Canadians skaters come home with silver linings

Silver. Silver. And more silver.

Canadian skaters brought home a bundle of attractive Olympic medals of this precious metal, which has a white metallic lustre that can take a high degree of polish. There will be a lot of polishing of these medals, as athletes make the long trek back from Sochi with their booty.

In all, the largest team of figure skaters (17) to contest the Games in Sochi returned with three silver medals, won in the first team event ever held at the Olympics; by three-time world champion Patrick Chan; and by the exquisite ice dancers, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

In the pairs event, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch finished fifth, while Canadian champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were seventh, both at their first Olympics.

In the women’s event, Canada’s two entries also faced the Olympic rings for the first time and used the event for valuable experience for the future. Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond was 13th, while determined 16-year-old Gabby Daleman was 17th.

The skaters got busy the day before the opening ceremonies with the new team event – and nobody knew how it would work out. In the end, it made Chan the only man ever to win two figure skating medals at an Olympics. The men who accompanied him on the individual medals podium – Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan who took gold and Denis Ten of Kazakhstan – didn’t fare so well in the team event. In fact, there was no Kazakhstan team at all.

Duhamel and Radford finished second to eventual Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov in the team pair short program, with a season’s best of 73.10, then handed the torch to Moore-Towers and Moscovitch who were second to rising Russian stars Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov in the free skate. Both teams played a huge role in the Canadian team’s success.

Chan got into action early in the men’s short, but scaled down his quad toe loop – triple toe loop to a quad-double and then stepped out of his triple Axel, leaving him third behind picture-perfect Hanyu and a rejuvenated Evgeny Plushenko who was second. Chan finished with 89. 71 points, good enough to give Canada eight points toward the team total.

He handed off to Kevin Reynolds, who, despite his boot problems over the past year, pulled up his socks and soared. In fact, Reynolds clinched the silver medal for Canada, landing three quads and finishing only a quarter of a point behind Plushenko.

Kaetlyn Osmond skated both programs, and was magnificent in the short, landing a triple toe loop – triple toe loop combo for fifth place. She returned to finish fifth in the long.

Virtue and Moir finished second in the short dance with a bobble on a twizzle, but the medals were already decided before they skated the free dance: Russia had won. Virtue and Moir took second in that part, too.

“It was a great event for the young skaters,” said Moir, the team captain (ably assisted by his partner, Virtue). “We had Kaetlyn Osmond out there, 18 years old and we asked her to do two skates at an Olympic Games. The great thing about the team is that everybody pulled their weight. We’re so proud of the team.”

Duhamel and Radford drew into the second last group to skate the individual pairs short, and had only very minor errors and finished fifth. Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers, skating at their first Olympics – and probably the first skaters from Saskatchewan to do so – wore a smile the whole time and finished 13th in a field of 20. The building was silent when Moore-Towers and Moscovitch skated their quirky Motely Crue routine; they made an error on the death spiral and sat sixth.

With a set of Stetsons in the audience (from Lawrence’s rodeo family), Lawrence and Swiegers skated with joy – Lawrence admitted she didn’t want to leave the ice. They finished 14th overall.

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch impressed with their great speed in the free skate, and with only a doubling of a triple Salchow, they ended up with 202.10 points, good for fifth place. Duhamel and Radford were seventh in the long and seventh overall.

The contest was tense in the men’s event, from which Plushenko withdrew because of back issues. Liam Firus tightened up in the short program, couldn’t get the knees to work and finished 28th, missing out on the long program. Reynolds came out with his fabulous AC/DC short program, but fell on his quad Salchow and then again on his triple Axel, leaving him in 17th place.

Chan finished second in the short, but was within striking distance of Hanyu, who had set a world record for the short program of 101.45. Chan was about four points back.

The free skate was a rough go, with many men making mistakes, but Chan held onto the silver medal with a hard-fought effort, only half a point behind Hanyu in the long program, but second with finishing with a score of 275.62 points.

In the ice dancing event, Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew Poje, Alexandra Paul and Mitch Islam all took Olympic ice for the first time.  Weaver and Poje skated two strong programs for a top 10 finish, placing 7th overall. Paul and Islam had to overcome a twizzle mistake in the short dance but skated a lovely free dance to finish in 18th place.

Virtue and Moir were never better, delivering exquisite routines, first to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong and then skating the story of their lives in the free dance. Their efforts earned them a silver medal to go along with their Olympic gold from 2010 and the Sochi team medal, too.

Beverley Smith

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