Stojko, Bourne set to star in Blades On Stage, a “Broadway holiday spectacular on ice”

Elvis Stojko is a busy man these days.

For starters, the three-time men’s world figure skating champion recently wrapped up his Broadway debut, playing manipulative, smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago: The Musical.

With his maiden Broadway gig in the rearview mirror, Stojko now teams up with fellow world champion and famed choreographer Shae-Lynn Bourne to headline Blades On Stage, dubbed a “Broadway holiday spectacular on ice.” Just in time for the holiday season, Mirvish Productions brings the show, with an impressive supporting cast that includes Violetta Afanasieva and Peter Dack, to Toronto’s Princess Of Wales Theatre from Christmas Eve through January 4.

If Broadway musicals and holiday shows aren’t taking up enough of his time, fulfilling a need for speed certainly keeps Stojko’s calendar filled.

A lifelong fan of motorsports, Stojko has turned his passion into a second career as a competitive kart racer at the national and international level.  As far as future aspirations go, Stojko admits while he wants to remain active in both skating and acting, he is focused on keeping the pedal to the metal, both literally and figuratively.

“The karting has been going great, it’s a lot of fun” says Stojko, taking a break from Blades On Stage rehearsals.

“I’ve got the Florida winter tour coming up. There will be some guys from IndyCar,  some pretty big names, coming to race. I’m really looking forward to it, and I’m taking it very serious. It’s what I want to do.”

Racing isn’t just a hobby for Stojko. He isn’t shy when discussing his end goal, and Stojko has every intention of continuing his ascent in the sport until he makes it to racing’s big time.

For a guy that has three world golds and a pair of Olympic silver medals in his trophy case, you may not want to bet against him.

“Motorsports has always been in my life,” admits Stojko, also a noted martial arts expert. “The car racing is really where I want to go. I believe I have the skills and talent to do it at the professional level, and I have the right support, the right people, backing me. It’s just a case of building that sponsorship to get to the next level, and figuring out exactly where I want to go.

“After that, the sky’s the limit.”

Stojko may want to think about leaving that high-powered kart at home for the next few weeks.

If he had the urge to bring the wheels out for a practice spin in between Blades On Stage shows, there won’t be much room to negotiate those hairpin turns. The Blades on Stage cast will take their spins on a rather confined sheet of ice custom-fitted for the Princess of Wales stage, creating a unique, intimate setting between the audience and the performers.

“It’s been challenging because we have a 40 by 55 foot surface,” Stojko admits. “A lot of people ask ‘Is it real ice?’”

“Yes, it is,” he adds with a laugh. “It’s going to be real ice on stage – the first time in Canada –  which is really exciting.”

If Stojko had “star in a Broadway musical” on his bucket list, he can now scratch that one off as well. The son of a classically trained tenor, Stojko released his first album, 100 Lifetimes, in 2010 before dipping his toe in the acting pond, landing the role of Billy Flynn in Chicago: The Musical.

The role has been played by the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus, Alan Thicke, Tom Wopat and Richard Gere, who played Flynn in the Oscar-winning movie more than a decade ago.

“It was incredible,” says Stojko of his Broadway debut. “At first I thought I bit off more than I can chew after the first week of rehearsals in New York, but it doesn’t get any better than working with professionals at that level. I was able to tap in and really connect with my character.

“Every show, I got stronger and stronger, and by the time I came to Toronto to perform (last March), I felt extremely comfortable. It was an incredible experience and I would love to do it again. It’s something I will never forget.”

Joining Stojko in the Blades On Stage spotlight will be Bourne, who teamed with Victor Kraatz to claim the 2003 ice dance world championship, the highlight of an impressive resume that includes ten Canadian titles and three Olympic appearances.

Bourne has established herself as a majestic choreographer, working with such stars as reigning men’s Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, Joannie Rochette, Ashley Wagner, Akiko Suzuki, Daisuke Takahashi and Jeremy Abbott. She also choreographs for rising Canadian ice dance stars Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who are fresh off a gold medal at the ISU Grand Prix Final.

Like Stojko, Bourne says Blades On Stage presented a unique set of challenges, but she is looking forward to fusing blades and Broadway together over this holiday season.

“It’s speed – skating on stage is a very different feel that you would never get in any other Broadway show,” says Bourne. “It’s exciting for me as I’ve never been on such a small stage before. I’ve managed to figure out a way to keep the speed and bring that to the theatre.

“What I love most is the artistry of the skating and the choreography, and entertaining, and acting,” adds Bourne. “This gives me a chance to really focus on that, be creative and use the ice that we do have.

“There’s still a lot you can do even though it’s small. You just have to be a little more creative.”

