Canadian figure skaters show new looks at pre-season camp
Chan, Weaver & Poje, Virtue & Moir give sneak peeks at new programs
I couldn't help but notice the buzz when I walked into the rink.
Canada's top skaters had assembled Wednesday at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont., for Skate Canada's annual High Performance Camp and there were skaters everywhere in various stages of preparation — getting ready to show off their programs in a simulated competition organized by discipline.
The event provides a chance to evaluate the skaters before they head off to Grand Prix events (which begin in late October) or other international assignments.
"The focus is on having the athletes ready and in competitive shape," says Michael Slipchuk, Skate Canada's High Performance Director for the past decade.
He adds that the benefits of having experienced judges and technical officials on hand to provide feedback for skaters' programs is invaluable.
"The judges discuss the skaters in groups and then, in teams of two, are assigned to present the feedback to the skaters and their coaches — not as individuals but representing the consensus from their group."
Changes have sometimes been made to skaters' material as a result of this feedback.
For the assembled media, the High Performance Camp is also a chance to find out about modifications to a skater's coaching team, locale or priorities.
When asked what his goals for skater Gabrielle Daleman were going to be for this season, coach Lee Barkell answered with a smile: "Skate clean programs."
Weaver, Poje get help
Canadian ice dance champions Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje have added a new face to their coaching team — Nikolai Morozov, who will be taking on a lead role.
"I think the goal for them is to show strong skating," Morozov said when asked about his goals for the team. "For me it's hard to say right now because for two years I didn't see ice dancing at all so I just try to do my best. They're going to show strong skating and different programs and a different skating style."
Morozov's client list reads like a who's who of skating from across all disciplines as a coach and chroreographer. I like Weaver and Poje a lot and can understand how they might feel a fresh coaching approach might put them back on track after they followed podium finishes at the world championships in 2014 and 2015 with a fifth-place finish last season.
Always a treat to hear from these two <a href="https://twitter.com/WeaverPoje">@weaverpoje</a> ICYMI from <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/hpc16?src=hash">#hpc16</a> <a href="https://t.co/TyTrfQRCWf">pic.twitter.com/TyTrfQRCWf</a>—@skatingpj
Chan to announce new coach
Patrick Chan, the three-time world champion and two-time Olympic silver medallist, has been making changes of his own. Having split with Kathy Johnson, his coach of the last few years, Chan moved to Canton, Mich., from Detroit and is currently skating without a coach.
Will that be the case for the whole season? It's unlikely. Chan, Slipchuk and Skate Canada's Emma Bowie all confirmed to me that within the next week or so, Chan will announce his new coaching arrangement.
In the meantime, Chan is prepared to go on the record about the upcoming season and the lessons that skating has taught him. He is also willing to play along during my interview with close friend and Canadian teammate Scott Moir. The affection and support the skaters have for one another is always front and centre.
Virtue & Moir up for 'challenge'
In a surprise move earlier this year, Moir and Tessa Virtue, the 2010 Olympic dance champions, announced their return to competition for this season. It's wonderful news for figure skating as Virtue and Moir are innovators and, regardless of result, have the ability to move the sport forward.
For Virtue, the best thing about returning to competition is "the challenge. We love pushing ourselves every day."