2010 Skate Canada Preview

2010 SKATE CANADA LOSES MAJOR STARS

By Alexandra Stevenson

OUT: Tessa Virtue, with new holes in the back of her legs to match the scars of her previous operation in the front of her shins, canít skate, although she will attend the event. Earlier, Olympic bronze medalist, Joannie Rochette, decided against doing the Grand Prix Series, and 2006 Olympic pair silver medalists, Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang of China, who were only fifth in the 2010 Games, pulled out soon after the assignments were announced. Also out are Yuko Kavaguchi and Alexander Smirnov, because she had a shoulder operation in April.

Over the weekend, the names of Jessica Dube & Bryce Davison, three-time Canadian champions and 2008 world bronze medalists, were removed from the ISU spreadsheet detailing all the pairs who have assignments for the six GP events. Davison, 24, of Huntsville, Ontario injured his right knee late last week in practice while practicing triple loop jumps. He had an MRI over the weekend, and was having more tests early this week. He said, "This is obviously not the way we wanted to start our season. Our training had been going really well, and we were looking forward to competing at home at Skate Canada International". Their replacements are Kirsten Moore-Towers, 18, and Dylan Moscovitch 26, who train with Kris Wirtz and Kristy Wirtz in Kitchener-Waterloo. They were fifth at the BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships last year, and finished sixth in this event last year.

The US team now comprises two pairs: Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir; Britney Simpson & Nathan Miller; three Ladies, Alissa Czisny, Alexe Gilles and Agnes Zawadzki; two men, Adam Rippon and Grant Hochstein; and two ice dance couples, Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein and Rachel Tibbetts & Collin Brubaker.

Itís a nightmare for any promoter Ė losing their top stars. Olympic and world champions, Virtue & Moir were featured in many of the promotions for Skate Canada International, and, undoubtedly, there has been great disappointment at their withdrawal. Before that happened, Virtue gave a tantalizing clue as to their Short Dance choice. "We wanted to create a feeling from the Great Gatesby era with Tangos on either side of the Golden Waltz." Their Free "is samba with a rumba central portion. It starts off with a bang. We are using all new lifts."

Virtue, 21, and Moir, 23, announced they had dropped out after she had surgery earlier this month similar to that she endured in the fall of 2008 to ease Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome, which caused great pain. At the time the news of the pullout was made public, about 2,600 full-event packages had been sold for the K-Rock Arena, which will have a capacity seating plan of 4,229. The arena won the Major Facility of the Year for Canadaís best in the under 8,000 seat category, given by Canadian Music industry and Broadcast Awards in 2009.

The incredibly popular couple, however, confirmed they will appear for an autograph session on Saturday at 1:30pm in the arena. A ticket for Saturdayís event is required to get into the concourse where the signing will take place. As of writing, Virtue & Moir had not yet pulled from their second Grand Prix assignment, the Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris on November 26-28. "Itís an enormous relief to have a solution to the pain," Virtue said. "But I donít know when I can back on the ice."

Virtueís condition was assessed by Skate Canadaís Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Marni Wesner, at the teamís High Performance Camp in September. Additional tests confirmed increased pressure levels in both posterior compartments of her calves as a result of CECS. In order to alleviate her ongoing pain, surgery was required. Initially, Virtue & Moir, along with their coaching and training team, planned on postponing the surgery until after the 2010-2011 competitive season. However, due to the discomfort Virtue was experiencing, the decision was made to have the surgery and focus on being ready to compete later in the year at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships. It was performed by Dr. Kevin Willits, who also was responsible for Virtueís original surgery.

It took awhile for Virtue & Moir to decide to continue in competition this season. "This is the first season we got to do the full Stars on Ice tour and then there were all sorts of fun invitations and events." That included hobnobbing with royalty. "We got to go to a dinner with Prince Albert of Monaco." And then they were invited to sit at the head table in a government dinner in Ottawa with the remarkable 84-year-old Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip. (They were e-mailed all their behavior instructions, including the necessity for Virtue to wear a floor-length gown, and how she should address her majesty.) Virtue choose a citrus green concoction. Afterwards, neither she nor Moir had any compunction about absconding with their hostsí place cards.)

Skate Canada, the association, is still reeling from losing its sponsor, Home Sense. Twice world runner-up Patrick Chan will have to carry home country supportersí hopes. He won this event in 2008 but last season had a disastrous showing. Weakened by illness and injury, he finished a disappointing sixth. At the Olympics he was fifth, a respectable showing for a 19-year-old, but the home country audience was disappointed at his not getting a medal.

Chan was also nearly a no-show in Kingston, after he fell off his mountain bike onto a rock while having fun this summer away from the rink in Colorado Springs where he now trains. "I thought Iíd broken my back. I couldnít sleep that night because I couldnít lie down. I was in such pain. I donít think Iíll be doing that activity anymore. I think Iíll stick with golf or hiking. It was such a shock." Fortunately, he was lucky and his back was merely severely bruised.

Meanwhile, wherever she goes, the now 24-year-old Joannie Rochette is instantly recognized and a buzz of conversation permeates around her whenever she is seen in public. She has more sponsor-applicants than she needs. She has made her acting debut and is in demand for appearances. "People have been so kind but, at one point, it got to be too much. I spent most of the summer outside Quebec, away from home. It allowed me to get some perspective."

