Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier feel this is their time.
The reigning Canadian ice dance champions head into this week’s ISU World Figure Skating Championships ready to make a run at the podium, 17 months after celebrating their first ISU Grand Prix title at the 2019 Skate Canada International in Kelowna, B.C.
A few months later, after seven podium finishes in eight years at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, Gilles and Poirier left nationals with gold medals draped around their necks for the first time.
Now, after a challenging 14-month hiatus from the international scene caused by the pandemic – including the cancellation of the 2020 world championships in Montreal – Gilles and Poirier can’t wait to press play and resume the next chapter of their story.
“I think right now, we kind of feel we’ve earned that spot to be the number one (Canadian) team,” Gilles told reporters shortly before leaving for Stockholm. “To be honest, it doesn’t feel much different. It does help knowing we’re going in as national champions. I think we’re more proud and more confident having that title.
“At this point, Paul and I know what we need to do. I think we just need to expect the unexpected and do our job.”
“We’re so excited after almost 14 months of not competing to finally get back out there,” added Poirier. “We’ve been very clear throughout all of last season and this season that our goal is to be on the world podium. We’ve done all the training required to do that.”
Gilles and Poirier, one of three Canadian ice dance teams at these world championships, have assumed a leadership role for the national team. With several Team Canada skaters making their worlds debut, including women’s competitors Madeline Schizas and Emily Bausback, the pair tandem of Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud as well as fellow ice dancers Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha, Gilles and Poirier are excited to help guide their younger teammates through this first world championships experience.
“It’s an absolute honour to be even considered the leaders,” said Gilles. “I feel like even at events the past couple of years, we started to feel like we are moving into that leadership role a little bit. You know your journey and how you’ve got to this point, and it’s really cool to see the young ones come in and begin their journey and figure out their way.”
Gilles and Poirier know the importance of mentors. They came up during an unforgettable era in Canadian ice dancing, led by the legendary tandem of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and three-time Canadian champions Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.
The reigning Canadian champions have taken the torch and are grateful for the paths their predecessors blazed for them.
“I think it’s hard to know how exactly your career trajectory would have been different should some or other people not have been there, but I think in the end, I don’t think we would change the way that we approach our skating, the way that we approach our selection of our music, the way that we present ourselves, the artistic choices that we make,” said Poirier. “I think those are so quintessentially us.”
“We had some great role models,” added Gilles. “We’ve learned a lot from those guys (Virtue and Moir, Weaver and Andrew Poje). They’ve really been leaders for so long, it’s been nice to watch them and figure out how they’ve dealt with it and managed. Every athlete has their own journey. They were a part of ours.
“Now it’s our time.”
The 2021 ISU World Figure Skating Championships get underway Wednesday, March 24. For start orders and results, please visit the ISU website.