KINGSTON, ONTARIO – Nam Nguyen began to felt the pressure this year, the chatter that he could win this national title.
Last week, while training, he had a bit of a meltdown. Coach Brian Orser took him aside, and told him he he’d been there in 1981, when Brian Pockar had been three-time Canadian champion and Orser was a young upstart who had such a good year, people were talking about him, too.
Both Orser (back then) and Nguyen (now) swept the pressure aside. On Friday, Nguyen won the short program with a nice little cushion with a lofty score of 81.78, his best score in a short.
Jeremy Ten, who said earlier that this is his final year – a farewell and a challenge to himself, is in second place with 77.80 points. “It’s pretty cool,” Ten said. “I just left my heart out on the ice.” Roman Sadovsky, only 15 and in his second year of senior, is third with 73.46, a personal best by about three points. Sadovsky had hoped to finish in the top five, to make the national team. “What’s not to be happy about?” he grinned. He didn’t do a triple Axel: it’s still an inconsistent element for him.
The story of the short program was as much about rough goes as triumphs.
Kevin Reynolds, hobbled by boot problems for the past couple of seasons, got a new pair that enabled him to train for the past four or five weeks. But it wasn’t enough. He fell on all of his jumps elements – both quads and a triple Axel – and dropped to 12th place.
“I gave it everything I had,” Reynolds said sadly. “It was too much for me to handle today…I just wasn’t underneath my feet.”
Elladj Baldé fell on a quad and popped the first jump of his combo, but he sprained a knee a few weeks ago and then caught a virus that swept the Detroit Skating Club last week. Baldé felt horrible for three days, and slowly worked his way back to doing his program only last Saturday. He got 64.79 points.
In the women’s event, Gabby Daleman had one big aim, coming to these Canadian Tire National Skating Championships: to win her first title.
For a moment, Daleman suffered a hiccup on that path, when she fell on a triple Lutz in the women’s short program on Friday, but she steamed ahead to win it with 62.91 points, narrowly ahead of Veronik Mallet, 20, of Sept-Iles, Que., who skated cleanly, putting an exclamation point on her season.
Alaine Chartrand, 18, of nearby Prescott, Ont., and one of the favourites to take the title, stumbled out of a triple loop. Chartrand had the most difficult combination of all, a triple Lutz – triple toe loop, but it appeared under-rotated. She is third with 60.25 points, her highest score in Canada. She got a 61 when she won the short program at Cup of Russia earlier this season, an effort that put her on the international map.
Daleman has had a season of setbacks but decided to follow the advice of choreographer Lori Nichol who told her: “the power of the will is more important than the skill.”
The 16-year-old skater from Newmarket, Ont., came down with her sixth episode of strep throat of the season last week and immediately found a way to frame it in a positive way.
“Skating without breathing is like extra cardio,” she said. “If I can do my program when I can’t breathe, imagine what I can do when I can.”
Daleman also hasn’t recovered from a stress reaction in her right foot that she suffered in Sochi. It’s better, but still hasn’t healed, and on top of that, she has developed plantar fasciitis in that right foot. And the ailment is also affecting her left foot somewhat.
“My right foot feels like a frozen water bottle,” she said.
The senior women and men conclude on Saturday at the Rogers K-Rock Centre in Kingston.