Duhamel/Radford, Weaver/Poje end Canadian droughts with gold at ISU Grand Prix Final

BARCELONA – Canada enjoyed its biggest success at an ISU Grand Prix Final figure skating competition in 13 years on Saturday.

Meaghan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., broke their Canadian record to win the gold medal in pairs and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., also set a personal best for the victory in ice dancing.

It was Canada’s first gold in the Grand Prix Final since Patrick Chan won the men’s competition in 2011 and the first victory in pairs and ice dance since 2001.  At that Grand Prix Final in Kitchener, Ont., Jamie Sale and David Pelletier took the pairs crown and Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz won the ice dance.

Duhamel and Radford produced 220.72 points which bettered their previous best of 213.62 set at the Canadian championships in January 2014.  It also ranks fourth all-time on the ISU scoring list. Olympic silver medallists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia, the top-seeded pair going into the competition, took the silver at 213.72 and Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China were third at 194.31.

The highlight of Duhamel and Radford’s free skate on Saturday –performed to music by Muse- was landing the throw quadruple Salchow.  That came just after Duhamel touchdown on both hands the side-by-side triple Lutz.

‘’We were so confident in our quad Salchow that it didn’t matter that I touched on the Lutz,’’ said Duhamel.  ‘’It’s (the quad) has been so consistent for us in practice that we were going for it no matter what.’’

Radford was certainly pleased the green light was on.

‘’We’ve been waiting to have a skate like this all season,’’ said Radford, who mentioned he was in the audience when Sale and Pelletier won their gold in 2001.  ‘’This was the first time that we actually hit the quad like we do in practice.  It is so exciting.’’

After placing first in the short program Thursday, Duhamel and Radford were the last skaters to compete in the six-team event.

‘’We knew the Russian would skate a clean program, they have been so consistent all year,’’ said Duhamel.  ‘’But it always seem to be our fate to go on after a great performances.  We’ve surpassed all our goals for the first half of the season and we want to step it up more for the second half.’’


In ice dancing, Weaver and Poje bettered their score from last season’s silver medal performance at the world championships with 181.14 points.  Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the U.S. were second at 167.09 and Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France third at 162.39.

‘’It’s definitely our strongest performance yet and it’s great to see the program is still growing,’’ said Poje.  ‘’We really brought across the emotion and we were so connected on the ice that the story really came through.’’

The Canadians skated to excerpts from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

‘’It’s hard to pick out a moment that really stands out for us from what we did on the ice because we were so focused,’’ said Weaver.  ‘’My best memory was probably our lift because it got such a reaction from the crowd.’’

The audience did not agree with the judges’ scores for Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Toronto who took fifth spot.

‘’We had a small bobble on one of the lifts and it probably wasn’t our best skate overall,’’ said Poirier.  ‘’At the same time we didn’t have any big errors and we achieved our goal of producing two strong programs this week.’’

Canada also had a successful showing in the junior competition this week capped by a gold medal for Charlie Bilodeau of Trois-Pistoles, Que., and Julianne Séguin of Longueuil, Que., in pairs on Friday.

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

Full results:


Canadian juniors win Grand Prix gold

BARCELONA – Julianne Séguin of Longueuil, Que., and Charlie Bilodeau Trois-Pistoles, Que., broke their Canadian record and won the gold medal in junior pairs on Friday at the ISU Grand Prix final figure skating competition.

Séguin and Bilodeau, only in their second season together, totalled a national junior mark 175.57 points to remain undefeated this season in three competitions. They finished ahead of four Russian pairs including Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin in second at 165.78.

‘’We’ve paid attention to the small details in our skating and that’s made a big difference,’’ said Séguin.  ‘’It’s a program that we’ve worked hard on and we can just let ourselves be carried by the music once we get on the ice.’’

In the senior short dance, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., posted a season’s best score for 71.34 for first spot.  Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the U.S. are second at 65.06 and their compatriots Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani third at 63.90.

‘’We nailed our levels and the performance aspects,’’ said Weaver.  ‘’Everything from our last competition (two weeks ago at the Grand Prix in Japan) improved.  We still left points on the table and have room to grow for the second half of the season.’’

Poje sees the Final as a mid-term exam.

‘’We are looking to get momentum going into the second half of the season by bettering our performances every time out,’’ said Poje.  ‘’We want to get everything solidified for the second half of the season and we achieved that with the short dance.’’

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Toronto are fourth after a season’s best 62.49.

‘’This program just keeps getting better with every outing,’’ said Poirier.  ‘’It’s really nice for us at the last two competitions to not have any major mistakes.  We are really comfortable with it and we just need to polish it up some more.’’

