One of Canada’s strongest ever figure skating teams has already hit the practice ice at the ISU World Championships in Helsinki.

Coming at the end of a season full of highlight performances, there are certainly some high hopes for medals when the competition gets underway on Wednesday.

But this year, Olympic qualification is also on the line. The worlds are where countries try to earn as many entries as possible for PyeongChang 2018, up to a maximum of three per discipline. To figure it out, a country’s top two results are added up. Anything totaling 13 or less (such as a 1st and a 12th or a 6th and a 7th) is worth three Olympic berths in that discipline. Results adding up from 14 to 28 will earn two berths. Suffice to say, depth is important.

After our take on the ice dancers and pairs yesterday, here’s a quick preview of the singles.

Men

“I have to accept the fact, and I have, that I need to basically skate a clean short program and clean long program if I’m going to stick to the current technical plan that I have.” – Patrick Chan

It’s a jumping man’s game right now and Patrick Chan knows it. Three quads in a long program is no longer enough, not when others have four, five, perhaps even six, including the more difficult loop and flip and Lutz. He’s just added a Salchow this season to his two quad toes. His short program is also less difficult, with only one quad while others do two. But if he can maximize his points – he has re-organized his jump layout in the hopes of doing so – he’ll be there ready to step through any open door.

“All I know is that I can only control what I can bring to the ice and maybe that’s being able to combine the difficulty of the quads with really great transitions and skating skills.” – Patrick Chan

Now working with a sports psychologist, Chan says he has had conversations about the frustration of seeing other skaters in the leading spot he held as three-time world champion from 2011 to 2013. He’s channeled that into a plan of attack for the worlds, a strategy of how to overcome the technical deficit with the things he does better than anyone else. At the Four Continents Championships, he was able for the first time this season to really watch Nathan Chen, Yuzuru Hanyu, and Shoma Uno, the leading contenders for the world title. He called the experience “eye opening but calming and resourceful”.

One of those men with a two-quad short program and four-quad long program is teammate Kevin Reynolds. The last few years have been challenging for him, struggling with everything from trying to find the right-fitting boot to undergoing hip surgery. He hasn’t always been the most consistent skater, but he has had his moments, including a fifth place finish at the 2013 Worlds, helping secure Canada’s team silver at Sochi 2014 with his great free skate, and his first Grand Prix medal this past fall at Skate Canada.

Short Program: Thursday, March 30
Free Skate: Saturday, April 1

Ladies

“Overall I’m feeling super confident about going to worlds. With how I’ve been skating all year, I gained so much from that and it’s just getting me ready for worlds.” – Kaetlyn Osmond

It’s not often when the Canadian women are viewed as having as good as, if not better, chance than the Americans at standing on the podium or earning three Olympic berths. But that is the case with the combo of Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman.

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Osmond’s strength this season has been her short program, receiving the second highest score in the world behind reigning world champion Evgenia Medvedeva. As the first Canadian woman to qualify for the Grand Prix Final since 2009, she finished second in that portion of the competition. She placed the same at the Four Continents despite a fall. But where she has faltered thus far has been in the long program. Four Continents was particularly rough with three falls.

That competition was a reminder to her that no matter how great her season was going, she couldn’t take anything for granted. She has also given up on the obsession to perform two clean programs, aiming instead towards excellence and enjoying herself on the ice, which is when she is at her best. But no matter what happens with the jumps, Osmond never lets her program get away from her. Her smile is omni-present and she makes the choreography shine with her natural charisma, setting her apart from some of the other top contenders.

“I’ve been going out there with stronger programs. I’ve been raising not only my technical mark, but also my components mark and just really showing the world what kind of skater I can become.” – Gabrielle Daleman

Daleman was one of those able to take advantage of Osmond’s most recent struggles, winning silver for Canada’s first Four Continents medal in the ladies’ event since 2009 and her first major international medal. The breakthrough was a real confidence boost and she’s been training the last six weeks with a new mindset that she can handle the pressure of being a contender and that she belongs in that elite group. She also finds great support and motivation in training mate and two-time world champion Javier Fernandez. Always a dynamo with the jumps, Daleman has vastly improved her skating skills on the ice and is maturing into a true performer who’s better able to manage her energy, a dark horse never to be counted out.

Short Program: Wednesday, March 29
Free Skate: Friday, March 31

CBC will have complete live streaming of the competition with nightly highlight shows on the broadcast network.