Posts

Canadians skaters come home with silver linings

Silver. Silver. And more silver.

Canadian skaters brought home a bundle of attractive Olympic medals of this precious metal, which has a white metallic lustre that can take a high degree of polish. There will be a lot of polishing of these medals, as athletes make the long trek back from Sochi with their booty.

In all, the largest team of figure skaters (17) to contest the Games in Sochi returned with three silver medals, won in the first team event ever held at the Olympics; by three-time world champion Patrick Chan; and by the exquisite ice dancers, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

In the pairs event, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch finished fifth, while Canadian champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were seventh, both at their first Olympics.

In the women’s event, Canada’s two entries also faced the Olympic rings for the first time and used the event for valuable experience for the future. Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond was 13th, while determined 16-year-old Gabby Daleman was 17th.

The skaters got busy the day before the opening ceremonies with the new team event – and nobody knew how it would work out. In the end, it made Chan the only man ever to win two figure skating medals at an Olympics. The men who accompanied him on the individual medals podium – Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan who took gold and Denis Ten of Kazakhstan – didn’t fare so well in the team event. In fact, there was no Kazakhstan team at all.

Duhamel and Radford finished second to eventual Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov in the team pair short program, with a season’s best of 73.10, then handed the torch to Moore-Towers and Moscovitch who were second to rising Russian stars Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov in the free skate. Both teams played a huge role in the Canadian team’s success.

Chan got into action early in the men’s short, but scaled down his quad toe loop – triple toe loop to a quad-double and then stepped out of his triple Axel, leaving him third behind picture-perfect Hanyu and a rejuvenated Evgeny Plushenko who was second. Chan finished with 89. 71 points, good enough to give Canada eight points toward the team total.

He handed off to Kevin Reynolds, who, despite his boot problems over the past year, pulled up his socks and soared. In fact, Reynolds clinched the silver medal for Canada, landing three quads and finishing only a quarter of a point behind Plushenko.

Kaetlyn Osmond skated both programs, and was magnificent in the short, landing a triple toe loop – triple toe loop combo for fifth place. She returned to finish fifth in the long.

Virtue and Moir finished second in the short dance with a bobble on a twizzle, but the medals were already decided before they skated the free dance: Russia had won. Virtue and Moir took second in that part, too.

“It was a great event for the young skaters,” said Moir, the team captain (ably assisted by his partner, Virtue). “We had Kaetlyn Osmond out there, 18 years old and we asked her to do two skates at an Olympic Games. The great thing about the team is that everybody pulled their weight. We’re so proud of the team.”

Duhamel and Radford drew into the second last group to skate the individual pairs short, and had only very minor errors and finished fifth. Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers, skating at their first Olympics – and probably the first skaters from Saskatchewan to do so – wore a smile the whole time and finished 13th in a field of 20. The building was silent when Moore-Towers and Moscovitch skated their quirky Motely Crue routine; they made an error on the death spiral and sat sixth.

With a set of Stetsons in the audience (from Lawrence’s rodeo family), Lawrence and Swiegers skated with joy – Lawrence admitted she didn’t want to leave the ice. They finished 14th overall.

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch impressed with their great speed in the free skate, and with only a doubling of a triple Salchow, they ended up with 202.10 points, good for fifth place. Duhamel and Radford were seventh in the long and seventh overall.

The contest was tense in the men’s event, from which Plushenko withdrew because of back issues. Liam Firus tightened up in the short program, couldn’t get the knees to work and finished 28th, missing out on the long program. Reynolds came out with his fabulous AC/DC short program, but fell on his quad Salchow and then again on his triple Axel, leaving him in 17th place.

Chan finished second in the short, but was within striking distance of Hanyu, who had set a world record for the short program of 101.45. Chan was about four points back.

The free skate was a rough go, with many men making mistakes, but Chan held onto the silver medal with a hard-fought effort, only half a point behind Hanyu in the long program, but second with finishing with a score of 275.62 points.

In the ice dancing event, Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew Poje, Alexandra Paul and Mitch Islam all took Olympic ice for the first time.  Weaver and Poje skated two strong programs for a top 10 finish, placing 7th overall. Paul and Islam had to overcome a twizzle mistake in the short dance but skated a lovely free dance to finish in 18th place.

Virtue and Moir were never better, delivering exquisite routines, first to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong and then skating the story of their lives in the free dance. Their efforts earned them a silver medal to go along with their Olympic gold from 2010 and the Sochi team medal, too.

Beverley Smith

Bright future ahead for Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabby Daleman

Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond and national silver medalist Gabby Daleman will have much to remember and much to learn from their Olympic experience in Sochi.

Neither quite met their goals: Osmond hoped for top 10 (she ended 13th) and Daleman aspired to top 15 (she moved up to 17th after finishing 16th in the free), but this event was meant to be a start, a learning experience for the next one. And they got an eyeful.

For one, Daleman was able to breathe in the advice of bronze medalist Carolina Kostner, who, like her, worked with choreographer Lori Nichol. “She’s a beautiful person,” Daleman said of Kostner, who is 11 years older. “She’s a wonderful skater and I love to watch her.”

Kostner gave Daleman great advice during her trips to Toronto: “Even if the jumps don’t go the way you want, never give up on your program,” Kostner told her. “Always skate with your heart.”

Kostner followed her own advice, skated two high quality programs and finally had the Olympics she wanted, in her third attempt. This bronze was her first medal.

Adelina Sotnikova won to the huge adulation of her home crowd with 224.59 points, defeating defending Olympic champion Yuna Kim, whose routine was one for the ages. Kim finished with 219.11 while Kostner had 216.73. Kostner admitted she was totally spent afterwards.

“It was amazing to be here and honoured to be here,” she said. “It was a dream to skate a dream competition and it happened to be at the Olympic Games.”

Sotnikova was the first Russian/Soviet woman to win the Olympic gold medal and only the fourth to win on home ice, following Madge Syers of Britain in 1908, Carol Heiss in 1960 and Sara Hughes in 2002.

