Liam Firus finding his way along the road to Sochi

Liam Firus, a 21-year-old Vancouverite with an enviable slip across the ice, can see an opportunity: one of those three Olympic spots that Canada has earned for men.

He wants to seize that opportunity. The trouble is, Firus has had more bumps on the road to Sochi than most.

Last year, Firus had the skate of a lifetime in the short program at the Canadian championships when he landed his first triple Axel in competition and finished third in a stacked field. He surprised himself, because he had been battling a groin injury in the weeks leading up to the event. The skate of a lifetime doesn’t usually happen after such impediments. And it was a painful injury, too. He had endured six tortuous injections of a sugar solution into his injury, meant to inflame the site, bring blood to a bloodless area and help the healing.

He and coach Lorna Bauer had considered withdrawing from the Canadian championships, but only the Sunday before the event, they decided to go. And because Firus really wasn’t trained, the long program slipped out of his control and he dipped to fifth overall. It was still his best finish at the senior national level.

His problems weren’t over, by any means, when he went home. He immediately set to work with choreographer Mark Pillay to design two new programs for the Olympic season and then he didn’t set foot on an ice surface for months.

He got six more injections, a week apart. He went to physiotherapy three to four times a week. His life revolved around rehabilitation. He didn’t get back onto the ice again until June. “It was tough,” he said. With the Olympics coming, he wanted to train like a fiend, but he knew that wasn’t smart. “I knew that if my groin was bothering me while I was training for the Olympics, I don’t think I would have a shot,” he said. “It was just so painful and so mentally hard, too.”

So restrain himself, he did. He didn’t start jumping again until late July, and that didn’t mean full-out triple Axels. It meant doing doubles, half a year before the Sochi Olympics. By the middle of August, he slowly introduced triples back into the mix. By the beginning of September, he was finally doing full programs. With five months to the Olympics, his training finally began in earnest.

He decided to step things up, by leaving Vancouver to train full time in Colorado Springs with Christy Krall, Damon Allen and Eric Shultz, coaches he’d visited sporadically for four or five years. It meant leaving his first and only coach, Lorna Bauer, behind.

Bauer has been a mentor, a force, a “second mom” in Firus’ life. She brought him from being a hockey player to a figure skater with a lovely glide over the ice. Never mind that in the early days, Firus insisted on taking figure skating lessons with hockey skates on. Grudgingly, he adopted the toe picks, with predictable results. Bauer was a coach who came to the table with interesting skills: a kinesiology degree, a high school teacher’s certificate, a skating career at the hands of Hall of Fame coach, Linda Brauckmann, and high qualifications as a pianist with music theory to boot. And she’s the sister to Susan Humphreys, the 1997 Canadian champion.

It was Bauer who insisted Firus focus on skating skills so much that she has turned a hockey player into a skater with a beautiful glide over the ice. “I’ve skated with her since I was nine years old,” Firus said. “I really believe it came from my coach, Lorna. She made me work on my skating skills and how I push the right way. ” Even now, Firus’ first session of the day involves basic skating skills and body movement, rather than jumping. It’s all about line and speed and edges.

Firus knew he needed to train with the best in the world (Max Aaron, Josh Ferris, Agnes Zawadski, Brandon Mroz, first man to land a quad Lutz)  and be motivated by the heady atmosphere in order to contend for the Olympic team. In Colorado, his jumps have become more consistent. And Bauer let him fly. “She just said, do whatever I need to do to succeed and be happy with this sport,” he said.  She will always remain close to Firus. She accompanied him to his first international competition of the year at Coupe de Nice in late October. He treated Coupe de Nice as it if was a summer competition – a couple of months late.

Firus has had to use his time efficiently to get where he is. He’s not had time to pursue quads. He did one triple Axel in the long program in France, then added a second one for Challenge in Regina, an event in which he finished second to Andrei Rogozine. “I haven’t had as much time as everybody else,” he said. “When everybody else was competing at a summer competition, I was just starting to run my programs. Every day has been a grind. I think I’ve caught up to training and I’ve got just a little bit more to go to get ready for nationals, just polishing up everything.”

