CBC Sports

On the brink of a bountiful season

Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2008 | 03:13 PM

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There is more than one Canadian obsession delivered by winter’s chill.

In a land of ice and snow, hockey is a given and so is curling. But don’t forget figure skating – a sport at the very core of the national consciousness.

And perhaps we should come to think of a figure skating competition as being less of a stand alone spectacle and more of a season culminating in a chance at a championship. A tough campaign where you have to prove you’ve got what it takes for a shot at glory.

This is our opportunity to do just that.

With the Olympics in Vancouver on the horizon, the impending figure skating schedule will be crucial for all concerned, particularly the emerging stars from Canada. And it’s our good fortune at CBC Sports to be able to provide the most extensive broadcast of a figure skating season in Canadian television history.

Strong Canadian team blooming

Starting with Skate America in Everett, Wash., this weekend and the launch of the Grand Prix circuit, we’ll be able to track everything that happens in the competitive crucible of this exacting sport. We’ll be at rinks around the globe including the hotspots of, the United States, China, France, Russia, Japan, Canada and culminating just before New Year’s with the Grand Prix Final from Seoul, South Korea.

“Canada can’t ask for much more right now,” said Kelowna’s Craig Buntin from a plane in Chicago where he was en route to Washington for the season opener. “We can all feel the expectation and the momentum.”

Buntin will team with Megan Duhamel and aims to be part of an extremely strong Canadian contingent in the pairs competition. It’s a group that includes world championship medallists Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison as well as the last Canadian champions, Annabelle Langlois and Cody Hay.

In ice dance, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the former world junior champions, have already ascended the world championship podium and are on target to become Olympic favourites.

In the men’s field of play, Patrick Chan is still a teenager but possesses enormous talent. Add to that the confidence he brings to the table as the reigning Canadian champion as he embarks on his sophomore, senior season.

Meantime, Joannie Rochette has the goods to be a prime time player in women’s competition and with experience seems to be maturing in just the right way.

Deepest team in Canadian history?

At few times in history has the Canadian figure skating lineup been this deep across the disciplines. The Grand Prix testing ground will give us an indication of just how good it is in relation to the rest of the best of the world.

Then, when the calendar turns to 2009, we’ll have the run up to the world championships in Los Angeles with the Canadian championships in Saskatoon as well as Four Continents at the Olympic rink, the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.

All of this comes with the benefit of the best analysis in the business in the person of four-time world champion Kurt Browning and Olympic medallist Tracy Wilson not to mention consummate storyteller Brenda Irving who not only call the action but take us close to the skaters, revealing their personalities at ice level.

It’s only fitting in this winter nation that we revel in the impending season. The legacy of figure skating in Canada includes iconic personalities that have come to partly define our sporting history. People like Donald Jackson, Barbara Ann Scott, Isabelle Brasseur, Lloyd Eisler, Brian Orser, Elvis Stojko and all the rest.

The thing is, figure skating is not just one show. It’s an odyssey that crosses many borders and traverses a great expanse on the way to the final destination.

It’s a season and we may be on the cusp of one of the most successful campaigns in Canadian history.

Just like the initial frost or the first time a your skate blade meets the frozen ice - in Canada, this kind season makes the heart beat that much quicker.

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