Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps in blue costumes scream and raise their arms in celebration after seeing their socreGreg Kolz
Greg Kolz

Stellato-Dudek & Deschamps in first place after pairs’ short program at World Figure Skating Championships

Talk about giving the home fans what they came for.

Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps were the stars of the pairs’ short program that kicked off the 2024 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal on Wednesday.

They blew away their personal best score to take a nearly four-point lead over the reigning world champions, Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan. The two-time Canadian champions scored 77.48 points for a near-perfect performance. In addition to hitting their side-by-side triple toe loops and throw triple loop, they received the top level 4 on all their other technical elements.

“I think this was our best short program of the year,” said an ecstatic Stellato-Dudek of their program set to the song “Oxygène” by Cirque du Soleil. “It being the program that we chose as a tribute to Montreal, I’m very happy that we can give the audience a good ride.”

The audience was certainly up to being taken for a ride, with Canadian flags flying and the cheers roaring from the moment Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps were introduced in the warmup through every key moment in their program right up to when their marks were revealed.

“It was really special,” said Deschamps. “We have been preparing for a long time that it was going to be really loud. We have a lot of friends, family here, even kids that I coach.”

“I am way more nervous for this event than I have been for others because it is a home worlds. And because I knew a lot of people in the audience, including some people who never watch me skate and they’re here watching me skate so I want them to think I’m cool,” Stellato-Dudek said to some chuckles from the media in the mixed zone. “I think it’s important to recognize that and then just kind of release it and let it go.”

Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps perform a triple twist lift
Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps of Canada perform their pairs short program for the 2024 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal, Wednesday, March 20, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps had established themselves as one of the top contenders for the world title with their results over the last few months. Coming into the worlds, they owned the top score of the season and are coming off a victory at the Four Continents Championships, where they defeated Miura and Kihara. The Japanese duo had missed much of the season with injury. But skating right before the Canadians in the final flight of the short program, they showed the quality they are known for, earning 73.53 points, and were rightfully recognized by the raucous crowd.

Perhaps it was four years of pent-up energy, as some folks commented on social media, that was partly behind the audience enthusiasm. After all, Montreal was supposed to host the 2020 Worlds before they were cancelled with just a week to go as the COVID-19 pandemic started to shut down everything.

All three Canadian pairs that competed on Wednesday were given deafening ovations that were well worth the four-year wait.

“We knew having a home worlds would be a different experience and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And I think we really felt that today,” said Lia Pereira, who with partner Trennt Michaud is in ninth place with 64.83 points. “To skate a short program like that and just to feel the energy and atmosphere of the crowd is so amazing.”

Lia Pereira holds her hands over her heart while Trennt Michaud makes a heart sign with his hands
Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud of Canada react to the crowd following their pairs short program for the 2024 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal, Wednesday, March 20, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi

“We’re both kinda extra performer when there’s a crowd,” she added. “I think we’ve just felt the love the whole week [in practice].”

“I remember being at the London [Ontario] Worlds [in 2013] as a spectator and the craziness and how loud it was and everything and it was just as I thought, if not better than I thought it would feel as a competitor,” said Michaud.

It would be hard to imagine a better environment in which to make a world championship debut, as Kelly Ann Laurin and Loucas Ethier did. They’re in 14th place after a personal best short program score of 60.18.

Kelly Ann Laurin and Loucas Ethier perform a death spiral
Kelly Ann Laurin and Loucas Ethier of Canada perform their pairs short program for the 2024 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal, Wednesday, March 20, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

“I think even if you describe it, no one could understand, to be honest,” said Ethier as Laurin resoundingly agreed. “It was a very, very special feeling. People were telling us how special it was going to be. There was no way we could prepare for that. It gave us wings.”

They won’t have to wait long to experience that loving reception all over again. The pairs’ free skate will take place Thursday night, after which the medals will be handed out. The last Canadians to be world champions in the pairs event were Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who won back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016.

Stellato-Dudek was quick with where she’ll be spending the few precious off-ice hours until she’s back in front of the fans:

“I will spend it in my bed at the hotel.”