The Canadian stop of the ISU Grand Prix series is upon us, with Skate Canada International set to take place in Mississauga, Ontario on Friday and Saturday.
There is no shortage of superstar talent as Canada’s brightest face some of the best in the world early in this crucial season that will conclude with the World Championships in Helsinki in March where Olympic qualification for each country is on the line. Here’s a quick look at the weekend ahead:
Headlining the Canadian contingent are Olympic and world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in their return to the Grand Prix circuit after a two-season hiatus. They looked sharp in winning gold at the Autumn Classic International, an ISU Challenger Series event, earlier this fall.
A podium finish for the always innovative Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier would set them up nicely for the rest of the season as they try to break into the top five at the world championships after being eighth, sixth and eighth the last three years. But the competition is stiff, with two-time world silver medallists Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the United States and 2014 world champions Anna Cappelini and Luca Lanotte of Italy also in attendance.
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford are the runaway favourites for gold. The two-time world champions are now attempting a throw triple Axel, which is allowed to be included in the short program. It didn’t go quite as planned at their Challenger Series event, Finlandia Trophy, but has been looking solid in practice. Of course they’ve already established their technical prowess over the last few years with their side by side triple Lutzes and throw quad Salchow, which are now combined with program choreography that sets them apart from everybody else.
RELATED : 2016-2017 Skating preview
In the third year of their partnership, Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch no longer look like a new pair. They’ve established their own style on the ice, almost effortlessly combining what made each of them unique. Steadily on the rise, they won silver at Nebelhorn Trophy, another Challenger Series event, after placing seventh at last year’s worlds. The third Canadian entry is Brittany Jones and Joshua Reagan.
Just like last year, the feature attraction is Patrick Chan versus Yuzuru Hanyu. The Canadian now has a full year of competition behind him after taking a full year off. He also has a new coaching team, led by Virtue and Moir’s former mentor Marina Zueva, and a new free skate to music composed by Radford. What he doesn’t have in his repertoire is a new quad, which Hanyu does. At the Autumn Classic, the reigning Olympic champion became the first skater to successfully land a quad loop. That is to be one of two quads in his short program before he attempts four in his free skate, giving him the technical edge over Chan who has the quad toe in his back pocket and is newly attempting a quad Salchow.
Canada has two other entries in the men’s event. Kevin Reynolds won bronze at last year’s nationals after missing all of 2014-15 with injury. The first skater to ever perform two quads in a short program won silver at his Challenger Series event, the Ondrej Nepela Memorial. Sochi 2014 Olympian Liam Firus is the reigning national silver medallist but still needs to be more consistent with his jumps.
There are two Canadians in a very stacked field: reigning national champion Alaine Chartrand and two-time national champion Kaetlyn Osmond, who already has a win this season at Finlandia Trophy with a personal best free skate score. Among the women she defeated was former world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who is also at Skate Canada. Chartrand, meanwhile, was second at the Autumn Classic to American Mirai Nagasu, also in the field this weekend.
But the talent doesn’t stop there. The favourite coming in is reigning world champion Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia, who performs triple-triple combinations with absolute ease. Not to be forgotten is Satoko Miyahara of Japan, a world medallist in 2015.
If you can’t get to Mississauga, you can still catch all of Canada’s skaters in action as TSN and CTV have complete event coverage.