Skate Canada offers a glimpse of teenage jumping prodigy
Russian Alexandra Trusova, 15, among strong roster of skaters competing in Kelowna, B.C.
The Skate Canada International this weekend in Kelowna, B.C., will offer a show of great talent across the board — including skaters that have been on the radar for years and others just appearing on the scene.
"I think we rate a skater's chances by past performances first and, if we know them, a vibe about how they themselves feel about their chances as well," said Kurt Browning, four-time world champion and CBC Sports analyst.
I'm not saying that jumping is everything, but it's certainly something. Just one week ago, Russia's Anna Shcherbakova, 15, posted the highest scores for a single jump element by a woman, a quad Lutz/triple toe combination (18.66), as well as for a quad Lutz (14.79) on her way to capturing the Skate America title in her Senior Grand Prix debut.
Shcherbakova is only the second skater, after Nathan Chen, to perform two quad Lutzes in a single program. Impressive.
WATCH | Shcherbakova leaps to gold at Skate America
Fast forward to this week and the highly-anticipated appearance of Schcherbakova's training mate and two-time world junior champion Alexandra Trusova, also 15.
Trusova's outstanding track record for jumping excellence precedes her. In short, Trusova is the first woman to land a quad Lutz and a quad toe in competition, as well as two quad jumps in one program. As she continues to evolve artistically, the jumps do a lot to keep her in contention for medals.
Olympic silver medallist, two-time world and European champion and current world bronze medallist Evgenia Medvedeva is nothing to sneeze at; especially with five Grand Prix and two Grand Prix Final titles under her belt.
And then there's Gabby Daleman. The two-time Canadian national champion and 2017 world bronze medallist has as much talent and potential as anybody else. Sadly, a series of injuries and mishaps like a collision in warm-ups at the World Team Trophy earlier this year, where she broke two ribs and suffered a concussion, have hampered her ability to be effective in competition
This could change with two solid performances at Skate Canada, and substantial programs are the starting point.
Kaitlyn Weaver is on Daleman's choreography team this season and offered her perspective on the experience.
"I was lucky enough to be in the room during the creation of Gabby's short program with Lori Nichol," Weaver says. "I learned so much soaking in their process, and I was thrilled to be able to contribute in the smallest way, especially during the footwork sequence.
"I'm so grateful to the team for letting me be a part of this incredible piece, and it gave a challenging moment for me personally so much light and guidance."
Russian pair will battle for gold
Russia's Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are the favourite in the pairs event as the two-time European champions finished their season with a world silver medal. Furthermore, the duo has a certain chemistry that defines their presentation in competition.
Coach Bruno Marcotte is aware of the depth of talent in pairs and has been keeping that in mind for his students, Canadian national champions and reigning Skate Canada bronze medallists Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro.
"The two main things has been to focus on the accuracy of the execution, and definitely to bring more power and energy into our elements," Marcotte says.
The team has already taken gold internationally this season at the recent Nebelhorn Trophy event.
Hanyu has never won Skate Canada
It would be very surprising to not see two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu with top honours at his fourth Skate Canada, although shockingly it would be his first gold medal at the event. The thing that intrigues me with this event is how some of the others will do in the race for the podium like Italy's Matteo Rizzo who burst into view with a bronze European championship medal last season.
Canadian champion Nam Nguyen has the potential to be on the podium but has to get beyond inconsistent competitive performances to get there.
"Nam is capable of a three-quad program and capturing the crowd's vote as well," offered Kurt Browning, who has worked with the skater. "I know he is hungry and working so very hard. So, chances are good for positive results I think/hope."
In ice dance, Olympic coach Carol Lane's students Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are the only team in the field at Skate Canada who can take on American gold-medal favourites Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who are fresh off a win at Skate America a week ago.
WATCH | Hubbell, Donohue take Skate America gold
"I think the name of the game is stay true to yourself," Lane says. "You will never please everyone but loving what you do and how you are doing it is a great start."
According to Lane, it's all about preparation.
"We planned an early senior 'B' event this season with the Autumn Classic in September, so we could get the programs out early, get our feedback, and have six good weeks of review, upgrade and training for Skate Canada. We are right on track!"
Pj's Podium Picks
- Men: Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan)
- Pairs: Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (Russia)
- Women: Evgenia Medvedeva (Russia)
- Ice Dance: Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (U.S.)