Firus comes to the table with two new programs that he loves. The short program is to the romantic French classical piece Fascination. “Every time I do it, it’s so much fun to do,” he said. “I’ve been really trying to be a character in it and bring out a personality.”

The long program is ambitious and totally different: The Bolt by Dmitri Shostakovich. “It’s quite extreme, very intense,” Firus said. “It’s very powerful intense music and it’s great.”

The Bolt? Doesn’t that ring a bell? It was Brian Orser’s music when he earned the silver medal at the 1988 Calgary Olympics. Even though Orser skated the music four years before Firus was born, the Vancouver skater knows all about it, how it was a shot across the bow in the famous Battle of the Brians. He’s hoping for an Olympic effort, too at the Canadian championships. He knows it will be a tough fight.

Beverley Smith

Jeremy Ten follows the music for the 2013-2014 season

The name runs across the tongue of the 24-year-old Vancouver skater with as much ease as if he were uttering: “backward outside death spiral” or “flying camel spin” or “mashed potatoes with garlic bits.” Music is Ten’s lakeside cottage, his refuge, his favourite place. He’s always connected to his music, always listening. Music follows Ten everywhere. Ten follows music.

That’s why it should come as no surprise that Ten, to a large degree, has taken charge of the music that he will use when he competes at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships next month in Ottawa, in a bid to make the Olympic team. He’s very serious about that goal, indeed, and he’s taking full responsibility for his route there. There are three spots up for the taking. Most people figure three-time world champion Patrick Chan and quad maestro Kevin Reynolds have a lock on the first two. But the scramble is for that third spot, and Ten wants it as much as anybody.

Ten’s short program? He found the music for it. Ten went looking for music scores written by Polish composer Abel Korzeniowski. Who wouldn’t? But seriously, Ten knew the name from the music he used for a short program during the 2010-11 season, when Buttle had choreographed for him. The music back then? Part of the soundtrack from the movie A Single Man. It’s not your garden variety sort of music for a short program. Like Naqoyqats, it’s introspective. Not that easy for a skater to carry off. You need Buttle-like sensitivities for Korzeniowski.

Korzeniowski puts a stamp on anything he writes. His music is bittersweet, melancholic, deeply emotional, and full of breathtaking beauty. He uses repetitive phrases to good effect. Melody is important to him. Classically trained, he pays attention to every note. He’s not the sort of guy who will throw together a basic tune, load magnificent orchestrations on top of it and call it a day. His music is minimalistic, memorable in its powerful simplicity.

So this is the direction that Ten took when he picked out a score written by Korzeniowski for the Madonna-backed movie W.E., about a women who idealizes what she thought was the perfect love between Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII, who abdicated the British throne to marry a divorcee.

“I found this soundtrack and kept listening to two pieces off it and they were both mesmerizing and just really captured everything I wanted to emote as a skater,” Ten said. The track he picked? Dance With Me Wallis.

The feeling of the short is “very hopeful, passionate,” Ten said. “It is very avant garde. It’s kind of calming at the same time….it’s really up my alley.”

Coach Joanne McLeod found the music for Ten’s long program when she undertook a journey through a closet and found a pile of old CDs, some of which she had forgotten about, including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Variations. She asked Ten to give it a listen. He did on the way home from the rink and immediately fell in love with it. This music offers a more dramatic, theatrical direction, maybe even a little over the top, totally different from the short. Ten says he’s had nothing but good feedback for both programs.

The feedback is even more gratifying, because this time, Ten did not go to the court of Buttle or another of his favourite choreographers, David Wilson to design either of these routines. Instead, Ten did some of it himself, with help from McLeod and dance coach Megan Wing. “It was a unique experience for me to have more of a say in what I wanted to put in or what I wanted to do,” Ten said.

Armed with these programs, Ten has had a good year, finishing third at Nebelhorn Trophy in September, to earn the first international medal of his career, which has been interrupted by injury. “Better late than never,” Ten would say.

