Like many figure skating fans, I'll be glued to my television watching the excitement unfold at Skate Canada International in Kelowna, B.C. this weekend.
I've already seen two-time world pairs bronze medallists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford skate live this season. They're eager to become world champions this year and I see that as a real possibility. Their programs showcase their maturity and individual strength as singles skaters. Together, they continue to dazzle with great pairs elements, including a newly acquired throw quadruple Salchow.
I asked them about it three weeks ago in Barrie, Ont., at the Autumn Classic International competition:
Something to prove
Here are some athletes who are looking to prove themselves at Skate Canada:
Ashley Wagner (United States): Here’s how I see it: it’s do or die time this season for Ashley, who finished fourth at her national championships after winning the title the previous two years. She's talented, strong and has taken home her fair share of hardware, including the 2014 Grand Prix Final bronze medal. She needs to win her battle with consistency if she wants to reach and stay at the top.
Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (China): This dynamic pair has won the junior world title three times and the Four Continents title twice. They have done quad throw Salchows and quad twists in competition and have teamed up again with legendary choreographer Marina Zueva, coach of 2010 Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. What’s not to like?
Takahiko Kozuka (Japan): Since grabbing the world silver medal in 2011, Kozuka has struggled. One thing is for sure — even when his jumps fail him, there is nobody’s skating I would rather watch as he glides noiselessly across the rink. With Lori Nichol as one of his choreographers, I'm optimistic that Kozuka’s free program will give him the chance to focus on his elements while staying loose enough to make the performance happen.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier (Canada): This team jumped 10 spots in the world rankings from 2013 to 2014, finishing in eighth place. The group of ice dancers located just to the south of the podium is in many ways the most competitive. Gilles and Poirier are looking for their newest collaboration with ice dance legend and choreographer Christopher Dean to help them find their way.
In addition to Duhamel and Radford, here are some top contenders to watch:
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (Canada): This is the first chance I'll have to see the world silver medallists in action this season. Both of their programs last year were among my favourites. Their tango-inspired free dance, though, has a special place in my memory and it's on the strength of their continued creativity that I'm anxious to see what they have in store for us this year.
Javier Fernandez (Spain): After dazzling the skating world with back-to-back European titles, the Spaniard wasn’t able to convert that success to an Olympic medal, finishing fourth in Sochi. He was, however, able to capture his second consecutive world bronze medal. Fernandez is a skater whose technical prowess is matched only by his irrepressible personality on and off the ice.
Pj’s Podium Picks
Dance: Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (Canada)
Men: Javier Fernandez (Spain)
Pairs: Meaghan Duhamel and Eric Radford (Canada)
Ladies: Ashley Wagner (United States)
Tweet me your picks @skatingpj and use the hashtag #cbcskate.
Just for fun
As curious as we are about our favourite skaters, they're just as curious about each other.
Here’s Skate Canada singles competitor and Junior Grand Prix Final pairs qualifier Julianne Seguin of Canada with a question on juggling (yes, juggling) for American star Gracie Gold:
And here's Gracie's answer: