Silver Saturday for Canadian ice dancers at Junior Grand Prix

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia – Ice dancers Brianna Delmaestro of Port Moody, B.C., and Timothy Lum of Burnaby, B.C., earned their first career medal on the ISU Junior Grand Prix figure skating circuit on Saturday placing second overall.

Daria Morozova and Mikhail Zhirmov of Russia won the gold medal with 131.54 points just ahead of the Canadians at 131.30, a personal best score. Holly Moore and Daniel Klaber of the U.S., took third at 129.26.

‘’It was the presentation that really got us the medal,’’ said Lum, 19. ‘’We showed strong technical skills but it was the performance that made the difference. It feels great and now we can start thinking about potentially going to the Junior Grand Prix final and world juniors.’’

The couple have only been together for just over a year.

‘’We are both committed to the partnership and the programs and those are our strengths,’’ said Delmaestro, 18. ‘’Today we knew that a medal was a possibility if we skated our best.’’

Valerie Taillefer and Jason Chan of Montreal were ninth.

In women’s competition, Selena Zhao of Varennes, Que., took 10th spot overall in her international debut with Julianne Delaurier of Kelowna, B.C., 17th. Serafima Sakhanovich of Russia won the gold medal.

‘’I was O.K. with the performance but I had to fight through everything,’’ said Zhao, 16, seventh after the short program. ‘’I was happy that I didn’t give up. There are a lot of points that have the ability to go out there and get. My goal is to have two solid programs by the end of the season.’’

In Friday’s men’s competition, Anthony Kan of Richmond Hill, Ont., was sixth and Mitchell Gordon of Vancouver seventh.

Kan was third after the short program on Thursday and was hoping to fare better in the final.

‘’The long program didn’t start the way I started and I had a mental blockage from there on in particularly with the jumps,’’ said Kan, 19. ‘’I need to work on improving and refining my presentation and by the end of the season I would like to have a consistent triple Axel and quad toe.’’

Gordon roared from 13th place after the short.

‘’I’m not as comfortable with the short program as the long right now,’’ said Gordon. ‘’It was nice to come back in the long and I really stick with the plan from start to finish. Still, I need to get my triple Axel back working and work harder on that short program.’’

The next stop on the circuit is September 5-6 in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Full results:


Anthony Kan takes sixth place at ISU Junior Grand Prix

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia – Anthony Kan of Richmond Hill, Ont., showed great improvement over his previous ISU Junior Grand Prix figure skating result but was probably hoping to fare better than sixth in men’s singles on Friday at the season’s second stop.

Boyang Jin of China took the men’s gold with 220.77 points, Alexander Petrov of Russia was second at 216.33 and his compatriot Dmitri Aliev was third at 185.84.

Kan, in only his second career Junior Grand Prix, was third after Thursday’s short program, but dropped to sixth with the 10th best free skate at 162.52. He delivered an inconsistent performance particularly in the second half of the program. Kan was 12th at his only other Junior Grand Prix appearance in 2012.

Mitchell Gordon of Vancouver did the complete opposite climbing from 13th after the short to seventh overall at 161.85 with an uplifting number to Irish music. It was the fifth best long program and he landed six of his seven triple jumps.

In ice dancing, Brianna Delmaestro of Port Moody, B.C., and Timothy Lum of Burnaby, B.C., are in second spot after the short dance at 49.14. Daria Morozova and Mikhail Zhirnov of Russia are slightly ahead at 49.80.

Canadian novice champions Valerie Taillefer and Jason Chan of Montreal, in their international debut, are ninth.

In women’s competition after Thursday’s short program, Selena Zhao of Varennes, Que., is seventh and Julianne Delaurier of Kelowna, B.C., 13th.

The free dance and women’s free skate are on Saturday.

Full results:

World-class skaters headline Skate Canada’s first-ever Autumn Classic International

OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada will host the inaugural 2014 Skate Canada Autumn Classic International in Barrie, Ontario from October 14-17, 2014 at the Allandale Recreation Centre. This senior international competition is part of the International Skating Union’s (ISU) Challenger Series.

While skaters from 22 different countries have entered the event, Canada leads the way with 16 entries. Five members of the Canadian 2014 Olympic silver medal team, Meagan Duhamel, Eric Radford, Kirsten Moore-Towers, Kaetlyn Osmond and Kevin Reynolds headline the home entries. Other notable competitors include Narumi Takahashi of Japan (2012), who will compete with partner Ryuichi Kihara.

Barrie natives and Canadian world and Olympic team members Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam will return to their hometown to compete in ice dance. Also challenging for the ice dance title will be Canadian world team members Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.

The 2014 Autumn Classic International is one of 11 competitions that will form the ISU’s new Challenger Series. Athletes have the opportunity to compete at the senior level and earn world standing points. Competitors are eligible to participate in up to three Challenger Series events.

The senior only competition will run in conjunction with the Skate Canada-Central Ontario Section Octoberfest competition. A full list of competitors has been posted on the ISU website.