In junior ice dancing, Mackenzie Bent of Uxbridge, Ont., and Garrett MacKeen of Oshawa, Ont.,took fourth while Madeline Edwards of Port Moody, B.C., and ZhaoKai Pang of Burnaby, B.C., were fifth. Anna Yanovskaya and Sergey Mozgov led a Russian medal sweep.

Bent and Uxbridge were just over three points from the podium.

‘’We felt really strong with every step we took and that was our goal,’’ said Bent.  ‘’There was nothing to lose for us and we wanted to fight for that medal.  It was a great experience for us.’’

In men’s junior competition, Shoma Uno led Japan to a 1-2 finish while Roman Sadovsky of Vaughan, Ont., produced a clean free skate which received a rousing ovation from the crowd.  He climbed from sixth to fifth overall.

‘’I felt like I redeemed myself after a rough short progam,’’ said Sadovsky.  ‘’I think I learned that I need to relax more during my skate and take one element at a time and not let any mistakes affect me.  I started with a clean slate today.’’

Competition ends Saturday with the four free skates for seniors.

NOTE:Skate Canada Communications Director, Barb MacDonald, will be the media contact at the event.

Full results:

Duhamel and Radford lead in Barcelona

BARCELONA – Meaghan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., earned their best-ever component score and are in first place after the pairs short program at the ISU Grand Prix Final in figure skating.

The two-time world championship bronze medallists posted a season best 74.70 points (including 34.49 for components) for their performance to Un peu plus haut (A Little Bit Higher) by Ginette Reno. In the detailed scores, one of the judges gave them a 10 on the choreography component.

Olympic silver medallists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia are second at 72.33 and Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China third at 66.66.

“The component elements have always been considered our weaker side,” said Radford. “To finish ahead of the Russian pair who are extremely strong technically is a big step for us. We were really in the moment tonight. Nothing could stop us.”

Duhamel and Radford have enjoyed a superb season heading into the Final winning their three international competitions this fall including their two Grand Prix assignments. Still the nerves were present.

“I was feeling more nervous than usual,” said Duhamel. “I didn’t know what to expect and I was hoping I would get into the zone. Once the music started and we were very together going into our first element I knew we were going to be alright.”

That first element was a triple twist which was followed by the side-by-side triple Lutz and throw triple Salchow which set the tone for a flawless performance.

Canadian pair also lead Junior Grand Prix Final

Also taking place in Barcelona is the Junior Grand Prix Final. In pairs, Julianne Séguin of Longueuil, Que., and Charles Bilodeau of Trois-Pistoles, Que., are in the lead after the short program with an international best 59.22 points. Four Russian couples follow in the standings including Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin just 0.18 behind the leaders.

“We couldn’t be happier with our performance,” said Bilodeau, who won his two Grand Prix assignments with his partner this season. “We executed all our elements and achieved level fours even on our twist for the first time. It gives us a lot of confidence for the free program.”

In ice dancing, Mackenzie Bent of Uxbridge, Ont., and Garrett MacKeen of Oshawa, Ont.,are fourth after the short dance while Madeline Edwards of Port Moody, B.C., and ZhaoKai Pang of Burnaby, B.C., are fifth.

Bent and MacKeen are only 1.24 points from third place.

“The footwork has been a big focus for us in training and was really what we were pushing towards,” said Bent. “We took our time, made sure every turn was clean and perfected to exactly how we practiced it. In the free dance we just want to continue in the same direction as today.”

Edwards and Pang are also in medal contention just 2.92 points from third.

“One of our goals this season was just to get here,” said Pang. “Our short dance today wasn’t our best but we are still happy with how we did it. It’s a program we enjoy.”

In men’s competition, Roman Sadovsky of Vaughan, Ont., is sixth after the short.

Competition continues Friday with the short programs for senior ice dancing and men’s and the free programs for all four junior events. All four senior finals are on Saturday.

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

All-event tickets: 2015 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships

OTTAWA, ON: All-event tickets for the 2015 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships are now on sale Wednesday, December 10 at 10:00 a.m. (ET). The world championships will see the best synchronized skating teams in the world compete at the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ontario from April 10-11, 2015.

All-event ticket packages for the two-day event will cost $100 for lower bowl seating and $75 for upper bowl seating, plus applicable surcharges. Tickets can be purchased online at, by phone at 1-855-985-5000, or in person at the FirstOntario Centre box office.

This will be the 16th edition of the championships with Canada having won medals at 10 of those previous events. Most recently, NEXXICE from Burlington Skating Club won the world silver medal at the 2014 championships held in Courmayeur, Italy.

Twenty-five teams from 20 different countries are expected to participate in the event, with Canada having two entries.

