Canada will send what could be its deepest women's team in more than two decades to the world figure skating championships.
While Patrick Chan created much of the buzz in his return to the Canadian championships this week, it was the women's event that had Skate Canada's high performance director Mike Slipchuk excited.
Alaine Chartrand, a 19-year-old from Prescott, Ont., won gold in an event that saw the medallists separated by just four points.
"It's going to be a good two years leading into the Olympics, they're going to push each other," Slipchuk said. "That's what's going to make us stronger, when you have to score close to 200 (Chartrand scored 201.99) to win a Canadian championships and the other two are nipping at your heels, we're going in the right direction."
Chartrand, who is already landing triple Axels in practice — a rare feat for female skaters — and silver medallist Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., were named to the team for the world championships March 28-April 3 in Boston.
While Canada regularly marches to the medal podium in men's, pairs and ice dance, Joannie Rochette's silver in 2009 was the team's only world medal in women's singles since Elizabeth Manley finished second in 1988.
And Canada hasn't had two female skaters in the top 10 since 1994.
"If they skate the way they did here, to me they're top 10," Slipchuk said. "They definitely have the skills and the product to be competitive with the top 10."
Chan and Liam Firus of North Vancouver were named to the team for men's singles.
Pairs has defending champions Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., Julianne Seguin of Longueuil, Que., and Charlie Bilodeau of Trois-Pistoles, Que., and Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch of Toronto.
World silver and bronze medallists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., lead a trio of ice dance teams that includes Piper Gilles of Toronto and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., and Elisabeth Paradis of Loretteville, Que., and Francois-Xavier Ouellette of Laval, Que.
Slipchuk was also excited Stephen Gogolev, an 11-year-old from Toronto, who could be Canada's next big men's star. Gogolev won the novice men's title on Tuesday by 22 points, and the youngster, who trains with coach Brian Orser, landed what Slipchuk called one of the biggest triple Axels of the week — including the senior men's event.
"He's fun to watch, and he's skating above what his age is," Slipchuk said. "You watch him out on the ice, and he's skating like a 17, 18-year-old."
The national championships, held at the Scotiabank Centre, also determined the team for the Four Continents, Feb. 16-21 in Taiwan.
The team is identical to the world team, with the addition of Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown, N.L., on the women's side and Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., on the men's.
Both Osmond and Reynolds are returning to the national team after suffering serious injuries last season. Osmond rebounded from a broken fibula while Reynolds had hip surgery.