Tickets are general admission and will be sold at the door only. Adult tickets are $6 per day, $4 for seniors and children under 12, and children under three are free.


Jeremy TEN


Gabrielle DALEMAN
Kaetlyn OSMOND
Julianne SEGUIN


Alexandra PAUL / Mitchell ISLAM
Andreanne POULIN / Marc-Andre SERVANT


Natasha PURICH / Andrew WOLFE


Canadian Skaters Headed to Slovenia for Second ISU Junior Grand Prix

OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada will send eight skaters, for a total of six entries to Ljubljana, Slovenia for the second ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating of the season. Canada will have two entries in men’s, ladies, and ice dance. There will be no pair competition at the event, which takes place from August 27-31, 2014.

Mitchell Gordon, 18, Vancouver, B.C., is the first of two entries in men’s for Canada. Last season, he placed 11th at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Ostrava, Czech Republic, and also placed 11th at the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, competing as a senior. In 2013, he placed 16th at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships. Gordon is coached by Eileen Murphy and Keegan Murphy at the Connaught Figure Skating Club in Richmond, B.C.

Anthony Kan, 19, Richmond Hill, Ont., is the second entry for Canada in the men’s category. This will be his second time competing on the ISU Junior Grand Prix circuit, having placed 12th in Chemnitz, Germany in 2012. Last season, the representative of York Region Skating Academy placed 14th at the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, competing in the senior men’s category. He is coached by Heather Austman and Keegan Murphy and trains out of the Connaught Figure Skating Club.

Julianne Delaurier, 16, Kelowna, B.C., is one of two entries representing Canada in the ladies category. Last season, she placed ninth at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Gdansk, Poland, and won silver in the junior category at the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships. She is coached by Karen Mongrain and Jason Mongrain at the Kelowna Figure Skating Club.

Selena Zhao, 16, Varennes, Que. – Colorado Springs, USA, will also represent Canada in the ladies division. Zhao will be making her international debut for Canada, representing CPA Varennes. She is coached by Christy Krall and Damon Allen in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Brianna Delmaestro, 18, Port Moody, B.C., and Timothy Lum, 19, Burnaby, B.C., are one of two entries in ice dance for Canada. Delmaestro and Lum placed fifth at both their ISU Junior Grand Prix Assignments last season in Gandsk, Poland, and Tallinn, Estonia. Representing Coquitlam SC and Burnaby FSC, they won the bronze medal in junior ice dance at the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships. They are coached by Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe at the BC Centre of Excellence.

Valerie Taillefer, 15, Montreal, Que., and Jason Chan, 18, Saint-Laurent, Que., will be competing at their first international assignment, representing Canada in ice dance. The duo from Club de Patinage des Deux-Rives and Saint-Laurent FSC are the 2014 Canadian novice ice dance champions. Taillefer and Chan are coached by Elise Hamel and Shawn Winter at Sportplexe 4 Glaces Pierrefonds.

Petra Burka of Toronto, Ont., will be the Canadian team leader. Dr. Ed Pilat of Winnipeg, Man., and physiotherapist Paige Larson of North Vancouver, B.C., will be the Canadian medical team onsite. Debbie Islam of Barrie, Ont., and Ron Conacher of Toronto, Ont., are the Canadian officials at the event.

The ISU will be live streaming the competition via the ISU Junior Grand Prix YouTube channel.

For results and full entries please visit

CANADIAN ENTRIES AT ISU JGP #2 – Ljubljana, Slovenia

Discipline Name Age Hometown Club Coach
Men’s Mitchell Gordon 18 Vancouver, B.C. Connaught Figure Skating Club Eileen Murphy / Keegan Murphy
Men’s Anthony Kan 19 Richmond Hill, Ont. York Region Skating Academy Heather Austman / Keegan Murphy
Ladies Julianne Delaurier 16 Kelowna, B.C. Richmond Training Centre Karen Mongrain / Jason Mongrain
Ladies Selena Zhao 16 Varennes, Que. – Colorado Springs, USA CPA Varennes Christy Krall / Damon Allen
Ice Dance Brianna Delmaestro / Timothy Lum 18/19 Port Moody, B.C. / Burnaby, B.C. Coquitlam SC / Burnaby FSC Megan Wing / Aaron Lowe
Ice dance Valerie Taillefer / Jason Chan 15/18 Montreal, Que. / Saint-Laurent, Que. Club de Patinage des Deux-Rives/ Saint Laurent FSC Elise Hamel / Shawn Winter

Nam Nguyen takes on the ISU Senior Grand Prix circuit for the first time

Not only has Nguyen benefited from training alongside an Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu and a European champion Javier Fernandez, with high style and quad jumps peppering the practice sessions in Toronto, but the 16-year-old found himself invited to a skating show in Japan in early summer with some of the best skaters in the world.

There was Nguyen, 2014 world junior champion, world championship competitor, on the same ice with Stephane Lambiel, Daisuke Takahashi, Nobunari Oda and his training mate Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic champion. “It’s humbling, but it’s good for him,” said coach Brian Orser.

