Photos: Greg Kolz

Skating Squad Stacked for Debut Team Event

When the new Figure Skating team event makes its debut at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, Canadian skaters will not be looking to simply win a medal. They will be looking to win it all.

“By the looks of how we are all skating, it is very promising for us to win the team event,” said the newly crowned three time world champion Patrick Chan (Toronto, ON). “I would say we are probably one of the biggest contenders.”

Contenders indeed.

Photo: Greg Kolz

Patrick Chan is poised to be a medal contender in Sochi and help lead a promising team of Canadians. Photo: Greg Kolz

The sport is seeing a huge resurgence in this country, and Canada has the capacity to build a team comprised of Olympic and world medallists.

Proof of Canada’s talent was on full display at the 2013 Figure Skating World Championships in London, ON where the nation saw its skaters place in the top-five a remarkable six times and medal in three out of the four events led by Chan. The notion of teaming up with so much talent is energizing for Chan.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “We’re going to have a stacked team heading to the Olympics.”

That confidence resonates throughout the entire team and it’s not hard to see why.

The new event includes teams comprised of one male single skater, one female single skater, one pair and one ice dance couple. Canada has solid podium contenders in each one of those disciplines and thanks to their performance at Worlds, Canada will be able to send a large team to Sochi.

The full three spots for men, pairs and ice dancing were awarded to Canada based on results in London, while the ladies have two spots to round out the group.

Photo: Greg Kolz

Olympic champions Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue will be looking to defend their title in Sochi. Photo: Greg Kolz

“We’re going to make good use of the inventory of Olympic clothing I’m sure,” Chan joked about how many members Skate Canada will be able to send to Sochi. “This event is about having a well-rounded team. It’s a chance for us to win together and that has never been done before.”

A team for the ages

Chan will be one of the obvious choices as Canada’s male entry. His accolades are long and include six consecutive national titles, three consecutive world titles and a 2010 top-five finish at Vancouver 2010, on which he is aiming to improve. On Chan’s heels is the ever improving and national silver medallist Kevin Reynolds (Coquitlam, BC) who impressed the crowd with a fifth place finish a few short weeks after winning the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

Another expected lock for the team is the Olympic gold medal duo of Tessa Virtue (London, ON) and Scott Moir (Ilderton, ON) who captured silver at Worlds. The two have arguably been the top ice dancers in the world over the last three years and will be major threats at the Winter Games.

Pushing them will be the Waterloo, ON team of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje who finished fifth at the World Championships. The duo has been is on the brink of a breakout and performed admirably after Weaver was out of action for several months due to ankle surgery.

Photo: Greg Kolz

Kaetlyn Osmond could be making her Winter Olympic Games debut at just 18 years old. Photo: Greg Kolz

Joining them could be a great group of pairs skaters in Megan Duhamel (Lively, ON) and Eric Radford (Balmerton, ON), the newly crowned World bronze medallists, or the team that finished right behind them in fourth place in London Kirsten Moore-Towers (St. Catharines) and Dylan Moscovitch (Toronto, ON). The thought of competing and representing in the Canada in the new event has Radford thinking big.

“We’re very excited for the team event,” said Radford. “It’s really starting to look like we’ll have an opportunity to win a gold medal (in Sochi) and that would yet be another dream come true for us to win an Olympic gold medal as a team in Sochi for Canada.”

Rounding out the final spot on the team could be the latest skater to break through on the women’s side in Kaetlyn Osmond (Marystown, NL). Osmond finished eighth in her first appearance at Worlds and is poised to improve on a season that saw her win her first national title and win her first Grand Prix event (Skate Canada International).

“It’s so much fun to think of just making it,” said Osmond. “Knowing there are such talented skaters on the Canadian team is amazing and they’re going to do really well. I’m just happy to hopefully be a part of that. It’s really motivating to know that I could be on the same team as them.”

Shaping the event

The addition of the team event is the first major change to the Figure Skating Program at the Olympic Winter Games since ice dance was included at Innsbruck 1976.

Photo: Greg Kolz

Worlds pairs bronze medallists Megan Duhamel and Eric Radford are looking for continued improvement leading up to Sochi. Photo: Greg Kolz

The team competition will begin on February 6, 2014, a day before the Opening Ceremony, with the short programs for the men and pairs.  Competition resumes on February 8th and features the ladies’ short program and short dance as well as the pairs’ free skate. The medals will be awarded on February 9th when the free programs for the men, ladies and ice dance are held.

The event will include 10 nations competing in the short programs. The top five teams will advance to the free skates with the team standings being decided on aggregate placement points for each skater or couple, ie: first place earns 10 points, second place earns nine points down to tenth place earning one point.

One thing will be certain, the Canadian team will be aiming for nothing but first place.

“Canada’s going to be gunning for the gold medal in that team competition,” said Duhamel.

–  George Fadel