Sports Olympics will be the final farewell tour for Canadian figure skating elite

18:54  15 january  2018
18:54  15 january  2018 Source:   thestar.com

Nancy Kerrigan hasn't watched 'I, Tonya' and has 'nothing' to say about it

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Canada ’s Olympic figure skating team includes several veterans set to retire after Pyeongchang. Patrick Chan, Eric Radford and Scott Moir spoke after the team was announced Sunday about their emotions heading into their final Games. (The Canadian Press).

Canada retained their lead on the final day of the team event to deliver gold over the OAR team and USA. Alex and Maia Shibutani clinch bronze for the US in the team figure skating . Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images.


VANCOUVER—Their “best-before” date hasn’t quite arrived yet, fingers crossed.

That hopefully won’t happen until the Pyeongchang Games are won and done, at least for the 11 of 17 figure skaters formally named to Team Canada on Sunday who have been there before and aren’t expected to pass the Olympic way again.

But for the moment, for these Winter Games, Canada is sending the largest, most experienced figure skating complement ever to South Korea, currently ranked No. 1 globally, as determined by world medals collected and results over the past Grand Prix season, ahead of Russia and the United States.

The returnees: Patrick Chan, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Gabrielle Daleman, Kaetlyn Osmond, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, Kirsten Moore-Towers, Paul Poirier, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

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The debutants: Keegan Messing, Larkyn Austman, Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau, Michael Marinaro and Piper Gilles.

In Sochi, there were only three returning Olympians: Chan, Virtue and Moir.

At the risk of looking too far ahead — what comes afterwards — the country has just dipped a toe into its skating transformation as one generation segues to the next.

“What makes us strong is that we’re well-balanced in all four disciplines, which we’ve never had before,” says Mike Slipchuk, high performance director for Skate Canada. “We’ve had world medals, world championships, in almost every category, which puts us in a good position.’’

For now. And of course the immediate now is what matters most, although the sport’s brain trust is always looking forward, projecting, weighing the potential of youngsters working their way up the food chain. “It’s a real changing of the guard,” Slipchuck continues. “We haven’t had such a wholesale change like this that I can remember.”

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Figure skating at the 2018 Winter Olympics was held at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, South Korea. The five events took place between 9 and 23 February 2018. A total of 148 quota spots were available to athletes to compete at the games.

Again, that’s a post-Pyeongchang issue, when the likes of Chan, Virtue and Moir, two-time world pairs champions Duhamel and Radford, perhaps ice dancers Weaver and Poje, pivot away from competition, making their full-time bones on the show tour circuit or pursuing a Second Chapter career outside the world of figure skating.

“We’re at the point where it’s time for the other men to step up,” notes Slipchuk, referring in particular to a clutch of teenage jump-adepts who acquitted themselves quite well over the weekend at the national championships, like 19-year-old Nam Nguyen, who was quad-cool but missed the Olympic invitation by less than two points. Unfortunately, this is one of the few Olympics where Canada can send only two men, Chan and silver medallist Messing. Canada has three spots each for women’s, pairs and dance.

In pairs, the silver and bronze duos are still relatively young but with international competition miles on them. Ditto for ice dance. And never before has Canada had such a strong female contingent, led by Daleman and Osmond, silver and bronze medallists at the 2017 world championships. Both are in for another Olympiad quadrennial.

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The main difference between outward-bound vets and those following in their footsteps is that many of the latter — Nguyen and pairs team Seguin and Bilodeau notable exceptions — have not racked up title pedigree in their junior careers. “But we have two years to build,” adds Slipchuk, optimistically. That’s two years before the worlds are hosted by Montreal.

For the rest, those who will wave goodbye to the Olympics after one final fling, these are both anxious and poignant days. So many of them matriculated through the Skate Canada system together, have been constant companions through the competitive grind through so many years.

“To look back at when we grew up, being at our first senior nationals, to now, our last, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of friends,” says Chan, 27, who just lassoed his 10th Canadian title. He was seventh at the Vancouver Olympics, second at Sochi, and a bit of a Hamlet over the past season, weaving together the threads of a comeback which, at times, seemed to be unravelling fast.

“We’ve all been there for each other at different times and if we needed something from somebody, someone was always there. It’s such an inclusive group of people. If you look at all the other countries, there hasn’t been a consistent group of skaters for this many years. That creates a very strong bond.”

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At the other end of the room, Moir — he and Virtue have been named co-captains of the Olympic figure skating squad — is waxing eloquent about Chan.

“He’s been such a joy to watch. And you have to see him live. If you see him on TV, you can’t feel your hair blow back when you’re close to the ice. So much speed — and the command! That’s Patrick Chan, we’ve been blessed to have him. And we’re going to have a whole bunch of kids coming up with that same set of skills because they’ve watched Patrick their whole lives.”

Oh, the stories Moir could tell about Chan from the last decade, from the competitive assignments and their Stars on Ice gigs. But he won’t. “If I tell you Patrick Chan stories, then he can tell you Scott Moir stories. So we’ve got to keep that truce.”

It’s been an emotional week for Moir and Virtue, who collected their eighth Canadian title, knowing it would be their last, wishing fervently to go out on a double-program blast with their two new programs, the Latin-themed short (with music by The Rolling Stones, The Eagles and Santana) and their edgy Moulin Rouge long.

“It’s incredibly special, having grown up with so many of these skaters,” says Virtue. “We’ve all travelled together and toured together and experienced so many firsts — first nationals, first world championships, first Grand Prix, first Olympics. There are just so many bonding experiences, memories we’ll cherish for a long time. And also a certain understanding — they know exactly what we’re going through. At a time like this especially, that’s reassuring, when it feels like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

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For Duhamel and Radford, it was national title No. 7. Each had previous partners: Duhamel with Craig Bunton through 2010 when he retired after a litany of injuries; Radford with Anne-Marie Giroux

Duhamel almost hung ’em up with Bunton, until agreeing to a try-out with Radford, who was likewise conflicted after parting from Giroux.

“As much as Meagan was about to retire in after 2010, I was in the same boat,” Radford recalls. “I didn’t know if it was worth it to keep going. I always believed I had the talent to go far in the sport but I wasn’t going to do it on my own.”

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue, left, and Scott Moir have been named co-captains of Canada's Olympic figure skating team.© JONATHAN HAYWARD Ice dancers Tessa Virtue, left, and Scott Moir have been named co-captains of Canada's Olympic figure skating team.

Then Meagan glided out of the mist.

“A changing and defining moment is when we won our first national title,” says Radford. “It sparked something inside of us. We had been trying to prove to ourselves for so long that we were worthy. In that moment, it was, ‘Ahhh, there it is.’ That’s where it all kind of magically happened. From there, that momentum kept building and building and building.”

They are, the collective 11, writing their final chapter together. And then they’ll close the book.

  • Mea culpa: In the paper version of the Sunday Star, I stupidly reversed the silver and bronze ice dance medallists at the Canadian championships over the weekend. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier finished second, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were third.

Canadian ski jumping team sending pair to Olympics .
The Canadian Olympic Committee and Ski Jumping Canada on Wednesday announced that two athletes and a coach will head to Pyeongchang, South Korea to compete at the Olympics, which begin Feb. 9. Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes, 26, will represent Canada on the men's side, while Taylor Henrich, 22, will compete in the women's individual event. "I am so proud to once again have the opportunity to represent Canada at the Olympic Games. This is the culmination of all the hard work done in training, but every jump is worth it for the opportunity to wear the maple leaf in Korea," said Henrich .

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