Northern Lights #6: The Champs are Back!

Tessa & ScottChampions to Compete in Finland

For the first time ever, Olympic champions Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (pictured, obviously) will preview their programs in a Senior B international competition. In years past, they have debuted a program or two at Thornhill, but never a full ISU competition before. Of course, they also haven’t felt healthy after a full summer of training in several years. After surgeries on her legs in fall 2008 and fall 2010, Tessa is back to full-strength training and feeling great. At least, that’s what she says. I admit that I’m still a little suspicious, but I do hope that it’s true. She’s been through a lot in the past few years and I’d love to know that she is finally able to skate without pain.


Only a few teams in the world can challenge the champions, and it’s unlikely that they’ll come home from Finlandia Trophy with anything less than a gold medal. Their closest competition will come from their American training mates, Maia & Alex Shibutani. While Maia & Alex did stand a step below Tessa & Scott on the World podium last year, I think it’s probably a little early for them to close the gap.


Tessa & Scott have revamped last year’s Latin free dance into this year’s short dance. Normally, I’m opposed to recycling moves like this (and the judges don’t usually like it, either), but given their incredibly short season last year, I think it’s okay. Their free dance is new, though, and will be ice dancing’s first known take on the movie Funny Face, one of Tessa’s favourites. The idea has already been met with mixed reviews—some see this choice as an unwillingness to think outside the box—but I’m looking forward to it. I think that it will play to their strengths, but it will also be a little bit more lighthearted than we’ve seen from them recently.


And as a little teaser for their free dance, Scott posted a couple of photos on his Facebook page from a photoshoot that he and Tessa did as Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn.



Heading to Milan

HasegawasMilan, Italy, is the penultimate stop of the JGP circuit this weekend, and Canada is sending two teams. Victoria Hasegawa & Connor Hasegawa (pictured, right) have earned a second assignment after their strong showing in Gdansk, Poland, where they placed 5th with a score of 118.45. In Poland, the Hasegawas delivered a fantastic short dance that earned great levels—4+3 on the pattern, 3 on the footwork, 4 on the lift and twizzles. However, I think they got a bit of the “unknown” treatment from the judges, along with the lowballing from having to skate early. Their GOE marks were mostly 0s with a few +1s, despite navigating some of their elements very well. Most of their PCS marks sat between 4.75 and 5.25, and in the free dance, their PCS rose to mainly 5.50 to 6.00. Did they really improve almost a full point overnight? Probably not, but the impression that they left on the judges with their strong short dance gave them a boost in the free. If they skate just as well in Milan this week, they should be able to start with that little reputation boost, and could improve their scores and their ranking. They also were hit with two low lift levels late in their free dance in Gdansk, and those issues have been addressed. I talked to Marie-France Dubreuil, one of their coaches, last week, and she said that their skating has kept improving, even since they got back from Poland. The field in Milan has three JGP medalists in it, all trying to qualify for the Final. The Hasegawas cannot mathematically qualify at this point, so without that added pressure, they may be able to play spoiler and sneak onto the podium. I think they have a shot!


Caelen Dalmer & Shane Firus are making their international debut in Milan. They were originally scheduled for next week’s event in Tallinn, Estonia, but after Mackenzie Bent & Garrett MacKeen medaled in Romania, the last few assignments were shuffled a bit. Caelen & Shane have waited patiently while four junior teams from their rink have already skated on the JGP this season, so I am confident that they have been training hard and are ready. I feel like I keep using the phrase “last year’s incredibly talented novice field,” and here it comes again. Caelen & Shane were fourth in “last year’s incredibly talented novice field,” and are making a solid transition to the junior level. They were fourth in the short and sixth in the free at Minto, and improved quite a bit a few weeks later at BC Summerskate, where they finished a close 3rd with a score of 117.93. Their Gershwin free dance suits them beautifully and should score well if they hit it. They are coached by Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe at the BC Centre of Excellence. Aaron has been travelling the JGP series with their teams, but had to stay home this week—his & Megan’s twins are due any day now—so Ted Barton, executive director of the BC/YT section, will be at the boards in Milan with Caelen & Shane.


Mixed Results in Innsbruck

The fifth stop on the Junior Grand Prix in Innsbruck, Austria, produced mixed results for Team Canada. On the plus side, Madeline Edwards & ZhaoKai Pang had a fantastic international debut, scoring 122.90 and placing fifth in the deepest field on this year’s circuit. On the negative side, Nicole Orford & Thomas Williams struggled in the free dance and ended up sixth—still a respectable result, but not what they were hoping to achieve.


