Gilles and Poirier, D’Alessandro and Waddell lead after rhythm dance events
Madeline Schizas managed to send a text message halfway through her free program Saturday during the 2021 Skate Canada Challenge.
Well, sort of.
Sitting in fourth spot after the short program, the 17-year-old from Oakville, Ont. was simply dazzling in her free program, scoring 117.94 for a 175.65 total to claim senior women’s gold in the virtual competition.
Alison Schumacher of Tecumseh, Ont., the 2020 Canadian silver medallist, finished in second spot at 168.12, while two-time Canadian champion Gabrielle Daleman won bronze medal with 165.66.
Overnight leader Kaiya Ruiter, the reigning Canadian junior champion who was making her senior debut, finished fourth.
The unique virtual competition is certainly a novelty for athletes, officials, coaches, and the entire Skate Canada family. Competitors performed their programs in recent weeks, more often than not at their respective training locations, and submitted them to be judged in real time during the event, which has been held over the past two weekends.
On Saturday, watching herself skate a near-flawless free program, Schizas, the 2020 Canadian bronze medallist, texted Skate Canada live streaming host Ted Barton to let him know how odd it was to see herself skate a competition performance “live.”
“All of a sudden, I was skating, and I decided to text into the broadcast,” said the charismatic 17-year-old, who is coached by Nancy Lemaire and Derek Schmidt out of the Milton Skating Club. “It was so weird, watching myself, texting the commentator and seeing my marks, all in the span of about five minutes. I don’t think that sequence of events will ever happen again.”
It was been a whirlwind 14 months for Schizas. She won the senior women’s gold medal at the 2020 Skate Canada Challenge, held in November 2019, before her bronze medal performance at the 2020 Canadian championships.
And now, she is the Challenge champion once again. More importantly, she has improved her score by nearly 20 points in that span.
Despite the cancellation of several events around the world, including 2021 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships which were to be held next month, Schizas, when she has been allowed to skate, has put her training time to good use.
She has added a triple Lutz and triple Lutz-triple toe combination to her arsenal and is looking ahead to the future when things return to normal.
“I am excited for the future, for sure,” she said. “It’s been a suspenseful six weeks, waiting for my scores for this event. But I’ve shown I can be competitive with the top skaters in the country, which has given me a big confidence boost for next season.”
In the senior ice dance competition, reigning Canadian champions Piper Gilles (Toronto, Ont.) and Paul Poirier (Unionville, Ont.) scored 87.96 to lead after the rhythm dance.
Laurence Fournier Beaudry (Montreal, Que.) and Nikolaj Sørensen (Montreal, Que.), who missed most of the 2019-20 season after Sørensen suffered a knee injury, sit right behind Gilles at Poirier at 86.55.
Marjorie Lajoie (Boucherville, Que.) and Zachary Lagha (Saint-Hubert, Que.), the 2020 Canadian silver medallists, are third with 81.58.
Gilles and Poirier, a year after claiming their first national crown at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., skated their programs on back-to-back days two weeks before Christmas.
On Saturday, five weeks later, the judges gave them their marks.
“You’re nervous, because you can’t really control anything,” admitted Gilles. “You’re so used to being in control when you compete. We prepared for it the best we could. I think we did a decent job and we were happy we could do it under any circumstance.”
Like everyone else, Gilles and Poirier were in their own homes Saturday, watching live streaming of the competition.
“It was definitely strange to be a spectator today and watch our competition in real time,” added Poirier. “In the end, skating a program is skating a program no matter the outside circumstances. It’s not quite the same as a normal competition performance, but it’s the only way we can compete right now. We are really grateful for the opportunity to do a competition and sort of have a purpose to our training.”
Natalie D’Alessandro (Toronto, Ont.) and Bruce Waddell (Toronto, Ont.) lead after the junior rhythm dance with 68.08.
Miku Makita (Anmore, B.C.) and Tyler Gunara (Burnaby, B.C.) are in second spot at 66.25, followed by Nadiia Bashynska (Markham, Ont.) and Peter Beaumont (Markham, Ont.), the 2020 Canadian junior silver medallists, at 65.32.
The 2021 Skate Canada Challenge wraps up Sunday, with the senior men’s free program followed by the junior free dance and senior free dance.
For full results, visit the Skate Canada Challenge event page