Thursday, January 14, 2010

The time of the year I love best of all: Canadian nationals

If I had more time or energy to blog I would devote this space to one of two things: figure skating or writing. Figure skating I have loved since a young age and could write (and talk) about it ad nauseum. I could write reviews for up coming Grand Prix competitions, make my predictions, report on the actual outcomes, and scour the Internet for news in the off season, but I find even with the folks I skate with on Wednesdays, no one has quite the same level of enthusiasm for such details as I do. In my blurry memory of childhood, I would guess that my love for writing started up around the same time as figure skating (no coincidence, as I very rarely, if ever wrote about skating). I'm sure I could come up with things to say about the weekly progress of my manuscripts, etc. but I suspect until I actually see any success in the publishing world that few people would be interested.

Since the Canadian national figure skating championship are this week (novice/juniors are currently underway, and happily footage can be viewed at I thought I might make some comments/predictions for who I think might secure themselves Olympic berths amongst the senior competitors. I don't think there will be much surprise in who I expect to win each division, but I'm going to put my two cents out all the same. How handily (or not) each competitor will win the national titles will be of greater interest.

Joannie Rochette is anticipated to capture her sixth Canadian title this year. I don't think any Canadian figure skating fan would doubt this conclusion; however, Joannie has had a rough season so far. Her short program performance at the Cup of China landed her in 6th (or was it 7th) place and she had to fight back in the long for a bronze medal. Skate Canada saw something of the reverse. Joannie was rewarded for her skate in the short with a whopping 70.00 score. Only one other female figure skater has reached that level and that's Yu-Na Kim. Then she struggled during the long. The Grand Prix final was tough all over, finishing 4th in the short and dropping to 5th (out of 6) in the long. The big question is who will earn the 2nd trip to the Olympics. I'm hesitant to bet on Cynthia Phaneuf. Although she was the silver medalist at Canadian's last year (and champion in 2004), she often struggles with consistency. There's also Amalie Lacost, Marianne Samson and Diane Szmiett, all talented skaters who have seen international competition. I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Diane Szmiett might nab the spot. Why? She has the best international result of the Canadian ladies (other than Joannie) and finished 4th at the Cup of China.

Patrick Chan should have no difficulty retaining his Canadian title, and from the reports I've been reading, it sounds as though he is completely recovered from his earlier calf muscle injury. He sat out of his first Grand Prix assignment (Cup of Russia) due to this injury and only placed 6th at Skate Canada. Just as Joannie, Patrick is in the enviable position that even if he doesn't skate his best, there are currently no other male skater's in Canada that can really challenge him. Off the top of my head I can name 4 skaters who will be vying for the second spot on the Olympic team (there may be others I don't know of): Vaughn Chipier, who's probably got the biggest triple axel in the world, but did not skate well at either of his Grand Prix assignments; Jeremy Ten, third place at nationals last year, who also did not skate well on the Grand Prix; Kevin Reynolds, who can land both a quadruple toe-loop and a quadruple shalchow, but also had poor showings this season; and finally my bet, Shawn Sawyer. Shawn went to the Olympics in 2006 and has completed on the Grand Prix circuit for the last 4 years. He's crazy flexible and is a fairly consistent jumper, for the exception of his triple axel. He's also the only Canadian man to medalled on the Grand Prix in 2009, a silver at Skate America.

The pairs competition will be the closest. Jessica Dube and Bryce Davidson are 2-time champions (and world bronze medalists); however returning after a year off due to injury are Angela Langois and Cody Haye who have a Canadian title to their names as well, AND Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin, the latter who is also a Canadian champion. Despite their somewhat mediocre Grand Prix season, I would still give this title to Jessica and Bryce. They have the best overall package (and from what I've seen in the past tend to get the best marks at home of all the pairs). Second place...that's a tough one. I might go with Angela and Cody. They finished just behind Jessica and Bryce at Skate Canada (in 4th). Ultimately, I think it will be whomever of these teams skates the cleanest programs, it could go to anyone one of them.

Ice Dance
There's no questions here. The winners without a doubt will be Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. I had to double check the stat earlier to make sure this was correct, but they will only be going for their third senior title. They've been so good since the moment the arrived on the senior ranks that I thought they'd won more...but then again they are only in 20 and 22 years in age, so they've got time to rack up the championships. Second place will be a fight between two couples: Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, and Venessa Crone and Paul Poirier. They both had similar results on the Grand Prix so it will be close. I have to might go with Venessa and Paul here. They are the younger of the teams, but I think they've seen greater success in the past, and I rather like their Bohemian Rhapsody free dance.

I'm looking forward to this weekend of skating. It will be broadcast on both the CBC Website, and on television.



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