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Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir enjoy Skate Canada International in new roles

KELOWNA, B.C. – We have missed them, both.

We have wondered where they were, what they were doing, what they were going to do.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir don’t know yet.

They’ve been rumbling the halls of the Prospera Centre this week, working for TSN on broadcast bits, finding out what they don’t know about the other side of the boards, inspecting possible new career paths. It’s a buzz for them, these new duties. Word has it that they are naturals as broadcasters.

But they still don’t know where their path lies. And that is okay with them.

At about the same time, out came the press releases this fall about Patrick Chan and Virtue and Moir taking the year off to ponder their futures. But the response to the press releases has been different. Chan might very well come back. Virtue and Moir? Many seemed to think the gig was up.

“To be 100 per cent honest, I think after Sochi, we thought we were done for sure,” Moir said in Kelowna this week. “But we knew that was probably an emotional decision after training for 17 years straight. We needed to make sure that we took the proper time.”

Halfway through the summer Moir admitted that they had a “glimmer of hope” that they might like to come back. But they don’t know if the glimmer is strong enough and they don’t know what having that glimmer means to them. They do know one thing: they are taking time to think about that glimmer and other things.

“We don’t want to put that pressure on ourselves right now,” Virtue said. “We’ve been dealing with that kind of stress for 10-12 years now. It’s kind of nice just to take that off our plates for now.”

True, there are wistful moments, now that they are in the rink, and hear that opening music that stirs the heart. Virtue said in those moments, she can’t help but wonder what she and Moir would have done for programs, for choreography, what it would feel like one more time to face that cheering Canadian crowd that they love.

And then they remember what fun it is to go grocery shopping and run mundane errands during mid-week and visit their parents and siblings any time they’d like. During those moments, Moir feels the pull of ordinary life. Now that they’ve tasted that, how to give it up for singled-minded training?

Virtue says she is currently straddling two worlds. She is finishing her psychology degree at the University of Western Ontario in her hometown, London, Ont. Yet she and her partner are doing speaking engagements and appearances. They did a little skating tour in China. But basically, they have been off the ice altogether over the summer and into the fall, although Moir has been playing a little hockey.

If they returned, they know they would do things differently. They would train differently. With their history of injury, they would take a more intellectual, scientific-based approach to training. And they’d like to try out new choreographers. They are already cooking up plans to work with Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon – who had been their idols and mentors as they grew up – and with the hugely talented Jeffrey Buttle, who they’ve already worked with on Stars on Ice.

Virtue and Moir are doing the Holiday Festival on ice gala in December. That means they are planning programs and also need to get back to training for that. They are looking forward to it.

At Skate Canada International, they were impressed with the routines of all three Canadian dance teams. In fact, Virtue was most impressed with the new faces of “Liz” Paradis and “Frankie” Ouellette, who finished seventh here, but who evoked an emotional rush with their “Un peu plus haut” free dance. Tears were shed.

Ice dance in Canada is in good hands right now, they see. “The other thing is, is there room for us to come back?” Moir says. “Geez.”

Skate Canada International a weekend of golden firsts

KELOWNA, B.C. – The Skate Canada International aura isn’t a secret. Skaters from Russia, China and elsewhere love the crowds. They love how they are loved, no matter the flag.

The exhibitions? Best ever. Chinese skaters wearing decorated sauce pans on their heads, denim overalls on the rest. The men breaking out brassy wigs. Duelling quad Salchows were seen. Exquisite music was heard, all on a day when a warm fall sun set light to the waters.

For Canadian skaters, it was a time to step out on home ice at an important Grand Prix in the quadrennial leading to the 2018 Olympics. Already there is huge success: Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won the first Grand Prix gold medal for a Canadian pair since Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison won at Skate America in 2007.

Strangely enough, despite the historic strength of Canadian pairs, the Canuck teams have seldom won pairs events at Grand Prix competitions. They’ve never won Cup of Russia or the Grand Prix in France, or Cup of China (which dates back to only 2003). A Canadian pair hasn’t won Skate Canada since Jamie Sale and David Pelletier in 2001. At NHK Trophy, Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini won gold in 1980 and 1982. And Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler won in 1993, the same year they won their world title.

So Duhamel and Radford’s victory takes on a brighter shine. They’ve broken ground and they expect more.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andres Poje’s first Grand Prix gold medal, here at home this week, is another milestone on a long road of Canadian dance victories. Canada’s wins in dance Grand Prix events are almost too numerous to mention. At Skate Canada alone, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won five of them, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon won two, Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz took six, and Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall grabbed two of them, not to mention single victories by Jacqueline Petr and Mark Janoschak, and Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier.

Weaver and Poje’s exquisite “Four Seasons” routine made fond memories for some in an informal poll of favourite Skate Canada moments this week. They had become a unit, they said. They had taken a step up, even from their world silver medal last March. They came dressed to kill, and focused on the details.

Injuries robbed Canada of better results in men’s and women’s singles. Kaetlyn Osmond broke a fibula during the fall and had to withdraw from all Grand Prix events.  Canadian women delivered in the short program, and had a tougher go in the long, with Alaine Chartrand finishing seventh, Veronik Mallet 11th (was sixth in the short) and Julianne Seguin 12th.

With no Patrick Chan in the mix, and no Kevin Reynolds, out with boot problems and injuries, Canada had to take their victories other ways. Andrei Rogozine showed off his new “higher, faster, stronger” vibe to finish 10th, while Liam Firus fought back after a troubled short program and went on attack in the free to finish 11th overall.

That left other moments that didn’t always have to do with medals, although medals were sometimes rewards:  a transformed Takahito Mura winning the men’s event and weeping in the kiss and cry; tiny 16-year-old Satoko Miyahara winning bronze with a standing ovation and finally, the free dance of unheralded team Elisabeth Paradis and Francois-Xavier Ouellette. They finished seventh of eight, got a partial standing ovation, made people weep and Tessa Virtue to claim their “Un peu plus haut” her favourite of the night. Sometimes it’s not all about medals, although they help.

Golden skate in Kelowna for Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje

KELOWNA, B.C. – Hard to believe, but Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje had never won Grand Prix gold before.

They have been fractions of points away from so many major achievements: making an Olympic team, winning a national title, and most recently, winning a world title last spring (missing out by .02 points). They’ve had a wild, long string of seconds and thirds at Grand Prix events in recent years.

This time they left nothing to chance, steering to victory at the Skate Canada International by almost 20 points with a light touch, skating to Max Richter’s version of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” With it came a standing ovation.

“Between this and Nebelhorn Trophy, we’ve never won so many gold medals,” Weaver said. “It’s kind of cool now.”

Poje intends to do it again.

“I think it has been our goal now, and it feels attainable and it doesn’t take a miracle to get us here,” Weaver said.

It wasn’t as easy as it looked. There was the pressure of being the top-ranked team coming into the event, with no Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in the dressing room. And the pressure of making so many changes, more than they thought, to their free dance, to a lift, to a spin, to transitions, to many little nuances that mean so much since the Nebelhorn Trophy. It felt like they were putting out a new program, but best to make the changes now than later.

“Their not being there made us realize that we need to step into the spotlight with confidence in putting out our programs and everything that we have trained in the off-season,” Poje said. Conquering the pressure this week will be a confidence booster for the future, Weaver said.

“Now success feels attainable”, she added. “It doesn’t take a miracle to get us here.”

Weaver and Poje are the head of a powerful Canadian dance team. Proof of that came with Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier bounding up two places after a mistake in the short program, into winning a silver medal at Skate Canada International.

Elisabeth Paradis and Francois-Xavier Ouellette came from nowhere to look like a threat as well. Although they finished seventh of eight at Skate Canada, Virtue and Moir are impressed with their work from the school of Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon. (Virtue and Moir want to try out their choreography, too.)

“It’s an amazing thing,” Weaver said. “Success breeds success.”

The bronze medal was taken by Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who had been second after the short.

There were other standing ovations, too. Tiny 16-year-old Satoko Miyahara skated to “Miss Saigon” and had the crowd on its feet. She took the bronze medal in the women’s event with 181.75 points and a couple of under-rotations.

American Ashley Wagner got one too, for Moulin Rouge routine (and some under-rotations of her own) and she ended with the silver medal and 186.00 points.

The gold medalist was 16-year-old Russian Anna Pogorilaya, who had no under-rotations and earned 191.81 points. She looked shocked. Last year, she had surprised everybody to win Cup of China.

Takahito Mura takes gold in men’s; Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford win first ever Grand Prix event

KELOWNA, B.C. – A seismic shift happened in men’s figure skating yesterday at the Skate Canada International Grand Prix.

A transformed Takahito Mura of Japan came out in the men’s final, and threw down such a powerful gauntlet that surely, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu must be watching.

Mura broke down in tears in the kiss and cry (that’s what that corral is for) after his marks popped up: 173.24 for the free – a mark he thought he’d never attain – and 255.81 overall. Then he had to wait for two-time European champion Javier Fernandez of Spain to skate, but Fernandez left marks on the table, looking as if he was playing to catch up.

And Mura won. By almost 11 points.

With Daisuke Takahashi retired, Japan still has its Hanyus and its mighty Tatsuki Machidas, but now count Mura in the mix. Japanese nationals will be as hard fought as ever.

Mura had always looked like a bit of a hammer-thrower in the past to be sure, thundering through his jumps with power and thud. But he came out in the free skate dressed elegantly, as the Phantom of the Opera – a completely different look for him altogether. And he’d worked during last summer with Ilia Kulik, who helped him with the technique on his jumps and also with basic skating skills. And who had sweeter technique than Kulik, who would land his jumps with unparalleled softness of the knee? Mura is landing his jumps with a new softness of the knee.

His father/coach Takashi Mura (who skated singles and pairs at the world level in the early 1980s) said his son now rotates his jumps more completely, allowing him to land more correctly with the knee.

“I really thought it would take more time to reach 170,” Mura said after his performance. “I was really very surprised. It’s the result of a lot of hard work.  I have learned that hard work will translate into high scores.”

Now he knows that there are folk who will expect more of him. “There will be a lot of pressure for the next competition,” he said. Father Mura says he cannot rest on his laurels, there is more work to be done, and the Japanese nationals will sort out the Japanese men.

And it’s not just about the jumps for Mura. “It has taken me a long time to get to this point,” he said. “It took me a long time to figure out how to express myself and what Takahito Mura is about.” He admitted that Phantom of the Opera may have been overdone in the past, but although it was difficult to find his own Phantom, he has.

Fernandez had an off day, lost marks on all of the three quads he planned, (he fell out of a quad Salchow) and finished second with 158.51 for the free and 244.87 overall. Max Aaron, a former U.S. champion, took one step to regaining his confidence and his U.S. title back by finishing third.

Andrei Rogozine finished ninth overall after two-footing and under-rotating his quad, while Canadian bronze medalist Liam Firus got angry with himself for his short program the day before, and came out strongly enough to get a partial standing ovation. He finished ahead of Rogozine in the free, but was 11th overall.

In winning the pairs gold medal, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won their first Grand Prix title (after three silvers) and are the first Canadian pair to win a Grand Prix since 2007. They scored a season’s best of 210.74 points and feel there are many other opportunities to improve.

Duhamel stepped out of a throw quad Salchow, but they kept up their goal of accomplishing it at every event this season. The Chinese team of Sui Wenjing and Cong Han – using the choreography of Canadian David Wilson – landed a deft quad twist and finished second with 184.64 points, about 26 points behind the Canadians.

Russians Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took the bronze medal at their first senior Grand Prix, the first time they have ever skated in Canada.

Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro landed in sixth place with 158.82 points. Brittany Jones and Joshua Reagan skated to a personal best in the free program for an overall score of 146.77 and finished in seventh place.

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford win short program in Kelowna

KELOWNA, B.C. – It didn’t take long. As soon as Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford took their final pose, the crowd stood up, cheering, weaving Canadian flags.

Duhamel and Radford won the short program at the Skate Canada International with a season’s best of 72.70 points, about 7 ½ points more than Chinese skaters Sui Wenjing and Han (Mr. Personality) Cong.

(A note to put things in perspective: some elements this year – the lift and the death spiral – are worth less than they were last year.  Duhamel and Radford’s previous best score from last year was in the 76-point range so their effort here puts them in the range of that previous lofty score at the end of last season.)

The Canadians skated to “Un peu plus haut” and the wave of feeling that they created in the rink was the real triumph. Their goal, they said, was to feel happy with the way the skated, and hang the score. Mission accomplished.

In third place is the young Russian team of Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov with 64.14 points and a triple twist that defied gravity.

Radford admitted he’d never felt so calm going into a competition. Last year, their first event of the year was Skate Canada. It was indescribably tense. “Last year it felt like a big deal,” he said. “We knew we had to be good. We knew we had to make a splash with our first competition. But this time, it felt more like we want to give a good performance, like with Stars on Ice. When we concentrate on that, our focus is more on ourselves and not what it all means.”

It works.

Still, they didn’t take for granted their competition. The Chinese team had finished ahead of them last year. “They are there to give us our push to make sure we give our best,” Duhamel said “At the same time, we had our focus primarily on ourselves.”

On landing the triple Lutz jump, Duhamel almost struck the wall, but it didn’t faze her. Without Patrick Chan and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir around to take most of the focus at the Skate Canada events, Duhamel and Radford have now stepped forward in prominence. They are taking full responsibility for that position.

“For the last four years, we were always the ones with the outside chance of having a bronze medal somewhere,” Radford said. “And now I think we’ve done a good job of stepping into that limelight, especially with that quad. It’s exciting for us to have a little bit more focus on us and especially on pairs in Canada. “

Speaking of other pairs, there were two other Canadian teams, trying to show off new partnerships with varying success. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro were making their first appearance in a competition and finished sixth of eight, failing to receive any points for a death spiral.  Marinaro said he bobbled when he put his toe pick for the rotation. It was a pity, because they say, it’s their strongest element.

They’ve been together about five months. Moore-Towers’ face fell when she saw their mark: 53.79.

Their training mates, Brittany Jones and Josh Reagan are in seventh place with 49.80 points and say they were pleased with what they did.