“It was amazing,” Nguyen said. “The rink was really small and that didn’t really stop any of them doing quad toes. It was crazy. And Yuzu was just on fire. ” With Nguyen watching, Hanyu did a quad Salchow, a quad toe loop, a quad loop. And he landed a quad Lutz right in front of Nguyen. “It was pretty cool,” Nguyen said.

It was the perfect launch to Nguyen’s first season on the senior Grand Prix circuit. He’ll be competing at Skate America and Cup of China, although not Skate Canada in Kelowna, B.C. Wherever he skates, he’ll be stepping up what he did last year.

Although Nguyen got off to a slow and frustrating start last season, no doubt because of his incredible growth spurt, he ended the season increasing his technical content with each competition: triple Axel, triple Axel-double toe loop, triple Axel-triple toe loop. This year, he’s not slowing down, and has been tackling a quad Salchow. He fell at his first attempt at the Thornhill Summer Skate.

The good news? Coach Brian Orser has told Nguyen that he’s getting this quad more quickly than the triple Axel, which took him two years to master. “This one is less than a year,” Nguyen said. The quad is his third jump, and it will be an interesting mental exercise to do it. It’s preceded by two triple Axels. The trick, Orser said, is to keep Nguyen calm during the two Axels – when he knows that quad is coming.

“He’s been training it well,” Orser said. “It’s a little under-rotated, but it looks like one, and you can see that it’s going to be one.”

Nguyen is also wrestling with two new programs and he’s breaking loose with a new musical concept for skating with his short program to “The Sinnerman.” At first, choreographer Jeff Buttle wanted him to skate to classical music, but Nguyen didn’t like the idea that it was music from the same choreographer as last year’s long program (Bach). “I asked him for something a little more upbeat and more fun that I can skate to,” Nguyen said.

Buttle emerged with “The Sinnerman” and for the first few days, Nguyen was against this one, too, thinking he couldn’t skate to it. His parents told him to have faith in Buttle. But when Nguyen heard the first music cut, he fell in love with it. “I was wrong,” Nguyen said. “It was amazing when I heard it. It’s pretty cool and I have had a great time skating to it.”

The Sinnerman is an African American traditional spiritual song, and Buttle used the soundtrack from the 1999 movie “The Thomas Crown Affair” (starring Pierce Brosnan) about the theft of a valuable piece of art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The routine is different for Nguyen because he’s never skated to vocals before. “Jeff took full advantage of that,” Nguyen said. “It was kind of weird doing it the first time, especially going into my first triple Axel. I’m not used to that, but it’s pretty cool and I’m sure I can quickly adjust to it.”

Choreographer David Wilson picked out “La Strada” for Nguyen’s long program. “I liked it because Daisuke Takahashi skated to it at the 2010 Olympics and also Jeff Buttle during the 2002 season,” Nguyen said. “I’ve watched their programs a lot and I wanted to not copy them, but get an idea of how they performed to the music so I can apply my own version to it. I like it a lot.”

What is his own version? Wilson and music maestro Hugo Chouinard were clever enough to pick some music cuts from the popular “La Strada” that other skaters haven’t used. To Nguyen, it’s like a new discovery. “So we have the more main stream music pieces, and we also have the more unknown pieces,” Nguyen said. “I think that will make my program interesting and very special.”

“La Strada is a nice segway into big boy skating,” Orser said. “We can’t do the cute. It doesn’t fly in senior. You need to have speed and power.” Nguyen has been working on increasing his speed going into his jumps, too.

When he performed the free at Thornhill, his score of 146.46 almost matched his personal best score set at the world championships last March. He’s off to a good start. “Usually my first competitions of the season are terrible,” Nguyen admitted. “And this year is the first time I’ve competed pretty late, and I think I did an excellent job, putting out my two new programs. They are not perfect yet, and I need to work much harder and improve every little detail in my program.”

He’s already had a taste of senior international championships last year, having finished 10th at the Four Continents and a very respectable 12th at the world championships in Japan, despite having grown at least a foot.

And he’s still growing – in every way. Since the world championships, he’s grown another two inches and now stands five feet, 8 ½ inches tall. “This time, I already know what it feels like and I wanted to face it head on and just continue my practice sessions normal, everyday,” Nguyen said. “And that worked. There are some days I have a lot of struggles, but I’m okay right now.”

At Thornhill Summer Skate, he sported a pair of size eight shoes. At home he has a pair that are size nine. Nguyen is prepared to grow into himself.

Edwards and Pang earn silver at ISU Junior Grand Prix

COURCHEVEL, France – Madeline Edwards of Port Moody, B.C., and ZhaoKai Pang of Burnaby, B.C., won the silver medal in a close ice dance battle on Saturday to conclude the first stop on the ISU Junior Grand Prix figure skating circuit.

Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd of Russia took gold with 132.44 points. Edwards and Pang followed at 129.62 and Anastasia Shpilevaya and Grigory Smirnov of Russia were third at 121.41.