Because of her grace in handling the extreme stress she went through in winning an Olympic bronze just days after her mother died unexpectedly, which rocketed her into an insane atmosphere of almost-24-hour-a-day media coverage, she made a sensible decision NOT to make any important decisions for a year. Under these conditions, which can change in an instant, she is not able to predict what it is best for her to do. Interest in her has continued to such a level that she was a nominee for Time magazineís 100 Most Influential People of 2010.

Her life is organized mostly away from ice rinks. Recently, she visited the Olympic museum in Lausanne, to donate a skating costume, along with Stephane Lambiel. Her last skating appearance was in Japan in October. In a long, revealing article which appeared a few days ago in Canadaís Globe and Mail, she said, "When Iím in public, itís different. I can smile and there are always people around me, but when I get home at night by myself, itís a totally different situation. I still mourn. Iím grieving like anyone would. I live through it every day."

A lot of her life centers around her charity projects, but she also kept up her education. This December, Rochette will complete her long-awaited junior college science diploma at College Andrť-Grasset. It was not revealed at the time but towards the end of 2009, Rochette split up with her long-time partner, a top Canadian Olympic speed skater.

She now dates former ice dancer Guillaume Gfeller, and her home life is less that of a competitive couple, who were both subjected to intrusive media coverage. "I need to skate, but I just want to live as full a life as I can. For the next while, Iíll be doing more shows than competitions." But, with Worlds coming to London, Ontario, in 2013, it is definitely possibility, she could be competing there.

Cynthia Phaneuf is now Canadaís hope in the Ladies event in Kingston. A baby protťgť when she won the Canadian senior title early in 2004 and then won Skate Canada later that year, the now 22-year-old Phaneuf was stymied by injury problems and a growth spurt. She has been runner-up for the national title three times. Her fifth place in the 2010 world championship, after a 12th place finish in the Olympics, shows her potential.

Skate Canada International was developed back in 1973, the first of the six events which would eventually come together to form the Series in the 1996 season. Kingston, Ontario, a city on the north-eastern tip of Lake Ontario, lies about halfway between Toronto and Montreal. It has never held an international of this status before but has now been short-listed as one of the top two bids for the 2012 Skate Canada Adult Figure Skating Championships.

Donald Jackson, the popular Canadian 1962 world champion, now 70, who gave the world its first triple Lutz in that competition, will serve as the 2010 Skate Canada athlete ambassador at the event. It was not till12 years later, that that jump was accomplished a second time at Worlds. The skater was Jan Hoffmann of East Germany.

ANN SHAW HONORED

When the Skate Canada Grand Prix wraps up on Sunday, October 31, immediately following the ice dance medal ceremony and before the Exhibitions, Ann Shaw will be inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame in the builder category. In 2002, when the new judging system was frenetically being created, this formidable Canadian of a certain age was appointed by the ISU to serve on the ISU Ad Hoc Committee. She was in charge of doing the impossible, quantifying ice dance.

Now, whether you think that was doing the devilís work, or not, you have to admit it was a foreboding task. Created over the butchered body of the beloved 6.0 standard, which had been in use for over a century, it forever changed the art form. Where before, line, beauty, lyrical expression, subjectivity and, yes, seniority, were all powerful, the sport morphed into a far more athletic, sporting activity with results which reflect a fairer judgment of physical ability.

Youngsters Ė gasp Ė can be seen actually overtaking their more experienced colleagues, instead of waiting in line and paying their dues. Revolutionary indeed! That the system is still changing, is a measurement of how difficult this process has been.

Shaw, who is from Toronto, started skating when she was seven. In 1959 with partner Eddie Collins, skating under her maiden name of Martin, she took the runner-up position in Canadians which put her on the World championship team. In Colorado Springs, they finished in the middle of the pack, fifth in a field of nine. They were ahead, however, of a French couple, who were to win bronze the following year and then silver in 1962, Christiane and Jean-Paul Guhel.

Ann immediately changed partners and won silver again in nationals the following year with Gille Vanasse representing a rival Toronto Club. InWorlds in Vancouver, a couple of weeks after the Squaw Valley Olympics, they were placed sixth of the nine couples.

Shaw began judging soon after. Climbing the ranks was a fairly slow process, but she became a national judge in 1969 and, by 1976, was officiating internationally. She judged her first Worlds in 1983 and then was on the panel for Jayne Torvill and Christopher Deanís glorious Bolero win in Sarajevo in 1984.

Shaw was elected to the International Skating Union Ice Dance Committee in 1992 and re-elected on a four-year basis until she retired in 2006. She has been an active Skate Canada board member since 1988 and in 2008 was awarded the ISU Gold Award of Merit. She is currently the Chair of the Skate Canada Hall of Fame and Museum Committee.

GRAND PRIX PRIZE MONEY

The prize money awarded to skaters and couples in the Grand Prix events is as follows:

1st place US $ 18,000; 2nd place US $ 13,000; 3rd place US $ 9,000; 4th place US $ 3,000; 5th place US $ 2,000.

Points earned towards making the six slots in the final for each discipline are:

1st place 15 points; 2nd place 13 points; 3rd place 11 points; 4th place 9 points; 5th place 7 points; 6th place 5 points; 7th place 4 points; 8th place 3 points.

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