He feels like he’s the underdog going into the Canadian championships, although he signalled his intent by winning the short program at the Challenge competition in early December in Regina. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in the hot seat,” he said. That may have thrown him off a little, when he faltered, went back to some old habits and finished fourth overall after the long. But it was a snap, like a dunk of cold water just when he needed it most, perhaps.

“You’ve got to go through that,” said Ten, who feels that he’s a better competitor than he’s been in the past. He doesn’t let small things bother him so much, he said. He has taken more control of his body and his mind.

“I’m the one that’s chasing and attacking for that final spot to the Olympic Games,” he said. “I feel that I have all the tools that are required to make the Olympic team. I’ve been working so hard. I’ve been competing so much better. It’s just keeping that confidence, keeping my head up, and not overthinking things. I’m going to make the most of it.”

Beverley Smith

Ice Dancer Piper Gilles Receives Canadian Citizenship

OTTAWA, ON: In a citizenship ceremony today in Scarborough, Ont., ice dancer Piper Gilles became a Canadian citizen. This will allow Gilles, who skates with partner Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., to be eligible to represent Canada at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

“We are pleased that Piper’s citizenship has been approved,” said Dan Thompson, CEO, Skate Canada. “This sets up an exciting battle in ice dance at the upcoming 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, as we have three Olympic placements for eligible teams, and this adds one more team into the very strong ice dance field competing for those spots.”

“I am very pleased to welcome Piper Gilles as one of our newest Canadian citizens,” said Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander. “As a new citizen, Piper will have the opportunity to represent Canada at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, alongside her partner, Paul Poirier. On behalf of all Canadians, I welcome Piper to Canada and wish her and Paul the best of luck.”

“I have felt like a Canadian citizen for some time and I am extremely excited that it is now official,” said Gilles. “I’ve dreamed about competing in the Olympics my whole life and hope to be in Sochi next year. There is no bigger stage than the Olympics and it would be an honour to represent Canada in front of the entire world.”

Born in Illinois, Gilles moved to Canada in 2011 to train with her Canadian partner, Paul Poirier. Her mother, Bonnie Gilles, is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States.

Gilles and Poirier were silver medalists at the 2013 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships. The 2014 championships will take place in Ottawa from January 9-15 and will feature approximately 250 of Canada’s best figure skaters in the senior, junior and novice categories.

The championships will act as the final step in the 2014 Olympic qualification process. At the conclusion of the senior events on Sunday, January 12, Skate Canada will nominate the 17 member Olympic figure skating team to the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) for selection to represent Canada at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Tickets for the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships are available online at, by phone at 1.877.788.FANS (3267) or 613.599.FANS (3267), or in person at the Canadian Tire Centre box office.


The countdown is on to the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships

OTTAWA, ON:  In January 2014, the spotlight will be on skating in Ottawa as the Canadian Tire Centre hosts the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships from January 9-15, 2014. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Olympic silver medalist Elizabeth Manley, and representatives from Skate Canada will officially start the countdown to this significant event on Monday, December 16 at the Rink of Dreams from 12:00 – 12:30 (ET).

The championships will feature approximately 250 of Canada’s best figure skaters in senior, junior and novice as they vie for spots on the national team, international assignments and will act as the final step in the 2014 Olympic qualification process. On Sunday, January 12 at the conclusion of the senior events, Skate Canada will nominate the 17 member Olympic figure skating team to the Canadian Olympic Committee for selection to represent Canada at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

To mark the occasion, Mayor Jim Watson will be participating in his first skating lesson. Olympic silver medalist and certified Skate Canada coach Elizabeth Manley will be leading the lesson with the help of coaches and skaters from the Gloucester Skating Club.

Though Mayor Watson has had some informal training on the ice, he’s never had an official lesson to learn the fundamentals. To get the Mayor gliding with ease, he will be taking a CanSkate lesson.

CanSkate is Skate Canada’s learn-to-skate program and is designed for beginners of all ages. It provides the skills needed to develop strong basic skating skills and prepares skaters for virtually every ice sport.