“We are extremely happy with how we skated,” said Edwards, 18, in her seventh season with Pang. “We were really comfortable and relaxed which is a feeling we really wanted to improve over last season.”

The Canadians held a slight lead over Loboda and Drozd after Friday’s short dance and skated third to last on Saturday.

“We felt it was possible our score could hold,” said Edwards. “But still anything can happen, the talent here is very deep. The result was something we were trying not to be overly worried about at this point in the season. We just wanted this new program to show our maturity and personalities.”

Edwards and Pang were third at the junior world championships last year and Saturday’s performance was their fifth career medal on the circuit.

“Our big objective is to return to the world juniors and hopefully improve our result,” said Pang, 19. “This is exactly the kind of start we wanted to our international season. What stood out for me wasn’t any particular move but the energy we displayed from start to finish.”

Melinda Meng and Andrew Meng of Montreal were seventh.

In the men’s final; Bennet Toman of St-Lazare, Que., and Daniel-Olivier Boulanger-Trottier of Montreal were 12th and 13th. Both were making their international debuts. June Hyoung Lee of South Korea won the gold medal.

The second stop on the circuit is August 28-30 in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Canadians lead after short dance at ISU Junior Grand Prix

COURCHEVEL, France – World junior championships bronze medallist Madeline Edwards of Port Moody, B.C., and ZhaoKai Pang of Burnaby, B.C., are in first place after Friday’s short dance at the opening stop on the ISU Junior Grand Prix circuit in figure skating.

Edwards and Pang, ranked seventh in Canada at the senior level, tabulated a 51.84 score.  Alla Loboda and Pavel Drodz of Russia are second at 50.10 and their compatriots Anastasia Shpilevaya and Grigory Smirnov third at 47.94.

Melinda Meng and Andrew Meng of Montreal are eighth.

In the women’s final, Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia was the winner with 179.55 points.  Rin Nataya of Japan was second at 158.76 and Amber Glenn of the U.S. third at 148.08.

Larkyn Austman of Coquitlam, B.C., produced the eighth best long program to climb from 13th to 10th overall. Roxanne Cournoyer of Sorel-Tracy, Que., was 11th.

In Thursday’s men’s short program, Bennet Toman of St-Lazare, Que., and Daniel-Olivier Boulanger-Trottier of Montreal were 10th and 13th.  Both are making their international debuts.

Competition ends Saturday with the free dance and men’s free skate.

Thornhill Summer Skate shines light on young skaters and brings out the competitive edge in veterans

The Thornhill Summer Skate is a refreshing mix of sandals and down-filled jackets, tiny tots and Olympians and even skaters from other countries: Japan, Kazakhstan, Germany. Mostly, it’s an event for skaters to try out their wings and get feedback from judges and monitors.

And it’s a place where stars are born, perhaps, come growth and development and the grace of the skating gods. Natalie D’Allessandro is 10 and precocious by competing in the pre-novice women’s event.

Thornhill head coach Katerina Papafotiou, who has handled the little wonder-kid for the past two years, get shivers when she thinks of the girl’s future.

When Papafotiou first got D’Allessandro, she saw a “quite delightful girl, who loves to skate, with gorgeous skating skills, and aggressive with the edges.” Papafotiou helped her develop her jumps and spins. “I call her my little Tara Lipinski,” Papafotiou said. The girl has spent some time working with Richard Callaghan, the coach of Lipinski, in Detroit.

D’Allessandro won the pre-novice women’s event at Thornhill, with a higher score than any of the 125 other entrants, split into seven groups. Her 80.41 paled in comparison to an international effort at Lake Placid in June, when she finished with 99.86 points in the novice women’s category. Not one to sit still, D’Allessandro also competed at Skate Detroit in novice.

While she didn’t unleash any triples at Thornhill, she’s been learning them this year, up to the triple Lutz. Her triple Salchow and triple toe loop are most consistent this season.

The thing about D’Allessandro at this point? “She’s just so aggressive on the ice with all the elements,” Papafotiou said. “The judges are really loving that part of her skating. Not just her tricks, but her skating and performance.”

On the boy’s side, there was 9-year-old Stephen Gogolev, who attempted his first triple Lutz in competition (and fell, but did one in the warm-up), and won the men’s pre-novice competition with 100.72 points, 30 points ahead of his nearest rival. He landed three triples, and executed three level-four spins.

All of them got an eyeful of some of the top skaters in the country.

With the senior men’s event promising to be a more wide open affair than the Canadian championships has seen in years, the men of Canada are all setting their caps for the national championships in January in Kingston, Ontario.

Andrei Rogozine, now training in Colorado Springs with Tom Zakrajsek, bolted boldly out of the blocks at Thornhill and won the short program. He fired off a big quadruple toe loop (he did brush a foot on landing), then did his signature triple Axel out of a spread eagle and topped that off with a deft triple flip – triple toe loop. He pumped his fists when he finished and some people stood, applauding. That was worth 73.53 points to him, higher than his official ISU score of 70.58, attained at the 2013 Four Continents championships.

