Gold for Canadian ice dancers at Junior Grand Prix

RIGA, Latvia – Ice dancers MacKenzie Bent of Uxbridge, Ont., and Garrett MacKeen of Oshawa, Ont., earned their first international victory on Saturday to conclude the first stop on the ISU Junior Grand Prix figure skating circuit.

The Canadians totalled 127.93 points to edge Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter of the U.S. second at 127.43 and Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd of Russia third at 126.43.  It’s a second career junior Grand Prix medal for Bent and MacKeen, also fifth at the world juniors last season.

“It was really something special to hear our national anthem,” said MacKeen, 19, three years older than his partner.  “It certainly will be one of the biggest memories for us from this competition.

Bent and MacKeen were first after the short program Friday then delivered the third best free dance of the day but it was still enough to retain the overall lead.

“One of our lifts was downgraded and that affected our score,” said MacKeen.  “It’s something we’ve been working really hard on in training.  We came here with a short dance similar to last year because it was very successful for us.  We changed our free dance and we are delighted to get off to such a great start with it.”

In men’s competition, Roman Sadovsky of Vaughan, Ont., climbed from 16th to 14th overall.  Boyang Jin of China won the gold.

On Friday, Alaine Chartrand of Prescott, Ont., was fourth in women’s competition while in pairs Dylan Conway of Toronto and Dustin Sheriff-Clayton of Newmarket, Ont., were sixth and Mary Orr of Brantford, Ont., and Phelan Simpson of Lunenburg, N.S., seventh.


Louis Daignault

Canadian ice dancers lead after short, Chartrand fourth at Junior Grand Prix

RIGA, Latvia – Ice dancers MacKenzie Bent of Uxbridge, Ont., and Garrett MacKeen of Oshawa, Ont., are first after Friday’s short program while Alaine Chartrand of Prescott, Ont., was fourth in the women’s final at the season’s first stop on the ISU Junior Grand Prix circuit in figure skating.

In women’s competition, Chartand posted a personal best international score of 146.95 points. She competed at two junior Grand Prix last season before winning the bronze medal at the senior nationals and placing eighth at the world juniors.

‘’I gained quite a bit in the performance department of the program today,’’ said Chartrand, 17. ‘’It’s a more mature routine this year so that’s an aspect I’ve put a lot of focus on for this season. I also feel a lot more confident after my success last year.  Today I had the kind of start I wanted with a new program.’’

Evgenia Medvedeva led Russia to a 1-2 finish with 169.52 while Maria Sotskova was second at 166.49. Karen Chen of the U.S. was third at 154.26.

Bent and MacKeen, fifth at the world junior championships last year, earned 55.21 points for their short dance score only 0.67 off their personal best.  Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter of the U.S., are second at 52.40 and Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd of Russia third at 50.93.

The pairs competition wrapped up as well with both Canadian entries completing their international debuts. Dylan Conway of Toronto and Dustin Sheriff-Clayton of Newmarket, Ont., were sixth with a personal best 116.05 points. Mary Orr of Brantford, Ont., and Phelan Simpson of Lunenburg, N.S., followed in seventh at 110.77.

‘’This was an amazing opportunity for us and it was such an honour to represent Canada,’’ said Conway, 15, in her fourth season with her 20-year-old partner. ‘’We were pleased with our performance. Our throw Salchow and side-by-side spins were definitely the highlights.’’

Orr and Simpson joined forces only five months ago.

‘’It was definitely a challenge getting ready for this event,’’ said Orr, 16. ‘’The biggest issue in training was getting our timing down.  For our first competition we were happy with both our programs especially the twists and lifts.’’

Competition ends Saturday with the ice dance and men’s finals.  Roman Sadovsky of Vaughan, Ont., was 16th after Thursday’s men’s short program.

Full results:

Julianne Séguin does double duty on the ISU Junior Grand Prix Circuit

It seems that peppy blond figure skater Julianne Séguin was worth the wait, at least in the eyes of intrepid junior pair skater Charlie Bilodeau.

Bilodeau, of Montreal, already had a partnership with Kristel Desjardins that took them both to two Junior Grand Prix early in the 2012-2013 season and a silver medal at a Canadian championship at the junior level. By October last season, Bilodeau decided he wanted to skate only with Séguin – but he had to wait for her, until she had finished her season.

Bilodeau stayed at home, worked on his singles skating, missed the Canadian championships in Mississauga, Ont., and slipped in a few pair sessions with Séguin two or three times a week.

