The Skate Canada International in Mississauga, Ont., proved to be quite an event. Clearly, not only do I know this is the year to make your mark while starting the climb towards the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but the skaters know it too.
Let's take the men's event. The door in the short program was kicked open by Spanish champion, Javier Fernandez, who took the lead ahead of the last two world champions, Daisuke Takahashi of Japan, and Canada's Patrick Chan, respectively.
It wasn't a fluke, either. He earned top marks and followed it up with a gutsy free program that included two separate quads and some great skating. We've seen it 100 times before where, out of nowhere, the challenger takes the short, only to crumble like a house of cards in the free. Hats off to Fernandez for keeping his eye on the prize and earning Spain's first Grand Prix medal - a silver.
When it was all said and done, Chan didn't have the skate he was looking for in either program, but he is a skater whose blade skill cannot be denied, and his component scores were strong enough for the win. As for Takahashi, who settled for the bronze, it looks like his free program still needs to evolve. I will say that his short was one of the best pieces of choreography I have seen in a long time, thanks to wizards David Wilson and Pasquale Camerlengo who worked with him this season.
Lacklustre women's event
The women's event was lacklustre with the exception of the diminutive but powerful 14-year-old Russian Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, the reigning world junior silver medallist. She dominated in both the short and free, and took her first gold in her very first senior Grand Prix event.
I have said that her style is old-fashioned and I stand by that, but I believe that at her tender age, there is lots of time for her to develop. A note to the skating fans: commit her name to memory. I think we're going to be seeing it a lot. Akiko Suzuki from Japan took the silver.
Ashley Wagner from the United States, who earned a bronze, gets my vote for most improved.
At the end of the day, the Russian team of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov had their world silver pairs medal to back them up as the thoroughbreds of the event. They were dazzling in the short program but faltered slightly at times in the free. They took the title without a problem, and I am sure they will be a threat for the top spot come Grand Prix final time in Quebec City in December.
Wenjing Sui and Cong Han from China are so technically strong that they are my pick for the team who will be pushing the technical side of pairs skating moving forward. If you remember they were the ones with the throw qaud Salchow last season, and performed a quad twist in their free, helping to earn them a silver medal in Mississauga.
The Canadian team of Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford looked like they meant business as they took to the ice for the free program. It appears as if the race for the two spots for Canadian teams heading to worlds began this weekend. Duhamel and Radford won the bronze, duplicating Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch's third-place finish last weekend at Skate America.
Virtue, Moir class of ice dance field
Wrapping up the competition was the hugely anticipated ice dance event. The Italian team Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte were prepared and polished and earned the bronze medal.
Of the two teams I really wanted to see, Canadian's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje went first. They had told me that this year's theme was kind of a tragic love story.
"It's about love, but it's complicated," Weaver told me.
All I can say is aside from technically being very strong; the passion with which they skated reached to the audience. Their lifts are intricate and ambitious and their increased speed and power is impressive, to say the least. The crowd thought so too and greeted the Canadian duo with a standing ovation following their silver-medal performers.
The final skaters were event leaders Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada. When the music of the 2010 Olympic and world champions' music started, this message came up on my Twitter feed from @figurskater: "You know Tessa & Scott are on the ice when even @skatingpj doesn't comment."
You caught me. For the first time during this entire competition, I stopped and watched and did nothing else. I let their glorious skating wash over me and gave my thumbs a four-minute rest. I love how they captured the essence of Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire in this program to Funny Face.
They also got a long and loud standing ovation, taking the gold ahead of their teammates, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.
Just for fun, I checked to see that Virtue and Moir's score from Skate Canada is only .27 ahead of the score earned by 2011 world champions and Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White last week in their win at Skate America. You know what that means? It may be one of the best ice dance seasons ever.
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