Chan, Virtue & Moir will stick the landing at Canadian championships
Figure skating icons look to go out on top, build Olympic momentum at their final nationals
This is the end of an era.
Ten years ago, in 2008, Patrick Chan and the ice dance duo of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir each captured their first national figure skating titles. It marked the beginning of legendary careers that would result in three world titles apiece, an Olympic gold medal for Virtue and Moir, a silver for Chan and a shared silver in the team event. Now, they're getting ready to compete in what will likely be their final Canadian championships.
I fully expect Chan and Virtue and Moir to headline the Canadian Olympic figure skating team headed to Pyeongchang, South Korea next month, and the next step in that journey will be claiming their latest national titles in Vancouver this weekend.
Here's what to watch for in each of the four disciplines:
Men: Chan has record in sight
Chan is aiming for his Canadian record-setting 10th national men's title. There's no doubt that he's a legend and will go down as one of the best of the best in his sport, but Chan has been trying to find his footing since returning to competition a couple of seasons ago. He seems to be over-thinking in his quest to get back on top.
My suggestion would be to have him just skate and let his feet do the thinking. Chan's passion for his material is his best feature. Combined with enough technical nuts and bolts, that can put him right back in the winning sweet spot.
With two spots available for Canadian men at the Olympic Games, who will join Chan remains a mystery. In competition, Keegan Messing has been the most consistent this season, but Olympian Kevin Reynolds and former Canadian champion Nam Nguyen are both hungry to make the cut. One thing is for sure: with this many talented skaters in the field, there's no room for error in the men's competition.
Dance: Virtue and Moir can set the tone
For Virtue and Moir, capturing an eighth national title is important, but not as important as getting the judges to support their programs in the way that the French team of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron were supported at their recent national championships.
An appropriately high score, which Virtue and Moir should earn regardless, would send signals internationally that Canada sees them as the team to beat at the Olympics. Make no mistake, it will still come down to the skating in Pyeongchang. But an easy win at nationals is important when it comes to creating pre-Olympic buzz.
Canadian ice dancers have three spots in the Olympics. They're the strongest arm of the national team. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje have two national titles and two world medals, while Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are consistent top-10 finishers at the world championships.
Pairs: Duhamel & Radford get the job done
I'm really interested to see what happens in the pairs' event. Like in the men's competition, there are more good teams than available Olympic spots.
Canada secured the maximum three Olympic pairs entries based on its performances at worlds last year, and the top spot will undoubtedly be reserved for two-time world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. It's true that Duhamel and Radford's performances have been lukewarm so far this season. It's also true that there is nobody who is more adept at taking the hard knocks and then doing what needs to be done to succeed. I definitely see this team as a medal contender in Korea, by way of a record-setting seventh Canadian title.
Women: Dress rehearsal for Olympics
Last year's world championships included a double flash of brilliance that resulted in a silver and bronze medal for Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman, respectively. It was the first time two Canadian women appeared on the world podium at the same time, ensuring three spots for the Olympic Games.
The nationals are a valuable competition opportunity for these women. Osmond is the defending and three-time champion, but Daleman and rival Alaine Chartrand have also won the national title once each. At its best, the journey to the women's national title could serve as a simulation with the kind of elite and fierce competition that will happen in a month in Korea. I hope to see the skaters seize the moment.
Pj's title picks
Men: Patrick Chan
Dance: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir
Pairs: Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford
Women: Kaetlyn Osmond