March Madness for Canadians
As the winter World Cup season comes to a close, Canadians will be treated to six different World Championships in the month of March including two on home soil. With quota spots on the Olympic team up for grabs, pressure will be high with many athletes expecting to soar to the podium.
FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships – Mar. 5-10 – Voss-Oslo, Norway
The Canadian Freestyle team will be hoping to duplicate its success from the 2011 Freestyle World Ski Championships when 16 medals were won, including eight gold, to finish in first place overall in the standings. The team dominated the competition winning seven more gold medals and nine overall medals more than the next country. A good result at Worlds can help catapult Canadian athletes to early nomination to the Canadian Olympic Team for 2014, so all eyes will be on a deep field of talent including three defending world champions in Rosalind Groenewoud (halfpipe), Mike Riddle (halfpipe) and Alex Bilodeau (dual moguls) and having won 37 FIS World Cup and Association of Freeskiing Professionals medals, spread across 17 different athletes and four disciplines.
Calgary’s Groenewoud and Riddle (Sherwood Park, AB) are expected to challenge for the halfpipe title once more, along with 2011 bronze medallist Keltie Hansen (Edmonton, AB). All three are coming off podium finishes at recent Sochi Test Event in Russia.
Canada boasts arguably the deepest moguls team in the world and will be led into competition by 2010 Olympic champion and 2011 world champion Bilodeau (Rosemere, QC). However, the last two years have been dominated by 20-year-old Mikael Kingsbury, the 2012 Crystal Globe winner and current points leader. Kingsbury finished behind Bilodeau in 2011 in both the dual moguls and moguls events finishing second and third respectively to his idol. Kingsbury should be expecting even bigger things of himself this time around. The women will be led by a pair of sisters from Montreal. Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe have been impressive on tour and sit in the top-5 in point standings with Justine being three points away from top spot heading into world champs.
The aerials team is deep with 2012 Crystal Globe winner and native of Gatineau, QC Olivier Rochon. Joining Rochon as a threat is Travis Gerrits, currently ranked fifth in the world standings. In slopestyle Canada will be leaning on the likes of 2011 silver medallist Kaya Turski (Montreal, QC) and Dara Howell (Huntsville, ON) who are coming off silver and bronze medal performances at the X Games in January. Defending ski cross world champions Kelsey Serwa (Kelowna) and Chris Del Bosco (Montreal, QC) are back and looking for repeat performances and poised to perform on the big stage. Serwa and teammate Marielle Thompson (Whistler, BC) finished 1-2 in the women’s final at the Sochi Test Event on February 19 and Del Bosco capped a remarkable comeback from injury with second place in the men’s final.
Mar 5: M/L Halfpipe Finals
Mar 6: M/L Moguls Finals
Mar 7: M/L Aerials Finals
Mar 8: M/L Dual Moguls Finals
Mar 9: M/L Slopestyle Finals
Mar 10: M/L Ski Cross Finals
Short Track Speed Skating World Championship – Mar. 8-10 – Debrecen, Hungary
Speed Skating Canada will be making its national team selection in Montreal when the Maurice-Richard Arena plays host to the competition Mar. 1-3. This event will serve as a prelude to the World Championships the following week in Hungary and both competitions will be key components to Olympic selections in August.
For the purposes of determining a final overall Canadian ranking, the athletes selected by Speed Skating Canada to compete at 2013 World Championships in Hungary, from March 8-10, will be ranked one to five in order of their selection: Women – 1. Marianne St. Gelais (St. Felicien, QC), 2. Marie-Ève Drolet (Laterriere, QC), 3. Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC), 4. Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC), 5. Gabrielle Waddell (Red Deer, AB); Men – 1. Charles Hamelin (Sainte-Julie, QC), 2. Michael Gilday (Yellowknife), 3. Charle Cournoyer (Boucherville, QC), 4. Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC), 5. Guillaume Bastille (Riviere-du-Loup, QC).
Canada’s 2012 World Championship team won the second most medals with 10 overall. The squad was led by the gold medal duo of Jean (500m) and Maltais (3000m). Jean, Maltais and Hamelin both won three medals that year including a relay medal for Jean and Hamelin.
