We are getting ever closer to the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Skaters from around the world have been focused on their respective National Championships to earn spots on their countries’ Olympic teams. This year’s Canadian Championships delivered even more drama than usual, even considering it’s an Olympic year.
Madeline Schizas emerged as this year’s Canadian Champion in the Women’s event. She also earned the only Olympic spot for Canada in this event. Schizas is an up and coming star in Canadian figure skating, and her results this season have been improving steadily on the international stage. Although she’s a very long shot for a medal in Beijing, it will no doubt be an incredible experience for her to represent Canada at the Olympics, and will give her much needed exposure to this level of competition.
The silver medal went to Véronik Mallet, her highest finish at Nationals at the senior level. Reigning Canadian Champion Emily Bausback struggled with elements in both of her programs and finished the competition ninth overall. One up and coming skater that made an impression in her short program especially was Katherine Medland-Spence. Her short program was set to ‘Hold Back the River’ and was riveting to watch. She finished sixth overall.
The real heartbreak of this event was Gabrielle Daleman, who spoke about how “heart-shattering” her experience at this competition was. She has been open about her struggles with learning disabilities, an eating disorder, and multiple other health issues and injuries experienced over several seasons. She has steadily been building her comeback over the last few months and years. She earned a bronze medal in spite of several jumping errors. Having represented Canada at the last two Winter Olympics, it was devastating to see her miss the chance to represent Canada for a third time.
The ice dance event ended as expected with Canada’s top ice dance team of Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier finishing with a gold medal. They are perhaps Canada’s most realistic chance for a figure skating medal, if they perform at their absolute best, which they have certainly been building to this season. Their free dance program, set to the Beatles’ ‘The Long and Winding Road’ is particularly poignant, and captures this team’s journey through their career and to the Olympics.
The silver medal went to the team of Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen. Both spoke about how thrilled they were to be named to Canada’s Olympic team. They earned two bronze medals through last year’s Grand Prix circuit, and have been steadily improving all season. The bronze medal and final Canadian Olympic spot in ice dance went to Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha. Their free dance program, a samba inspired by the music of Rio is particularly enthralling and character-driven.
Although they ultimately finished thirteenth of thirteen pairs, Torri Hollstein and Joshua Burger’s free dance to the music of The Greatest Showman was very fun to watch. They spoke to the press about being fans of the movie and its soundtrack. The fact that they listened to the soundtrack on repeat is incredibly relatable, and their interpretation of the soundtrack was a joy to watch as a fan.
The real drama of Nationals came in the pairs event. After announcing that they had had COVID over the Christmas break, Vanessa James and Eric Radford clearly struggled physically after their short program skate. They ultimately withdrew from the competition following the short program after sitting in fourth position. The fact that they were ultimately named to Canada’s Olympic team set off a flurry of online reactions. There is a lot of context with this team, who came out of retirement just this season.
Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud skated two spectacular programs at this competition and earned a silver medal. They have been steadily improving all season, and many fans thought that they would at least be considered for the second spot on Canada’s Olympic team in this event. Although James and Radford have achieved higher results and have programs with elements that have a higher earning potential, they have been far from consistent. It was a strange choice for Skate Canada to choose to send skaters with recognizable names who have just come out of retirement this season over a team that is currently developing and is the future of Canadian figure skating. Especially in an Olympic year where Canada is not expected to be competitive in this event, it makes sense to give a developing team the chance to get an Olympic experience under their belts so that they are in peak position in four years.
Fellow pairs skaters Kristen Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro were clearly supportive of Walsh and Michaud. Moore-Towers posted a touching Instagram post, saying that she will always be in their corner. Moore-Towers and Marinaro came away with the gold medal at Nationals, and met their stated goals of making Canada’s Olympic team. It will be Moore-Towers third Olympic experience and Marinaro’s second.
As expected, Keegan Messing earned the gold medal at this competition. He earned one of two Olympic spots on Canada’s Olympic team. As a new father, he spoke about his shift in priorities and the possibility that his competitive skating career could be coming to a close. He always shares a photo of his new son Wyatt in the kiss-and-cry area which is adorable. Teammate Roman Sadovsky earned the second Olympic spot, which he had originally earned for Canada last season.
The bronze medal went to Wesley Chiu, new to the senior circuit. With a spectacular short program and a free skate that was solid despite his errors, he proved that he is ready to compete at the senior level. Joseph Phan, who is always a joy to watch, had two solid programs and finished just out of medal placement in fourth place. Nam Nguyen, who has given so much to Canadian figure skating at 23 years old, revealed that he had had COVID leading up to this competition. He had previously stated that he was considering retiring after this season, however said that after this performance, he didn’t necessarily want to leave on these terms and left the door open to compete at least next year. He finished the competition sixth overall.
Canadian figure skating is currently in a time of transition, and outside of the ice dance event, it would be a long shot for any Canadian skaters to be competitive for an Olympic medal. Skate Canada clearly has much work to do in supporting developing skating talent. If Canada is to become competitive in each event on the world stage again, that certainly needs to change.