I’m a couple of days late with this week’s Northern Lights post, but I have an excellent skating-related reason this time. I’ve spent all week sifting through the rest of my photos from Skate Canada. For an event with smaller fields, I sure had a lot of frames to wade through. I’m finally close to being done, though. As usual, it was a strong event with a couple of surprises, and I’m glad that it was so close to home this time. Yes, I consider a five-hour drive to be “so close” to home…I mean, Skate Canada will never get any closer to Chicago than Windsor! (Unless it’s Sarnia. Please don’t ever have it in Sarnia.)
Closing Thoughts from Skate Canada
I blogged a few times last weekend from Windsor, but of course, I always have more thoughts. One of the big stories of the week was Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (pictured, right), as can be expected. At first, we were curious to see how Scott’s injury had affected them, and how they looked at their first competition sans Igor, and how the Carmen experiment had turned out. Once they competed, everyone was still talking about them—their short dance marks were shockingly low (for them) and their free dance turned out to be one of those “love it or hate it” programs. I happen to love the free dance. I think it’s different and innovative and unexpected, which all adds up to a very exciting program, in my opinion. Its debut was very strong, and I think they will really own this dance by the end of the season. The short dance debut was not so strong, unfortunately. At first glance, the skate was beautiful, aside from a mistake on a lift that was already on the chopping block, as Scott admitted later. But the technical panel found a whole array of faults, and Tessa & Scott barely escaped Friday night with the lead. I can’t help but think that the technical side of their training has suffered since the split between their coaches. Remember how brilliant Shpilband was at the beginning of the Code of Points? He worked the system so well and was ahead of the game, compared to most coaches. Since Zoueva severed ties with him, she’s had several other coaches come in and offer assistance, but I can’t imagine that having intermittent technical advice is the best strategy. Yes, I still think that Tessa & Scott are the best in the world, but they’ve just shown a vulnerability, and I hope that the problem is addressed—and for the long term, not just a temporary solution.
Beyond Tessa & Scott, both Canadian teams in Windsor skated well. Actually, the entire event was well-skated. Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier ended up fourth, and I think that they skated as well as they could have at this point. Their short dance fared about how I expected, but their free dance score took a big hit. In Salt Lake City in September, they scored 90.92, but they only earned 83.03 points in Windsor. Most of those points were on levels and GOE; only about two were on PCS, which is about typical given the usual inflation at senior international (non-Grand Prix) events. I’m sure those are things that will be addressed before they compete again.
Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill were eighth at Skate Canada, and their scores were comparable to their effort at Nebelhorn Trophy, only losing a couple of points on the technical side of their short dance. The short dance was a big hit with the crowd, though, who responded to their marks with a round of boos. The free dance was not as electrifying. It may still be developing, as it has not really grabbed me yet.
Okay. I have to say something about the in-house commentators. For anyone that’s not aware, Skate Canada had Debbi Wilkes and Liz Manley on hand with microphones. From a booth down by the kiss & cry, they got on their mics after every skater and commented on their program. The dialogue was sometimes error-ridden, usually cringeworthy, and basically unnecessary. I am not usually a harsh person, but this was one of the worst ideas that Skate Canada has ever had. Beyond being annoying for attendees who didn’t want to listen to it, it was unprofessional, as the remarks were being broadcast through the arena while the judges and technical panel were still working. Plus, it was awkward at best when someone skated poorly, and they tried to say things like, “So’n’so is such a fighter, even though that didn’t go as planned.” I’m one of those people who hides her face during an embarrassing scene in a movie, because I can’t stand the awkwardness, and for most of this commentary in Windsor, I had my shoulders up around my ears, like I was a turtle that could retract into my shell. Awful. I didn’t hear any positive feedback about the experiment, so I hope hope hope that they never put an arena through that again.
And moving on.
Sectionals Get Underway!
Sectionals began last week, with two of the non-dance sections (Nova Scotia and Northern Ontario) up first. This weekend, sectionals are being held for Alberta/NWT/Nunavut, Québec, Central Ontario, Manitoba, and New Brunswick/PEI. Manitoba has one novice dance team, NB and PEI do not have any, so the bigger events are AB/NWT/NU, QC, and CO.
Alberta/NWT/Nunavut has three junior teams, four novice teams, and four pre-novice teams registered, so all will go to Challenge. The junior title should be between Courtney Royer & Steven Paslawsky and Courtney Baay & Nicholas Toth, who train in Michigan. At the novice level, it seems like Abigail Seewald & Jared Fell are the strongest team. Results are here.
In Central Ontario, four teams are registered at each of the junior, novice, and pre-novice levels, so again, all will go to Challenge. A fifth team, Jaimie Clarke & Matthew Webb, will compete at the novice level as guests—they represent Matt’s home section of Nova Scotia. The junior event at COS will be a strong one: a pair of teams from Mariposa face off against a pair of teams from Scarboro. The title will likely be a race between Lauren Collins & Danny Seymour (pictured, left) and Katie Desveaux & Dmitre Razgulajevs, but I expect to see strong skates from Nicole Kuzmich & Jordan Hockley and Haili Moyer & Aaron Chapplain as well. At the novice level, the favourites are Ekaterina Fedyushchenko & Jean-Luc Jackson, and at the pre-novice level, Hannah Whitley & Elliott Graham have the highest score in Canada this year, but all four teams are in the top six nationwide. Results are here.
Three of Canada’s top senior teams, Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier, Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill, and Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam, all represent COS, but a senior dance event will not be held at this year’s sectionals.
Québec sectionals are being streamed online (Glace 1 and Glace 2), so I’m looking forward to watching some of the action this weekend. A schedule is here (pdf) and the results are here. Québec is actually two sections that function as one, so a maximum of eight entrants at each level go to Challenge. Three senior teams, five junior teams, ten novice teams, and ten pre-novice teams will compete.
At the senior level, Mélissande Dumas & David Mackay Perry, Shanna René de Cotret-Laporte & Alexandre Laliberté, and Élisabeth Paradis & François-Xavier Ouellette are on the roster. Andréanne Poulin & Marc-André Servant have a bye for their JGP participation, but I had expected to see Laurence Fournier-Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen on the list. I had not expected to see Shanna & Alexandre, as they split after last season, and I wasn’t aware that they had started skating together again. At any rate, I think that Élisabeth & François-Xavier will lead the field.
In juniors, the only JGP team on the roster is Melinda Meng & Andrew Meng, so I’m not sure if that is a typo or if they elected to compete. Mariève Cyr & Benjamin Brisebois Gaudreau and Victoria Hasegawa & Connor Hasegawa registered, but both teams have byes and it looks like they will not compete. Victoria & Connor actually told me at the beginning of the season that they planned to skate senior domestically, but they are registered as juniors, so apparently plans changed. At any rate, the Mengs will likely win if they are planning to skate, but all of the skating should be great.
At the novice level, the frontrunners are clearly Christina Carreira & Simon-Pierre Malette-Paquette, although they have continued to struggle with their compulsories. In pre-novice, the top two teams so far have been Sabrina Bédard & Zoé Duval-Yergeau and Alycia O’Leary & Oliver Grutter.
This has already taken me a couple of hours to put together, so next week, I’ll have more from sectionals, as well as a report on how Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje fared at Cup of China, their second Grand Prix event. They’re in second heading into the free dance.