World Figure Skating Championships – Mar. 10-17 – London, ON
Figure Skating’s best and brightest will be coming to London, ON for a chance at world supremacy and will be met by one of the deepest Canadian teams assembled in recent memory. Poised to defend their 2011 titles are men’s champion Patrick Chan (Toronto, ON) and ice dancing duo Tessa Virtue (London, ON) and Scott Moir (Ilderton, ON).
After a bit of a tumultuous season that started off with a last-place finish in his first event, Chan bounced back winning a medal of every colour on tour along with his sixth consecutive Canadian Championship title. Coquitlam, B.C., resident Kevin Reynolds will be another young athlete joining Chan in the men’s field and is coming off his first international victory at the Four Continents Figure Skating competition in Osaka, Japan earlier this month. Andrei Rogozine (Richmond Hill, ON) rounds out the men’s team. Kaetlyn Osmond (Marystown, NL) will be the only female Canadian representative and is enjoying a breakout year with three first place finishes including her first national title. This will be a good test for the 17-year-old skater ahead of Sochi qualifications.
The team of Virtue and Moir will enjoy some home-ice advantage with the competition being a short drive away from Virtue’s home near London. The Olympic champions have won two of the last three world championships and have not finished below second place in any competition they’ve entered this year. Waterloo, ON duo Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje will be making their return to competition after ankle surgery had sidelined Weaver since December. The duo was having a successful season with two bronze medals this season and will be looking to improve on their fourth place finish in 2012. Canadian Championship silver medallist Piper Gilles (Toronto, ON) and Paul Poirier (Unionville, ON) are the other entrants.
In pairs, Canadian champs Meagan Duhamel (Lively, ON) and Eric Radford (Balmertown, ON) lead the way after winning gold at the Four Continue Figure Skating competition. Right behind them will be Kirsten Moore-Towers (St. Catharines, ON) and Dylan Moscovitch (Toronto, ON) who finished less than three points behind Duhamel and Radford at the Four Continents.
Mar 13: Pairs SP, Men’s SP
Mar 14: Ladies’ SP, Ice Dance SP
Mar 15: Pair’s FS, Men’s FS
Mar 16: Ice Dance FS, Ladies’ FS
Women’s Curling World Championships – Mar. 16-24 – Riga, Latvia
Ontario skipper Rachel Homan (Ottawa) won her first Canadian title by coming out victorious at this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts. The win earned Homan and her team comprising of Emma Miskew, Alison Kreviazuk and Lisa Weagle the right to represent Canada at the Women’s Curling World Championships in Riga, Latvia. As a bonus, the win also guarantees her Ontario rink a place in the Canadian Olympic trials later this year in Winnipeg.
Canada has medalled in the last three World Championships, but has been blanked from a gold medal since Jennifer Jones’ Manitoba rink won gold against China in 2008. The 23-year-old Homan will be experiencing her first World’s event with her Ottawa Curling Club.
World Single Distance Championships – Mar. 21-24 – Sochi, Russia
The “Iceberg” Skating Palace is Sochi, Russia will play host to the 2013 World Single Distance Championships, which will prove to be a good preview to the Winter Games hosted in the same building. Canada won four medals in 2012 including three gold courtesy of London’s Christine Nesbitt (1000m, 1500m) and Fort St. John, BC native Denny Morrison (1500m). Morrison is out with a season-ending injury, but Nesbitt is poised to lead a talented team including the likes of Brittany Schusler (Winnipeg, MB) and Cindy Klassen (Winnipeg, MB) who she captured pursuit silver with last year.
Mar 21: Ladies’ 3000m, Men’s 1500m
Mar 22: Ladies’ 1500m, M 1000m, M 5000m
Mar 23: Ladies’ 1000m, Ladies’ 5000m, Men’s 10,000m
Mar 24: Men’s 500m, Ladies’ 500m, Men’s Team Pursuit, Ladies’ Team Pursuit
Men’s Curling World Championship – Mar. 30-Apr. 7 – Victoria, BC
Canada has utterly dominated on the world Curling stage over the last few years having won 14 out of a total 20 gold medals, including the last three in a row by different clubs. The rink that will represent Canada in Victoria, BC at the World Championships will be determined between Mar. 2-10 when Edmonton hosts a total of 12 teams at the 2013 Tim Hortons Brier.
– George Fadel