One for all, all for one: Canadian figure skaters ready for quota battle at worlds
Canadians out for more than medals with Olympic spots up for grabs in Stockholm
For Canadian figure skaters, getting a spot on the world championship team is a happy moment, especially after a season ravaged by the pandemic.
But, come Wednesday, in Stockholm, Sweden, where the world championships are being held, there's more than just titles on the line.
- That Figure Skating Show will be live on CBC Sports YouTube channel right after every #stockholm2021 short program. Join hosts Dylan & Asher & special guests as they react, provide insight and spill the tea on worlds.
In addition to medals, skaters will also be competing for Olympic quotas, meaning their results could make or break a teammate's Olympic dream. Results at the world championships will determine the bulk of spots available to compete in Beijing — 24 of the 30 total places available in the men's and women's singles will be allocated, along with 16 of the 19 pairs spots and 19 of the 23 ice dance spots.
"There's a lot of mixed emotions" said Keegan Messing, 29, who beat out two very worthy teammates – Roman Sadovsky and Nam Nguyen – for Canada's sole men's spot at these world championships.
Nguyen also happens to be one of Messing's best friends and the two were in regular contact over who might get the chance to compete in Stockholm.
"Nam and I honestly were on the phone almost daily, if not twice daily, leading up to the decision," Messing said.
"When I got it, he had nothing but support," Messing told CBC Sports. "I told him I'm going to do you proud; we're going to do this together.
"Getting the [call] really meant a lot. It showed that Canada believes in me to get us those two spots for [Beijing]."
WATCH | Preview of championships:
Messing must first, however, qualify for the free skate. He'll then need to finish in the top 10 to secure an additional spot for a Canadian male skater in Beijing.
'Paying it forward'
Kirsten Moore-Towers, 28, and partner Michael Marinaro, 29 will also be fighting the quota battle in Stockholm.
Back in 2017, they weren't selected to compete at worlds — leaving the duo's Olympic fate in the hands of teammates. In the end, they were able to make it to South Korea thanks to the pairs of Lubov Ilyushechkina-Dylan Moscovtich, and Meagan Duhamel-Eric Radford finishing sixth and seventh, respectively.
"I've been in this position in the past," said Moore-Towers. "And now that I too can help [a fellow] Canadian team, I want to do that.
"It's about paying it forward."
Considering the momentum that Moore-Towers and Marinaro are carrying into Stockholm (two Grand Prix silver medals and Four Continents bronze in the 2019-20 season), there's a chance that they'll not only win their first worlds medal, but also be able to assist Evelyn Walsh and Trent Michaud to qualify for their first Olympics.
"We hope it's Evelyn and Trent along with us," Moore-Towers said. "Of course, we're not assuming we have a spot at the Olympics, but we hope that the four of us will get to experience [the Winter Games] together. We think they deserve it."
Determining where each pairs team needs to place to get two, or even three, quota spots is dependent on how they skate, so the finish line will become clearer after the short program.
With the ice dance teams and women singles also looking to maximize quota spots, Canadian skaters know that they're performing for more than just themselves when they take to the ice.
That's why Messing, with Nguyen firmly in mind, is confident that he can deliver. Fortunate to have been able to keep practising throughout pandemic — as a resident of Anchorage, Alaska, he was privy to different restrictions — Messing was the only Canadian to compete this season at Skate America, where he won bronze.
WATCH | Canada's Keegan Messing earns bronze at Skate America:
He even went as far as to improvise a home gym with chainsaws and car batteries for weights. Messing said the hard work has paid off.
"I'm very, very close to the top shape of my skating career," he said.
CBC Sports has complete coverage of the week's events, starting Wednesday with live streams of every event available on CBC.ca/Sports and the CBC Sports app. The full schedule is at cbc.ca/sports/broadcast. Coverage continues this weekend on Road to the Olympic Games with Brenda Irving and Kurt Browning providing commentary.