VANCOUVER — The short programs set the stage for the final round of competition at the national figure skating championships in Vancouver. With an Olympic spot on the line, here are the moments that stood out for me in each discipline:
Ladies: Birthday girl earns her crown
Gabrielle Daleman is as fierce a competitor as I have ever known. Not one to whine, she called her bout of pneumonia a chance for extra cardio training. Daleman took the lead in the short program and followed it up with a ‘take no prisoners’ clean free skate.
It was extraordinary. I don’t get goosebumps very often and this time I did. As she landed the last jump in her final jumping pass, coaches Brian Orser and Lee Barkell jumped with excitement and joy. Daleman’s Rhapsody in Blue left me in raptures. Happy Birthday Gabrielle Daleman! A great start to your twenties!
Men: Patrick Chan is back
Finally! Watching Patrick Chan’s free skate was like watching the pre-comeback Chan. It’s not that it was 100 per cent, but what it had was the commitment of Chan to his material.
Chan looked like he loved skating whether we were watching or not. This one was personal. Patrick Chan leaves as the Canadian man with the most titles at 10 and with a legacy that lives on.
Ice dance: Weaver, Poje skate for honour
After a disastrous skate in the short dance where they finished fourth, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje took the ice for the free dance, looking to make things right. This one was for honour. Weaver said after the fact that she had never seen a score that high at nationals for their free dance (120.78).
As one friend put it, Poje bore the weight of the 5,000 people watching, as they went into their twizzles – the element that got them into trouble in the first place. Their Je Suis Malade free dance is an exercise in the complexities, passion and heartbreak of a relationship. These are parallels that mirror what can happen in skating. Weaver and Poje responded to that idea in the mixed zone.
Pairs: Seguin, Bilodeau triumph over adversity
There is something about a story where there is triumph over adversity. You only had to watch Charlie Bilodeau thumping his partner’s back in jubilation during a centre ice embrace at the end of their program to know that this beautiful free skate meant the world to them. Julianne Seguin had endured some serious injuries over the last couple of seasons including a concussion and they hadn’t found their feet again – until tonight’s silver-medal performance.
Honourable mention: Elladj Balde dazzles
He likely won’t be named to the Olympic team, but he will be remembered as having the most crowd-appealing free program of the competition. Skated well, modern and fresh, Balde also hugged good luck to the next competitor, Keegan Messing, in a show of outstanding sportsmanship.