It was a major triumph for Rogozine, who finished only seventh at the Canadian championships and missed an Olympic berth in Sochi.

That effort put him more than six points ahead of second-place Liam Firus, who was using his “Fascination” program from last season, and about 10 1/2 points ahead of reigning junior world champion Nam Nguyen, who was debuting two new routines.

Firus could have scored higher, but received no points for a triple toe loop, which might become a quad later this season. He’s working on one with the quadmeister teacher, Christy Krall. Firus did land a triple Lutz – triple toe loop combo but only a double Axel, his nemesis jump.  Firus outscored Rogozine by about five points in program components, and it was no wonder: the Vancouver-born skater has developed even more of an expressive power on the ice over the summer. In a word, he was gorgeous.

Nguyen ended up in third because he popped his triple Axel and got no score for it. He gathered himself for the rest of the performance while showing off his unusual – and very cool – routine to “Sinnerman” vocals.

That all changed in the senior men’s program, when Nguyen, 16, prevailed with his “La Strada” routine. This time, he got the triple Axel under control and did two of them, one in combination with a triple toe loop. And for the first time, he attempted a quad – a Salchow – although he under rotated it and fell. The rest of his program went off without a hitch, complete with eight triple jumps, three level-four spins and a step sequence that earned him a level four. All of this early season diligence landed him the win in the free skate with 146.46 points (his record score of 147.31 came at the world championships last March in Japan) and he won overall with 209.61.

In the end, Nguyen narrowly defeated Rogozine by only .52 points.

Interesting fact? Roman Sadovsky, all of 15, and only 13th behind Nguyen at the world junior championships last year, finished second in the long program, ahead of Rogozine (third) and Firus (fourth). And his component mark was a point higher than the expressive Nguyen’s.

Sadovsky finished third overall, and he almost defeated Nguyen in the short. Had he not fallen out of a camel spin, he might have finished second. This little expert spinner hit a hole in the ice.

The Thornhill crowd also saw two powerful performances from senior women Gabby Daleman and Alaine Chartrand, who was here to do only her new short program. Daleman won the short when she went out, gobbling up the rink with her huge strides and speed – almost as if the rink wasn’t big enough for her – and did a triple toe loop – triple toe loop combo, although she intends to make that a Lutz-toe loop later in the season.

Chartrand, dressed in scarlet, made mistakes in her short to finish second, but what the crowd saw was a skater with more power and speed and presence than ever before. Just so that you know: both skaters are working on triple Axels and not just for fun.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje look to push the limits with intense and detailed focused programs

It was a box from Sochi, something that she had mailed to herself because she had just collected too much when she was at the Olympic Games to fit her suitcase heading home. She had sent it home on a barge, chugging its way across seas and oceans, and told it would arrive in June. Okay, so it had arrived a little later. But the contents were all intact: newsletters from Sochi, fan gifts, little things, all important enough to keep.

“It was like a time capsule of Olympic memories,” said Poje. “We started thinking about the Olympics and what an amazing experience it was for us, to realize that childhood dream of being at the Games, representing your country in front of that world audience.”

Weaver said the Olympics are addictive. “It’s just everything you dream it will be and more.” A month later, they had even more memories to add to a memorable year: their silver medal at the world championships, only .02 points away from gold. In Saitama, Japan, they had truly arrived.

But in the four or five months since that package of memories arrived from Sochi, Weaver and Poje have pushed on to the next adventure. “We’re not in the shadows anymore,” Weaver said. The silver medal has given them confidence, too. “It felt like we were in the top group and we want to be at the top and continue to be up there, because it was a good feeling,” Poje said. It also puts pressure on them, he said, to put their own mark on the sport.

What could they possibly do for an encore after the brilliant routines of the past couple of years: “Je suis Malade” and “Maria de Buenos Aires?”

It was difficult finding music for the free dance, Poje admitted. “We wanted this year to come out and to show people that we want to be at the top and we want to be strong, and we want to show a new style of ourselves,” he said.

Before they left on two weeks of holidays in the spring, they showed up at the home of coaches Anjelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo, intent on listening to music. But they were met at the door by their coaches, announcing that they had found their short program music. And that was that.

They love it: it’s a classical piece of Paso Doble that has flamenco mixed into it. The music, said Poje, speaks of the statuesque bearing of the matador, but it’s graceful, too. Weaver and Poje love Latin rhythms. It should be interesting to see how teams adjust to the new International Skating Union rules that call for one of the two compulsory dance patterns to be creative.

“It gives us the ability to bring out our own style and flair to the Paso pattern, while still keeping the key points of the compulsory dance in there,” Poje said. “We like to push ourselves.”

Camerlengo choreographed the piece and Weaver and Poje worked with a ballroom dancer for the style.