Where: Rink of Dreams, Ottawa City Hall
110 Laurier Ave W, Ottawa, ON, K1P 1J1
Date: Monday, December 16, 2013
Time: 12:00 – 12:30 (ET)
Participants: Mayor Jim Watson
Elizabeth Manley, Olympic Silver Medalist
Dan Thompson, Skate Canada CEO
The Gloucester Skating Club

Fans can buy their tickets for the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships online at, by phone at 1.877.788.FANS (3267) or 613.599.FANS (3267), or in person at the Canadian Tire Centre box office.


Virtue and Moir take silver in close ice dance

FUKUOKA, Japan – Tessa Virtue of London, Ont., and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., were edged out by Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White for top spot in record performances Saturday in  ice dancing at the ISU Grand Prix Final.

The exciting competition set the stage for what should be one of the great figure skating battles at the upcoming Olympic Games.

Davis and White, the current world champions, earned 191.35 points while Virtue and Moir, the Olympic champs,finished at 190.00.  They are the two highest scores ever in the event.  Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France were third at 169.11.

“We had a great skate,” said Moir.  “We’ve been training so well and working so hard all season.  We did our technical elements really well at this event.  We’ll need to come out with more speed and more emotion heading into the Games and hopefully that can put us on top.”

“We’re right on track,” agreed Virtue.  “Our approaches are bang on.  It’s a process, we still have two more months to train before the Games and we need to trust that process that it will get us where we need to go.”

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., dropped from fourth to fifth overall after the free dance.

“We know we can grow in both programs,” said Weaver. “We’re going to be fast at work at home and make sure everything is bigger and better and stronger for the Games.”

In pairs, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany won the gold medal with Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia second and Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China in third.

Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., were fifth and Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto sixth.  Both Canadian pairs had trouble with their side-by-side jumps and spins.

“We needed to apply that same kind of feeling and attack we had in the short program yesterday (Friday),” said Radford, who set a personal score with Duhamel in Friday’s performance..  “It’s never easy to start off the program with a major mistake.”

“We’ll take our performances here and work on improving ourselves at home ,” said Moore-Towers.  “Despite the mistakes we kept fighting and didn’t let things go.”

On Friday, Patrick Chan of Toronto won the silver medal in men’s competition.

The final competitive event for the Canadian entries here before the Olympic Winter Games will be the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships. That event takes place at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, January 9-12, 2014.

Louis Daignault

Kaetlyn Osmond overcomes setbacks to debut stellar free program in Regina

It was just what Kaetlyn Osmond needed: this trip to frigid Regina to unleash a long program that nobody had seen so far this year.

On Thursday, when she flew to Regina, she turned 18. On Saturday, she won the senior women’s competition at the Skate Canada Challenge, but that’s not what the visit was all about. She didn’t come to win. Osmond didn’t want the unveiling of her new long program to come at the Canadian championships – the all-important Olympic trials in another month – so here she was, testing herself, tweeting the likes of : “Risk more than others think is safe. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible.” And so she has.

She’d already done it once this season, when a stress reaction (not as serious as a stress fracture) hobbled her training for the Skate Canada grand prix in Saint John, N.B., in October. Miraculously, she got herself together for that event, only to have to pull out before the long program, with a sudden hamstring injury that popped up out of nowhere.

As it turns out, the injury was a partial tear of the hamstring muscle, but nothing could heal that injury quickly enough for her to get to Cup of Russia, so she withdrew from that event, too. The entire grand prix season went up in smoke for the defending Canadian champion – who had won Skate Canada last season over a world bronze medalist.

“It’s been a tough season so far,” Osmond said after her skate in Regina, where she turned in a long-program score of 118.96 and 169.96 points overall, a scant point ahead of the intrepid Gabby Daleman. (By comparison, Daleman earned 107.71 for her long.) “It just seems to be one injury after another,” Osmond said.

But now Osmond knows that she can return from injury and skate well, and practice really well, too. “I was only coming to Challenge for the experience, to get a competition out there, to get back into the feeling of it before nationals and I did that,” she said. “I learned so much from this competition, from not having the greatest short program I’ve ever done and then continuing to do the long program that I’ve been doing in practice. I was really excited about that.”