Sotnikova is also the youngest medal winner for Russia in a singles event. At 17 years, 234 days, she smashed Evgeny Plushenko’s mark of 19 years, and 103 days. Her score was the second highest women’ score of all time.

Osmond started her Cleopatra routine, looking as if on fire, landing a triple flip- double toe loop and then nailing a powerful double Axel –triple toe loop. She later doubled a triple flip, and fell on a triple toe loop. But she dusted herself off, and fought on, getting level fours for a layback spin and her step sequence.

Osmond finished with 168.98 points, after earning a season’s best 112.80 in the free. “This is only the second time I’ve competed this program internationally,” Osmond said. “So I’m happy with how it went.”

It wasn’t perfect, but Osmond said it was a big step up from the team event. “I was more comfortable out there today than I was yesterday,” she said. “Today I managed to enjoy myself and execute most of my jumps. I’m satisfied”

After Osmond fell on the triple toe loop, she came back fighting and that in itself is a win. (Witness Mao Asada, after her devastating 16th place finish in the short, returning to deliver the third highest score free skate, enough to finish third in that portion of the event). “I’m happy that I started my Olympic experience with a strong short program in the team event,” Osmond said. “And I finished with a strong free tonight.”

Her Cleopatra routine – in which she emerges beautifully and exotically dressed, is her favourite. “I thought after last year, that I would never love any program more than those, but this program really trumps them.”

Daleman, known for her powerful entrance into the triple Lutz – triple toe loop, made mistakes on it again in the long, as she did in the short. The triple toe loop was deemed to be under-rotated. She singled her triple toe loop that followed a double Axel. But she delivered a three-jump triple flip combo, a triple Lutz, a triple loop and a flying camel spin that got a level four.

She finished with 95.83 points for the free skate, for 148.44 points overall.

What did she learn? “No matter what happens, don’t give up,” she said afterward. “Just keep trying because things can’t always be perfect, so you’ve got to push through and work your hardest.”

They both will be back. Their journeys have only started.

Asada’s free skate was Olympic. After so many years of missing the triple Axel and suffering through a short program on Wednesday, when she fell on it, Asada did not buckle and went for it in the long. She was awarded full rotation of it. It was landed on one foot. She did get under-rotations on two other elements and an edge call on a Lutz, but it didn’t matter. It was the comeback of the ages.

The stoic Asada dissolved in tears and later said: “I was determined to carry out what I’ve been working on all along. I wasn’t that sharp in practice this morning and yesterday was a massive disappointment.

“I owed a lot to those people that supported me over the years, and I wanted to pay them back with a great long program. I wasn’t worried about the score. I had to fight the fear in me. “

That’s what it’s all about.

Beverley Smith

First-time Olympians Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman advance to Thursdays free programs

Okay, so it was less than perfect for the Canadian women in the women’s short program at the Olympics. Note: it was their first Olympics. It was Gabby Daleman’s first senior international competition.

The short program is a tough place for a miscue. It can be costly. Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond’s first triple-triple turned into a triple toe loop – double toe loop in a flash and it’s not a combination that gets a lot of points. Then she slipped off the edge of a double Axel, but sold the rest of the program, well enough to land her in 13th place with 56.18 points. She’s aiming for a top-10 finish at these Games.

Daleman, early out of the box, went for the gusto, and may have tried to make her combo too big. She put a hand down on her triple Lutz, and had the presence of mind to squeeze in her triple toe loop. She’s in 19th place with 52.51 points and hoping for top 15.

“I messed up my Lutz-toe, but I’m still so proud,” Daleman said afterwards.

Above both of them, was worse heartbreak. Mao Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist and an icon in the sport, lost her way, tragically. She had landed a beautiful triple Axel in warmup, and she appeared to be on her way to another during her Chopin routine, when she fell. It seemed to shock her. She did not complete a combination, and then doubled a triple loop. Marks disappeared like water through a sieve. She ended up 16th, almost 20 points behind defending Olympic champion Yu-Na Kim, on top with 74.92, the best short program score of the season.

Asada scored 55.21 points, only 2.70 points ahead of Daleman. She no longer has a shot for a medal.

“I don’t know what to make of this now,” she said. “All I can do is give it everything I have tomorrow. I can’t comprehend any of this.”

She said training had been going well, but when she started the program, she said she couldn’t control her emotions or her body.

“Heartbreaking” Michelle Kwan said in a tweet.

“Mao has a gentle grace… tweeted US pair skater John Coughlin. “I’d have watched if she marked all three jumps.”

Kim had the opposite experience. She was so nervous in the warm-up, that she said she couldn’t jump at all. “But I tried to believe in myself and believe in what I’ve done before,” she said.

When the music started, she said she felt as if she was dreaming.

She skated a winsome, magical routine to “Send in the Clown,” choreographed by Canadian David Wilson, and did a triple Lutz-triple toe loop with ease. Her technical points were higher than her program components by about three points.

Carolina Kostner delivered a memorable moment with her “Ave Maria” routine, not only because it was beautiful, but because she did a very Olympic thing. During the team event, she had done only a triple toe loop – triple toe loop, but she upped the difficulty by doing a triple flip – triple toe loop during the short program Wednesday.

“I didn’t even talk to my coach about changing it,” she said. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m thankful that he left the choice up to me. I wanted to show him that I could do it.” She earned 74.12 points, only about half a point behind Kim.

But Kostner ended up third after Adelina Sotnikova of Russia faced the loud, supportive Russian crowd. Sotnikova did the easier triple toe loop – triple toe loop but still finished second with 74.64, only a quarter of a point behind the defending Olympic champion.

Sotnikova said she was a little nervous, but treated the event like a normal competition. “I was very happy that my technical mark was so high,” she said. (At 39.09, it was .06 of a point higher than Kim’s mark and about 1 ½ points higher than Kostner’s).

And she outshone fellow Russian Julia Lipnikstaia, who had skated both sections of the team event, and had suddenly developed a celebrity status at home. Lipnitskaia is in fifth place with 65.23 points after falling from a triple flip – something she rarely does.

