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Skaters Flock to Toronto, Montreal for Summer Training

 by Klaus-Reinhold Kany






(22 August 2014) The vast number of fine rinks and good coaches in Toronto and Montreal make the two areas hotspots for skaters from all over the world.

Orser, Wilson busy at Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club

A visit to this posh club is always interesting, because the two main coaches, Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson, attract so many good skaters.

The best: Japanese Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who returned to train in early August after performing in many shows in Japan. Hanyu is in excellent shape. His step sequences are even more interesting than last season, and he is training extremely difficult elements, including triple Axel – half loop – quad Salchow, and a combination of two quadruple toe loops. The skater’s new short program is set to music by Frédéric Chopin, choreographed by Jeffrey Buttle while Hanyu was in Japan. His free skate was choreographed by David Wilson to selections from Phantom of the Opera, including vocals.

Orser’s second pupil, European champion Javier Fernandez, was with Hanyu on tour, and also spent time at home in Spain. “I had not planned to compete on the Grand Prix,” Fernandez said. “But when I heard that the Grand Prix Final is in Barcelona, I changed my mind.” Fernandez skates his short to Ram Jam’s hard-rocking 1977 hit, “Black Betty.” His free skate is to Rossini’s “The Barber of Sevilla.” Both were choreographed by Wilson. Since Fernandez only returned to Toronto in late summer, he had to work with Wilson on his new programs every day including Saturdays and Sundays. His main training goal is to improve his skating skills, which he works on daily with Tracy Wilson. The second Spanish singles’ skater Javier Raya also trains in Toronto.

Orser’s third top skater is Canada’s junior world champion Nam Nguyen, who placed 12th at senior worlds. “Since junior and senior worlds, he has grown three inches, after growing five inches the year before,” Orser said. “Therefore, there is no more “cute factor.” I explained to him he has to skate like a man now. He jumps higher, and therefore we can train quads now.” Several quad Salchows were landed on one foot, but were sometimes under rotated. “I am working on higher speed and higher triple jumps to get more GOE’s,” Nguyen said. Buttle choreographed his short program to Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman,” and Wilson set the free program to the soundtrack of La Strada. “When David played this music I was enthusiastic right away, because Daisuke Takahashi skated to this music in 2010,” Nguyen said.

The Helgesson sisters from Sweden also trained at the Cricket Club for a month. Viktoria skates her new short program to Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work.” “For my free skate, I chose Sunset Boulevard, which I used three years ago,” Viktoria said. “But this was my most successful season.” Younger sister Joshi will skate her short to an arrangement of the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” and her free to the soundtrack of Snow White and the Huntsman.

Canadian pair skater Dylan Moscovitch and his new partner, Russian Lubov Iliushechkina, have trained at the Cricket Club since June. However, Moscovitch said his partner has not been released by the Russian Federation to compete for Canada. The new pair trains with Lee Barkell, who has left Barrie and now works in Toronto.

Another of Orser’s pupils is Elizabet Turzynbaeva from Kazakhstan, 11th at Junior Worlds, who landed one clean triple-triple combination after the other. Swiss lady Tina Stürzinger trained at the club for six weeks, mainly with Ghislain Briand.

In another rink in Toronto’s suburb of Scarborough several ice dance couples prepared for the coming season, including Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.

Pair skating in Montreal

Richard Gauthier, Bruno Marcotte and his sister Julie Marcotte are the main coaches in the pair skating school of Montreal-St. Léonard.

The best team in Quebec is world bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. “We have learned a new trick, but we plan to reveal it only at our first competition in October,” Duhamel said. The pair’s new short program music is set to “Un peu plus haut” by Quebec singer Ginette Reno. Their free is choreographed to “Uprising” by Muse. Both programs were created by Julie Marcotte. “We want a different style this season, more romantic and with more connections,” Duhamel said.

Mitch Moyer of U.S. Figure Skating was here last week to monitor the new U.S. pair, Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran. “He said he almost did not recognize us. This was a big compliment,” Castelli said.

