Golden skate in Kelowna for Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje

KELOWNA, B.C. – Hard to believe, but Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje had never won Grand Prix gold before.

They have been fractions of points away from so many major achievements: making an Olympic team, winning a national title, and most recently, winning a world title last spring (missing out by .02 points). They’ve had a wild, long string of seconds and thirds at Grand Prix events in recent years.

This time they left nothing to chance, steering to victory at the Skate Canada International by almost 20 points with a light touch, skating to Max Richter’s version of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” With it came a standing ovation.

“Between this and Nebelhorn Trophy, we’ve never won so many gold medals,” Weaver said. “It’s kind of cool now.”

Poje intends to do it again.

“I think it has been our goal now, and it feels attainable and it doesn’t take a miracle to get us here,” Weaver said.

It wasn’t as easy as it looked. There was the pressure of being the top-ranked team coming into the event, with no Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in the dressing room. And the pressure of making so many changes, more than they thought, to their free dance, to a lift, to a spin, to transitions, to many little nuances that mean so much since the Nebelhorn Trophy. It felt like they were putting out a new program, but best to make the changes now than later.

“Their not being there made us realize that we need to step into the spotlight with confidence in putting out our programs and everything that we have trained in the off-season,” Poje said. Conquering the pressure this week will be a confidence booster for the future, Weaver said.

“Now success feels attainable”, she added. “It doesn’t take a miracle to get us here.”

Weaver and Poje are the head of a powerful Canadian dance team. Proof of that came with Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier bounding up two places after a mistake in the short program, into winning a silver medal at Skate Canada International.

Elisabeth Paradis and Francois-Xavier Ouellette came from nowhere to look like a threat as well. Although they finished seventh of eight at Skate Canada, Virtue and Moir are impressed with their work from the school of Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon. (Virtue and Moir want to try out their choreography, too.)

“It’s an amazing thing,” Weaver said. “Success breeds success.”

The bronze medal was taken by Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who had been second after the short.

There were other standing ovations, too. Tiny 16-year-old Satoko Miyahara skated to “Miss Saigon” and had the crowd on its feet. She took the bronze medal in the women’s event with 181.75 points and a couple of under-rotations.

American Ashley Wagner got one too, for Moulin Rouge routine (and some under-rotations of her own) and she ended with the silver medal and 186.00 points.

The gold medalist was 16-year-old Russian Anna Pogorilaya, who had no under-rotations and earned 191.81 points. She looked shocked. Last year, she had surprised everybody to win Cup of China.

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