“I don’t know what happened,” she said sadly. “I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t feel too much pressure. The crowd helped me.” The marks weren’t as low as she expected.

US champion Gracie Gold is in fourth place with 68.63 points, about six points back of the leader. “I was happy to perform under the bright lights and stress,” she said “It’s a tough event.”

The other two Americans are right behind her: Ashley Wagner is sixth, while Polina Edmunds is seventh.

The Canadian women have their own goals to achieve in Thursday’s long program. “It definitely wasn’t as good a program as I did in the team event,” Osmond said. “The jumps were a little shaky and I just couldn’t save them today. My components felt great, though. Of course, it’s not what I wanted to do, but I still have one more skate to go. Tomorrow I will focus and let things happen.”

In the kiss and cry, Osmond did not think about her miscues. She thought about what she did well.

Daleman got a season’s best mark of 52.61 and admitted she was a little nervous about what she faced: having her first senior international be the Olympic Games. She said she added more detail to both of her programs since finishing second at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships.

Beverley Smith

CANADA’S TESSA VIRTUE AND SCOTT MOIR WIN SILVER IN ICE DANCE

SOCHI, RUSSIA – Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir captured a silver medal in figure skating’s ice dance competition at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.

“What a performance by a truly remarkable Canadian team. In winning a silver medal for their trophy cases, Tessa and Scott have once again shown Canada and the world they are one of the great ice dance teams in figure skating history, said Marcel Aubut, President, Canadian Olympic Committee. “Their 17 years together as ice dance partners have been filled with greatness – Olympic medals, Canadian championships and world championships and we loved every minute of it. Congratulations once again to Tessa and Scott for being such extraordinary ambassadors for the sport around the world.”

Canada’s two other ice dancing duos competed in the free skate event, with Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje finishing in 7th place, and Alexandra Paul and Islam Mitchell finishing 18th.

Canada now has 15 medals at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games (4 gold, 7 silver and 4 bronze).

From the Canadian Olympic Committee

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir win silver medal in captivating performance

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir finished their second Olympics the way that means the most: two spellbinding programs, done flawlessly, done so that pins drop, done so that the tears come.

They won a silver medal while setting a world record of 114.66 points for their free skate, at least for a short time. The score was second to Meryl Davis and White’s new record of 116.63.

In all, Davis and White gave the United States its first Olympic gold medal ice dancing with a total of 195.52 points, also a world record, beating the mark they set at the Grand Prix Final of 191.35. Virtue and Moir walk away with 190.99 points.

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia took the bronze medal, well back with a total of 183.48 points after finishing third in both programs.

Canadian silver medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje finished seventh overall, unable to overcome low marks in the short program. But they finished fifth in the free dance with a season’s best score of 103.18, for a final score of 169.50.

Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam had to overcome a twizzle mistake in the short dance which landed them in 18th place. But they got to skate their free dance and show the hospitable Russian crowd their wares: a lovely set of twizzles, cleanly done, soft and seamless lifts, difficult entries into lifts, and a beautiful flow over the ice. They finished 16th in the free dance, but ended up 18th overall with 138.70 in their first major international competition. They had never competed at a world championship before.

Virtue emerged on ice in pale pink, took Moir’s hand and dazzled, telling the story of their lives together, all 17 years of it, the highs and lows, and finally, finishing with their hands on their hearts. “I think I’m ready for another four years,” Moir said in the kiss and cry. Nobody believed him.

“Wow, Tessa and Scott, goosebumps,” tweeted Joannie Rochette.

“THAT was the best skating I have ever seen. I never felt so involved in a performance before,” tweeted Eric Radford.

Virtue admitted that it was stressful skating on the biggest stage in the world, but they handled it. “It’s a pretty ambitious program and it’s a loaded program and I think we did it pretty well.

“We felt intense pressure. We trained 17 years for this moment.”

Their free dance bettered their previous season’s best by more than two points. “It was what we wanted to do today,” Moir said. “That program was our baby – and it’s special for us to perform it for the last time. We handled ourselves in the best way possible.”

Was winning silver a disappointment? “We would have liked to bring home a gold for Canada but no one close to us will love us any less because we’re bringing home silver,” Virtue said.

Moir said he did not know what their plans were for the future – although it sounds as if they are not continuing on to the world championships in Tokyo. They will do Stars on Ice during the spring. There, they will meet up with Jeff Buttle, who tweeted: “Love those two.”

As for Weaver and Poje – the next wave of talented skaters that will represent Canada, they went out with the idea in mind that they had nothing to lose after a disappointing score in the short program. “It was liberating,” Weaver said. “Everything from the day before disappeared when we started tonight.”

Beating 100 points is good for them, Weaver said. “It’s the best score we’ve gotten on this program since it debuted. We’re just happy that our performance matches our score.”

Poje admitted that it was “deflating” to see the scores for the short program, and it was “hard to sit back and take” it.

“But it made us want to come out and do a good performance even more so today,” he said. And they did.

Russians Ilinkyh and Katsalapov almost didn’t fully realize it was over when they took their final pose in the free dance. “There was a pause and only then did I realize that we did it. We skated our Olympic Games and now we have our bronze.”

Finishing in the hardest spot of all was the French team Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, whose routine to “the Little Prince” was a treat. They were more than six points behind the Russians.

Finally, Davis said that training alongside Virtue and Moir had been an honour. “We’ve been pushing each other and pushing our sport, not just here, but for the last four years,” Davis said.

Beverley Smith

Virtue & Moir leave the Iceberg Palace breathless with phenomenal short dance

Defending Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir delivered an Olympic moment in the Sochi short dance, channelling Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, mustering all the lush skills for which they’re known.

When they finished, Moir leaped up and down on the ice with utter joy. It was what they had been training for over the past four years and the moment they’ve been searching for all season.

“We certainly felt more like ourselves out there tonight,” Virtue explained. “We created the moment we wanted to create. I don’t think we could have done it much better than we did tonight.”

