by Beverley Smith
(5 February 2013)
Officials walked away from this national championship feeling refreshed. “We’ve been waiting for this,” one said.
Mostly, they were talking about the women’s event, long the weakest corner in the Canadian skating landscape. Not this year. From novice to senior, Canada’s women were going for the gusto.
Leading them all was Kaetlyn Osmond, a 17-year-old native of Marystown, Nfld., a beautiful province known more for its charming dialects and rugged coasts than for figure skaters. But it seems as if Osmond has single-handedly inspired a generation in one year, after having won the senior women’s short program last year as an unknown and then taking the bronze medal.
She became Canadian champion this year, taking complete command, dazzling sold-out crowds, the largest crowds she had ever played to. Skating to Perez Prado, the King of Mambo, she won the short program with incredible ease, earning 70.04 points, the highest mark achieved by a senior women this year, well ahead of Mao Asada’s 67.95 that she earned at NHK Trophy. Mind you, Osmond’s number won’t be recorded in the annals of figure skating: she scored it in a domestic competition, rather than an international.
But just for fun, how does it rank among the top short program scores of all time for women? Seventh, behind Yu Na Kim’s 78.50 at the Vancouver Olympics, Asada, Rochette (71.36), Sasha Cohen, Mirai Nagasu and Irina Slutskaia.
Osmond achieved this feat by firing off an easy triple toe loop – triple toe loop, so fine that judges awarded her a row of +2s for it (one +3), a gorgeous triple flip, that earned her a couple of +3s, a layback spin that ended in a Biellmann, a brilliant double Axel out of a spread eagle, also with a row of +2s and +3s,, and a hard-to-get level four in her step sequence, which by the way, got three +3s. Technically, she earned 37.38 and pulled in 32.66 component marks.
Well back in second was defending champion Amelia Lacoste with 57.86 points, who used a triple flip – double toe loop combination to get there, and a triple loop, her favourite jump, on which she fell. “It was such a silly mistake,” she said afterward. “I don’t think I’ve fallen in a triple loop at home, so I was very shocked when I fell.”
Lacoste said she injured her right hip while training a triple loop – triple loop last summer, and since then she decided to set aside any attempts to do a triple-triple for the national championship.
Lacoste said she first injured her hip last year while training a layback spin. “Maybe I wasn’t fully warmed up to do that,” she said. And then it began to bug her. She was fine during the summer, and even at Skate Canada in Windsor. But one day when working a lot on the layback spin, the troubles returned. “The day after, I had trouble to walk,” she said. She took almost two weeks off, and had an MRI. She didn’t have the results before nationals. Her lower back is always sore, she said.
The youngsters in the competition didn’t have such problems. Julianne Seguin, an enchanting 16-year-old who is trained by Josee Picard, the former trainer of Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler and many others, finished third with an unapologetic triple Lutz – double toe loop combination. She landed a triple loop with a lean, and got some negative GOEs but rallied back to do a fine double Axel and two spins that earned level four, and a step sequence rated level four, as well. Seguin ended up with 53.93 points.
But others were breathing down her neck. Adrianna DeSanctis, 24, fifth at the past two Canadian championships, finished fourth with a triple Lutz – double toe loop, and a triple Salchow, redeeming herself after finishing ninth at Skate Canada in 2011.
Feisty little Gabrielle Daleman, 14, from the same stable as Andrei Rogozine, finished fifth, with a spunky triple toe loop – triple toe loop combination but she fell on a triple flip.
Alaine Chartrand, 16, who had finished ninth at the Canadian senior level last year as a 15-year-old, had no intention of being left behind, either. She landed a triple Lutz – triple toe loop combination although the final landing was a bit of a stutter step. She fell on a triple flip, and then got only a level one for a flying camel spin. Her spins are an Achilles heel. She has been known to land her jumps close to the boards and in the corners.
Veronik Mallet, 18, second at the junior level last year, and third at the novice only two years ago, and second at the pre-novice the year before that, finished seventh after staggering out of a triple loop that was supposed to be a combination, but then tacking the wayward double toe loop onto the end of a triple toe loop. She did a double Axel from a spread eagle. And earned level fours on a couple of spins.
Alexandra Gagnon, 19, did a triple Lutz – double toe loop combination, although she made an unscheduled turn between the two jumps and then fell on a triple loop.