Osmond finished only fifth in the short program after falling on a triple flip and making some other mistakes. In the long program, she wasn’t quite vintage Osmond yet, but close. She was off the ice for a month after the hamstring injury and began jumping again only a little more than two weeks ago. If she had done two or three triples in the long program, Osmond said, that would have been okay. Coach Ravi Walia set the bar at six, but Osmond did five, only doubling a second triple flip.

Osmond still feels some pain, Walia said, and because they did not want to aggravate her injury, they adjusted her long program. That single Axel at the end of her program? That was planned, because Axels bother her. Although she hasn’t been able to practice too many double Axels, she did manage one in the short and fired off a double Axel-triple toe loop in the long, but there was no sense in tempting fate. Team Osmond also altered some choreography and spins that have flexibility movements that bother her.

“She skated very well for her first competition and her first long program,” Walia said. “The stuff she did was very good quality. She did all of her combinations. It was a good start. She’s on track. She’s where you want her to be in December for that kind of long program. It’s good.”

“I think she’s caught up to where she should be, even though she didn’t have a good start to the season,” he said.

Osmond admits the hamstring injury was a very difficult one to overcome. “It came from nowhere really,” she said. She woke up the morning of the long program at the Skate Canada Grand Prix and could not put weight on her leg.

“It was a little bit of a slow process to get her back on track,” Walia said. “She had to take it slow and easy. She’s not 100 per cent right now, but it’s getting there.”

Ever since she got back on ice on November 8, she’s been doing her programs with what she’s been able to do. And she consistently did clean programs with watered down content. Osmond said she felt frustrated to be off the ice so long and when she finally did get back onto the ice, she had to rein herself in. “When I came back, I had to be super cautious,” she said. “It was very frustrating because I had only just come back from injury and I had felt absolutely fantastic. …Thankfully the jumps have come back really easily.” The hamstring injury was not on her landing leg.

To recover she underwent physiotherapy, and Pilates and fitness trainers worked to build her strength. “Now she feels really happy and confident with the program, now that she’s been able to perform it in competition,” Walia said. “I think she’s excited that she got to compete. She didn’t have a good short, but to be honest, it was more important to get the long program out there.”

And it was worth waiting for. The routine, choreographed by Lance Vipond, is a dramatic (can it be anything else?) depiction of Cleopatra rising to power, with detailed movement. Perhaps, in a way, it will be about Osmond this year. It’s her favourite long program of her career.

“This competition was just the beginning of things,” she said.

Beverley Smith

Chan wins silver medal at Grand Prix Final

FUKUOKA, Japan – World champion Patrick Chan of Toronto won the silver medal on Friday in men’s singles at the ISU Grand Prix Final figure skating competition.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan took the gold with 293.25 points, Chan followed at 280.08 and Nobunari Oda of Japan was third at 255.96.

“I faced a good challenge today trying to come back from a disappointing short program,” said Chan. “Even though I didn’t win the competition I felt like I accomplished a lot and gained a valuable experience. It was a great long program.”

Despite heading into the competition with two wins on the Grand Prix circuit this season including a world record score last month in Paris, Chan said he felt some doubts for Friday’s long program.

“I don’t have the best track record in Japan,” he said. “Every time I come back here I re- live the moments I didn’t skate my best. So to come in a do a strong long today and get back to what I did in Paris and Skate Canada is really going to help me.”

Canada is in contention for more medals in ice dancing and pairs.

In ice dancing, Olympic champions Tessa Virtue of London, Ont., and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., are second after the short dance only 0.7 points behind world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White. The Americans earned 77.66 and Virtue and Moir 77.59.

“Overall it was strong,” said Virtue. “Technically we got all the points we wanted which was our objective. We just have to go out and perform the same way in the free dance.”

Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Russia stand third at 68.90 just ahead of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., at 67.68.

“We captured the essence of the program,” said Poje. “We didn’t lose that uniqueness. We wanted to utilize the taps and the back and forth between the two of us.”

In pairs, Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., totalled 73.07 and are fourth less than three points behind third spot. Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto are sixth.