They are in second place with 76.33 points, 2.56 points behind their U.S. training mates Meryl Davis and Charlie White, with 78.89, a world record score. “We were just in our zone,” White said. Virtue and Moir are still within striking distance of winning gold, so is the perfect skate all that matters?

“We sat in the kiss and cry and kind of looked at each other and said: ‘It does matter,’” Virtue said.

“We like our chances,” Moir said.

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia out finished their more highly ranked teammates Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, to take third spot with 73.04 points.

At the moment the young Russians are winning a tightly fought battle for the bronze medal, taking a narrow lead over French veterans Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat with 72.78; Bobrova and Soloviev at 69.97, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy in sixth with 67.58 while Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje – who had the third highest score of the season – are in seventh place with 65.93 points.

Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam are in 18th place – making the cut for the long program ­-after Paul bobbled on her second of three twizzles. They finished with 55.91 points, about four points lower than their personal best. “We’re not disappointed with our score because we had a bit of a rough skate,” Islam said. “We put up a good fight and now we’ll put it behind us. We still have tomorrow.”

Before they stepped out on the ice, Virtue and Moir hugged each other for a long time. And just before the music started, he gave her a wink.

And this time, their twizzles were perfect, robust, quick, moving forward with grace, driven by confident edges. After they finished, legendary Russian coach Tatiana Tarasova stood in the stands and applauded with enthusiasm.

She wasn’t the only one. Both Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko, who had invented the Finnstep to which they had to skate, applauded them, too. “Thanks for a beautiful Finnstep,” Kokko said in a tweet.

Moir said that he and Virtue felt a little more pressure during the team short dance, but their ease and comfort returned for the performance on Sunday, even though the six days between events had Moir “twiddling” his thumbs. It was a challenge. But that all fell away when they skated into the bright lights. “I think you could tell by our reaction that we were really excited by that skate,” he said.

They did what they needed to do to win a second gold medal, Moir said. “When you have a career like ours, so much hard work goes into everything. We’ve worked so hard this season and every season to get us here. Now we just want to enjoy ourselves.”

Katsalapov wore a little grin before this Russian team began, and they delivered nice twizzles and excellent skating skills with ease. They had been part of the Russian team that won gold, and they gained confidence from competing in it. But Ilinykh said the team medal didn’t satisfy them that much and “we forgot about it quite quickly,” she said. “Still, it has helped us a lot mentally in the individual event.”

Katsalapov said he felt a 100 per cent connection to his partner, and so it looked perfect. For the free dance, he says they are not going to compete against anyone. “We’re just going to do our job cleverly as we did tonight,” he said.

Weaver and Poje lost marks in their twizzles, their first Finnstep pattern and a midline step sequence. “We’re thrilled with the way we performed tonight,” Weaver said. “It might have been our best short dance of the season.”

“Nothing can wipe the smiles from our faces,” she said. The atmosphere in the arena was “electrifying,” she said. “I was thinking to myself: ‘Thank goodness we’re doing a happy program,” because I couldn’t help but smile out there. I was also thinking: ‘Do everything right.’ Those are the memories we’re making here that I’ll never forget.”

Poje said they were disappointed with their marks but “we’re not here for the marks,” he said.

The French got their season’s best marks, but in fourth place, they promise to attack more for the free skate Monday. “We want to skate like crazy,” Pechalat said. “We want to bring emotion.” Everybody will.

Beverley Smith

Patrick Chan wins his second silver medal of the Sochi Olympics

Patrick Chan will go home with two silver medals, one from today’s men’s competition and one from the team event. “But I kind of wish it was a different colour,” Chan said.

So much pressure. So much to do, at each step in a men’s Olympic program nowadays.

Yuzuru Hanyu is the new Olympic champion, all of 19 years old, the youngest in 66 years, but it didn’t look that way after he skated and made several uncharacteristic mistakes. He had swung the door wide open for Chan, who skated directly after him. All Chan had to do was walk through it.

But pressure fell on Chan’s shoulders just as much as on Hanyu’s and every other skater who faced the bright lights of the Iceberg Palace. Few of them found perfection. Chan delivered his patented and lofty quad toe – triple toe combo, then put a hand down on a quad toe. He staggered out of a triple Axel and put both hands down on the ice, doubled a Salchow that was the final element in a jump sequence, and even stumbled out of a double Axel at the end of his Four Seasons routine.

“We’re all human,” Chan said. “Even Shawn White makes mistakes. Unfortunately, I made one too many.”

Chan finished second in the free skate with 178.10 points, just .54 less than Hanyu. And he had four points to make up from the short program, so he finished second with 275.62 points. Hanyu won with 280.09.

Hanyu’s Toronto training mate, Javier Fernandez of Spain, lost a bronze medal when he inserted a triple Salchow late in his routine, and got no points for it. Even though he didn’t do it in combination, he’d done one singly before that, and so judges counted it as a combination. But he had already done three combos and the limit is three. So Fernandez got no points for the element, which is worth 4.62 points. He lost the bronze medal by 1.18 points to Denis Ten of Kazakhstan, who had disappeared for most of the season as he recovered from very serious infections, stemming from boot problems.

Ten won the bronze medal with 255.10 points, with Fernandez fourth. Tatsuki Machida of Japan actually finished slightly ahead of Fernandez in the long program, but ended up fifth overall. Daisuke Takahashi was sixth, buoyed by his high (and well deserved) component marks.

Kevin Reynolds found redemption in the free skate, which was far from perfect (he under-rotated two of his three quads), but decent all the same, after a tough season trying to figure out boot problems. He was 15th overall with 222.23 points.

“Tonight was a little bit of redemption,” Reynolds said. “I managed to stay on my feet.”

“It’s so difficult to come back from such a disappointing performance the day before. Practice this morning was one of the hardest practices of my life. I knew that my medal chances were gone. I didn’t sleep much last night, but I fought through it and that’s all I could do.”