Group ticket sales are still available, for anyone wishing to purchase a minimum of 15 group tickets. Contact Madeleine Wendland directly by email at [email protected] or by telephone at 905-546-4095 for details.

Thirteen Canadian Skaters Headed to the ISU Grand Prix Final in Barcelona

OTTAWA, ON: After an outstanding summer and fall season by athletes on the international circuit, Skate Canada will send three entries, for a total of six skaters, to compete against the top figure skaters in the world. They all qualified for the ISU Senior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in in Barcelona, Spain from December 11-14, 2014.

The ISU Senior Grand Prix Final is the concluding event of the ISU Senior 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 two events and the top six in each of the four disciplines advance to the Final.

In senior, Canada will be represented by Meagan Duhamel, 28, Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford, 29, Balmertown, Ont., in the pair category. Canada will have two entries in ice dance: Kaitlyn Weaver, 25, Waterloo, Ont., and Andrew Poje, 27, Waterloo, Ont., and Piper Gilles, 22, Toronto, Ont., and Paul Poirier, 22, Unionville, Ont.

Earlier this season Canada qualified four entries, for a total of seven skaters, for the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final, also taking place in Barcelona, Spain from December 11-14, 2014. Similar to the senior qualification, juniors are assigned two events on the seven-event series. Only the top six in each category advance to the Final.

In junior, Canada will be represented by Roman Sadovsky, 15, Vaughan, Ont., in men’s, Julianne Séguin, 17, Longueuil, Que., and Charlie Bilodeau, 21, Trois-Pistoles, Que., in pair. There are also two junior entries in ice dance, Mackenzie Bent, 17, Uxbridge, Ont., and Garrett MacKeen, 20, Oshawa, Ont., and Madeline Edwards, 18, Port Moody, B.C., and ZhaoKai Pang, 19, Burnaby, B.C.

Olympic silver medallists (team) and two-time world bronze medallists Meagan Duhamel, 28, Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford, 29, Balmertown, Ont., will be Canada’s pair entry. They won gold at both of their grand prix assignments this season, Skate Canada International and NHK Trophy. The representatives of Walden FSC and CPA Saint-Léonard placed fifth at the Final last season; this will be their fourth trip to the Final. They are coached by Richard Gauthier, Bruno Marcotte and Sylvie Fullum at CPA Saint-Léonard.

World silver medallists Kaitlyn Weaver, 25, Waterloo, Ont., and Andrew Poje, 27, Waterloo, Ont., lead the Canadian entries in ice dance. Weaver and Poje won gold at both Skate Canada International and NHK Trophy to secure their ticket to Barcelona. This will be their fourth trip to the Final, having placed fifth in 2013. Representing Sault FSC and Kitchener-Waterloo SC, the seven-time Canadian medallists are coached by Pasquale Camerlengo and Angelika Krylova in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Piper Gilles, 22, Toronto, Ont., and Paul Poirier, 22, Unionville, Ont., will make their first Grand Prix Final appearance as a team in Barcelona also in ice dance. They captured silver medals at both their grand prix assignments, Skate Canada International and Trophée Eric Bompard.   Representing the Scarboro FSC they are coached by Carol Lane, Juris Razgulajevs, Jon Lane and Roy Bradshaw at Ice Dance Elite in Scarborough, Ont.

ISU Junior Grand Prix Final
Roman Sadovsky, 15, Vaughan, Ont., kicked off his season with a gold medal win in Ostrava, Czech Republic, the third stop on the junior circuit. Sadovsky would go on to place fourth in Dresden, Germany, the sixth stop on the circuit. He is coached by Tracey Wainman and Gregor Filipowski at the YSRA Winter Club.

In pair Julianne Séguin, 17, Longueuil, Que., and Charlie Bilodeau, 21, Trois-Pistoles, Que., captured gold at both of their assignments (Ostrava and Dresden) and go into the Final as the top ranked pair team. Representing CPA Longueuil and CPA Chambly they are coached by Josée Picard and Marc-André Craig.

Ice dancers Mackenzie Bent, 17, Uxbridge, Ont., and Garrett MacKeen, 20, Oshawa, Ont., will enter the Final as the second ranked ice dance team. Bent and MacKeen won gold at stop number three in Ostrava, Czech Republic and silver at event number five in Tallinn, Estonia. They train at Scarboro Ice Dance Elite with coaches Juris Razgulajevs and Carol Lane.

Madeline Edwards, 18, Port Moody, B.C., and ZhaoKai Pang, 19, Burnaby, B.C., are the second entry in ice dance for Canada. Their season began at the first ISU Junior Grand Prix event in Courchevel, France with a silver medal performance. Edwards and Pang would go on to improve on that result, winning gold in Aichi, Japan the fourth stop on the circuit.  The representatives of Burnaby FSC are coached by Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe at the Champs International Skating Centre.