Now Séguin is one of the busiest skaters around. As a singles skater, she’ll go to the Junior Grand Prix in Mexico City Sept. 4 to 8 (there is no pairs event there), and then with Bilodeau, she’ll skate Junior Grand Prix at Minsk, Belarus on Sept. 25 to 29. Then she’ll head to Ostrava, Czech Republic the very next week to skate both pairs and women’s singles.

Coach Josée Picard wanted a schedule that didn’t have 16-year-old Séguin trotting all over the world with multiple time changes. You see, this season, there is much work to do. The way Picard sees it, Séguin is in a close scramble with two other budding stars in Canada: Gabby Daleman, who won the silver medal at the Canadian championships last season and Alaine Chartrand, who was third. And there are two spots open to Canadian women for the Sochi Olympics.

The fiery Séguin had been a young skater on the move and it was clear why she was so coveted. She was already skating senior at the national level last season, finishing sixth overall in the women’s event behind Kaetlyn Osmond after being third in the short. And at the 2012 Canadian championships, she had finished ninth with Andrew Evans in senior pairs, showing off a huge triple twist, a high throw triple Salchow that she landed like a cat, and side-by-side triple Salchows in their first season together. That year, Séguin was also third at the junior level behind Gabby Daleman. In 2010, Séguin couldn’t do a double flip.

Séguin made her senior international competition debut (in singles) at the 2013 Four Continents Championship in Osaka, where she finished 11th overall (146.48 points) behind two-time world champion Mao Asada. But she acquitted herself well, finishing sixth on technical marks in the free skate and drawing praise from Eurosport commentators.

At Four Continents in the long program, Séguin was 10 points behind the leader on the technical aspect, but 22 points behind on program component marks, so she’s focused hard on the presentation side, working with Julie Marcotte, who did her singles short program, to shine on stage. Séguin will also try to add a double Axel- triple toe loop and she plans a triple toe loop – triple toe loop as her jump combination for the short program. She’s working on a triple Lutz – triple toe loop, which is not consistent enough yet to put in the short program.

But the jumps and the points don’t tell the whole tale of Séguin, who started working with Marc Godin in Longueil, Que. One day, Godin approached Picard to ask her if she would take on the young skater, because he thought she might make a good pair skater.
“She was just a tiny little girl that came from a little club,” Picard said. At the time, she could do only an Axel and a double Salchow but she had spring “and she was just a neat little girl.” Last year, Séguin got all the triples. 

Séguin came along at the right time for Picard, who is known for her pair and dance success. She had coached Isabelle Brasseur from six years old to the Olympic Games. And she was the original coach of Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz when they first joined forces as junior ice dancers. Picard coached them until they finished fourth at the world championships.

She had taken a break from coaching and vowed to herself that when she returned she wanted to coach a beginner to the top level again. “I’m going to enjoy the last part of my career,” she thought. Séguin has turned into a new challenge: Picard had never coached a singles skater to the top levels.

At the beginning, Picard found Séguin an easy-going student with a ready smile. “She smiles all the time,” Picard said. “The smile you see is the smile you see five days a week. That’s what I think is special about her. And I think she has succeeded so fast because she never questioned anything I told her to do. She has confidence and she does what you say. It’s very pleasant to work with somebody that is so hard working and that has got that personality.”

Picard works with Séguin at a new arena that opened a year ago in Chambly, a town of about 25,000 that is 25 kilometres southeast of Montreal. “It’s like a five-star hotel,” Picard said of the rink. “It has three nice ice surfaces and a big gym, all in the same building.”

As a pair skater, Séguin is the perfect partner, standing 4-foot-10, a foot shorter than Bilodeau.  They are the right size and the right age: Bilodeau just turned 20 and the two of them can enjoy two years of eligibility at the international junior level. The plan this year is to focus on the junior level, hoping to make the Junior Grand Prix Final and the world junior championships.

But Picard is wistfully looking at the national senior pair ranks, where the third spot appears open. And at the summer provincials, Séguin and Bilodeau scored higher than another exciting new team of Nastasha Purich and Mervin Tran (at least in the short program – Purich and Tran did not do the long program). “After they’ve done their Grand Prix, we’ll see how it goes,” Picard said.

Beverley Smith

Skating season starts off in Riga, Latvia with first event on 2013-2014 ISU Junior Grand Prix circuit

OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada will send eight skaters, for a total of four entries to the first stop on the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating circuit in Riga, Latvia. Canada will be represented in all four categories, ladies, men’s, pair and ice dance, at the competition which will run from August 28-31, 2013.

