Behind The Blades with Meagan Duhamel: Skate Canada International
Another Skate Canada International has come and gone and as we say good-bye to Mississauga and the Hershey Centre, we are left with some amazing memories. Mississauga did a great job playing host to the 2016 Skate Canada International and everyone I talked to enjoyed the events at the Hershey Centre. And how could you not? There were numerous personal best performances, sold out crowds and enthusiastic media coverage of the event.
International skaters love to come to Canada for events because the crowd always welcomes them as their own. It doesn’t matter where you are from, you will receive support and love from the Canadian audience.
It was fun to reconnect with some of my old skating friends this week as well. Hao Zhang, Yuko Kavaguti, Alexander Smirnov, Eric, Dylan and I have all been competing together for a very, very long time. It was fun to all be at the same competition together, us “old” pair skaters, still fighting and still pushing the sport forward.
And how can a Canadian not be completely inspired by last week’s skating? Katelyn and Alaine managed to throw down two amazing programs each, and they showed the World that Canadian Ladies are a force to be reckoned with. Liam Firus achieved a new personal best long program score, and that’s only a shade of what he is truly capable of achieving. That score will only continue to go up from here. Kevin Reynolds came back to Grand Prix competition after a few years away and made a huge statement with his short and long program that earned him a bronze medal. I love watching Kevin seize opportunities like he did in Mississauga, it always makes me so excited and it’s something that I have come to expect from Kevin.
Patrick showed us what he does best: beautiful, effortless, seamless skating combined with musicality and complex choreography. He always leaves all the other skaters in awe of his basic skating ability. This week, Patrick also showed that he wants to be back on top of the skating World, by attempting a new quad jump for the first time, the quad sal. We saw him land it in practice and it won’t be long before he’s nailing a 3-quad long program, which will be more then enough for him to contend with the crazy quad faze that is going on in men’s skating.
The dance teams were also all beautiful. Alex and Mitch shone as they showcased gorgeous programs and costumes at the Hershey Centre. They have beautiful attention to detail, something I always admire with them. Piper and Paul put their stamp on the ice dance world this week in a big way! They have worked hard and it showed. Their programs are mature, intricate and powerful. I’m just making a guess here, but I think they will surprise a lot of people this season. Their 110-point free dance proved that.
It seemed like most people at the Hershey Centre came to watch the return of Tessa and Scott, and they lived up to the buzz. I thought they created two uniquely beautiful programs this year, and they have managed to step back into competition so no one would not be able to guess that they’ve been away from the sport for a few years. So respectable.
And my favourite, the pairs event! It was a strong event, with many teams battling for a spot on the podium, and potentially a spot in the Grand Prix Final. Britany and Josh skated very well and they will use this event as a stepping stone to future international competitions, as well as the Canadian Championships. Lubov and Dylan also had a good event, winning their first Grand Prix medal with bronze. Although they had some errors, they still pulled big scores, showing nicely choreographed programs and strong pair elements. And then there was us ….
Eric and I showed up at SCI 2016 with a mission in our short program: The Throw Triple Axel. We worked hard tweaking our short program after Finlandia Trophy to ensure the triple axel would be assessable and the program would be preformed with high energy and sharp movements. In practice, our throw triple axel has gained consistency. I’d say it’s at an 85% success rate at home, and during the practice sessions at SCI, so we felt like our odds were good. I had a good feeling all day leading into the short program. I felt calm, confident and sure of myself and our ability to hit a great short program. I had to remind myself, and Eric, before we skated that “When we land that triple axel, let’s try to stay calm so we don’t make any silly mistakes afterwards”. Well, I did land the triple axel, but I didn’t quite stay so calm after, there was some stumbles and a lack of complete “Smoothness” but I’ll take it for October.
The energy that builds in our short program, set to music from Seal, is crazy and the crowd knew what we were planning on doing, which along with a triple axel throw, also included a side-by-side triple lutz, another high-risk manoeuvre. In addition to having a blast during our short program, we were so pleased to see that we set a new personal best score of 78.3. We are already thinking about how we can reach 80 points for our next Grand Prix, NHK Trophy.
Resetting after such a big moment is very, very difficult. We focused a lot on the short program coming into this event, and with that being a huge success, I did have a thought going into the long of “What are my goals?” We just hadn’t thought about it too much, because our focus was on the short program coming in. I feel like we zoned in well and focused to deliver a strong long program. Sadly, I took an uncharacteristic, terrible fall on the quad throw at the beginning of the long program, but we reset well and still managed a strong, emotional performance. We know we can develop more nuances in our long program, and deliver better quality side-by-side jumps (each of them received minus 1s for the most part). This will be a big focus as we prepare for the NHK Trophy.
It was announced that next year Skate Canada International will go back west, to Regina, Saskatchewan. I have no doubt that Regina will do an incredible job organizing this event, and that the hard-core skating fans (I’m one of them!!!), and local individuals from Regina, will come support all the skaters.
Thanks for joining me, and everyone else from Skate Canada in Mississauga this week. Can’t wait to see you all in the near future!