Ten also didn’t sleep well, after struggling to a ninth-place finish in the short program. “I felt much better than yesterday,” he said. “Yesterday I felt slow. Today I was energized.” He blasted his previous season’s best by about 20 points in the free.

Hanyu fell on his opening quad Salchow, and then he stumbled out of a triple flip. He missed a triple Salchow that was part of a jump sequence. He seemed scattered and slower than usual. It was a hard fight.

In winning, Hanyu brought glory to coach Brian Orser, one of those Canadians who had failed to win an Olympic gold medal in 1988. But as a coach, Orser, working from his base in Toronto, has trained two consecutive Olympic champions now. His first student, Yu-Na Kim, won Olympic gold in Vancouver four years ago.

Chan said although disappointed, he’s proud of the way he handled the intense pressure all week. “I don’t know if I could have handled the pressure [a year ago] and skated this way,” he told a reporter. He was proud that he didn’t go insane. He fell 4.47 points short of gold and it will be “a lingering thought,” he said.

“I gave it my all, I swear,” he said. “I was close.”

Bobsledder Kaillie Humphries was watching and tweeted: “You inspire us all.” Well wishes flooded Chan’s twitter account.

Other interesting moments: Jeremy Abbott actually out finished Jason Brown in the free skate, after he ditched a quad attempt and skated for himself. He ended up eighth in the long program, while Brown made mistakes and finished 11th. Abbott earned higher technical marks than Fernandez.

Takahashi, skating at his last Olympics, and trying to overcome a knee problem, finished fifth overall after landing his quad on two feet, although it was one of his better attempts of the event. But he didn’t waste a note in his beautiful style and actually had the second highest component score of the long program, topped only by Chan. Takahashi edged Hanyu by .02 points in performance marks. There were no perfect 10s to be had by anybody.

Beverley Smith

Chan: ‘I’m ready. I think it’s time’

The last thing Patrick Chan needs right now is a history lesson.

The three-time world champion knows the math. He need not be reminded that no Canadian – most notably the seven men’s world champions to come out of this country – has ever captured a men’s figure skating gold medal at the Olympic Games.

A nation is turning to its 23-year-old champion to change that history.

In Vancouver four years ago, at just 19 years of age, Chan admits he put too much pressure on himself to try to get to the podium in an Olympics on his home soil. Instead, he struggled to harness his emotions, finishing fifth, a result he has referred to as “disappointing” ever since.

This time around, despite the three consecutive world championships in his back pocket, Chan isn’t putting the weight of the country on his shoulders.

“Vancouver was a lot of pressure,” Chan admits. “I was young, I was 19 and I was like ‘Yeah, I’m going to win a medal and how cool is it going to be to stand on a podium in Canada?’”

“In four years, you can learn a lot. I’ve won three world titles in that time. I’m a much different person now, on and off the ice.”

Pressure or not, Chan knows the eyes of Canada will be on him when the curtain lifts on the men’s short program in Sochi Thursday.  The earlier team event – where Canada won silver – may turn out to be blessing in disguise for Chan, who struggled to an unlikely third-place finish in the men’s short, placing behind current nemesis Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Russian legend Evgeni Plushenko. Chan admits it wasn’t the skate he wanted, but says the team event gave him a chance to go through a program at the Olympics, to settle the nerves and get his proverbial feet under him.

Call it a dress rehearsal of sorts.

On Thursday, it’s showtime.

“After getting the silver medal it’s really a lot of pressure off me,” Chan says of the team event.

“It’s cool to finally have a medal in your hand and say that it’s your own,” he told a press conference earlier this week. “I didn’t have that chance in Vancouver.”

While most of Canada will be holding its breath watching Chan attempt to chase history, don’t count out Kevin Reynolds, who laid down a sterling performance in the men’s free program at the team competition. Coming off a fifth-place showing at the world championships in London, Ont. 11 months ago, if the door to the podium opens even slightly, Reynolds could walk right in and grab a medal.

After spending most of the year away from competition dealing with boot issues, Reynolds rolled out his rocking, AC/DC-driven short program at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships last month.

On Thursday, Reynolds will showcase the program to the rest of the world. If those two-plus minutes don’t get your feet tapping, you may want to check your pulse.

Liam Firus, another B.C. native, will also be competing in his first Olympic Games.

In the months leading up to these Games – in fact, since he claimed his first world title in 2011 – talk has revolved around Chan being that guy to finally break the Canadian Olympic hex. Chan is well aware of the chatter, having lived it for the past four years, but he is trying hard not focus on names like Browning, Stojko, Orser or Buttle.

No, instead, Chan has his sights set on the likes of Yuzuru Hanyu, Javier Fernandez, Daisuke Takahashi and yes, Plushenko, just a few of the imposing obstacles that stand in the way of his quest for gold.

“What I’ve been working on the last two or three weeks leading up to these Games is not busying myself thinking, ‘Am I training as hard as the other skaters? Am I a better skater? Are my quads better than Yuzuru’s or Daisuke’s, or whoever?’”

“It’s been a constant battle, like the devil on my shoulder and the angel on my other side. It’s a constant battle between positive and negative thoughts, thinking ‘am I going to beat them even if I’m at my best?’”

This Olympic crown is what Chan often refers to as his “Holy Grail”. It is the only thing missing from his sparkling resume.  No matter what happens over these next couple of days, Chan knows the sun will come up the day after – in Sochi and in Canada.  Gold or not, what happens in Sochi will not define his legacy.

“If I win or not here, people will go on with their lives,” he says. “I will go on with my life.”

It’s all about the pressure, and Chan is determined not to put too much on himself. He knows what is at stake.  After four long years, Chan’s Holy Grail is once again within reach.

“I’m ready,” he said before leaving for Sochi.

“I think it’s time.”

Marty Henwood

Patrick Chan sits in second place going into Friday’s free program in Sochi

It was as expected in the men’s short program: Patrick Chan and Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan have locked horns and left the rest of the field scrambling to catch up. With 11 points for them to make up, it’s a tough task.

