Virtue & Moir’s perfect score, Chan’s 10th title at national championships
In their final national championship performances, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir earned a perfect free dance score to claim their eighth Canadian ice dance title, Patrick Chan captured his record 10th gold medal, and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford set their own record with a seventh pairs title.
Meanwhile, Gabrielle Daleman battled through a bout of pneumonia to celebrate her 20th birthday by claiming her second national title.
Skating to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, 2010 Olympic champions Virtue and Moir maxed out their free dance score by earning level 4 on all possible technical elements and receiving +3 grades of execution on those elements. They were also deemed to be perfect in the program components, leading to an impressive free dance score of 124.70 points. Added to the 85.12 points they scored in Friday’s short dance, they took the gold medal by almost 18 points.
After their second place finish to their top rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France at December’s Grand Prix Final, Virtue and Moir revamped their free dance slightly, changing some of the music and choreography to give it a more Olympic feel.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier claimed the silver medal with 192.08 points. They finished about a point ahead of bronze medallists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who rebounded from a rough short dance in which Poje fell on their required twizzle sequence. They actually finished ahead of Gilles and Poirier in the free dance, but couldn’t make up the full eight point gap from the short dance.
Having not competed since what he called his worst performance ever at Skate Canada International in late October, Chan broke Montgomery Wilson‘s mark for most Canadian singles titles that had stood since 1939.
Chan did not get a triple axel into his free skate and was iffy on one of his quad toe loops, but did land another quad successfully along with five triple jumps. He scored 181.26 in the free skate for an overall mark of 272.24.
In a highly competitive battle for Canada’s second men’s Olympic berth, Keegan Messing claimed the silver medal by 1.09 points over Nam Nguyen. Both men completed one quad and fell on another. Nguyen had the edge in the free skate, but Messing’s advantage from the short program held up.
But the prize for most emotional and entertaining performance of the night went to fourth-placed Elladj Balde. Until a month ago, he wasn’t sure if he was even going to be able to compete at nationals after suffering a concussion. The fan favourite gave the crowd everything he had and delivered two outstanding programs to create a memorable moment at his final national championships. In a great show of camaraderie, as Messing was heading onto the ice for his free skate, he gave the just-finished Balde a hug.
Duhamel and Radford weren’t perfect in their free skate, but did what they needed to do to head to PyeongChang 2018 on a high note. Just three weeks ago, they decided to change their program, getting rid of the Muse music they’d skated to throughout the fall in favour of Adele’s Hometown Glory, which they had used to win their second straight world title in 2016.
Duhamel fell on the extremely difficult quad throw salchow, but they still scored 152.77 for an overall total of 234.55 to take the gold medal by more than 21 points. Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau, who were world junior silver medallists in 2015, took the silver with an outstanding free skate that gave them an overall score of 213.00 points. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro claimed the bronze with 209.85 points.
Reigning world bronze medallist Daleman laid down a clean free skate with seven triples to score 151.90 for an overall total of 229.78 points.
Daleman had just recently decided to go back to the Rhapsody in Blue free skate that got her on the world podium last year. She had struggled throughout the fall Grand Prix series, first dealing with a kidney infection at Cup of China and then a viral infection that had her stuffed up at Skate America. But that adversity only prepared her for what she had to deal with in Vancouver.
World silver medallist Kaetlyn Osmond had some jump problems in both the short and long programs, especially with her usually solid triple flip, but still earned an overall score of 218.73 points to finish second.
Larkyn Austman, who was a flower retriever at Vancouver 2010, was the surprise of the day, taking the bronze medal and putting her in the conversation for Canada’s third women’s spot at PyeongChang 2018. The Olympic team will be confirmed and announced on Sunday.