Canadian bronze medalist Alaine Chartrand, 17, Prescott, Ont., will represent Canada in the ladies division. Last season, she competed at the ISU Junior Grand Prix events in Lake Placid and Zagreb, placing seventh and sixth respectively. She also placed eighth at the 2013 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships. She is coached by Michelle Leigh and Leonid Birinberg and trains at the Nepean Skating Club in Ottawa, Ont.

Roman Sadovsky, 14, Vaughan, Ont., is the Canadian entry in the men’s division. This is Sadovsky’s third international assignment. Last season, he won bronze at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Lake Placid, USA, and placed 10th at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Bled, Slovenia. He is coached by Tracey Wainman and Gregor Filipowski at the YSRA Winter Club.

Mary Orr, 16, Brantford, Ont., and Phelan Simpson, 17, Lunenburg, N.S., are one of two teams representing Canada in pair. This is their first season competing together after partnering in the off-season. Orr and Simpson placed third and fourth, respectively in junior pair with their previous partners at the 2013 Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships. They are coached by Kristy Wirtz and Kris Wirtz at the Kitchener-Waterloo Skating Club.

Dylan Conway, 15, Toronto, Ont., and Dustin Sherriff-Clayton, 20, Newmarket, Ont., are the second Canadian entry in pair. This is their first international assignment. Conway and Sherriff-Clayton placed fifth at the 2013 Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships. The duo train at 8 Points Centre of Excellence in Markham, Ont., where they are coached by Monica Lockie.

Mackenzie Bent, 16, Uxbridge, Ont., and Garrett MacKeen, 19, Oshawa, Ont., are the sole Canadian entry in the ice dance category. Last season on the Junior Grand Prix circuit, they won bronze in Linz, Austria, and placed fourth in Zagreb, Croatia. They also placed fifth at the 2013 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships, and reached the junior podium at the Canadian championships, placing second. They train at Scarboro Ice Dance Elite with coaches Juris Razgulajevs and Carol Lane.

Louis Stong of Etobicoke, Ont., will be the Canadian team leader, and physiotherapist Meghan Buttle of Toronto, Ont., will also accompany the team. Susan Blatz of Troy, Ont., and Jerome Poulin of Montreal, Que., will be the Canadian officials at the event.

Patrick Chan unleashes Vivaldi at Thornhill Summer Skate

THORNHILL, ONT: Patrick Chan is starting fresh, sort of.

He packed his bags in Colorado Springs and moved to Detroit over the summer. He and his coach, Kathy Johnson, formed a little caravan of two cars, both packed to the brim, his bicycle perched atop a roof, chugging across the U.S. Midwest plains. He finished unpacking it all only in mid-August. Chan and Johnson made a vacation out of the trip, breaking up what would normally be a two-day journey by stopping in Kansas City and Chicago on the way. It’s a new beginning for Chan, skating out of the Detroit Skating Club.

The Olympic program that he unleashed Aug. 18 at the Thornhill Summer Skate near Toronto is new too, but then again, it’s not. He’s skating to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, an exuberant and flamboyant piece of Italian baroque music that he used to finish second at the world junior championships in 2006-2007. And he used it again to make his debut at the world championships in Sweden where he finished ninth during the 2007-2008 season. The original routine was choreographed by Lori Nichol, this one by David Wilson.

“I’ve had a lot of success with Vivaldi,” Chan said. “The last time I skated that program, I knew I was doing this again for the Olympics.” The first version of the Vivaldi routine was Osborne Colson’s last gift to Chan. Colson died at age 90 in 2006, and he had always doubled as a choreographer, but in 2006-07, he urged Chan to let Nichol choreograph the long program for the first time.

Therefore the Vivaldi routine will be a tribute to Colson, who taught Chan his skating skills. Chan refers to the new version as his Greatest Hits, because it incorporates tones and leitmotifs from the past, even some basic moves that Colson designed for him years ago.

“I’m not trying to do crazy things,” Chan said. “I’m not trying to push the envelope this season. This is not the season to do that. This is the season to go back to what is comfortable, what makes you enjoy skating and what makes you skate the best.” Chan picked the music, and he played a role in the choreography, particularly the skating patterns and the comfortable bits that he loved from previous programs. It feels like a comfy shoe in a way, although it’s loaded with intricate details and turns and moves. Because it’s a challenging routine, Chan still has to learn how to pace himself through it and find a rhythm for himself.  