“This is the type of skate we’ve been waiting for,” said Radford. “After some rough short programs this season, this one gives us a lot of confidence.”

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch also came off the ice satisfied.

“We can’t do much better than a clean short,” said Moore-Towers. “The best part was our energy. We felt comfortable and at home out there. It was fun and when we get to feel it that way, it’s enjoyable.”

The top-three are Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia in first, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany in second and Qing Pang and Jian Tong of China in third.

The free dance and pairs free skate are on Saturday.

The final competitive event for Chan before the Olympic Winter Games will be the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships. That event takes place at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, January 9-12, 2014.

Louis Daignault

Patrick Chan second after short program at Grand Prix Final

FUKUOKA, Japan – World champion Patrick Chan of Toronto stands second in men’s singles after Thursday’s short program at the ISU Grand Prix Final figure skating competition.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan earned a world record 99.84 points to grab the lead with Chan second at 87.47 and Nobunari Oda of Japan third at 80.94.

Chan hit his opening quad toe-loop, triple toe-loop combination but touched the ice landing his triple Axel and doubled a planned triple Lutz to finish with 87.47.  The 22-year-old won gold at his two Grand Prix events this season.

‘’I’m a little upset about today,’’ said Chan. ‘’It’s a little unfortunate to not skate the way you wanted.  I have to remember to take one step at a time as I did earlier this season and produce an equal effort throughout the program.’’

After landing the quad-triple combo with remarkable ease, Chan ran into difficulties on two essential jumps.

‘’I felt really good after the quad-triple but I went into the Axel slower than normal,’’ said Chan.  ‘’The Lutz was the weirdest thing.  I saw the overhead camera and that might have been a bit of a distraction.  That was unusual and it’s something you learn along the way.’’

Hanyu opened with a quad toe-loop and hit all his other jumps to the delight of a sellout crowd at Marine Messe. His 99.84 points surpassed the previous high of 98.52 by Chan at the Trophee Bompard in Paris last month.

The men’s free skate is on Friday.

Canada’s four other entries are also in action Friday for their short programs.  They are Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., as well as Kirsten Moore-Towers of St.Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto in pairs.  The ice dance entries are Tessa Virtue of London, Ont., and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., along with Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont.

The Grand Prix Final is the reserved for the top-six finishers overall in each event following the six-stops on the circuit this season.

Louis Daignault

Alaine Chartrand on the road to success

It seems that Alaine Chartrand lives her life on a highway, humming along the blacktops of Ontario. She’s obviously going somewhere. She certainly is.

The 17-year-old from Maitland, Ont., flits from rink to rink around the province, getting instruction on her craft, a few days here, a few hours there. Sometimes it’s her father, John, as chauffeur. On longer trips, she rides the road in her grandparents’s RV, with a car in tow, just in case. It looks like a travelling circus. “It’s unique,” says coach Michelle Leigh.

Chartrand spends a couple of days a week in Prescott, Ont., at her home club, skating there both day and night. Another two, she skates through the day only at Prescott, then climbs aboard the family truckster to skate in Nepean, Ont., for a couple of sessions during the evenings. It’s an hour away.

Her Prescott coach is Mary-Jayne Rashotte. At Nepean, she trains with Russian-born coach Leonid Birinberg, a former national-level skater who graduated from the Sports Academy of Moscow with a diploma in physical education and sports, specializing in the coaching of figure skating.  Somewhere in there, Chartrand squeezes in classes at a school in Brockville, Ont.

Then on Saturday and Sunday and sometimes Friday, she’s really on the road, mostly in the Toronto area. Chartrand also trains with Michelle Leigh, who has taken skaters to three Olympics. She works out of the Mariposa Skating Club in Barrie, Ont., as well as at a rink in Oakville, Ont. Leigh sees her both days at different clubs.

Chartrand trucks all over, because, she says, her family is closely knit and they don’t want to leave their home near Prescott.  “Family is still really important to them,” Leigh said. Nepean has played a main role in her life for the past four years. “I think they have really figured out something special and unique to her. She skates in a lot of different rinks so I think she adjusts well to different facilities. I think there’s an advantage to that.”