In the men’s event, Javier Fernandez of Spain is leading with 86.18 after he doubled a triple Axel, but his Black Betty routine was a crowd pleaser and well received. Takahito Mura of Japan intended to do a quad-triple, but didn’t land the quad strongly enough to tack it onto the end. He had the presence of mind to put the triple toe loop on the end of a triple Lutz and finished with 82.57 points in second.

In third place is Konstantin Menshov, the oldest competitor at age 31. He landed two quads, but doubled his triple Axel for 81.70 points.

Andrei Rogozine heard only last Monday that he had the assignment for Skate Canada. It pumped him up. He took out a quad attempt, juggled his elements around, landed them all and finished ninth with 70.95 points. Canadian bronze medalist Liam Firus fell on a triple Axel and is 10th of 11 with 64.94 points.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje lead after short dance at Skate Canada International

KELOWNA, B.C. – Halloween night at Skate Canada International. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje came dressed to the nines, in full splendid costume, and won the short dance by almost nine points.

There was no trick or treat about it. For almost every element they received bonuses of +2 and regrettably, lost a point for an extended lift. But their Paso Doble otherwise took flight, along with some healthy component marks as Weaver embodied a vermillion cape, and Poje the decorated toreador, sported jewel-encrusted epaulets and colourful embroidery up the yang yang. A work of art those costumes were.

They’ve come to the table with elements that are almost all new. “This is a time to push the boundaries and push ourselves and come up with new stuff,” Poje said. “And we’ve done that.”

They’ve renovated lifts. As Poje says: “We’ve put a backsplash on it.”

They’ve coming into this season battle-tested and ready for anything. “We’ve been through everything it seems,” Weaver said. “But that just makes us more confident in our partnership, in that we can rely on each other when we need to. What really matters is that the injury taught us so much about efficiency and really enjoying ourselves.”

The best part: there is still room for Weaver and Poje to maximize their levels. They fell short of a world title last March by only .02 points.

The 2011 world junior champions Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin of Russia are in second place while Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are in third, with only six solid weeks of training behind them. Hubbell underwent surgery for a torn labrum that hampered her last season, but complications ensued. They did not put out the programs on Friday that they had hoped, but it’s a start.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, eighth in the world last year, let slip a chance to finish in the top three when Poirier fumbled a twizzle that featured an outstretched leg. Close to the boards, he couldn’t pull the leg in front of him and it went awry. They got only a level one for that.

The charming Elisabeth Paradis and Francois-Xavier Ouellette, fourth at their first Grand Prix, Skate America, last week, are sitting in eighth place, with a miscue on a twizzle.

Russian women finished first and third in the women’s short program, with 16-year-old Anna Pogorilaya winning the event (with mistakes) and a revived Alena Leonova, 23, finishing third with an endearing version of Charlie Chaplin. She wanted to do it, she said, because men and pair skaters had done such things – but no women. It was a delight.

Ashley Wagner, a two-time U.S. champion is in second place, skating to “Spartacus.”

Pogorilaya chalked up technical points as if they were going out of style with her triple Lutz – triple toe loop, although she stumbled out of a double Axel. Wagner had higher component marks, about 3 ½ points more of them and with 63.86 points, was only 1.42 points behind Pogorilaya.

Leonova is third with 62.54. She, too, had higher component marks than Pogorilaya.

Leonova says she pays no attention to the multitudes of talented Russian skaters much younger than she is. She continues to skate, she says, because she loves it. It was tough for her to miss the Sochi Olympics, but she vows to continue to the 2018 Games in South Korea.

SCI 2014 OUR ATHLETE AMBASSADOR: CRAIG BUNTIN

By Debbi Wilkes

Craig Buntin, Skate Canada International’s Athlete Ambassador, was 10 years old and had never been on a pair of skates when his family moved from Vancouver to Kelowna.

He soon discovered that skating was BIG in Kelowna. The entire community and particularly all his classmates seemed to live and breathe hockey. Of course, like every child, he wanted to belong and suddenly, learning to skate went to the top of his priority list. He’d never stepped on the ice but he was hungry to discover what made skating so great in the eyes of his new friends.

His Mom joined him up at the local Memorial Arena where the Kelowna Figure Skating Club operated.

Next he needed hockey skates. Off to Canadian Tire.

That first CanSkate lesson showed Craig that he was different. First of all he was several years older than everyone else, older and bigger, but he recognized that he was also keener and more motivated. If he was going to learn to skate, he had to do it fast. And by the end of the first week he was already skating backwards and doing simple jumps to test his daring despite being in hockey skates.

He realizes now that he fell in love with skating the second his blades hit the ice.

Part of this was due to the attitude of his first coach, Karen Bond, a patient and caring teacher whose love for the sport was contagious. (To this day if Craig is in Kelowna, he’ll make a trip to the rink to visit with Karen.)

