A pair of reigning national champions struck gold Sunday as the curtain closed on the 2021 Skate Canada Challenge virtual competition.
Roman Sadovsky of Vaughan, Ont. captured the gold medal in the senior men’s competition, while Piper Gilles (Toronto, Ont.) and Paul Poirier (Unionville, Ont.) capped off the competition by taking top honours in ice dance.
Skate Canada Challenge, held over the past two weekends, was intended to be the qualifying event for the 2021 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships next month in Vancouver, but the national championships were cancelled last week.
The event, which featured a unique format, was the first national figure skating competition to be held in Canada since last year’s nationals in Mississauga, Ont.
In the junior ice dance competition, Natalie D’Alessandro and Bruce Waddell, both from Toronto, Ont., won gold.
Leading Team Canada teammate and close friend Nam Nguyen by just over five points after the short program, Sadovsky, who won his initial national crown last year, landed his first of two quads to start his emotionally charged free program to Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. The 21-year-old never looked back, scoring 167.58 for a 262.01 total. Nguyen, from Ajax, Ont., was second at 256.43.
Corey Circelli of Toronto, the 2020 Canadian junior men’s champion, won bronze with a 235.50 total.
“It was disappointing every time an event was cancelled, although it was always the right decision,” said Sadovsky. “I train day in and day out with a destination in mind. There’s always an end goal. Having a season without any events, you lose sight of that target.”
“We can only play with the cards we are dealt. We just do the best that we can. It’s been a tough year, but I am grateful we were able to compete this week.”
A year after his triumph at the national championships, Sadovsky is still basking in the glow of his first Canadian title.
“It was a really, really special moment and something I will never forget,” he added. “It was life-changing.”
Performing their free dance to Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now, Gilles and Poirier skated a spellbinding performance that earned them 135.37 points and a 223.33 total.
Laurence Fournier Beaudry (Montreal, Que.) and Nikolaj Sørensen (Montreal, Que.), returning to competition for the first time since Sørensen suffered a knee injury in late 2019, were second at 206.91, followed by Marjorie Lajoie (Boucherville, Que.) and Zachary Lagha (Saint-Hubert, Que.), with 200.42.
Gilles and Poirier spent Sunday watching the event’s live stream from their own homes.
“It was a very strange event for us,” admitted Poirier.
“Piper and I were texting while it was happening, which is something we normally wouldn’t do when we’re competing,” he added with a laugh.
“When you’re watching a video, you have zero control over what happens. It was really nerve-wracking watching the competition unfold and watching ourselves skating.”
“I’m so used to having Paul around, and not having him around made it even more strange,” Gilles admitted. “I don’t know if my texts were very clear. My hands were shaking. It was all nerves and adrenaline.”
In the junior free dance, D’Alessandro and Waddell, leaders after the rhythm dance, performed a sparkling free dance that earned them 101.79 points and a 169.87 combined score. Miku Makita of Anmore, B.C. and Tyler Gunara of Burnaby, B.C. took silver at 166.17 followed by Nadiia Bashynska and Peter Beaumont (162.23), both from Markham, Ont.
Waddell watched himself skate twice Sunday – once with D’Alessandro, and also in the senior men’s competition, where he finished 12th.
“It was definitely a new experience,” he said. “I was just nice and comfy watching at home.”
“I was definitely nervous, more nervous than I thought,” added D’Alessandro.
With most of the figure skating season wiped out by the pandemic, Gilles and Poirier are looking ahead to next year – and may have a little something special in store for fans.
“It’s just a culmination of our programs for the people that we’ve been doing for the past couple of years,” said Gilles. “It’s where we should be.”
“We have something very special in the works that’s almost ready,” added Poirier.
To view final results, visit the Skate Canada Challenge event page.