The Toronto-trained Hanyu was spectacular and relaxed to set a world record of 101.45 points in the short and he’s now the first man to crack the 100 threshold in the short program.

Chan made a bobble on his nemesis jump, the triple Axel, and finished with 97.52, still only about four points off Hanyu’s pace.

Behind Hanyu, Chan, nine men are within 3 ½ points of each other in an intense battle for the bronze medal, starting with two-time European champion Javier Fernandez of Spain in third with 86.98 points and stretching down to Japanese skater Tatsuki Machida in 11th with 83.48 points.

Canadian silver medalist Kevin Reynolds saw his quad Salchow slip away from him and then his triple Axel (both under-rotated) and is currently in 17th place. He’d hoped for more, after finishing fifth at the world championships last March, but boot problems all season have made preparation difficult.

Liam Firus finished 28th after missing his triple Axel and failed to make the cut for the long program. Only the top 24 advance. “I couldn’t get comfortable,” Firus said. “I was just nervous and had jittery legs.” He’d never been to a world championship and had only one Grand Prix event.

But the big shocker of the day was the withdrawal of 2006 Olympic champion Evgeny Plushenko, who had helped Russia win gold in the team event. He had already been complaining of his back pinching him when he doubled a couple of jumps in the team long program.

But on Wednesday, during practice, Plushenko fell on a quad toe and immediately felt a problem in his back. He practiced the morning of the short program, but did no jumps at all. He said he couldn’t. “I skated maybe seven minutes maximum,” he said. “I tried and tried and tried today.”

In the warm-up before the short program, Plushenko did a triple loop and a triple Lutz, but when he stepped out of his first triple Axel attempt, he felt “terrible pain” in his leg. The second one, his body twisted and he had a terrible landing on it. “I couldn’t feel my legs after it. It hurt and that was it. I had to withdraw.”

He admitted he almost cried. The audience went silent after he left the ice. “It’s hard, believe me,” Plushenko said. “This is not how I wanted to end my career.”

Fernandez said he wasn’t surprised by Plushenko’s withdrawal because he had been complaining about his back after the team event. He thought it was too much for him to skate two more programs.

“If I was Plushenko, I would have given my place to another person if I wasn’t 100 per cent. But Plushenko is Plushenko, and he can decide what he can and can’t do.”

Plushenko’s coach Alexei Mishin said that the morning after the free skate of the team event, the Russian skating federation should have made a change, but Plushenko seemed fine after that. “We didn’t do anything that wasn’t fair play.” With Plushenko at out this point, Russia fielded no men’s skater at all.

Hanyu, who started skating because of Plushenko, said he wasn’t even aware of the withdrawal until he went to skate and saw the Plushenko’s name wasn’t on the leaderboard. He was disappointed.

So was Chan, who wished him a quick recovery.

Without Plushenko in the rink, the moments belonged to the top two skaters. Hanyu said he was “over the moon” to break 100 points and even surprised by the score.  “I took it one element at a time,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to clear 100 points. I was just trying to turn in the best performance I possibly could – and I did.”

He didn’t show it, but admitted he was nervous and his legs were shaking. “I was certainly feeling the atmosphere of the Olympics out there,” he said.

Coach Brian Orser told him he was proud of Hanyu. That warmed Hanyu’s heart.

Chan said he didn’t care if he was in second. “It was nice to see a 97 after an 89 in the team event,” he said. “I had a bumble on the Axel, so I am happy with 97.” Chan slightly outscored Hanyu on the components mark: by only .57 points.

He was surprised by Hanyu’s lofty score. “I’m going to pace myself,” Chan said. “I have a plan.”

And he feels he’s in a good spot. He likes being in second place. “I like the chase,” Chan said. “I can enjoy the Olympics during the free skate, while Hanyu has a target on his back. At the Olympics, the target is bigger.”

He said he’s made up four points before in a long program and has “quite an arsenal” to rely on. He said his triple Axel is getting more confident, and bigger. “I got a bit more height and I over rotated on the landing,” he said. “It was a challenge, though, to be honest, doing the short program.”

Chan’s lofty quad toe-triple toe earned him 16.40 points. He supplied one of 19 quads attempted in the event – well 18 with the withdrawal of Plushenko. Only seven completed them, eight if you count Fernandez turning out of his quad Salchow. Those who did were: Hanyu, Chan (in combination), Peter Liebers of Germany, who skated the performance of his life (quad combo), Brian Joubert (quad combo), Alexander Majorov, Machida (quad comb), and Reynolds (quad combo). None of them matched Chan’s mark, although Liebers was closest with 15.69 points.

Reynolds said sadly after the event: “It was a disaster out there. I was coming off such a high after the team event and I felt ready and confident this morning. I lost it on the first jump and it just snowballed from there.”

Among other contenders: Daisuke Takahashi sits in fourth after under-rotating and two footing his quad; Liebers gets fifth, Jason Brown of the United States thrilled the crowd with no quad and is in sixth place: Joubert finally got his first good Olympic skate in four Games to be seventh; the promising 17-year-old Chinese skater Han Yan is eighth, and Denis Ten is ninth after stumbling out of his quad. Machida doubled his Lutz and is 11th.

Shortly after Plushenko withdrew, U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott, a training mate of Chan, fell forward on a quad attempt, drove his hip into the ice and crashed into the boards. He lay there for 15 seconds, and just as everyone thought he was finished, Abbott rolled to his feet and landed a triple Lutz – triple toe loop in the opposite corner. It was a comeback for the ages. Abbott is in 15th place with 72.58 points.

Beverley Smith

Outstanding performances from Canadian pair teams at first Olympic Games

It took Olympic moments to get onto the podium in the Sochi pairs event. Mistakes could be crushing.

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch had an Olympic moment, skating with speed and flair, putting themselves into first place for a time. But Moscovitch had doubled a triple salchow – without Moore-Towers even seeing it. She celebrated at the end, jumping up and down on the ice with glee. Then she found out.