As a result, Craig soon recognized that it was figure skating rather than hockey that was so exciting. That meant another trip to Canadian Tire to select figure skates … but they were all white! That necessitated visits to every shoemaker in town to see if those white skates could be dyed black. Everybody said, “No!” probably because his skates were likely made of plastic rather than leather. No dye would take. Finally one shoemaker agreed to see what he could do.

“I think he used black spray paint” says Craig, “but I didn’t care, my skates looked great.”

With his new black figure skates, Craig was on his way. The adjustment to those new skates, however, wasn’t as easy as he thought and he found himself tripping over his toe picks a lot, something that he admits now taught him quickly how to balance and control his speed and edges. It was either learn to balance or end up face first on the ice.

It wasn’t long before the first coaching bill arrived too, the moment when both Craig and his Mom realized that skating was an expensive sport. As a single parent, Craig’s Mom knew this could be a disappointing moment for her enthusiastic son and sat Craig down for a family meeting to discuss what this meant for the future of his involvement in the sport.

Deep down she wanted him to continue with skating recognizing that the sport teaches great skills beyond the athletics, building character and teaching determination.

At 10 years of age and after just one week of lessons, Craig already knew what he wanted to do and immediately announced to his Mom, “I’m going to the Olympics.”

If the Olympics were really his goal, his Mom agreed to support him … on one condition. He had to work hard. This was a defining moment in young Craig’s life.

The rest, they say, is history. Craig’s mother never had to remind him about their deal.

The hard work she described did indeed take him to the Olympic Games in 2006 in Turino, Italy. It also took him to the top of the national podium where he and his partner, Valerie Marcoux, won three consecutive Canadian Pair titles from 2004 to 2006; to four World Championships with Val and to two with partner Meagan Duhamel.

Craig was proud of his Kelowna roots and continued to represent the Kelowna Skating Club all the way to the national championships. Even after he changed his affiliation, the club was always there for support offering words of encouragement and inspiration.

Looking back on his career, Craig identifies sport as a guiding light in his life. It was skating that taught him all the important lessons and helped in developing all aspects of his personality, teaching him about winning and losing gracefully, setting goals, and supporting everyone involved, even your competitors. It also released his creativity to the point where he now believes there is a sense of artistry in everything.

Craig was 18 when Skate Canada International was held in Kamloops in 1998. He remembers sitting in the stands watching the event, wanting to be out there on the ice and being inspired by the competition. He also remembers thinking back to when he was starting out, 10 years old, an age in skating considered too old to realistically make the Olympic Games.

But like all great champions, he refused to let anyone else write his story, believing that wherever you’re competing, you’re closer to your dream than you think.

Kelowna is alive with skating as Skate Canada International comes to Prospera Place

KELOWNA, B.C. – In Kelowna, where the Skate Canada International Grand Prix is being held this week, the hills are alive with music.

The setting is stunning, with purple hills and citrine yellow trees. It all just makes you want to sing, right?

Well, for the first time at Skate Canada, the audience at the Prospera Place will hear vocals although the jury is still out on the effectiveness of them. But for Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who are trying to win their first Grand Prix gold medal, the vocals they use this year are appropriate and to them, inspiring.

“I think both of our programs do a really good job of using the lyrics to our benefit, as opposed to us skating to the song,” said Radford, who knows of what he speaks: he is a music composer. “When you have lyrics, sometimes the lyrics become the centre piece. And then you’re skating to them, as opposed to them supporting the skating. It’s kind of risky and there are a lot of teams that are trying it in the world, and there has been mixed response to it.”

However, when he and Duhamel skate to “Un peu plus haut,” by Ginette Reno and to rock band Muse, Radford says he feels lifted by the music. “I don’t feel like Ginette ever drowns out our skating,” he said. And Reno is a powerful vocalist.

Duhamel, who admits that she’s not naturally the most musically gifted skater on the face of the planet, feels it too. “I love the music,” she said. “When the music starts, I just feel so moved because we are more relaxed. With both of our music’s, I feel them in my soul. I feel very connected to our programs this year.”

There are funny moments, things that evoke a smile. When Duhamel takes off for the throw quad Salchow, Reno belts out: “Pas tombe!” (Do not fall.)

“I sometimes think of it,” Duhamel said. “I get distracted sometimes when I’m going in: It’s going to look so stupid if I fall right now.” Actually, the quad Salchow is quite consistent.

And during the twist? Reno sings: “A little higher.” And this year, their twist is a little higher.

And no, they don’t sing in practice. Sometimes the tune gets stuck in Duhamel’s head. It’s sung in French, not their mother tongue. “I don’t even know half the words,” Duhamel said. “There is one word that we think sounds like tiramisu.”

Sometimes, as Radford skates, he hears people singing along with the music: “C’est bon! C’est bon!”

