2012-1130-1I’d originally thought that I would have time to blog last week, but the start of the high school winter sports season plus retail for the Christmas season plus traveling Thanksgiving equaled an unplanned hiatus for Northern Lights. I have plenty to catch up on, and next week is a big one for Canadian dance.

End of the Grand Prix Series
The final two Grand Prix competitions took place over the past two weekends. Trophée Bompard in Paris was the fifth event of the series, and the Canadian entry was Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (pictured, right). Despite just about maintaing their scores from Windsor and facing a nearly identical field, Gilles & Poirier dropped two places in Paris to pick up a sixth-place finish. They scored 51.99 in the short dance and and 83.87 in the free dance to earn 135.86 points overall. I think that they had a solid competition, but some of their competitors came out a bit stronger than they had in Windsor. Good for Piper & Paul for holding steady, though. And they seemed to make quite a positive impression in Paris—they were asked to join the gala for not one, but two numbers.

Nicole Orford & Thomas Williams were the Canadians on the dance roster at NHK Trophy last week, which was the final Grand Prix event. The field was quite a bit weaker than some of the other events, and Nicole & Thomas took advantage of that, skating as well as they could have to finish in fourth with a score of 130.10. They had a cleaner outing in Japan as compared to Russia and picked up just over five points on their total score. After a 49.76-point short dance, it must have been such a thrill for them to skate in the final group for the free dance, which included 2011 World Champions Meryl Davis & Charlie White. Nicole & Thomas still haven’t hit the mark that they set early in the season at BC SummerSkate, but a 130-point international outing in their first fully senior season is a great accomplishment.

In the final Grand Prix standings, the Canadians fared as follows:
2nd – Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, 30 points (2nd on a 3-way tiebreaker, qualified to Final)
7th – Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, 22 points (1st on a 2-way tiebreaker, 1st alternates to Final)
12th – Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier, 14 points (1st on a 2-way tiebreaker)
15th – Nicole Orford & Thomas Williams, 9 points (1st on a 3-way tiebreaker)
28th – Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill, 0 points

Virtue & Moir Face First Major Battle of the Season
Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir will head to Sochi, Russia this week for the Grand Prix Final. The competition is especially significant for two reasons. The first is that it will be their first test of the season against primary rivals and training mates Meryl Davis & Charlie White. Davis & White have scored better so far, qualifying first to the Final, but the slate will be wiped clean for this face-off. The second reason for this competition’s significance is that it is the international test event for the 2014 Olympic Games venue. The venue was only recently finished and Russia has held a small domestic competition there, but this will be the first chance for the world’s top skaters to try out the next Olympic ice.

Tessa & Scott may not have had the scoring advantage so far this season, but they have a free dance that demands attention and I expect them to execute it well. If both teams are clean in both programs, it will be an amazing competition, but I expect Tessa & Scott to come out on top. I wouldn’t be surprised if Meryl & Charlie win the short dance, though, as I think that their Giselle program is lovely and more cohesive than Tessa & Scott’s gorgeous waltz with a random bit of polka.

Weaver & Poje Make Use of Time at Home
A bit disappointed to finish as first alternates, just out of the Final, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje are making the best of this blip in their season, as they told PJ Kwong for a recent CBC article. They are reworking the middle section of their free dance and have brought in coach and choreographer Shae-Lynn Bourne for assistance. Not knowing what the middle section was supposed to be is just the disconnect that I thought I was feeling from them, so I am excited that they are addressing this, and I can’t wait to see version 2.0 of this program next month at Canadians. Best of luck to them.

Over 70 Teams Head to Regina
Of course the biggest event next week for Canadian dance is Skate Canada Challenge in Regina, Sask. Dancers at the novice and junior levels will attempt to qualify for the Canadian Championships, and the pre-novice level at Challenge will be treated as the national championship. A few senior teams will compete as well, but since there are fewer than 15 senior teams in Canada this year, all will advance to Canadians.