When she comes to Toronto – in the RV – she can rest in it and have as normal a life as possible when you’re on the move. It’s a home on wheels, so she’s not eating restaurant food, or hotel food, or sleeping on hotel beds. It works for this family. In the winter, they keep the generator on so the pipes don’t freeze. It’s a new thing, lately, having the RV. Before that, Chartrand was well-known for her road trips in her father’s six-seater pickup truck, which had amassed more than 500,000 kilometres a long time ago.

Her younger brother travels with the family in the RV. He skates at a small speed skating club in Brockville.

This week, Chartrand will be climbing aboard a plane (for a change) to compete at Skate Canada Challenge in Regina. That’s the qualifying event for the Canadian championships, which is a stone’s throw from her home – in Ottawa. At least she won’t have to travel so far to defend her national bronze medal from last season. And of course, she’ll be going for an Olympic spot; Canada has two berths for women.

She’s always been a mighty little jumper and her hero is quad king Kevin Reynolds. The five-foot tall skater became the first Canadian female to land a triple Lutz – triple toe loop combination in competition during the short program at the Canadian championship last year, although the landing was tentative. She also has a powerful triple Lutz-loop-triple Salchow in her arsenal and both combinations have become more consistent this year.  She’s been known as a jumper, but this year, she’s going for elegance, too.

Chartrand has done that by going to Toronto choreographer David Wilson to design her long program, hoping that his experience as the man who mapped out the successes of Olympic champion Kim Yu-Na will rub off on her. She appeared transformed when she skated at the Thornhill Summer Skate, skating to Doctor Zhivago in an icy blue dress with icicles running down the bodice. And don’t forget the elbow-length gloves.

“It’s a nice piece of music,” said Chartrand, who was born more than 30 years after the epic film was released. She watched the movie – it’s a very long one, she said – before the choreography was fashioned.  “There are more emotions,” she said. “I have to do different facial expressions, instead of just one smile the whole time. I’m happy in the footwork, which is very waltzy. It’s the celebration part of the movie. And then there’s the tragedy of war. It’s really quite the story.”

The dress she wears was made by her grandmother, Patricia Young, who has sewn all of her costumes.

Her short program, to Nathan Lanier’s Torn, was choreographed by Jeff Buttle, who designed her long program last year. This new vehicle shows more drama.

Her season got off to a slower start than she wanted, at least in the Junior Grand Prix events, although she was third in the long program and fourth overall at Riga, Latvia, and 7th overall in Minsk, Belarus. But Leigh said she is now training forwardly since.

Leigh first saw Chartrand occasionally at seminars, before she had a double Axel. A skater since she was four years old, Chartrand was very tiny and very shy, but extremely hard-working, Leigh said. “I find her curious about technique and she really likes to understand the science of jumping,” the coach said.

But now the program components are also on the rise. And working with David Wilson? “He’s pretty goofy sometimes,” Chartrand said. “He makes it light, not too serious. He laughs and then says: ‘You’ll get it.’ He’s great to work with.”

He’s fine tuned Chartrand’s feistiness and made her into a more mature lady, Leigh said. It will be an interesting road ahead, indeed.

Beverley Smith

Skate Canada saddened by the loss of Hall of Famer William McLachlan

It is with a heavy heart that Skate Canada says goodbye to beloved Hall of Famer William (Bill) McLachlan. McLachlan, 75, of Toronto passed away peacefully at Toronto East General Hospital on Sunday, December 1, 2013, after a lengthy illness.

McLachlan was a six-time Canadian Champion in ice dance. He won the national championships three times with partner Geraldine Fenton (1957, 1958, 1959). The duo won silver medals at the 1957 and 1958 world championships and a bronze medal at the 1959 world championships.

He later teamed up with Virginia Thompson and also went on to win three national titles (1960, 1961,1962). They went on to win a silver medal at the 1960 world championships and a bronze medal at the 1962 world championships.

