Northern Lights #9: Another Skate Canada within “Driving Distance”

Once again, while this post is starting to come together, I am sitting across from a gaping, empty suitcase on my living room floor. This week’s trip is for Skate Canada, and I’m so excited for my first major competition of the season. Though honestly, the rest of the IDC crew and I think that Lake Placid is pretty major! This weekend will mark my fourth consecutive Skate Canada, which is directly linked to another statistic: this is the fourth consecutive Skate Canada that has been held in Ontario. I can’t resist an international competition within driving distance, and since I have a slightly warped view of “driving distance,” I consider the entire province of Ontario to be within driving distance of Chicago.  So off I go!


2011-1026-2Grand Prix #2
After a solid début at Finlandia Trophy, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir are the easy pick for the favourites at Skate Canada. They withdrew from the event in 2008 and in 2010, but won in 2007 and 2009. Since their rivals and training mates, Meryl Davis & Charlie White, put up a huge number last week in Skate America, Tessa & Scott will be striving to keep pace with them. I have not photographed them since April 2010, so I am thrilled to have that opportunity this weekend. It was so strange to go a whole season last year without seeing them live, and I’m glad that I won’t have to face that again this year.

Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (pictured, right) have not débuted their new programs yet, besides at High Performance Camp last month. Last year, they faced some inconsistencies at the beginning of the season, but peaked at the right time, with a fifth-place finish at the World Championships. I expect to see them skating with new found confidence this year, and hope to see two fantastic programs. I am especially interested in seeing their “Je Suis Malade” free dance, which they say is an interpretation of love and loss.

Tarrah Harvey & Keith Gagnon round out the Canadian team this weekend. They are in their third year as seniors and placed eighth at Nebelhorn last month. In their first year on the national team, they will make their Grand Prix début in Mississauga. I met Tarrah & Keith in Lake Placid in 2007, at my first event with, where I learned how to shoot figure skating. I’ve been fortunate to document many moments in their career over the past four years, and I’m so thrilled to be at their first Grand Prix.

Recapping Skate America
Last week, the Grand Prix kicked off in Ontario, California. Davis & White, predictably, won the gold medal, and Canadians finished fifth and eighth.

2011-1026-1Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill were fifth with a score of 131.29. They set ISU personal bests in both dances, and were just over a point from the bronze medal in an incredibly close race. Setting themselves up well for the rest of the competition, they were fourth in the short dance, earning a level 3 and a level 2 for their rhumba sequences. In the free dance, they earned 78.61 points and rave reviews for the intricacy of its choreography. They missed their level on their final rotational lift, only earning a level 2, and they have some opportunity to increase their footwork levels, but the performance was quite strong.

Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam (pictured, left) struggled more than I expected them to, making me wonder how much ice time they missed because of her injury. Their score of 111.70 left them in eighth and was over 25 points off the mark that they set at Skate Canada last year. The short was a tough skate for them—Alex fell twice (once on footwork), and Mitch stumbled as well, but it was touching to see that they supported each other after it was over. I was so impressed by how well they came back in the free, a dramatic interpretation of Elton John’s “Tonight.” I liked seeing them reach for a bit more intensity this year, but I would still love to see them do a free dance in the future that requires a ton of attack.

I’ll be blogging throughout the weekend from Skate Canada, so watch for special competition editions of Northern Lights! If you’re attending and see me zipping through the concourse at the Hershey Centre, be sure to stop me and say hello!