Duhamel and Radford will lead the Canadian team this week as well as the arresting ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who have made some changes to their free dance (to a spin and a lift) after the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany earlier this season, but are bolstered by positive feedback.  Having lost a world gold medal by only .02 points last March, their aims are high this season. They are ready to take up where 2010 Olympic champs Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have left off.

The pair event will also feature new Canadian team Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Molinaro, who skipped the Autumn Classic because Moore-Towers said she was suffering from a stress fracture in a foot.

Top Canadian male skater Kevin Reynolds has withdrawn with foot and boot problems and the popular Elladj Balde is out with a concussion. Two-time European champion Javier Fernandez, 2011 world silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka, European bronze medalist Konstantin Menshov and Americans Max Aaron and Adam Rippon will keep it interesting.

All of the short programs will be held Friday, while all of the longs go Saturday. Competing are 55 skaters from 12 countries for total prize money of $180,000 (U.S.).

Kelowna, B.C. set to host 2014 Skate Canada International

OTTAWA, ON: Many of the top figure skaters in the world will join Canada’s best for the 2014 Skate Canada International this week in Kelowna, B.C.  The event takes place October 30-November 2, 2014, at Prospera Place. Canada will send an 18-member team, led by world medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje in ice dance and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford in pair.

Skate Canada International is the second of six competitions on the International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating circuit, which qualifies skaters for the ISU Grand Prix Final, taking place December 11-14 in Barcelona, Spain.

“The local fans, volunteers, businesses and the city of Kelowna have provided terrific support to stage the event here. Hosting this event across the country allows fans from different cities the opportunity to see many of our best skaters compete against a strong international field,” said Dan Thompson, CEO, Skate Canada. “We are so glad that everyone who loves to skate, especially young people who may just be learning, will be inspired to participate in skating because this event is being held in their community.”

“Congratulations to everyone at Skate Canada for bringing this exciting, prestigious competition to British Columbia,” said Premier Christy Clark, MLA for Westside-Kelowna. “In the heart of B.C.’s beautiful Okanagan, Kelowna will be a great host, welcoming many of the best figure skaters in the world and cheering Canada’s best. The Government of British Columbia is proud to provide $100,000 to help support 2014 Skate Canada International.”

Olympic silver medallists (team) and two-time world bronze medallists Meagan Duhamel, 28, Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford, 29, Balmertown, Ont., will lead the way for Canada in pair. The representatives of Walden FSC and CPA Saint-Léonard have previously won silver at this event in 2012 and bronze in 2011 and 2013. Earlier this season, the three-time Canadian champions won gold at the inaugural Skate Canada Autumn Classic International. Duhamel and Radford are coached by Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte at CPA Saint-Léonard.

Kirsten Moore-Towers, 22, St. Catharines, Ont., and Michael Marinaro, 22, Sarnia, Ont., will also represent Canada in pair. This will be the first international assignment for the representatives of Kitchener-Waterloo SC and Point Edward SC since teaming up in the off-season. Moore-Towers and Marinaro are coached by Kristy Wirtz and Kris Wirtz at the Kitchener-Waterloo Skating Club.

Brittany Jones, 18, Toronto, Ont., and Joshua Reagan, 24, Dallas, TX, USA, – Toronto, Ont., will be the third Canadian entry in pair. This will be their first event together on the ISU Grand Prix circuit. Jones and Reagan placed fourth at the 2014 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic and seventh at the Skate Canada Autumn Classic International this season on the ISU Challenger Series. They are coached by Kristy Wirtz and Kris Wirtz at the Kitchener-Waterloo Skating Club.

World silver medallists Kaitlyn Weaver, 25, Waterloo, Ont., and Andrew Poje, 27, Waterloo, Ont., lead the Canadian entries in ice dance. They have previously won silver at this event in 2013 and 2011, and bronze in 2009. Earlier this season, the seven-time Canadian medallists won gold at the Nebelhorn trophy. Representing Sault FSC and Kitchener-Waterloo SC, Weaver and Poje are coached by Pasquale Camerlengo and Angelika Krylova in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Piper Gilles, 22, Toronto, Ont., and Paul Poirier, 22, Unionville, Ont., are the second Canadian entry in ice dance. They have previously placed fourth at this event in 2012. This season, the representatives of Scarboro FSC won silver at the Skate Canada Autumn Classic International. Gilles and Poirier are coached by Carol Lane and Juris Razgulajevs at Ice Dance Elite in Scarborough, Ont.

Élisabeth Paradis, 22, Loretteville, Que., and François-Xavier Ouellette, 22, Laval, Que., will also represent Canada in ice dance. This will be their third international assignment of the season, having placed fifth at the Nebelhorn Trophy, and fourth at Skate America. The representatives of CPA Loretteville and CPA Les Lames D’Argent De Laval Inc. are coached by Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon in Montreal, Que.