At the senior level, four teams are on the roster (PDF start order):
Mélissande Dumas & David Mackay Perry (QC)
Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam (CO)
Élisabeth Paradis & François-Xavier Ouellette (QC)
Andréanne Poulin & Marc-André Servant (QC)

Larissa Van As & Troy Shindle (BC/YT) have withdrawn, but I believe that they can still compete at Nationals if they are healthy, since Challenge is optional for seniors. I am glad that Alex & Mitch have elected to compete, even though they should easily win, so they can keep in the competitive swing of things heading into Nationals. I have not written them off to challenge for the third Worlds spot. 

Paradis & Ouellette have topped 130 points at a couple of Québec events this season, so I will be watching closely to see if they can match that in Regina. I am also looking forward to seeing Poulin & Servant make their senior debut, especially after such a good run on the JGP this fall.

The senior SD is on Thursday evening and the senior FD is scheduled for Friday evening.

2012-1130-2On the junior level, 22 teams will compete (PDF start order):
Courtney Baay & Nicholas Toth (AB/NT/NU)
Marina Barova & Allan Stoll (WO)
Mackenzie Bent & Garrett MacKeen (EO)
Noa Bruser & Timothy Lum (BC/YT)
Lauren Collins & Danny Seymour (CO)
Audrey Croteau-Villeneuve & Dominic Barthe (QC)
Mariève Cyr & Benjamin Brisebois Gaudreau (QC)
Caelen Dalmer & Shane Firus (BC/YT)
Katie Desveaux & Dmitre Razgulajevs (CO)
Madeline Edwards & ZhaoKai Pang (BC/YT)
Bianka Gadosy & Benjamin Smyth (QC)
Samantha Glavine & Jeff Hough (EO)
Victoria Hasegawa & Connor Hasegawa (QC)
Nicole Kuzmich & Jordan Hockley (CO)
Jade Marrow & Benjamin Mulder (WO)
Melinda Meng & Andrew Meng (QC) (pictured, right)
Haili Moyer & Aaron Chapplain (CO)
Christina Penkov & Simon Proulx-Sénécal (QC)
Courtney Royer & Steven Paslawsky (AB/NT/NU)
Nevada Evelyn Smith & Addison Voldeng (SK)
Carolane Soucisse & Simon Tanguay (QC)
Jayde Stewart & Dayton Stewart (AB/NT/NU)

Jessica Jiang & Eric Streichsbier (BC/YT) have withdrawn.

No byes have been earned this year, so 15 teams will qualify and the season will unfortunately end for seven teams that compete in Regina. 

I’m not going to try to offer any predictions, but I will say that I think that scores could be very close, particularly around the 15th-place marker, meaning that some teams could be just inches from qualifying for Canadians. I think that Skate Canada did a good job of selecting JGP participants this year, so I expect those seven teams to be at the top of the pack if they all skate well. But I hope that everyone skates their best and seriously…leave it all out there, because this is going to be a tough year.

The junior short and free dances will be on Thursday and Friday evenings, respectively. Junior dances will follow each of the senior dances.