After the short, Osmond said that she landed her first triple-triple right after sectionals last season and had been doing it ever since. She can do other triple-triples, like flip-toe and Lutz-toe. “It’s just that I have more confidence in this one and I’ve always done this one,” she said. She does not do the triple-triple in the long, although she was tempted. Still, the Osmond team decided to go for consistency.
“I don’t think anything will deter her,” said Louis Stong, development consultant for Skate Canada. “She loves it. She skates a lot at the West Edmonton Mall, so she’s used to it [crowds].
In the long program, Osmond put more distance between her and the rest and her marks made Canadians breathless.
First of all, the 131.30 that she achieved for her free skate was more than 15 points better than what she had done while winning Skate Canada in Windsor, Ont. And it ranks second only this year to Elizaveta Tuktamysheva’s 131.67 that she earned at the European championships. The mark was higher than the 130.52 points that veteran Caroline Kostner used to win the European title. Still, Osmond’s mark is a domestic mark, let’s not forget.
As far as total marks go, Osmond’s final score of 201.34 ranks right up there with the world’s best, too, although Osmond’s Skate Canada mark gives her officially the 11th best score of the season.
Osmond’s 201.34 is higher than Mao Asada’s high this season of 196.80, and it’s higher than Kostner’s final mark of 194.71 that gave her the European championship.
Joannie Rochette still holds the Canadian record of 208.23 that she set at the Canadian championships just before the Vancouver Olympics.
Osmond wasn’t perfect in the free, but admitted to a new phenomenon for her: nerves. But as soon as she stepped onto the ice, she said, they washed away as she launched into her fiery Carmen. Yes, another Carmen.
Coach Ravi Walia said he tried to package Osmond in a way so that her first year in senior international competitions, people wouldn’t see her as a 16-year-old. He did it so they would see her as a contender, not just for a Canadian title, but for a top-10 world championship finish. “I think she realized as the year went on, it was no longer about just the jumps,” he said. “It was all the details, and refining and polishing every movement.”
Walia, who has coached Osmond for seven years, says he felt that she could do Carmen. “I know she can play that character,” he said. “And I knew she could do it in a way that everybody would notice her.”
The judges certainly did. She landed a spectacular triple flip – double toe loop, a triple Lutz and then a double Axel – triple toe loop, although she stepped out of it. A triple Salchow followed with very high GOEs, then a triple flip. When she landed a triple toe loop – double toe loop – double toe loop, the crowd roared. She did fall on a double Axel, but almost doubled her mark on the choreographed spiral by earning a spate of +3s and +2s. A step sequence was rated a level four as was her layback spin that included a Biellmann. She got a standing ovation.
“This year I’ve matured a lot, and I’m not overly excited with what I’ve done,” said Osmond. “I’m definitely excited with what I’ve done, but I can almost calm myself down a lot easier. And I know how to put myself in the right mindset.”
Osmond won by 37.44 points. A scramble ensued for the other two medals.
In the end, Daleman got the silver, probably by sheer desire. Before she started her free skate, she stood at centre ice, her eyes narrowed, like an animal.
Daleman, who turned 15 only the Sunday before the event, landed a triple toe loop – triple toe loop combination at the start, clearly inspired by what Osmond had done the previous year. “When I saw her do the triple-triple, I said I need to do that,” Daleman said. “So I worked on it all year and I got it,” she said.
She also did a triple Lutz – double toe loop, a triple flip, a double Axel, a second triple Lutz (although she flipped over to the wrong edge on entry), a triple Salchow – double toe loop – double toe loop, and a double Axel. Her combination spin got only a level one, but her final spin was worth a level four, as was her layback, a thing of beauty. She earned 112.10 for the long and finished up with 163.90 points.
“When I came to this competition, I said this bronze is mine,” Daleman said afterward. “I want it. And I’m going to go for it. My goal was top three and getting onto the national team. Getting the silver was just a bonus. It made me feel so happy. Coming to my first year in senior, this was a great late birthday present.”
The bronze medal wasn’t so clear cut. Lacoste initially was said to have won it with 156.14 points. But Alaine Chartrand’s coaches noticed an anomaly with how her triple Lutz toe loop –single loop – triple Salchow was marked. At Challenge, the qualifying event, she had received about 10 points for it, but here it was worth only about seven. As it turned out, although the technical panel had called it correctly as a combination, a date processor entered it as a jump sequence, worth only 80 per cent of what a combination would get. The change in marks gave Chartrand the bronze medal by 1.08 points.