Liam Firus, 22, North Vancouver, B.C., is one of three Canadian entries in men’s. The representative of Vancouver SC placed 10th at this event in 2012. Earlier this season, the 2014 Olympian placed ninth at the Nebelhorn trophy. Firus is coached by Christy Krall in Colorado Springs, CO, USA.

Elladj Baldé, 23, Pierrefonds, Que., is the second Canadian in the men’s category. Baldé has previously competed at this event placing 10th in 2011, and placing seventh in 2012 and 2013. Earlier this season, he placed fifth at the Nebelhorn trophy. Representing CPA Anjou Kinsmen, Baldé trains at the Detroit Skating Club with coaches Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen.

Andrei Rogozine, 21, Newmarket, Ont., will round out the Canadian entries in men’s. Rogozine has previously competed at this event, placing seventh in 2011 and eighth in 2013. This will be the third international assignment of the season for the representative of Richmond Hill FSC, having placed sixth at the 2014 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic and ninth at the Skate Canada Autumn Classic International. He is coached by Tom Zakrajsek and trains in Colorado Springs, CO, USA.

Véronik Mallet, 20, Sept-Îles, Que., is one of three Canadian entries in ladies. Last season, the representative of CPA Sept-Îles placed eighth at this event. Earlier this season, she placed seventh at the Nebelhorn Trophy. She is coached by Annie Barabé and Maximin Coïa at CTC Contrecoeur.

Alaine Chartrand, 18, Prescott, Ont., will also represent Canada in the ladies category. This will be her first assignment on the ISU Senior Grand Prix circuit. Chartrand placed fourth earlier this season at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. She is coached by Michelle Leigh and Leonid Birinberg, and trains at the Nepean Skating Club.

Julianne Séguin, 17, Longueuil, Que., is the third Canadian entry in ladies. This will also be her first assignment on the ISU Senior Grand Prix circuit. Representing CPA Longueuil, Séguin won the bronze medal at her first event of the season, the Skate Canada Autumn Classic International. Julianne is coached by Josée Picard and Marc-André Craig and trains in Chambly, Que.

Cynthia Ullmark, of Canmore, Alta., and Manon Perron of Boucherville, Que., will be the Canadian team leaders at the event. Dr. Marni Wesner of Edmonton, Alta., and physiotherapist Agnes Makowski of Toronto, Ont., will be the Canadian medical staff.  Jodi Abbott of Edmonton, Alta., Karen Howard of Regina, Sask., Karen Butcher of Greely, Ont., and Jeff Lukasik of Calgary, Alta., will be the Canadian officials at the event.

For results please visit 2014 Skate Canada International.

CANADIAN ENTRIES AT 2014 SKATE CANADA INTERNATIONAL

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
Pairs Kirsten Moore-Towers / Michael Marinaro 21/22 St. Catharines, Ont. / Sarnia, Ont. Kitchener-Waterloo SC / Kitchener-Waterloo SC Kris Wirtz / Kristy Wirtz
Pairs Brittany Jones / Joshua Reagan 18/24 Toronto, Ont. / Dallas, TX, USA – Toronto, Ont. Kitchener-Waterloo SC / Kitchener-Waterloo SC Kris Wirtz / Kristy Wirtz
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
Ice Dance Elisabeth Paradis / Francois Xavier Ouellette 22/22 Loretteville, Que. / Laval, Que. CPA Loretteville / CPA Les Lames D’Argent De Laval Inc. Marie-France Dubreuil / Patrice Lauzon
Men’s Liam Firus 22 North Vancouver, B.C. Vancouver SC Christy Krall
Mens Elladj Baldé 23 Pierrefonds, Que. CPA Anjou Kinsmen Yuka Sato / Jason Dungjen
Mens Andrei Rogozine 21 Newmarket, Ont. Richmond Hill FSC Tom Zakrajsek
Ladies Véronik Mallet 20 Sept- Îles, Que. CPA Sept-Îles Annie Barabé / Maximin Coïa
Ladies Alaine Chartrand 18 Prescott, Ont. Nepean Skating Club Michelle Leigh / Leonid Birinberg
Ladies Julianne Séguin 17 Longueuil, Que. CPA Longueil Josée Picard / Marc-André Craig

Kevin Reynolds withdraws from Skate Canada International

OTTAWA, ON:  Injury has forced Coquitlam, B.C. native Kevin Reynolds, 24, to withdraw from the upcoming Skate Canada International event in his home province. The event takes place October 30 – November 2 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, B.C.

Reynolds has struggled with injury and equipment issues for the past several months, and made the difficult decision to withdraw today.  “As an athlete who takes pride in representing Canada on the world stage, I want to be able to show my best and compete at the highest level. My decision to withdraw only comes after I have given my everything in training to prepare for this event – pushing though pain and injury.”