Finding the free dance music was more challenging. But choreographer Shae-Lynn Bourne found the perfect piece of music to allow Weaver and Poje to take their next step: Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”

But it’s not your normal “Four Seasons.” It’s not the iconic, classical piece so oft-used by many skaters. This version has been recomposed by Max Richter, a young German-born British composer, considered one of the most influential of the past decade. Classically trained, Richter adds a contemporary interpretation to his music, clearly influenced by electronica. Some have called his work “achingly gorgeous.”

This version premiered in Britain two years ago. Richter notes that he discarded 75 per cent of Vivaldi’s original material. Richter takes his favourite bits and makes new objects out of them in a way that pleases him by subtly weaving delicate electronic touches into them. The result is an enchanting sound.

“Shae-Lynn always seems to know the right step for us,” Weaver said. “She told us that it has weight. It’s dignified and it’s something that will show many different facets of our skating.”

This piece is very challenging to perform. “We’re working on it a lot right now,” Weaver said. “It’s very technically demanding, which is a good thing, because we are trying to up our game in every aspect.” They haven’t done a classical routine like this before, and they believe it will take them to the next level in their career.

“At this point, we need to reinvent ourselves and show a bigger, stronger Kaitlyn and Andrew than ever seen before,” Weaver said. “I think this program can do that. It’s intense. It’s dramatic and it shows what we’re best at.”

Weaver and Poje intend to do a senior B international competition before they start up the Grand Prix season at Skate Canada in Kelowna, B.C. in late October. Last year they did the U.S. Figure Skating Classic at Salt Lake City and were grateful to get early feedback. But this year, it may not necessarily be Salt Lake. There is also a new senior international B competition in October in Barrie, Ont.

For now, they are paying attention to every detail, leaving no stone unturned. “We’re fully committed,” Weaver said. Their coaches are, too. Every day, they hear: “It’s not good enough.” They are pushing themselves. “Our coaching team says we’re that close,” Weaver said. “We’re going to make it so that [finishing second] doesn’t happen again.”

It’s exhausting, but also very exciting and motivating, Weaver said. They still have so much room to grow in so many areas. “I feel like we’re just starting,” Poje said.

2014-2015 Skating Season Kicks Off with ISU Junior Grand Prix Courchevel

OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada will send eight skaters, for a total of six entries to Courchevel, France, for the first stop on the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating. Canada will have two entries in men’s, ladies, and ice dance (there is no pair event), at the competition which will run from August 20-24, 2014.

World junior bronze medalists Madeline Edwards, 18, Port Moody, B.C., and ZhaoKai Pang, 19, Burnaby, B.C., are the first of two teams representing Canada in ice dance. Last season, they won silver at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Mexico, and bronze at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in the Czech Republic, and placed seventh at the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in the senior category. The representatives of Burnaby FSC are coached by Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe at the BC Centre of Excellence.

Melinda Meng, 15, Montreal, Que., and Andrew Meng, 17, Montreal, Que., are the second Canadian entry in ice dance. Representing CPA Laval, the Mengs won silver at the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in the junior category, and placed eighth at their ISU Junior Grand Prix assignment last season in Poland. The Mengs are coached by Shawn Winter in Pierrefonds, Que.

Bennet Toman, 17, St. Lazare, Que., is one of two Canadian entries in men’s. This is his first international assignment. Representing CPA Vaudreuil, Toman is the 2014 Canadian junior silver medalist. He is coached by Robert O’Toole at the Canadian Ice Academy.

Daniel-Olivier Boulanger-Trottier, 18, Montreal, Que., the second Canadian entry in men’s, will also be competing at his first international assignment. Last season, the representative of CPA Ste-Anne-des-Plaines placed fifth at the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in the junior category. Boulanger-Trottier is coached by Yvan Desjardins and Violaine Émard at CPA Rosemère.

Larkyn Austman, 16, Coquitlam, B.C., will represent Canada in the ladies division. Last season, she finished eighth at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Estonia, 10th in the senior category at the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, and 16th at the 2014 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships. She is coached by Heather Austman and Eileen Murphy at the Connaught Skating Club in B.C.

Roxanne Cournoyer, 17, Sorel-Tracy, Que., will also represent Canada in the ladies division. From CPA Sorel, Cournoyer placed 20th at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Slovakia, and ninth in the senior category at the 2014 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships last season. She is coached by Annie Barabé and Sophie Richard at CTC Contrecoeur.

Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada High Performance Director, will be the Canadian team leader, and physiotherapist Paige Larson of North Vancouver, B.C., will also accompany the team. Susan Blatz of Troy, Ont., and Veronique Gosselin of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., will be the Canadian officials at the event.