Chan is keeping his short program from last year, but why not? Skating to “Elegie in E Flat Minor” by Rachmaninoff, he set a world record score of 98.37 at the world championships in London, Ont. last March. He did not skate his short program at Thornhill, only his long just to get it in front of audiences and judges early, so that he can build a momentum to Sochi.

With a revived Nobunari Oda in the field (he won the event, to a standing ovation), Chan felt it was almost like a Grand Prix event.

And when Chan did skate, the packed crowd witnessed his virtuosity with the blade in a program designed to show all of his wares. It wasn’t a perfect skate – he doubled and singled some of his triples  – but Chan intended only to deliver crisp footwork, spins and transitions. No rink is big enough for Chan’s power; his jumps were pressed against the boards of the small hockey rink. He ripped off two quads, one in combination with a triple toe loop, made easier this year by changing his pattern into the quads. Yes, the quads are even easier for him to do right now, Johnson said.

Chan admitted to fighting a mental battle when he presented his Olympic program for the first time. He was nervous, wondering if people would like it. But then, he does like it, so he knew others would, too. They did. He got a standing ovation.

He terms his troubled season of last year – when he fumbled and bumbled and finished second in the free skate at the world championships with a host of miscues – an “experimental year.” While Chan usually has only one new program every season, last season, he opted for new choreographers, Jeff Buttle and Wilson, and had two new programs to master. Wilson’s first routine for Chan was “La Boheme,” and now Chan admits he struggled with it. “I loved ‘La Boheme,’” he said. “But it wasn’t me.” He and Wilson were only just getting to know each other. Now they do.

La Boheme, Chan said, felt like “it dragged along. The way the music was cut, the footwork was a bit slower than normal and the ending choreographic step sequence wasn’t necessarily fast and upbeat.” He’s now doing his signature footwork sequence at the very end of the program to uplift the crowd and judges and perhaps even himself.

In Detroit, he’s at peace and he feels free. He trains alongside former U.S. champions Jeremy Abbott and Alissa Czisny and Canadian teammate Elladj Balde. “We all get along tremendously well,” Chan said. “We are all there for each other. You can tell. All of us are improving together.

“We all push ourselves. And I’ve never laughed so much on sessions with Elladj.” They go to dinner together and play video games. Chan loves classic and muscle cars and he’s moved to the right city for that.

Chan has never competed so early and he’s never had his quads down pat so soon in the season. “It’s all coming together,” he said. “I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.” He feels a responsibility, of perhaps being the first Canadian man to win an Olympic gold medal.

Beverley Smith

Roman Sadovsky looking for results on the ISU Junior Grand Prix circuit

THORNHILL, ONT: The humidity rests heavily at 33 degrees Celsius on a bright August afternoon, but inside the Ed Sackfield Arena, it’s cool enough for down coats and mittens. And Roman Sadovsky.

He’s winding up for a triple Axel, again and again. And it’s coming. That’s what summers are about at the York Region Skating Academy.

Sadovsky is a 14-year-old dynamo who has just experienced his first day at a special sports high school in the area. And yes, they start in August. It’s all new, but then Sadovsky is proving that he’s quite capable of taking some very big strides. Two years ago, he was a novice skater. Last year he was a junior, finishing third in a Junior Grand Prix in Lake Placid, N.Y. This year, the son of Ukrainian immigrants is going for all the marbles. He’s moving into the senior ranks despite his youth, at least nationally.

He’s preparing for the Thornhill Summer Skate Aug. 15 to 18, not at all daunted by who he’s supposed to meet. Three-time world champion Patrick Chan – a skater he looks up to – was among the original entries. Sadovsky isn’t intimidated. He’s looking forward to it. “It just feels so good, when you’re the youngest in the group and you get to be with those guys,” he says. “I’m not afraid or anything.”

He also has a Junior Grand Prix in Latvia the following week. Internationally, he’s remaining a junior.

Last year, Sadovsky had won the junior men’s division at the Skate Canada Challenge event, qualifying him for the Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont. He didn’t make it to nationals because of a stress fracture in his right foot, but he defeated some competitors who did go. And his points were higher than those who won medals. Sadovsky won his Skate Canada Challenge division with 172.58 points, while training mate Anthony Kan won the junior title in his absence with 167.54.

Sadovsky could have stayed at the junior level this year, reasoned coach Tracy Wainman. But the only competition he missed all year was nationals, and he was the alternate to go to the junior world championships: a major goal. Somewhere down the road, he wants to rule the junior world, but to do that, he’ll have to match the lads at the top, who are currently doing triple Axels and even quads. He’s working diligently on what he needs: a triple Lutz – triple toe loop and a triple Axel.

