, behind closed doors, away from the rink; some remarks are suited for the press. I do not think that these remarks were suited for the press, but the press got it, and the press printed it. What’s done is done.
2) In the end, I have a hard time taking the marks seriously anyway. I don’t think either Tessa & Scott or Meryl & Charlie deserved 10s in any aspect of the components. I think that Tessa & Scott had lost already, because of Scott’s fall and the other minor faults in their short dance. Because of that, I think that judges wanted to give the free dance to Meryl & Charlie in an attempt to even the playing field and stir up some drama for the end of the season. Just my opinion, of course.
Beyond the MoirGate drama, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje had their own battle to forge. Originally, I did not think that anyone besides Nathalie Péchalat & Fabian Bourzat had a likely chance for bronze (unless P&B made a major mistake, of course…remember Moscow!), so in a way, the battle for fourth was just as important as the battle for gold. Kaitlyn & Andrew skated two fantastic programs—perhaps the best I’ve ever seen them string two dances together—and leapt into 4th with a score of 166.07, within spitting distance of their French training mates. Their short dance was every bit as sassy as it was when it blew me away at Skate Canada, and their free dance was the strongest performance that they have given so far. Having that error-free skate at home was huge for them, and they were rewarded with mostly 8s in the components. One judge went as high as 9.50 in interpretation, and honestly, I can get behind that a little more easily than I can get behind the 10s given to the top two teams. Kaitlyn & Andrew really harnessed some magic with their performance, and I hope that they bring the same magic to Moncton so I can experience it! And, because I’m a needy photographer, I also wish that their last lift traveled the other way, so that the judges’ side gets more of Kaitlyn’s expression. Just throwing that out there.
Skate Canada had three more teams that competed on the Grand Prix this season. Of course, Virtue & Moir and Weaver & Poje distanced themselves from the rest of the Canadian pack, so for the “rest” of the teams, here’s how things stacked up:
Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill, 131.29 at Skate America
Tarrah Harvey & Keith Gagnon, 122.80 at Skate Canada
Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam, 111.70 at Skate America and WD from NHK Trophy
These three teams will be fighting for at Nationals for the bronze medal, as well as the final spot on the Four Continents and World teams. Looking at these standings, it seems easy to say that Kharis & Asher are the frontrunners, and that may end up being true, but they did just have an extremely odd competition at Sectionals last month, scoring only 128.88 and finishing over 20 points behind Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier. I’d chalk it up to a fluke, except that this is the second time that this has happened this season. Still, they were only 1.5 points from the bronze medal at Skate America, and they are the only one of the three teams who can say that.
Both Tarrah & Keith and Alex & Mitch were ranked eighth in their Grand Prix outings, although their events were quite different. Alex & Mitch came into this season with a lot of momentum, but they were also trying to quietly skate through an injury, and they looked unprepared when they finally began their season at Skate America. After a rough short dance, they did show some fight and came back with a strong free, but then another setback occurred in Japan, when a practice accident sent Alex into surgery. I have not heard much about them, and it’s hard to say how she is recovering, especially since they were so secretive about her original injury. They are lovely skaters and they could still show up at Canadians and deliver strong performances, but they are definitely a wild card at this point in the game.
Tarrah & Keith skated well in their Grand Prix début at Skate Canada, with no major errors. They earned solid marks, but not outstanding ones. I wouldn’t count them out of contention, though, because they are fantastic “Nationals skaters.” For the past four years, their best skates of the season have been at Canadians, and although they did choose to skip Sectionals, I am sure that they have been working hard and can be counted on to deliver confident, consistent skating in Moncton.
So in conclusion, I don’t know what will happen in a month! I think it will be exciting, and I’m glad that I will be boardside for all of the action. Of course, anyone who has paid attention to Challenge results knows that Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier will be podium contenders in Moncton, too. However, the last info that I have received is that Piper will not be eligible to skate for Canada until May, so even if they end up on the podium at Canadians, another team will be sent to Colorado Springs and Nice. More on them in my next post, though, when I discuss Challenge results and continue looking ahead to Canadians.
As always, if you would like to reach me with comments, suggestions, or questions, I am at [email protected]