Madeline & ZhaoKai started their event with a solid sixth-place short dance that scored 50.31. They did have to fight for the twizzles a bit and netted -.57 GOE on that element, but held on to a level 4. Their pattern levels were 4+3, though, and they earned +.57 GOE on their level 2 midline sequence. Their PCS in the short dance were all over the place, from 4.50 to 7.00, perhaps getting the “unknown” reaction from a few judges, since the PCS marks evened out considerably in the free dance, landing mainly between 5.50 and 6.50. What was most impressive to me about their free dance was how comfortable it looked. If I hadn’t known, I never would have guessed that this was their first international competition, or that they were newcomers competing against arguably the best junior team in the world this year. Madeline & ZhaoKai’s protocol from their 72.59-point free dance matches how easy the performance looked to me—no minuses, mostly +1 GOEs, level 4 on all elements except for the footwork. The main opportunity that I see for improvement is to push for level 3 on the footwork. Other than that, I just look forward to seeing them skate more!


Nicole & Thomas skated a confident short dance that scored 53.54. Even with a new personal best, though, they were still ranked fourth, although they were only two points from second. They were one of only two teams in the field to earn level 4 on both sequences of the pattern, although they did earn a bit of negative GOE on the second sequence. The most interesting thing to me is their PCS breakdown. Judge No. 6 really lowballed them in PCS, giving them scores of 3.75 to 4.75, while the other judges scored them from 5.00 to 6.50. It was the PCS that ranked them fourth; they had the second-best TES. Still, they were in a great place to move up, especially since they drew last to skate in the free dance. Unfortunately, their free dance did not begin well. Just as they were beginning their opening element, the circular step sequence, Thomas tripped and took a hard fall. It seemed really jarring, and it took some time before they settled into the program again. They recovered well on the rest of the elements, except earning only a level 1 on their diagonal footwork, but since the fall really disrupted the flow of the first section of the program, their score was hit on both TES and PCS.


Unfortunately, the sixth-place finish means that Nicole & Thomas will not get to skate in the JGP Final this December. I’m sure that this is disappointing for them, but I hope that they will be able to refocus quickly as they return to training. While the Final is a great experience, it would have also come at a very difficult time for them. Since they have to skate at the senior level at Canadians this year, they are now able to focus on their senior programs, including the challenging task of learning and refining a different short dance. A few teams from countries with smaller dance programs did take two different short dances last year, but no one tried it in the countries with larger dance fields, like Canada, the United States, or Russia. I am looking forward to see how Nicole & Thomas navigate this challenge and I am sure that they can handle it.


Jade & DominicOn the Homefront

At home in Canada, the Souvenir Georges-Éthier in Trois-Rivières, QC, had dance events on the pre-juvenile through novice levels. On the novice level, Jade Robitaille & Dominic Barthe (pictured, left) won the event with a score of 77.64, their highest score of the season. Close behind them with 76.90 points were Melinda & Andrew Meng, who won the pattern dance (silver samba), but dropped to third in the free. Audrey Croteau-Villeneuve & Simon Longtin-Martel took home the bronze medal with a score of 74.66, also a season’s best score for them.


On the pre-novice level, Christina Carreira & Simon-Pierre Malette-Paquette took their second consecutive victory with a new season’s best of 66.14. They are the only pre-novice team in Canada to break 60 this season so far, and they have done it twice. Laura-Maude Verret & William Lavictoire were second with 55.11, and Camille Mondor & Stefan Dyck were third with 54.18.


All of the dance results from Éthier are available here.


The Isabella Henderson Memorial in Paris, ON, was two weekends ago, but the results were not available when I wrote last week’s blog. They are available now. Olga Lioudvinevitch & Benjamin Mulder were the only senior competitors, but their score of 109.37 was a nice improvement from Autumn Skate. Chelsea Robinson & Nick Toth won the novice event with their best score of the season, 66.16. No junior-level competition was staged.


Looking ahead to Sectionals

Last week marked the deadline to register for sectional competitions across Canada. A few sections have already published entries, including Central Ontario and Québec (.pdf file). It looks like all Central Ontario entries in pre-novice through senior will qualify for Challenge, but Québec will have to make cuts on the novice (9 entries) and pre-novice (10 entries) levels. The junior level has nine entries as well, but since three of the teams have byes from competing on the JGP, all junior teams will advance to Challenge. Since Québec is actually two sections operating as one, they have up to eight entries in each discipline/level through to Challenge.


Thanks for reading! Comments, questions, and suggestions can be directed to [email protected].