Last year, at age 13, Sadovsky was the youngest on the junior circuit. ISU rules say a skater must have turned 13 by the previous July 1 to compete at the international junior level – and Sadovsky’s birthday is May 31. “We have a lot of years left on that circuit,” Wainman says. Still, they didn’t have to think very long about launching Sadovsky into the senior level nationally, to at least compete against skaters who are doing the tricks that the international juniors are doing.

As young as he is, Sadovksy skates much more like a mature skater. “You forget how old he is,” Wainman says.  On the ice, he’s very serious and focused. Barely pushing five feet tall, Sadovsky gets it: he knows what to do. “He always has a plan,” says Gregorz Filipowski, his choreographer. He understands the nuances of the code-of-points system. He’s an entertainer, too. “I just like performing and trying to tell the story,” he says.

Sadovsky’s body movement is impressive and his spins are exquisite. “He has a wonderful body,” says Skate Canada consultant Louis Stong. “He can stretch and he can hold and the spins are fast. On a camel spin, he gets right in on the outside edge, that body just stretches for days, and he gets those six turns in, and then he reaches back and does a variation, then he reaches with the other arm and changes, and does another variation. And you’re going: ‘That’s level four, and on my god, it’s plus three. It’s fabulous.”

His jumping has also improved rapidly. As a novice, he did two triples (Salchow and toe loop), and learned both of them before he got his double Axel. Last season, he set to work diligently – his work ethic is legendary – and got all of the triples down pat, except for the triple Axel.

Sadovsky was primed for the Canadian championships last year, but just before the event, he felt a bit of pain in his right foot. He told Wainman that he couldn’t do the flip and the Lutz, because it hurt to tap in for take-off from the right foot. “He’s quite tough,” Wainman said. “He was still landing the jumps.”

Concerned about the pain, Wainman sent him for tests. On the day that the MRI test results came, Sadovsky had landed a triple-triple combo and a triple flip – even though he’d been suffering from a stress fracture on a growth plate near his toe. Still, Wainman could see that there was something wrong, and had put a rush on the tests. Wainman was the one who had to tell him that he could not compete at the Canadian championships. “It was a tough thing for me,” she says. “But he wasn’t surprised.”

Continued stress on the plate could have affected the growth of his foot – and the rest of his life. “He understood,” Wainman says. Still, Sadovsky would come to the rink – which at the time was just beside the public school he attended – and stretch, as if preparing for ice time. Then he’d walk away wistfully. He did watch the Canadian championships, but skipped the junior men’s event. Too tough. He focused on the senior men – his future.

Still, Sadovsky continued doing Pilates and swam (he was a competitive swimmer) to keep fit so that when he came back, it wasn’t so hard. He was off the ice for a month and slowly regained his jumps.

Sadovsky started skating when he was five years old, but just to learn to skate, he says. “I really wanted to play hockey. My coach said I had to give figure skating a try. I didn’t like the option that I had.”

He wanted to be a goalie, stopping shots, going for the save. His first pair of skates were hockey skates.

He came to Wainman when he was eight and very tiny, she recalls. He was always very disciplined, she found. She’d give him little projects to do and he’d return, showing improvement. “Obviously, he’s going to learn faster that way,” she says.

Grzegorz Filipowski, a 1980 world bronze medalist, admits that it is fun being Sadovsky’s choreographer. “He’s not shy at all,” Filipowski says.  “He looks good in any kind of movement and he’s really willing to try things.” Wainman says he takes 30 minutes of ballet a day – and he wants to, something unusual for his age.

“You get a sense that he’s the kind of guy who knows what he wants,” Filipowski says. “He’s still a kid but whenever he’s on the ice, he’s definitely a guy with a plan. He’s a smart guy. He knows his math. He knows the system in and out.”

And his spins? Filipowski is his spin coach. He doesn’t get many lessons, Filipowski says. The secret to success in doing good spins? Practice. Practice.

It’s taken a lot of work,” Sadovsky says. “I learned to do the spins with lots of effort.”

Sadovsky has already started his season, with a fifth-place finish against seniors at Skate Detroit in late July. He finished behind Californian Grant Hochstein, who landed a quad-triple in his short program, and Canadian bronze (senior) medalist Andrei Rogozine. But with 190.54 points, he finished only three-hundredths of a point behind seasoned Canadian veteran Jeremy Ten, and well ahead of 15-year-old Nam Nguyen, who moved into senior competition two years ago.  And now Sadovsky is on the scene. It all bodes well for the future of men’s skating in Canada.

Beverley Smith