The problems will also force Reynolds to withdraw from his other ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating assignment, NHK Trophy in Japan in late November. Reynolds hopes to be ready for the upcoming Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Kingston in January. “It is my intention to recover, and find a solution that will allow me to skate without pain, and compete at the national championships in Kingston. I would like to thank everyone for their support during this difficult chapter in my career.”

Andrei Rogozine, 21, Newmarket, Ont., has been named to replace Reynolds in the event.

Take a #Selfie at YLW (Kelowna) and win tickets to the 2014 Skate Canada International

SCI-article-3Skate Canada International is coming to Kelowna and any passengers that have been through the Kelowna International Airport (YLW) over the last few days may have noticed a giant mural dedicated to the competition. Over 60 international skaters will be competing at Prospera Place from October 30-November 2, 2014.

For a chance to win a pair of tickets to Skate Canada International, YLW and Skate Canada are inviting you to take a photo of yourself (#selfie) with the Skate Canada mural. The Skate Canada International mural is located right at baggage claim.

All you need to do is post on Instagram or twitter and use the hashtag #YLWSCI14.  Photos must be posted before 10:00 p.m. (PT) October 28 and the winner’s photo will be randomly drawn on October 29. We will draw two sets of tickets one from each social platform:  Instagram and twitter!

We can’t wait to see all your smiling #selfies and remember to use the hashtag #YLWSCI14! Parking is free for the first 15 minutes when parking in the short-term lot at YLW.

skate_canada – Instragam

SkateCanada – twitter

TICKETS

Tickets are on sale now! They can be purchased online at www.selectyourtickets.com, by phone at 250.762.5050 or in person at the Prospera Place Box Office.

SCI-article-2

EVENT

Skate Canada International is the second competition in the annual ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating® series. The other events take place in the United States (Skate America), China (Cup of China), France (Trophée Eric Bompard), Russia (Rostelecom Cup) and Japan (NHK Trophy). Skaters are awarded points based on their placements in the series’ events.

At the conclusion of all the events, the top-six men and ladies and the top-six pair and ice dance teams qualify for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final to be held in Barcelona, Spain from December 11-13, 2014.

Local Area Children Selected as Flower Retrievers for Skate Canada International in Kelowna

OTTAWA, ON: In September Skate Canada hosted flower retriever auditions for the 2014 Skate Canada International event taking place in Kelowna, B.C., at Prospera Place from October 30 – November 2, 2014.

Twenty-four children aged 9-13 took to the ice for a live audition and were evaluated on skating skills and suitability through a series of on-ice activities by Skate Canada guest judges.

The role of the flower retriever is extremely important to the event. The flower retrievers must quickly collect all items that are thrown onto the ice after a performance and deliver these items to the skaters. Their role impacts the timing of the event that is critical to live television.

All of the selected skaters have learned to skate through their local club and are all members of the Skate Canada British Columbia/Yukon section.

Skate Canada is pleased to announce the 12 young skaters from the Kelowna region who have been selected to be flower retrievers for the event at the end of the month.

2014 Skate Canada International Flower Retrievers
Daria Carr, 10, Kelowna, B.C. (Kelowna FSC)
Mckenna Colthorp, 13, Kelowna, B.C. (Kelowna FSC)
Kaitlin Crerar, 13, Vernon, B.C. (Armstrong/Enderby SC)
Alyssa Dobbs, 12, Kelowna, B.C. (Kelowna FSC)
Taylor Fleming , 11, West Kelowna, B.C. (Mt. Boucherie SC)
Madeline Foley, 11, Kelowna, B.C. (Kelowna FSC)
Olivia Gran, 11, Kelowna, B.C. (Kelowna FSC)
Shaya Jeffery, 13, Fort St. John, B.C. (Fort St. John FSC)
Jordana McEachern, 11, Penticton, B.C. (Glengarry FSC)
Summer Peitsch, 11, Kelowna, B.C. (Kelowna FSC)
Tianna Potts, 11, West Kelowna, B.C. (Mt. Boucherie SC)
Ashley  Sales, 10, Kelowna, B.C. (Kelowna FSC)

TICKETS

Tickets are on sale now! They can be purchased online at www.selectyourtickets.com, by phone at 250.762.5050 or in person at the Prospera Place Box Office.

EVENT

Skate Canada International is the second competition in the annual ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating® series. The other events take place in the United States (Skate America), China (Cup of China), France (Trophée Eric Bompard), Russia (Rostelecom Cup) and Japan (NHK Trophy). Skaters are awarded points based on their placements in the series’ events.

At the conclusion of all the events, the top-six men and ladies and the top-six pair and ice dance teams qualify for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final to be held in Barcelona, Spain from December 11-13, 2014.