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2012 Skate Canada Preview

by Alexandra Stevenson

ISU Grand Prix Facts

The prize money is awarded to winners and placed skaters/couples.

  • 1st place U.S. $ 18,000
  • 2nd place U.S. $ 13,000
  • 3rd place U.S. $ 9,000
  • 4th place U.S. $ 3,000
  • 5th place U.S. $ 2,000

Points to qualify for the final are awarded based on place.

  • 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

Pairs and Ice Dancers collect points up to 6th place.

Total prize money for Skate America is U.S. $180,000

The global prize money for the Grand Prix Final is U.S. $272,000.

Skate Canada International is the oldest competition in the Grand Prix Series of six events, begun in 1973.

The first U.S. skater to win a Skate Canada International event was Linda Fratianne in 1977

Skate Canada International was called Skate Canada until the Canadian Figure Skating Association (CFSA) changed it's name to Skate Canada in 2000.

(26 October 2012) Windsor, ON. With World Champions in three of the four disciplines entered in this competition, the second of the six Grand Prix events, the favorites are pretty obvious: Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy (Germany) in the pairs; Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (Canada) in the ice dance, and Patrick Chan (Canada) in the Men's event.

LADIES

It’s far harder to call the Ladies event, although wunderkind Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, from Russia, who won’t turn 16 until December 17, could jump away with gold, just as she did in this event last year. She has been spending a few recovery days in Western Ontario after her trip over from Moscow and did not perform in Thursday’s first practice.

Determined to block her progress is world (senior) bronze medalist, Akiko Suzuki, 27, of Japan. The other Japanese Lady, Kanako Murakami, has been third in the past two Japanese championships and finished fifth in the last world championship.

There are two Russians, Polina Shelepen, who is making her Senior Grand Prix debut, and Ksenia Makarova, who was Russian champion in 2010 and 10th in the Olympics. Makarova has competed in the past three world championships placing 8th, 7th & 9th.

The two American entrants are Gracie Gold, who is the national junior champion and won silver in the last world junior championship, and Caroline Zhang, who placed fourth in the national senior championship. That was the same position as she took in her debut in 2008. She advance to gain the bronze medal the following year, but had two bad seasons as she grew. In the recent Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, she had a traumatic competitive experience, and hopes her performance, unaffected by jet lag, will bring her better memories.

Also competing are veteran Elene Gedevanishvili, who represents Georgia, and the host country’s Kaetlyn Osmond, a 15-year-old who had a sensation international debut winning gold in the RECENT Nebelhorn Trophy, and their champion, Amelia LaCoste.

PAIRS

Savchenko & Szolkowy, twice world champions, did not appear for morning practice, exhausted from their yesterday’s incredibly long journey from Chemnitz to Frankfurt to Windsor. Although the host country is entitled to field three entries, they have fielded only two, Meaghan Duhamel & Eric Radford, Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers.

Representing the U.S. are Tiffany Vise & Don Baldwin, who earned bronze in the recent U.S. International in Salt Lake City, and Lindsay Davis & Mark Ladwig, who teamed up in May. Ladwig is a veteran, having competed for many years with Amanda Evora. Davis most recently competed with Themi Leftheris.

DANCE

Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir were definitely smiling on Thursday before their first practice at the Windsor FCU (Family Credit Union) Arena, which seats 6,400. The facility opened in December 2008 and is part of a complex with three community rinks and other facilities including a senior center. It is only a couple of miles from the Detroit River which forms the boundary between the US and Canada.

Probably the most exciting moment of Thursday practice, was when the Russian-born and trained Julia Zlobina & Alexei Titnikov, who represent couple Azerbaijan, nearly took out Virtue and Moir during the late afternoon’s session. Perhaps Zlobina & Titnikov train in an Olympic sized rink. They came extremely close to Canadians who were standing by the barrier, the smaller standard hockey rink. Virtue slammed herself against the boards and Scott did a vault to put both blades on top to get out of their way.

Earlier in the day Virtue & Moir looked in top shape and showed off parts of their Carmen routine in the first practice. In these “bits”, they looked sensational. They skate closer than they ever have before, with noses, and lips almost touching, and with adult posturing in their bodies. Their long lift near the end of the routine is mind-bogglingly difficult. The words, “sensuality” and “sexual” peppered questions and answers in their press “scrum” following practice.