McLachlan was an active member of figure skating after he retired from the ice. He was a member of the Central Ontario Section executive for 20 years and was a gold test judge in all three disciplines. He was an ISU level ice dance judge and judged at the 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville.

In 1996 along with his two former partners Fenton and Thompson, he was inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame.

His family and friends will celebrate his life at a funeral service on Thursday. For more information on visitation and to leave condolences and memories please visit Donations may be made to the Canadian Cancer Society or to the Heart & Stroke Foundation.

Canadians head to Japan to compete with world’s best at ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating® Final

OTTAWA, ON: Canada will send five entries, for a total of nine skaters, to compete against the top figure skaters in the world at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating® Final in Fukuoka, Japan. The culminating event of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating® series takes place at the Marine Mess Fukuoka, from December 5-8, 2013.

The ISU Grand Prix Final is the concluding event of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating® circuit.  The series hosts six stops: United States (Skate America), Canada (Skate Canada International), China (Cup of China), France (Trophée Eric Bompard), Russia (Rostelecom Cup), and Japan (NHK Trophy). Skaters are awarded points based on their placements at their assigned events and the top six in each of the four disciplines advance to the Final.

Three-time defending World Champion Patrick Chan, 22, Toronto, Ont., qualified in first place in men’s. The representative of the Granite Club has previously competed at this event five times, winning in 2010 and 2011, and earning bronze in 2012. This season, Chan competed at Skate Canada International and Trophée Eric Bompard, winning gold at both events. He is coached by Kathy Johnson and trains at the Detroit Skating Club.

In the pair discipline, Kirsten Moore-Towers, 21, St. Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch, 29, Toronto, Ont., qualified in fourth. This will be their third time competing at this event, having placed sixth in 2010 and fifth in 2012. Moore-Towers and Moscovitch won silver at Skate America and bronze at the Rostelecom Cup to qualify for this event. The pair train with Kris Wirtz and Kristy Wirtz at the Kitchener-Waterloo Skating Club.

World bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel, 27, Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford, 28, Balmertown, Ont., qualified in fifth in pair. This will be their third consecutive year competing at this event, placing fifth in 2011 and fourth in 2012. The representatives of Walden FSC and CPA Saint-Léonard won bronze at Skate Canada International and silver at Trophée Eric Bompard on the ISU Grand Prix circuit this season. They are coached by Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte at CPA Saint-Léonard.

Tessa Virtue, 24, London, Ont., and Scott Moir, 26, Ilderton, Ont., will be Canada’s first entry in ice dance, having qualified in second. Representing Ilderton SC, the 2010 Olympic Champions have previously competed at this event four times, winning silver in 2009, 2011, and 2012 and placing fourth in 2007. Virtue and Moir won gold at both of their ISU Grand Prix assignments this season, Skate Canada International and Trophée Eric Bompard. They are coached by Marina Zoueva, Johnny Johns, and Oleg Epstein at Artic Edge Ice Arena in Canton, Michigan.

Kaitlyn Weaver, 24, Waterloo, Ont., and Andrew Poje, 26, Waterloo, Ont., will also represent Canada in ice dance. This will be their third time competing at this event, having placed fifth in 2010 and fourth in 2011. Representing Sault FSC and Kitchener-Waterloo SC, Weaver and Poje won silver at both Skate Canada International and the Rostelecom Cup this season to qualify in fifth for this event. They are coached by Pasquale Camerlengo and Angelika Krylova in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Skate Canada Director of Corporate Communications, Barb MacDonald, will be the media contact at the event. To arrange onsite interviews please contact her by email at [email protected].

Skate Canada High Performance Director, Mike Slipchuk, will be the Canadian team leader at the event. Dr. Bob Brock of Toronto, Ont., and physiotherapist Scott Fraser of Toronto, Ont., will be the Canadian medical staff onsite. Karen Butcher of Nepean, Ont., and Jodi Abbott of Edmonton, Alta., will be the Canadian officials at the event.

Skate Canada President, Leanna Caron, and Chief Executive Officer, Dan Thompson, will also travel to the event to represent Skate Canada.