For results and full entries please visit

CANADIAN ENTRIES AT ISU JGP #1 – Courchevel, France

Men’s Bennet Toman 17 St. Lazare, Que. CPA Vaudreuil Robert O’Toole
Men’s Daniel-Olivier Boulanger-Trottier 18 Montreal, Que. CPA Rosemère Yvan Desjardins / Violaine Émard
Ladies Larkyn Austman 16 Coquitlam, B.C. Connaught SC Heather Austman / Eileen Murphy
Ladies Roxanne Cournoyer 17 Sorel-Tracy, Que. CPA Sorel Annie Barabé / Sophie Richard
Ice dance Madeline Edwards / ZhaoKai Pang 18/19 Port Moody, B.C. / Burnaby, B.C. Inlet SC / Inlet SC Megan Wing / Aaron Lowe
Ice Dance Melinda Meng / Andrew Meng 15/17 Montreal, Que. / Montreal, Que. CPA Laval / CPA Laval Shawn Winter

A rejuvenated Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford look towards the 2014-2015 season

The last Olympic season was a year like no other for pair skaters Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. They lived their lives amidst stress and tension at every corner.

Every minute was so important that Radford found himself looking both ways four times before he crossed a street. Even taking special care when he descended a flight of stairs. Anything to avoid injury and setback in such an important season. They fought for every point. They fought to please the judges. There seemed to be more downs than ups. After Duhamel returned home from her season, she slept for four or five days, exhausted.

Not anymore. “I feel lighter, freer,” said Radford, after a practice session in Montreal. “Skating is not going to control my life the way it did the last four years. I still love to do it, and I will always be grateful and will skate my best. But it won’t define the way I feel and how I see myself.”

They were truly burned out after last season. They needed a break. They took the entire month of June off, Radford taking a holiday in Tel Aviv, Duhamel buying a condo and celebrating an engagement to coach Bruno Marcotte.

“We had our Olympic run and it was great,” Radford said. “We’ve achieved everything we wanted to [two bronze world medals, an Olympic silver team medal]. We have all the hardware we want. But we love it and we are still hungry.”

After the exhaustion of the last four years, it was just too difficult, at first, to commit to another Olympics, so they thought they’d go one more year and assess. But a flurry of national and international pair breakups, and pair formations astonished the world, and even Duhamel and Radford. Radford calls it “the hunger games of pair skating.” But it changed everything for them.

“It was like we were the only ones left in Canada,” Radford said. “And there were just a couple of teams left in the world. We thought maybe we should hang on for another four years. Maybe we can have a really substantial career.”

So on they go. They have some new goals now: to get to the Grand Prix Final, win more world medals. But these goals are different from the goals they had before. “We want to have a season without stress and pressure,” Duhamel said.

For some time, they have admired the poise of Chinese world pair champions Qing Pang and Tong Jian. They would watch them at practices and marvel at their calmness, as if they really didn’t care, didn’t worry about anything. Then come competition time, they would see Pang and Tong skate with beautiful freedom. “I want to know what that feels like,” Duhamel said.

They will now skate for themselves, for each other. They did this at the world championships in Saitama, when the pressure was off. Skating with a sense of liberation, Duhamel and Radford actually skated better than they did at the Olympics, where they finished seventh overall – not what they wanted – and their marks went up. They finished second in the short, ahead of Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov. And they took their second bronze medal with ease, finally presenting their “Alice in Wonderland” program the way they wanted to.

“We will skate as well as we can and whatever happens, happens,” Radford said. “There will be people who like us. And there will be people who don’t like us. It’s liberating.”

“We just want to leave the ice and be happy,” Duhamel said.

And – Radford admits – there is also less pressure on them, now that Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch – a team that always pushed them mercilessly – are no longer skating together.  “I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit of relief when I heard they weren’t skating together,” Radford said. “It was very stressful. They did push us a lot. Some people might think that if they are not there to push us, we will relax [too much], but Meagan and I don’t know how to just coast. We could be stranded on a desert island, but we’d be pushing every day.”

Still, he knows he will be able to relax over Christmas, and not worry so much about the national championships only a couple of weeks later.

Truthfully, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch shook up their rivals last season tremendously. The Canadian silver medalists went out first at Skate America and put up very high scores. Back home, Duhamel and Radford felt they had to do more. At Skate Canada the following week – a competition Duhamel and Radford should have won – they fumbled and ended up third. “We learned half-way through the season that sometimes we were preoccupied with what they were doing and it led us to poor performances,” Duhamel said.

Radford was “heartbroken” for Moscovitch, always one of his closest friends. “He was ready for another four years [with Moore-Towers],” Radford said. “It just wasn’t in the cards.” But, Radford said, it will be very exciting to watch all the new teams that have formed in Canada.

This season, Duhamel and Radford have taken out the complex choreography that they felt they had to use to gain every point – intending their programs to have more flow and speed. And they feel they will perform better when they can skate with ease. “We don’t feel as if we are in a rush now,” Duhamel said.

With all of that in mind, choreographer Julie Marcotte found them music she said they must use for their short program: iconic Quebec songbird Ginette Reno singing “Un Peu Plus Haut,” a signature piece for her. It has the same feel as their “Tribute” routine from last season: deeply inspiring.

Duhamel and Radford are taking full advantage of the ability to use vocals this year and will use them for both programs. For now, they are keeping their long program under wraps, saying only that it is music from a rock band – and this will give them a different look.