Skate Canada Communications Director, 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, along with Marie Bowness, of Bedford, N.S. Dr. Bob Brock of Toronto, Ont., and physiotherapist Agnes Makowski of Toronto, Ont., will be the Canadian medical staff onsite. Susan Heffernan of Roberts Creek, B.C., and Leslie Keen of Vancouver, B.C., 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.

For results and full entries please visit


Discipline Name Age Hometown Club Coach
Pairs Meagan Duhamel / Eric Radford 28/29 Lively, Ont. / Balmertown, Ont. Walden FSC / CPA Saint-Léonard Richard Gauthier / Bruno Marcotte
Ice dance Kaitlyn Weaver / Andrew Poje 25/27 Waterloo, Ont. – Houston, TX / Waterloo, Ont. Sault FSC / Kitchener-Waterloo SC Pasquale Camerlengo / Angelika Krylova
Ice Dance Piper Gilles / Paul Poirier 22/22 Toronto, Ont. – Colorado Springs, CO, U.S.A. / Unionville, Ont. Scarboro FSC / Scarboro FSC Carol Lane / Juris Razgulajevs


Discipline Name Age Hometown Club Coach
Mens Roman Sadovsky 15 Vaughan, Ont. YRSA Winter Club Tracey Wainman / Gregor Filipowski
Pairs Julianne Séguin / Charlie Bilodeau 17/21 Longueuil, Que. / Trois-Pistoles, Que. CPA Longueuil / CPA De Drummondville Inc. Josée Picard / Patrice Archetto
Ice Dance Mackenzie Bent / Garrett MacKeen 17/20 Uxbridge, Ont. / Oshawa, Ont. Uxbridge SC / Bowmanville FSC Juris Razgulajevs / Carol Lane
Ice Dance Madeline Edwards /  Zhao Kai Pang 18/19 Port Moody, BC / Burnaby, BC Inlet SC / Inlet SC Megan Wing / Aaron Lowe

Next stop Barcelona

Canada’s teamsters are the power base of the six-member team that qualified for the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona next week. This year, they are dancing and throwing and lifting like nobody’s business.

For Canada, without any Elvis Stojkos, or Joannie Rochettes, or Jeff Buttles, or (even any Emanuel Sandhus) this time, the men and women singles skaters of the country are sitting it out, while the pairs and dance teams go to battle. They are powerful. They have proven to be winners.

In fact, Canada’s pair champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and its heart-grabbing dance doublet, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje have had similar trips to get to the Grand Prix Final this season, having decisively won both of their grand prix events this year.  “We are one team,” said the caption under one photo of them together at the end of the NHK Trophy.

Their records are eerily similar. Both Duhamel and Radford and Weaver and Poje have had one fourth and two fifths in three previous appearances at the Grand Prix Final. But this is a different era and a different time. They have both come into their own.

“The biggest difference this year is that we didn’t squeak into the final like the last two years,” Duhamel said. “It’s kind of exciting for us.”

Also accompanying them are dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, who are getting to the final for the first time in their careers, although Poirier earned a bronze medal in 2011 with previous partner Vanessa Crone.

In the past, Canada’s men and ice dancers have proven most prolific at winning medals in the Grand Prix Final. Not so much the pairs team, although Canada has had a long history of successful pairs. Canada hasn’t won a Grand Prix Final pair medal of any colour since Jamie Salé and David Pelletier scored back-to-back wins in 2001 and 2002, enroute to winning an Olympic gold medal. That’s 12 years ago.

But Duhamel and Radford are sliding to the Grand Prix Final with a new trick (throw quad Salchow) and new attitudes. “We don’t have any fear when we are skating anymore,” Duhamel said. “Last year I was always scared to lose. Scared if another Canadian team was higher than us. Now we’re in control.”

“We just put too much pressure on ourselves,” Radford said. “We put so much energy on everybody else, rather than just concentrating on ourselves.” This year, with the Olympics in the past, they’ve let it all go. Now they aim to do the best they can and enjoy the ride, skate with freedom, challenge themselves with this new, rare trick, the throw quad Salchow.

They’ve wanted to do the quad since they hitched up together. Coach Richard Gauthier didn’t want them to take the risk. He told them they needed to do clean programs with the triples before they even thought about that quad – and to forget about it until after the Olympics.

During their tour with the Stars on Ice in the spring, that quad came back to mind. Before they went on vacation after the tour, they tried one – and Duhamel rotated it, although she fell.

“Okay, this is going to be possible,” Radford thought.