For Lacoste, it was the toughest way to lose a bronze medal. During her routine, Lacoste had underrotated a couple of jumps. She doubled a flip, and staggered out of a double Axel.
Still Lacoste will get a chance to redeem herself at the Four Continents, and attempt to become the alternate for worlds. Canada may send only one woman to the world championships. And now it’s a matter of getting skaters who make the qualifying standards.
Daleman and Chartrand, friends and competitors, both go to junior worlds in Milan. Seguin, who had a rough go in the long program and finished 14th with four falls (and sixth overall), gets to go to Four Continents.
One of the surprises of the women’s event was first-time senior Veronik Mallet, who finished fifth in the long and fifth overall, ahead of Seguin. Mallet doesn’t have quite the arsenal that Seguin has.
Despite being a two-time world champion, Patrick Chan has left a trail of unease all year, being defeated by Javier Fernandez at Skate Canada, finishing only third at Grand Prix Final, losing his coach Kristy Krall and then working with a dance coach, not a jump coach, Kathy Johnson and then leaving renowned choreographer Lori Nichol. He did find some good ones to replace her in David Wilson and Jeff Buttle.
Add to that the fact that he took a 10-day vacation in Hawaii that ended about New Year’s when he turned 22, and cut his feet on the coral reef where he spent his time surfing.
Chan said he needed the break after a difficult, uncertain fall, when he had to overcome what he called “hostility” in the rink where he trains.
Still, Chan reigned, especially after the short program, which he won by 9.31 points over Kevin Reynolds, who had been rocking his practices all week.
In the short, Chan showed that he had control over his quads again, by landing a good quad toe loop, and earning 1.67 bonus points. A triple Axel went swish, and he got a couple of +3s, and a rack of +2s. He had to hold onto the landing of a triple Lutz, but did it well enough to squeeze in a double toe loop for a combination, but lost a few fractions of a point. But his footwork? Level four, and six +3s out of eight. One judge gave him a perfect 10 for choreography and composition.
He won with 94.63 points, higher than the world record (93.02) that he used to own until Japan’s Yuzuru Hanya broke it twice this season. Currently Hanyu holds that mark at 95.32. This year, Chan’s best score for the short program was the 89.27 at the Grand Prix Final in Sochi.
But his short at Canadians was a very good start. He said he was inspired by Osmond’s skate, which he watched in his hotel room. He admitted that he had gone into the Lutz too slowly and still needs to play with the steps going into it.
Quietly, Reynolds was sniffing at his heels, with the under-rotations of his quads now seemingly under control. He was ready for battle. Reynolds landed two quads in the short, opening with a quad Salchow-triple toe loop, good for a whopping 15.43 points and a quad toe loop after the half-way mark. He also did a triple Axel, got a level four on his step sequence with a smattering of +3s and +2s, and a final combination spin, level four.
He finished with 85.32 points and was neck-and-neck with Chan on technical points.
Since the NHK Trophy, when he finished sixth, Reynolds has gotten into a new pair of skates that has suited him better. As for the two quads, Reynolds said: “I wanted to up the ante a little bit.”
Reynolds was the first skater to land two quads in the short program at Skate Canada in 2010, but after suffering a hip injury that hobbled him at the 2011 world championships, he stopped doing the two-quad short for about a year and half. Now he’s recovered from the injury and he’s back being Kevin Reynolds again.
Liam Firus, 20, the junior men`s champion from 2010, pulled off a surprise by finishing third in the short, about 10 points behind Reynolds. But it was a major triumph for Firus because he landed his first well-done one-foot triple Axel in competition. It was a big hurdle to overcome. He said he landed it once before at the Salt Lake City senior international last fall, but stepped out of it.`
Firus had struggled through a difficult season, with a groin injury, which proved tough physically and mentally. It was still bothering him at nationals. “It’s better than it was,” he said. “It really started to kick in badly after Skate Canada this year.” He suspects the injury is a result of his attempts to master the triple Axel.
Firus’ combination was a triple toe loop – triple toe loop and he also did a triple Lutz.
Andrei Rogozine, still only 19, and the 2011 world junior champion, finished fourth with an efficient triple flip – triple toe loop combination but had a hand down on a triple Axel.