And they are working on a mighty big trick, too, (also hush-hush) that they haven’t done before. They hope to unleash their new look at the new Autumn Classic in Barrie, Ontario in October. Stay tuned. It won’t be boring.

Beverley Smith

Madeline Edwards & ZhaoKai Pang ready for the ISU Junior Grand Prix Circuit

Madeline Edwards and ZhaoKai Pang are busy young people. They juggle. They strive.

They are part of Canada’s next generation of talented ice dancers.

Their season will start early, and they’re ready to tackle all sorts of goals. The best part of it all is they have a new aura of confidence, coming from having won the world junior championship bronze medal last season, despite an early season injury that could have scuttled their season. (Edwards had a massive injury to her Achilles tendon) They didn’t let it. Just refused.

They asked for an early Junior Grand Prix event this year and they got it. Edwards and Pang will compete at the event in Courcheval, France August 20 to 24. They’ve been there before, when they took a bronze medal and got to stand on a podium in front of what looked like an alpine hut. Courcheval is a tiny, pricy ski resort in the French Alps where royalty often stays.

Their dance slate is particularly full because, like last season, Edwards and Pang will juggle junior and senior programs this year; skating junior internationally and taking another crack at the senior level nationally. Last season, Edwards and Pang finished seventh at the Canadian championships, but they had the fifth highest technical mark, ahead of a couple of more seasoned senior veterans. And they earned the spot as alternates for the world senior championships because a couple of teams ranked ahead of them hadn’t achieved the minimum score for the event. That success also helped them psychologically.

“There is a new confidence going into this season, knowing that we can stand up against the best in the world,” Edwards said. “I hope that shows with speed and presence and maturity in our skating.”

The young team found it exhilarating to skate in the same event as senior teams trying to get to the Olympics. “To see everybody train and get ready with such intensity and with their eyes on the prize, it was really cool to be around that,” Edwards said. “And skating with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir was like a dream come true.”

Both of them look up to Virtue and Moir, feeling that they “renewed” and “reinvented” ice dance. “You can draw a lot of inspiration from that,” Edwards said. “They do stay within the rules, but they are able to stretch their styles creatively.”

Pang remembers warming up with Virtue and Moir. Edwards remembers them actually talking to them. She giggled.

They also look up to others, too: “I think Canada has a wealth of strong senior ice dance teams that we can look up to,” Pang said. He’s thinking of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje and Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam. Even skating under the guidance of Olympians Megan Wing and Aaron Low is an inspiration, they say. “We’re able to look up to them, knowing that they know what they’re doing and they have the experience,” Edwards said.

“It’s really cool to watch them,” said Pang of his teachers. At times, they’ll demonstrate a move – and Pang finds it “cool.”

“They’ve still got it, if you’re wondering,” Edwards said. Edwards figures she was about 10 years old when her coaches retired. She’s seen them on YouTube videos.

This summer has not been a time of rest for Edwards and Pang, who have had to develop two different short dances (Silver samba and rhumba for junior and paso doble and flamenco for senior). And this season, they have fashioned another epic free dance, this time to a “Life is Beautiful” theme. They will add an extra 25 seconds of choreography when they skate to it at the senior level at the Canadian championships. They’ve already done it, but right now, they will focus on their junior routines.

Skating to Latin music suits them perfectly. It’s in their bones. They found a samba piece that they liked quite easily, and then chose to do a rhumba rhythm for contrast. Expect to hear some Toni Braxton for this one.

The search for a free dance was more difficult. “We had sort of an idea what genre we wanted to play with this season,” Edwards said. “We listen to hundreds of beautiful pieces of music, but we just wanted one that we really connect to and that stood out. And it took us a while to find it. We’re really happy with what we found.”

Last year, they skated to the big drama of “Les Miserables” – and it served their expressiveness well. This time the music for the Italian movie “Life is Beautiful” is softer, more subtle, perfect for their light touch on the ice. It’s a completely different style from their short dance and from their long program from last season. It will require more refinement. They are up to the challenge.

Their goals this season are to show more maturity, to fill the rink with their presence, to improve their edges and speed and flow of the program. (“My legs hurt right now,” said Pang after a practice session.) They have increased the difficulty of some of the elements, and have learned a new lift, after working with Cirque du Soleil and another circus group.

They’ve also been careful about which lifts they chose to do in their programs, because new International Skating Union rules have dropped a dance lift from the free dance. How do they feel about that?

“I never minded lifting her,” Pang said. “But I think they were trying to leave more time to dance. That makes sense to me.”

Both of them enjoy skating on the ice with a partner. Edwards likes sharing the ice with another person. Pang? “We skate for four hours every day,” Pang said. “It doesn’t feel as long when you have a partner next to you.”

This year, they hope to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final, (they were first alternates last year), improve their ranking at the world junior championships, and perhaps earn a spot on the national senior team after they compete at the 2015 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Kingston, Ontario.

Beverley Smith