Castelli and Tran have trained together since June after splitting from their former partners. They will divide their training time between Boston and Montreal, but said Gauthier and Marcotte are their main coaches. Bobby Martin will train them in Boston. “Bruno brought us together,” Castelli said. “We will compete for the USA because I have done that for many years, whereas Mervin competed for Canada only for one year.“

Prior to skating with Canadian Natasha Purich last season, Tran won a world bronze medal for Japan with former partner Narumi Takahashi. His final competition with Purich was the 2014 Four Continents. Castelli won two U.S. titles with Simon Shnapir. “We have to sit out this whole season; Canada will release Mervin only on July 1, 2015,” Castelli said. “But we are thankful for this, because we have to get adjusted to each other. We will just do national competitions, including U.S. nationals.” In their new short program they now use a vocal version of Gershwin’s Summertime. They have not yet chosen their free skate music.

The new Italian team of Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek trained in Montreal for a few weeks. Marcotte said Marchei learned pair elements quite quickly, but wants to continue doing competitions in single skating. The team’s short was ready, but while training back in Italy, Marchei injured her knee and has to pause a few weeks.

According to Marcotte, love – for other people – is what ended Hotarek’s prior successful partnership with Stefania Berton. “Stefani Berton did not want to continue with Ondrej because she is engaged to [former U.S. pair skater] Rockne Brubaker and wants to live in the U.S. with him,” Marcotte said. “And Ondrej is engaged to ice dancer Anna Cappellini, who is mainly in Europe [Milan], so he doesn’t want to live in the U.S.” However, Berton wrote on her Facebook site that it was not her decision to end the partnership, and that she is looking for a new partner.

U.S. skater Kaitlin Yankowskas and Hamish Gaman will compete for Great Britain, but he had an injury and could not train in early August. The Japanese team of Sumire Suto and Konstantin Chizhikov (12th at junior worlds) also trains in St. Léonard.

The Dance Center in Gadbois

In Gadbois, a few miles southwest of downtown Montreal , are the rinks where Marie-France Dubreuil and husband Patrice Lauzon work.

In early July, well-known French dance coach Romain Haguenauer left Lyon, France to coach with his former students in Quebec.

“I had some discussions with Muriel [Zazoui, head coach in Lyon] and I needed a change after 17 years in Lyon,” he said. “Marie-France and Patrice had offered me to come. It all went very quickly. I am still paid by the French state, so I do not need a work permit at the moment.”

Haguenauer brought the best French couple, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron; the second Spanish team Celia Robledo and Luis Fenero; and French junior Romain Le Gac, who split from Estelle Elizabeth and now plans to skate with Canadian Marie-Jade Lauriault for France . Denis Piché is the fourth dance coach in this school.

“We were here in spring to do choreography with Marie-France and Patrice, so we know what to expect,” Papadakis said. “When Romain came here we had to make a decision, and followed him one week later.” Their short dance music is a Farruca and a Paso Doble by Cristina de Hoyos. The flamenco reminds of 2002 Olympic champions’ Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat’s famous flamenco of 2002. They did not want to reveal the music of their free dance, but said it is more classical, with a modern interpretation.

Dubreuil and Lauzon remain the main coaches of the best Spanish team Sarah Hurtado and Adrian Diaz, who were 10th at Europeans and 13th at the Olympics last season. This couple worked with Spanish flamenco specialist Antonio Najarro, who choreographed a short dance in which they enact a bullfight. For the free they used music from the soundtrack of Atonement. They also work with Haguenauer. “We know him because he was the coach who brought us together at our first tryout in Lyon and he made our early choreographies,” Hurtado said.

Another team in Gadbois is Canadians Elisabeth Paradis and Francois-Xavier Ouellette, who was invited for the Grand Prix Skate Canada this season and plans to compete at the Nebelhorn Trophy. Young Canadians Carolane Soucisse and Simon Tanguay also train there.

Two other training centers with skaters of international level are in the Montreal area. Mainly ice dancing is taught in St. Julie and mainly single skaters are in Contrecoeur, where Annie Barabé and Maximin Coia coach.