Their goal was to perfect this rare trick by the world championships in Shanghai, China in March. So far they’ve tried the throw four times in competition and landed it well twice. They missed it at the NHK Trophy in Japan, but adrenalin got the best of them. The lesson learned, Duhamel said, was to not make the thing so BIG.

After winning their first grand prix gold at Skate Canada International, Duhamel felt pressure to land the quad at the next one, and their focus switched away from their plan. They’ve now righted the course. As they did earlier in the year, they will now stay calm, let it happen.

As for Weaver and Poje, they’ve had “a grand season so far,” Weaver said. “We’ve competed in every competition with confidence and strength, and that in turn turned into winning scores.”

The best news is that they have lots of room to grow. At both Skate Canada International and NHK Trophy, they left marks on the table in some elements, but they’ve been working on all the little pieces of the puzzle to emerge “better and stronger and bigger” at the Final, Weaver said. They’re also adding more detail to their programs, particularly the challenging free dance, with all of its constant changes of positions and holds. “It’s a new year and a new quadrennial and we’re happy to be at the forefront of it,” Weaver said. “And hoping to continue Canada’s great tradition of dominance in ice dance.”

Canada has won 10 Grand Prix Final medals in ice dancing, but the last gold medal came from Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz in 2002 in the lead-up to the Salt Lake City Olympics. Now Bourne has had a big hand in their free dance and is a guiding voice on their road to success.

After a disappointing season last year, after missing the Olympics because of a severe leg fracture for Poirier, Canada’s other dance team finds their season going exactly to plan. The twosome set lofty goals for themselves this year and they are attaining them: winning medals at grand prix events and qualifying for the final.

Their troubled season changed their perspective, showed them they could improve quickly and already they are much further ahead than they were by the world championships last season. Poirier’s right leg is still weak, and he has limited range of motion in the ankle, but he can train at full capacity and the injury doesn’t limit him. They’re gratified that they were able to edge past Americans Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue this season, when last year they were neck and neck with them.

Duhamel and Radford, the elder statesmen of the group at ages 28 and 29, are grateful they did not stop skating after last season. “We are wiser than we were last season,” Duhamel said. “I’m so happy I didn’t decide to quit last year. I would never know what it feels like to skate with freedom.”

Skating’s Greatest Ambassadors

By Debbi Wilkes

The skating world can be a strange and wonderful place.

One minute an athlete can be on top of the podium, sought after by fans and glorified for their accomplishments; the next minute they can feel forgotten, out of place and awkward in a world they used to dominate.

What happens to these incredible champions once their competitive careers appear to have been reduced to a few lines in a record book?

Obviously some continue participating in the sport as coaches, officials and volunteers but many others move on in life and away from skating, with their beloved experiences and recollections of performances that made front-page news faded into distant memories.

A few have been recognized in Skate Canada’s Hall of Fame, established in 1990, for athletes with exceptional international success, and for coaches, officials and builders who have made outstanding contributions to skating in Canada. While this recognition is well-deserved and thrilling to those involved, scant resources have been available for planning “next steps” in further developing the potential of the talented Hall of Fame members plus those champions who stood atop the Canadian senior podium.

This illustrious and elite group of individuals, our Canadian Champion Alumni, and potentially skating’s greatest ambassadors, have been silent stakeholders in the advancement of skating. They have skilled history, rare expertise and rich knowledge to share, but how to mine and harness their collective power to promote our sport has not been identified by Skate Canada … until now.

During the 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Championships last season in Ottawa, nearly 100 past Senior Canadian Champion Alumni and Hall of Fame members were invited by Skate Canada to attend the event. Alumni were treated to special VIP seating and VIP Lounge passes, introduced throughout the competition, hosted by the Governor General and Mrs. Johnston at Rideau Hall, and celebrated at fan autograph sessions and in the final Alumni Gala with the 2014 Olympic Team in attendance. Designer pins and scarves were also produced to commemorate the occasion.

Donald Knight, four-time Canadian Champion and 1965 World bronze medalist described his emotional reconnection with so many former colleagues and friends. “All of us have the common thread of competing and representing ourselves, our families and our country, something we will always cherish and share together.”

For skating, Ottawa was a major milestone. Only three other sports have such a long history in Canada. And to recognize the existence and importance of such history through its champions was an opportunity for fans and current competitors to learn first-hand how the sport has evolved.

Like Don, 1988 Olympic silver medalist Elizabeth Manley attended because it was an amazing opportunity to reunite with all the skaters over the years and with her heroes from the past.

Liz commented, “I was so impressed and it was so exciting to sit with people who I hadn’t seen in years and watch our present and future stars compete. It was also very emotional at times when I got to speak with skaters I had looked up to my whole life.”