“We feel we were pretty great,” she said afterward. “I was very happy with the performance. We were knocking things off one by one.”

Their small glitch did not interrupt the program. “I still think it was great,” she said. “I’m just so excited”

They both skated with comfort and ease and sailed into fifth place in a tightly fought contest, although it was their first appearance at an Olympic Games. They defeated Canadian champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford by 2.57 points after their friends made mistakes, just a few too many to swim upstream.

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch finished ahead of the Canadian champs in the free skate with 131.18 points and in the overall total score of 202.10.

Duhamel and Radford chalked up a season’s best mark of 127.32 in the long program and finished seventh overall with 199.53.

Of course, nobody could touch Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, even on a day when they didn’t skate their best. Despite a handful of tiny miscues, the Russians won the free skate with 152.69 points and a final score of 236.86. Trankov threw his fist in the air when he finished, sunk to his knees, then kissed the ice during a standing ovation.

Their compatriots, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov – junior skaters a couple of years ago – delivered the best performance of their lives under pressure and earned the silver medal, with 218.68 points, 18.18 points behind the gold medalists. It was a personal best for them. “That’s the way you have to do your job if you want to achieve success,” Stolbova said. It’s the first time since the 1998 Nagano Olympics that Russians have stood one-two on the podium, a far cry from the 2010 Olympics four years ago, when none did.

It was a heartbreaking day for four-time world pair champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, who had stayed around for four years to improve on the bronze medal they had in Vancouver. Actually, they spent four years in search of gold. This time, they won bronze again, and Szolkowy had to comfort a tearful Savchenko on the medal podium.

The gold slipped out of their hands early in the program when Szolkowy fell on a triple toe loop combination. Points flew out of their grasp. They tried to pull out all the stops by including a throw triple Axel at the end, but Savchenko fell on it. They finished with 215.78 points.

Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China were fourth with 209.88 points in their final Olympic performance, after having troubles in the jumps early.

Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers were 14th, with troubles on their double Axels, and a fall on a throw triple loop. They took bows upon bows upon bows, with Lawrence admitting she just didn’t want to get off the ice. “That was fun,” she said.

“I fell on the throw loop, but I got up really fast,” she said. “Honestly, I was enjoying myself the whole time. I was in the moment and enjoying the music. I was living out the dream I’ve had since I was a little girl.”

“Coming in, I was so excited to skate. Every time I’m out on the ice, I don’t ever want to get off. That’s why I kept curtseying. I wish I could stay out there and curtsey to every single person. It’s really been the experience of a lifetime.”

Trankov admitted that he and his partner dealt with huge pressure. “Today was a big day for all of Russia,” he said. “It was the hardest job of our lives.”

Volosozhar, usually cool at all times, appeared overwhelmed after the final pose. “To be honest, I was crying because I felt so many emotions, nerves, concentration,” she said. “I’m still nervous and shaking, but I’m also so happy. We did really well today.”

They had taken a nine-point lead into the free program and they started off spectacularly, with a huge triple twist. Their triple toe loop combination jump lost a tiny bit of unison, as did a side by side spin. Volosozhar put a hand down on a throw triple loop.

Duhamel and Radford, third at the world championships last year, had such high hopes and left the rink feeling disappointed. Duhamel fell on a triple Salchow, and then touched her hands to the ice on a throw triple Lutz. Their final spin lost unison. They had started strongly with a triple twist, and a triple Lutz jump that just sailed.

“I don’t know what happened,” Duhamel said. “We felt really good. We were in the zone. The first half of the program was great. I don’t know what went wrong. I surprised myself on the Salchow. It wasn’t our best.”

Radford said they felt very strong and well trained when they went out onto the ice. “Somehow, things just didn’t work out,” he said.

But, he added, they were very happy with their Olympics. It had taken them both years to get to their first Games. She is 28, he 29.

Beverley Smith

Friends and rivals, Canadian pair teams set to live Olympic dream in Sochi

Mere seconds before the defining skate of his life, Dylan Moscovitch almost went looking for a hug.

Stepping on to the ice with partner Kirsten Moore-Towers for their pair free program at last month’s Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Ottawa, Moscovitch stole a glance at the kiss and cry. Close friends Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers, who had just heard their free program marks, were caught up in the emotion of having just guaranteed themselves a spot on the podium – and, with it, all but locking up a berth on the Canadian Olympic Team.

As Lawrence succumbed to the emotion of the moment and wept, Moscovitch, for a fleeting second, wanted nothing more than to show a little love.

“I looked over at them in the kiss and cry, and saw Paige crying, and I was like ‘wait, wait, I can’t skate yet, I have to go hug them’,” laughs Moscovitch.

Such is life for Canada’s trio of pair entries at these Sochi Games, with three-time Canadian champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford joining Moore-Towers, Moscovitch, Lawrence and Swiegers to carry Canada’s hopes in the event. Competitors and rivals, teammates and friends, each will realize their own dreams Tuesday when the individual pair competition – an oxymoron necessitated thanks to the just-completed team event, where Canada claimed silver – gets underway at the spectacular Iceberg Skating Palace.

Press rewind to that Saturday night special in Ottawa last month. During the free program, all Moore-Towers and Moscovitch did was go out and set a new Canadian record, seemingly setting the table for their second national title.

Not so fast.

That record lasted about five minutes, before Duhamel and Radford broke it again to pull off a national title three-peat. It was skating’s version of history repeating itself. The previous January, at the Canadian championships in Mississauga, Ont., Moore-Towers and Moscovitch shattered what was then the Canadian record, only to have Duhamel and Radford topple it minutes later.

For those keeping score, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch have the unique distinction of owning two Canadian records for about ten minutes combined – and have a pair of silver medals to show for it.

When Moore-Towers and Moscovitch won their Canadian crown in 2011, it was Duhamel and Radford taking silver.

Radford has called Moscovitch “my best friend and archrival”.

