by Anne Calder | Photos by Daphne Backman

The second event in the ISU Grand Prix Series, Skate Canada International, was held in Laval, QC Canada from October 25-28. Ten couples from seven countries completed for prize money and qualifying points for the Grand Prix Final.

The inaugural Skate Canada International was held in 1973 in Calgary and was added to the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating in 1995, the year the series began. It was the first time Laval hosted a major international skating event.

The medalist podium included Americans Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (gold), Russia’s Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov (silver) and Canada’s Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (bronze). The Americans won their second gold in two weeks and were the first to qualify for the GP Final.

“We achieved our goal, which was another gold medal and assured a ticket to the Final,” Hubbell said.

Rhythm Dance

The leaders included Hubbell & Donohue, Sinitsina & Katsalapov, and Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz of Spain. Early medal favorites Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier of Canada had an unfortunate trip on the first Tango Romantica pattern and landed in sixth place.

Hubbell & Donohue jumped out to an eight-point lead with two tango selections by Astor Piazzolla. They earned level 4 for the twizzles and curve lift, but missed four of eight key points in their Tango Romantica patterns. The GOEs were all +3 and +4. The segment score was a personal best 80.49.

“We wanted to give a stronger performance than last week in Skate America; we feel like we were able to do that,” Hubbell said. “We had a lot of friends and family in the audience, so we had a lot of support.” 

Sinitsina & Katsalapov also danced to Astor Piazzolla tango music. The Russians lost points and levels to the Americans in their twizzles, lift, and footwork, but did hit six of eight key points in the pattern dances. The program scored 74.66.

“Not everything was smooth tonight, there were some small mistakes, but we improved our Tango from our previous competition in Bratislava”, Katsalapov said.

Smart & Diaz (pictured, right) were two points behind the Russians with their rhythm dance to “A Evaristo Carriego”. Their twizzles and lift were level 4. They hit only three of the eight key points in their pattern. The straight-line lift earned all +3 and + 4 GOEs. The performance scored 72.35.

“We know we have a lot to work on technical-wise,” Smart said.  “We know it’s step by step a work in progress throughout the season.”

The following were fourth-sixth. Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac of France, Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu of China, and Gilles & Poirier.

Free Dance

The free dance placements were different from the rhythm dance standings and changed the final order of teams. 

Hubbell & Donohue’s performance was a romantic dance to vocal and instrumental versions of “Kissing You” from the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack. The lifts, twizzles, and spin were level 4; the diagonal footwork scored 10.32 GOE. The choreographic elements were the event highest – almost 13 points. The segment was 120.27. However, they received a one-point extended lift deduction that cost them first place in the free dance.

“We were feeling the two weeks fatigue today,” Hubbell said.  “It was a pretty tough free dance, not without mistakes, but overall we were very pleased with how we were able to face these challenges.”

Sinitsina & Katsalapov performed a light and ethereal dance to Bach’s “Suite in D Air” that scored a personal best 120.51. They won the free dance by .24 over the Americans. Their lifts, spin and twizzles were level 4; the one-foot and serpentine step sequences were level 2. The highlight was the fast, tight twizzles that scored 9.35 – the highest for that element at the event.

“It wasn’t without little mistakes, but overall we are improving and moving forward,” Katsalapov said.

Gilles & Poirier (pictured, left) rebounded from their rhythm dance mistake and vaulted into vaulted into third and captured the bronze medal.

“We realize this placement is not what we wanted for this competition and with this level of couples we can’t afford to make mistakes, so we will put that behind us now,” Poirier said.

Their emotionally performed tribute to artist Van Gogh was danced to “Starry, Starry, Night” and called Vincent. The program scored 120.02 – the 66.66 TES was the highest of the event. The lifts, twizzles and spin were level 4. The judges awarded six +5s and three +4s for their unique closing stationary lift that had Gilles spinning on Poirier’s back. The remaining scores were all +3 and +4 GOEs.

“We were able to put the rough short dance behind us,” Poirier said. “It was really enjoyable to finally perform this free dance in front of a big audience at home in Canada and have their energy with us.”

Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac of France skated an upbeat dance to a Bruno Mars medley for a personal best 111.42 score, finishing fourth in the free dance and overall.  

Smart & Diaz dropped from third to fifth place with their program to a Beatles medley that scored 104.22.

The next ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating will be held in Helsinki, Finland – November 2-4.

ICE CHATTER

  • Five of the ten teams train in nearby Montreal, QC Canada with Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, Romain Haguenauer and Pascal Denis: Hubbell & Donohue, Smart & Diaz, Lauriault & LeGac, Soucisse & Firus, and Wang & Liu. All the Gadbois Center coaches gathered at the boards during practice, but took turns with the teams in the Kiss and Cry.
  • Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen, who also skate at Gadbois, were spotted in the audience cheering on their training mates. The team sat out a year after their release by Denmark to skate for Canada. They will resume competition at the Canadian National Championships.
  • American Jean-Luc Baker, who moved with his partner Kaitlin Hawayek to Montreal, said the local community often thinks he is French because of his first name. He was actually born in Great Britain and moved to the USA with his parents as a child.
  • Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin (RUS), 2018 World Junior Champions, competed in their first senior Grand Prix event.
  • Robynne Tweedale & Joseph Buckland (GBR) who train in Novi, Michigan, were coached at Skate Canada by Joe’s brother Nicholas Buckland, a three-time Olympian and ice dancer with partner Penny Coomes.
  • Victoria Sinitsina told the press at the post ice dance event that her leg wrap is only for support – “I am feeling great – no need to worry.”