Ottawa’s Alumni Program was certainly a hit with alumni, competitors and fans alike. The past, present and future suddenly came together and with the remarkable magic that created, the alumni realized they really were treasured and important members of the skating family … and far from forgotten.

What can the alumni expect in the future?

This year in Kingston at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, January 19th to 25th, 2015, another Alumni Program is in place to attract our past champions and rekindle their interest and commitment. This year’s program will not be quite as heady as the one during the 100th anniversary in Ottawa but it will still offer the fantastic opportunity for alumni to build their community and be recognized for all they have contributed to skating. Special seating, VIP treatment, autograph sessions and a celebratory brunch will be part of the package. Alumni will also get to celebrate  the  Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Sunday’s Exhibitions honoring the incredible creativity of choreographer Lori Nichol.

To Liz Manley, building a strong alumni program gives past champions the opportunity to keep the skating family close, something she feels is important for on-going success. “Recognizing our history makes Canada a stronger country in the international skating world because it helps to breed confidence and pride in everything we do on the ice, now and for the future.”

What began as a little idea for Skate Canada has blossomed into a growing program with inspiring potential. Not only is it the organization’s aim to celebrate the accomplishments of the Alumni, it’s in Skate Canada’s long-term plans to develop an initiative that would organize, epitomize and market the incredible history the alumni represent.

Congratulations to skating’s greatest ambassadors!

Hope to see you all in Kingston.

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Élisabeth Paradis and François-Xavier Ouellette dancing into their own spotlight

If there is one lesson that ice dancers Élisabeth Paradis and François-Xavier Ouellette have learned in the past few months, it is that every day that they step on the ice, they must push themselves to be better, no matter what.

No matter the disappointments. No matter the heady competition out there beyond the walls of their training centre. No matter the chances they missed. No matter that before this year, nobody had really heard of them. In the end, it hasn’t mattered at all.

Now their performances – and their story – are bringing people to tears. Their free dance? They skate to Ginette Reno’s “Un peu plus haut,” an uplifting song that coach/choreographer Marie-France Dubreuil heard at the 2010 Olympics. Right then, she knew it would make a great free dance. But it’s taken one or two years for Paradis and Ouellette to be able to handle this music. “This year, we thought we were good enough,” Paradis said.

When they performed it at Skate Canada International in Kelowna, B.C., people stood, having witnessed a brush of pink and grey moving joyfully from one pretty position to the next. The 2010 Olympic champions, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were watching, too, on the sidelines. “Oh my god,” Virtue said. “It was an incredible program. That must have been my favourite of the night. It really made an impact.”

“’Un peu plus haut’ is really almost like our story,” Paradis said. “The couple is aiming for more and trying to reach higher and higher.”

Virtue and Moir had already seen Paradis and Ouellette at the national training camp in September. “We really liked them at the camp, too,” Moir said.

The fact that they were even at the camp was a miracle, a break. They weren’t actually on the national team, having finished eighth at the previous Canadian championship and seventh the year before that. Yet after finishing fifth at Cup of Nice a year ago, with good scores, Skate Canada invited them to the camp.

They were beaming, just to be there, at the camp. Cup of Nice had been their first international competition, because they never had any Junior Grand Prix assignments. They were always on the cusp. “We were in junior two years and they were some really strong years, with all the novice teams from B.C. moving up to juniors, and so we didn’t get our chance,” Paradis said. They are now both 22 years old.

They were busily training at the rink, when their friends and training mates, Sara Hurtado and Adrian Diaz (of Spain) called them to tell them that they had been given the Skate Canada International, same as them. They thought it was a joke. But it wasn’t. “We were really grateful to Skate Canada to give us that chance, like they trust that we are going to do a good job,” Paradis said.  They had been hoping to get a Grand Prix next season.

Only about a week and a half before Skate America, they found out they were going to Chicago, too, after the Reeds had pulled out with an injury. They had just returned from Nebelhorn Trophy where they had been fifth. “Good thing we didn’t take any time off,” Paradis said.

Eighth after the short dance, with nerves making their legs feel like spaghetti, Paradis and Ouellette surprised everybody by finishing fourth in the free skate and fourth overall at their first Grand Prix.

“Skate America was our first experience at a grand prix,” Ouellette said. “It was new and exciting. We had a lot of fun there, just doing the practices, just enjoying the moment. I think both of us were a little bit nervous before the short dance, so we were very happy that we stayed on our feet. But we were well prepared.”

They were more relaxed in the free. They knew what level they would face, because they train with strong teams in Quebec.