“They’re very good and I think they’re a major key to why Eric and I are as good as we are,” Duhamel says of Moore-Towers and Moscovitch. “I think that whether they know it or not, they push us and they make us better. It’s great the rivalry we’ve created.”

“Canadian pairs skating is definitely at a high right now and we’re proud to be pushing one another,” adds Moore-Towers. “They push us and never make it easy on us and I think we do the same.”

For the better part of the past four seasons, the two teams have waged a back and forth battle for Canadian pair supremacy, with Duhamel and Radford holding the slimmest of upper hands. Quietly, without the fanfare and attention given their pair teammates at these Olympics, Lawrence and Swiegers have been writing their own storyline. The bronze in Ottawa was their fourth consecutive third-place showing at the national championships.

Off the ice, Moore-Towers, Moscovitch, Lawrence and Swiegers have formed an unbreakable bond, a friendship that is bigger than the colour of the medal draped around their necks.

“I think I was as happy for them (Lawrence and Swiegers) making the Olympic team as I was for us,” says Moscovitch. “We’ve all grown up in this sport together, so to see us realize our dream together is great. We get to share it with close friends, which makes it pretty special.”

“When it comes to the program, we leave it out there,” says Swiegers. “We do our best, and let the cards fall where they may. We’re all great friends, and we’ve all worked hard to get here. We’re going to enjoy it.”

The three teams will carry the Canadian flag at the pair competition at these Games, and realize they have their work cut out for them. Not only is there the unenviable task of trying to put a chink in the armour of reigning world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia, but also trying to block the path to the podium will be four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany.

Not exactly a lot of elbow room to squeeze into the medal ceremony, although Duhamel and Radford will carry the confidence of a bronze medal earned at last year’s ISU World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ont.

As one would almost expect, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch were right on their heels in London, placing fourth. Old habits die hard, as they say.

In their post-event press conference in Ottawa, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch light-heartedly lamented their short-lived Canadian record, their second in as many years.

“I’d like to keep the record one of these times,” laughed Moscovitch.

A little joke between friends.

And rivals.

Marty Henwood

Silver medal-winning Olympic team just so proud, so Canadian

They were so proud, so poised, so gracious.

So Canadian.

Sure, the colour of the medal may be a shade off from the one the Canadian Olympic figure skating team quietly envisioned as the inaugural team event dawned last week, but this team, one that spends much of their year competing against, and not for, one another, made a nation proud under the shadows of the towering Olympic flame Sunday night.

And as for that silver medal earned, they’ll wear it well.

Sometimes, even when your dreams are a little loftier, being second-best is good enough. If you watched the performance of the Russian team in Sochi – from Volosozhar and Trankov to Lipnitskaya and Plushenko – you got the sense destiny was on Russia’s side, to win this maiden team competition, gold on home soil after a dismal Vancouver Games four years ago. There seemed to be a feeling after that first day – when Russians took 19 of a possible 20 points – that everyone else was skating for silver.

In the eight events making up the team competition, Russia claimed the maximum 10 points in five of them.

But we learned something about this Team Canada over these past few days. Not just about those nine athletes who contributed to bring Canada its fourth medal of these Games, but also the team members who weren’t called upon to compete, who yelled and cheered themselves hoarse all week long. We learned that in a sport that is often as individual as can be, this team element was something different, something special, something always to be remembered.

This was a team letting each teammate know, “You go out and do your thing. We’ve got your back.”

“It’s incredibly meaningful to us to be able to share it with the whole team,” said Tessa Virtue, who claimed ice dance gold with partner Scott Moir four years ago in Vancouver. “There were a lot of personal bests here and I can’t wait to stand on the podium with everyone.”

“It was a great event for the young skaters,” added Moir. “We had Kaetlyn Osmond out there, 18 years-old, and we asked her to do two skates at an Olympic Games. The great thing about the team is that everyone pulled their weight. We’re so proud of our team.”

On this final day of the competition, although they weren’t saying it out loud, you knew deep down the Canadians conceded they weren’t going to be climbing up to the top step of the podium. But when High Performance Director Mike Slipchuk went to the bullpen and summoned Kevin Reynolds for the men’s free, the 23-year-old delivered.

Despite spending most of the season on the shelf trying to correct a tedious skate boot issue, Reynolds, having lived in the shadow of three-time world champion Patrick Chan in recent years, went out and laid down a dazzling performance that rubber-stamped the silver for Canada.

“I’m glad that I could get the performance that I did tonight out the way,” said an elated Reynolds. “Considering that I didn’t know for sure if I would get to participate until only a few days ago, I think I did great. I’m glad I was able to contribute here.”

“It was amazing,” Reynolds told CBC after the competition ended. “From start to finish I could hear Team Canada cheering me on in the background.”

Like Reynolds, Osmond was unable to compete for most of the season as she battled injuries. The youngster made a memorable return at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships last month, winning her second straight Canadian crown. Eight weeks after celebrating her 18th birthday, Osmond more than held her own against the world’s best in her first Olympic appearance.

“It feels good,” said Osmond. “I’m glad I could contribute to the team. I could feel the support of my team and I put out two good skates. I’m very happy with that.”

Now, with the team competition in the books, the Canadian team will go their separate ways to chase Olympic dreams in their individual events. No doubt, there will be both high and low moments over these next 10 days – there are the Olympic Games, after all – but you get the feeling this team may have a few more surprises left in store yet.

“I think it’s easy for a lot of us to get carried away with the medals, and wanting to bring more medals to the table for Canada,” Chan told CBC. “I think what we can all take from this event is we all got a chance to go out on the ice and really enjoy skating.”

“Each of us had a moment on the ice, and we all enjoyed it.”

“We’re all so proud to represent Canada,” beamed Virtue. “It’s so special to be part of this event. I think Canada really showed its true colours.”

Red, white and silver, indeed.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
Facebook Skate Canada / Patinage Canada
Twitter @SkateCanada
Instagram skate_canada
Vimeo Skate Canada
YouTube SkateCanada PatinageCanada

HASHTAGS
#CanadaSkates

Marty Henwood[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]