2012-1130-3The novice level will have 26 teams (PDF start order):
Emily Allen & Jake Richardson (EO)
Christina Carreira & Simon-Pierre Malette-Paquette (QC)
Vanessa Chartrand & Christian Reekie (EO)
Jaimie Clarke & Matthew Webb (NS)
Catherine Daigle-Roy & Alexis St-Louis (QC)
Brianna Delmaestro & Graeme Gordon (BC/YT)
Melissa Eratostene & Kenix Po (CO)
Caroline Falardeau & Simon Dazé (QC)
Ekaterina Fedyushchenko & Jean-Luc Jackson (WO)
Andie-Lynn Gingrich & Liam Kinrade (BC/YT)
Marie-Jade Lauriault & Pierre-Richard Chiasson (QC)
Jocelyn Leblanc & Wyatt Cowell (SK)
Alexa Linden & Tyler Miller (BC/YT)
Carly McQuilkin & Alexander Brauner (AB/NT/NU)
Michaela Milne & Randy Mendita (AB/NT/NU)
Camille Mondor & Stefan Dyck (QC)
Cristina Monopoli & Lucas Kitteridge (CO)
Nicole Novokowsky & Kaelan Dunker (CO)
Deidre Russell & Jeremy Ploughman (MB)
Abby Savoie & Tanner White (EO)
Abigail Seewald & Jared Fell (AB/NT/NU)
Valérie Taillefer & Jason Chan (QC)
Emily Valentine & Simon Desrochers (QC)
Laura-Maude Verret & William Lavictoire (QC)
Ashley Wood & Alexander Hartwell (AB/NT/NU)
Danielle Wu & Spencer Soo (BC/YT) (pictured, right)

Like the junior level, 15 teams will qualify for Canadians. 18 teams have scored over 60 points this season, so again, the scores might be close right around the cut. I’m not-so-fondly remembering the close novice competition at 2010 Challenge, when the computers were down until the top 10 skated, and anyone below that after the pattern dances had an agonizing wait.

I am really looking forward to the meeting of two of the top teams from opposite sides of the country. Carreira & Malette-Paquette are stronger in the free dance, but Wu & Soo have stronger pattern dances. They met early in the season at Lake Placid, and after the scores were combined, they were just over a point apart, so it should be a good rematch.

The novice dance event begins Friday morning with the pattern dances. The free dance will be on Saturday morning.

2012-1130-4At the pre-novice level, 21 teams will vie for the national title (PDF start order):
Sabrina Bédard & Zoé Duval-Yergeau (QC)
Isabelle Bessel & Joshua Brauner (AB/NT/NU)
Vanessa Bui & Nathan Huynh (QC)
Montana Chong & Joel Braganza (AB/NT/NU)
Natascha Collier & Lee Royer (AB/NT/NU)
Ravie Cunningham & Cedar Bridgewood (BC/YT)
Laura Emery & Dean Holbrough (WO)
Rachel Fortin & Edouard Tremblay (QC)
Émilie Huynh & Jeffrey Wong (QC)
Marie-Frédérique Julien & Alexander Seidel (QC)
Olga Kubliy & Thomas Bogdanov (BC/YT)
Karlissa Lem & Le Vu (BC/YT)
Cloe Marceau & Alexandre Faucher (QC)
Sara Marier & Anthony Campanelli (QC) (pictured, right)
Alycia O’Leary & Oliver Grutter (QC)
Victoria Oliver & Charles Waddell (CO)
Priya Ramesh & Brandon Labelle (CO)
Talia Rancourt & Alex Gunther (EO)
Kaitlin Stitz & George Waddell (CO)
Hannah Whitley & Elliott Graham (CO)
Taylor Yanke & Paul Ayer (AB/NT/NU)

Emily Pike & Andrew Wildey (EO) have withdrawn.

I expect to see all four Central Ontario teams near the top of the rankings, along with two Québec teams, Bédard & Duval-Yergeau and O’Leary & Grutter. Yanke & Ayer (AB/NT/NU) also did very well at sectionals, but they haven’t competed against the top CO and QC teams.

Pre-novice pattern dances kick off the event on Wednesday morning and the free dance will be on Thursday morning.

Skatebuzz has not yet announced a streaming schedule for Challenge, but I am still assuming that they will broadcast at least some of the events. I believe they broadcasted two of the rinks last year, but the Skate Canada site says that broadcasting for all three rinks will be TBA, so perhaps they are expanding coverage this year. I have next Friday off, so I hope to be able to spend the day catching up on action from earlier in the week and watching the junior and senior free dances live. It’s the next best thing to being there.

Let me know if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions. I will probably hold off posting again until after Challenge and the GPF are done, so until next time!