The national championships prepared them for the experience at Skate Canada International. “It was so nice just to get on the warm-up and everybody was cheering, whoa!” Paradis said. “And Canadian flags were everywhere. It’s really cool. “

Paradis and Ouellette began to skate together four years ago, when both previous partners decided to quit. Ouellette had been working with former ice dancer Pascal Denis, who took the young skater with him when he moved to work at Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon’s school in Montreal. Paradis used to train in Quebec City, so she had to make a move to Montreal to skate with Ouellette.

“It was a really easy decision for me, because Xavier was the best skater I could think of in the province of Quebec,” Paradis said. They were among the first students at Dubreuil and Lauzon’s school, which has steadily filled up with a cast of strong international skaters. “We are a big family and it’s really fun,” Ouellette said.

“She teaches us to become real champions,” Paradis said, speaking of Dubreuil. “Because that’s what they were, a lot more than just on the ice.”

Buoyed by confidence, their performances of the free dance are markedly different between Nebelhorn Trophy and Skate Canada International. In Kelowna, they painted a beautiful tableau. Their goal is to learn from every competition, to improve every day. That mindset has brought them this far.

“One year from now was our first international,” Paradis said. “Now we are doing our second grand prix. It was not so easy when we were junior, getting nothing. We came from the bottom but we kept working hard. We are not substitutes anymore.”

Live streaming from Skate Canada Challenge

PIERREFONDS, Que. __ Skate Canada gives you a rinkside seat with live streaming of the 2015 Skate Canada Challenge in Pierrefonds, Que. from December 3-7.

Competition gets underway at 1:00 pm EST on Wednesday, December 3rd. Tune in to see every performance from the three competition rinks at Sportsplexe Pierrefonds.

To view a live streaming schedule, please refer to the Skate Canada Challenge competition schedule.

Skate Canada Challenge represents the final opportunity for athletes to earn berths in the 2015 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships. The 101st edition of the national championships will be staged January 19 – 25 in Kingston, Ont.

Live streaming: View all the rinks on Skate Canada Challenge event page

or on the Skate Canada Dailymotion page:  Rink 1    Rink 3   Rink 4

Please note: Rink 2 is the practice rink.



Skaters converging on Pierrefonds for 2015 Skate Canada Challenge

OTTAWA, ON:  Approximately 500 skaters from across Canada will be heading to Pierrefonds, Que., for the 2015 Skate Canada Challenge. This year’s event will be taking place from December 3-7, 2014, at Sportplexe 4 Glaces Pierrefonds.

This is the sole qualifying event for novice, junior, and senior skaters to earn berths for the 2015 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships taking place in Kingston, Ont., from January 19-25, 2015. Skaters have qualified for the 2015 Skate Canada Challenge by advancing through their home sectional championships.

The 2015 Skate Canada Challenge will also see the crowning of the 2015 Canadian Pre-Novice Champions in men’s, women’s, pair, and ice dance.

National team member and Quebec section representative Elladj Baldé, 24, Pierrefonds, Que., will be returning to his hometown to compete in the senior men’s competition. Other national team members entered in the competition are Nam Nguyen, 16, Toronto, Ont., in senior men’s, and Kirsten Moore-Towers, 22, St. Catharines, Ont., and Michael Marinaro, 22, Sarnia, Ont., and Brittany Jones, 18, Toronto, Ont., and Joshua Reagan, 24, Dallas, TX, USA, – Toronto, Ont., in senior pair.

Other notable contenders include Quebec section representatives and senior grand prix competitors Élisabeth Paradis, 22, Loretteville, Que., and François-Xavier Ouellette, 22, Laval, Que., as well as newly formed senior pair Lubov Iliushechkina, 23, Moscow, Russia, and Dylan Moscovitch, 30, Toronto, Ont.

Local competitors from the CPA des Deux-Rives in Pierrefonds include: Brandon Day (Pre-Novice Men), Samantha Couillard and Nelson Sanchez Leemet (Pre-Novice Pair), Sophia Simitsakos and Alexandre Roy (Pre-Novice Ice Dance),  Sara Marier and Jeffrey Wong (Novice Ice Dance), Cassidy McFarlane and Kyle Cayouette (Novice Ice Dance), Sarah-Jade Latulippe and Alex Leak (Junior Pair), Christina Penkov and Aaron Chapplain (Junior Ice Dance), Valérie Taillefer and Jason Chan (Junior Ice Dance), Mariève Cyr and Benjamin Brisebois-Gaudreau (Senior Ice Dance), and Andréanne Poulin and Marc-André Servant (Senior Ice Dance).

For full entries and the event start orders please click here.

General admission tickets will be available for purchase at the Sportplexe 4 Glaces Pierrefonds throughout the event. All-event tickets are $50, day tickets will be available for purchase for $10 on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and $20 on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free for children ages 12 and under.