The charismatic Elladj Balde, 22, finished fifth, pulling off a big, powerful triple Axel, but then falling on the triple Lutz.
Crowd favourite Nam Nguyen, 14, and sprouting so quickly out of his skating outfits (he’s grown at least three inches), that his seamstress mother has had to adjust the pant legs, was sixth in his second year as a senior.
He under-rotated and fell on a triple Axel, but his growth has disrupted the jump. He keeps plugging away at it. He did land a triple flip and a triple Lutz – triple toe loop combination to music called the Unsquare Dance. “I think this was my best performance of the year, because in my other competitions, I felt like I rushed through everything,” said Nguyen, now training with Brian Orser alongside Hanyu and Fernandez. “Today, I took my time.”
Emanuel Sandhu, a three-time Canadian champion, created a buzz by making a comeback after a seven-year absence, rushed to have old programs re-choreographed to the new rules, pulled out old outfits from more than a decade ago (they still fit) and hit the ice with a smile on his face, determined to skate for the joy of it. There were no quads or triple Axels in his repertoire. He had no coach.
He landed a triple flip – double toe loop, a triple loop and a double Axel, getting level fours for one spin, but level two on his footwork sequence and a sit spin. At age 32, he finished ninth in the short program.
Chan won the long program and his sixth Canadian senior title with 273.75 points, about seven points off his world record, set at the 2011 world championships.
But he did not win the technical mark. He doubled an Axel and fell on a triple flip. He was brilliant otherwise, landing two quads, the first one a quadruple toe loop – triple toe loop that was done with such ease, he received seven +3s in GOE from the eight judges, good enough for a whopping 17.40 points. He got a level three for footwork, but yet another row of +3s on that The judges deemed his triple Lutz and triple loop were brilliant, too.
This effort was good for 85.04 points – but Reynolds earned 97.60 for landing three quads in the long program – also higher than Fernandez’s score in winning the European championships and also landing three quads in his long program.
Reynolds was 12.64 points ahead of Chan on the technical mark, but Chan was 16.74 points ahead of him on the program components. Overall, Reynolds was only 3.18 points behind Chan in the long. Reynolds’ score of 175.94 points in the long blasted his previous best by 30 points, and his overall score of 261.26 was 40 points more than his international record earned in the World Team Trophy last fall.
In the long, Reynolds fired off an effortless quad Salchow to open (mostly +2 GOE). Although he turned out of his second quad, a quad toe loop, he got all of his rotations in. Next was a good triple Axel – triple toe loop and then the third quad, a quadruple toe loop – triple toe loop, that earned him 16.67 points, less than what Chan earned for his.
Reynolds put a hand down on a triple Lutz that he entered on the wrong edge, and earned high marks for a choreographed spiral. A step sequence and his final spin were level fours.
“I knew I skated well, but Patrick is a world champion for a reason,” Reynolds said. “His skating is second to none, although I was able to beat him on the technical. [The components] are what I really need to improve, if I want to be competitive with the top skaters in the world. My goal coming into this week was to show that I was competitive with Patrick and I think I was able to do that sufficiently this week.”
Rogozine earned the bronze medal with a gritty fight, having overcome illness. He was clearly fatigued during the last half of his program, but gutted it through to get 137.43 for the long and 207.85 overall, more than three points ahead of Balde. The two of them will fight over the world spot at the Four Continents championships.
Firus under-rotated his first triple Axel and then did double Axels thereafter to fall to eighth in the long and fifth overall, enough to get onto the national team.
Nguyen fell on his first triple Axel attempt and then before the long program decided to switch a second triple Axel to a triple flip, which he landed, to finish sixth in the long and sixth overall.
Mitchell Gordon, last year’s junior champion redeemed himself in the long by finishing fourth with a triple Axel. He’d been only 11th after the short, so moved up to seventh overall, more promising than his finish shows.
Sandhu finished 11th overall.
Chan is still looking for that awesome skate. He was disappointed that he lost his focus going into the triple Axel; the Axels had been so good in practice. The second quad toe wasn’t the best, with a wobble on the landing, he admitted. “Usually my second quad is better than the first,” he said.
He missed the flip he said because of lack of speed and focus. “I kind of felt like I was dragging a bit at the end of the program,” he said. “I wish I had finished with a lot more oomph at the end.”
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