Their main opposition is expected to come from Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte, who were sixth in the past world championship. They are also doing their Free to Carmen. Cappellini explained, “Yes, when we heard that Virtue & Moir were skating to the same music, we did consider going to another choice. But we had invested so much time in our routine and we really love it, that we decided to go ahead.”

Entered from Russia are Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko, who placed ninth in their first world championship last March. Looking to make a comeback are the French team of Pernelle Carron & Lloyd Jones. They were 12th in the 2010 & 2011 world championships but only 21st in Nice in March

Virtue & Moir, Olympic and 2010 & 2012 world champions, said they were delighted the event was so near where they were brought up and where their family live, London, Ontario, two hours’ drive away, where the next Worlds will be held. When they moved to train in Canton, Mich., Virtue attended Windsor’s Holy Names, which was the nearest Canadian High School. “I graduated here and I’m currently taking psychology classes from the University of Windsor. We’ve never competed in this arena but we skated with Stars on Ice when it performed here.

“We’re very excited to debut our new material before a home country audience.”

Three weeks ago they had planned to follow last season’s successful beginning, and debut their new routines in Finland. But that became impossible when Moir “jarred my neck when we got stuck in a lift during training shortly before we were to leave.”

On Thursday, Moir declared himself “100% healthy. I’m not feeling any limitations.” It was only a pulled muscle.” He explained, “When we dropped out of the Finlandia Trophy, we were probably erring on the side of caution, but I wanted to be completely healthy going into Skate Canada.”

Virtue explained they have been working full out on both programs. “We’ve used the last couple of months to get these programs into our bodies. It’s all about muscle memory and making ourselves feel natural. We’re trying to be creative and challenge ourselves. Things are starting to feel comfortable. The challenge is to balance the technical elements and what is required of us with being artists and telling a story.”

MEN

Chan’s practice was less successful. He appeared to be having problems with his triple Axel, but didn’t appear worried. “There’s really no such thing as ‘peaking’,” he claimed. “Last season, I peaked at the Grand Prix Final and then sustained that peak through worlds by training hard each day. It is hard to stay at the top. [Chan had been second twice (2009 & 2010) and then won the 2011 & 2012 world titles and is in the Guinness Book of Records as being awarded the highest overall score ever.]

He was asked about his season debut in the Japan Open, an invitational television event staged recently in that country, where he fell four times. “It was a beginning of season lack of confidence. I went into my turtle shell and didn’t do very well. I have changed coaches and, instead of having my routines created by Lori Nichol, I looked for something new with David Wilson and Jeff Buttle. Their approaches are very different to Lori’s. My long is VERY emotional. This was the perfect time to make the change. How can I explain the difference? Lori keeps ownership of her routines while David allows me to (contribute and revise).

“In Japan, because things went wrong, people asked me if I would go back to my old routines. But I never considered that. Why would I? What I do need is more run throughs under my belt. I was also a little bit intimidated by Evgeny Plushenko but only because I watched him early in my career. I watched him skate in the 2002 Olympics. He’ll be competing in his thirties but he’s still on top of his game, although he doesn’t compete often. I know I’ll have to have more than one quad in my arsenal.

“The quad toe is going well. I’m trying the quad Salchow but it’s not going into the program until maybe Canadians. I’ve also been working on the quad flip, but that won’t go in till next season.”

Chan trains in Colorado Springs with Kathy Johnson & Eddie Shipstad. He won the Skate Canada title in his first entry in 2008, and then repeated the win in 2010 & 2011. In 2009 he finished a shocking sixth but had lost much training time and was coming back from an injury at that time.

Chan faces a tough field this year. In the world championships in March (which the Canadian won), Florent Amodio of France was fifth, Denis Ten, who represents Kazahkstan but trains with Frank Carroll in California, was seventh, and Javier Fernandez of Spain, who trains with Brian Orser in Toronto, was ninth.

Fernandez created quite a sensation in last year’s Skate Canada, when he won the Short Program stealing some of Chan’s limelight, and finished second overall. Ten was fifth a year ago in Skate Canada, and Ross Miner sixth. Miner has also returned.

Miner, who is from Boston, has been bronze medalist in the past two U.S. national championships, and was 11th in the 2011 Worlds. This is only his fifth Grand Prix.

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