VANCOUVER — A typical figure skate blade is four millimetres wide. It is an exceedingly narrow perch on which to rest one’s Olympic dreams.
Canada’s best men’s skaters entered the free skate portion of the National Skating Championships with five of them bunched together and fighting for the second Olympic spot after Patrick Chan, who only needed to show up and keep breathing to book his ticket.
As such, that spot for Pyeongchang would come down to whoever could best throw themselves in the air and come down on the proper edge of their thin blade. It was Keegan Messing who best managed the feat, with the 25-year-old from Alberta by way of Alaska surviving a fall on his first quad attempt and fighting through the rest of his program to narrowly edge out Toronto’s Nam Nguyen. Messing’s Charlie Chaplin program, in which he later did nail a quad in combination, was enough to give him a competition score of 259.25. That was just 1.09 points ahead of Nguyen, 19, who came into the free skate fifth but stumbled on his first quad attempt. That wobble was all that kept Nguyen, who skated in the Olympic ceremonies in Vancouver back when he was just 11, from returning the sport’s biggest stage as a competitor. Kevin Reynolds, a veteran from Sochi who was in second place behind Chan coming into the night, struggled through a spotty program and fell to fifth.
With the battle for second sorted — Messing declared himself “ecstatic” and seemed more than a little lost for words — it was up to Chan to see if his return to competition would put him on good footing heading to South Korea. He delivered a skate that won easily — an overall 272.24 score for his record 10th Canadian title — but there was still a stumble on a quad attempt and a few other wobbles.
Still, it was a huge improvement on his last competitive free skate — an error-filled program in Regina in October — and Chan was able to make some adjustments to his skate on the fly, something he credited to his new coach, Ravi Walla.
“It’s obviously not the dream skate that you expected for number 10,” Chan said. “Of course I would have loved to have landed and nailed every single jump, but I did what I had to do.
The three-time world champion also admitted that the last few months off of competition have been challenging. “I had a lot of my own demons to battle coming here, so I was able to accomplish a big goal, and a big step forward.”
Chan’s performance in Vancouver in his last competitive season wasn’t strong enough to vault him into medal-favourite position heading to Pyeongchang last month, but it was at least a reminder that if he skates a clean program — something he didn’t come particularly close to doing at these nationals — he’s a talented enough skater in all other aspects to threaten the podium. After having the gold all but in his pocket in Sochi before a free-skate collapse forced him to settle for silver, fighting for medal at the end of a tough season is about where the bar will be set this time around.
“See you at the Olympics!,” Chan said to Messing as entered the back-of-arena media area.
Messing said he was still to nervous to think about it.
Before the final men’s skates of the competition, there were few surprises as the Canadian pairs performed their long programs.
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford cruised to their seventh Canadian title, although there were a couple of blips in their long program. Returning to their free skate set to Adele’s Hometown Glory, which was coming out of mothballs after more than two years, Duhamel went down on the end of a quad throw, which followed a shaky first lift.
“We were really nervous before skating tonight,” said Duhamel, and Radford agreed, although neither knew exactly where the nerves came from. The return to the new-old program? Their last nationals? Pre-Olympic jitters?
Whatever the cause, they bounced back from the stumble to post an overall score of 234.55, easily the competition’s best.
“The throw quad is always a risk, and today it got away from us,” Duhamel said. “But overall, we are so pleased.”
The positions after the short program held after the long: Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau finished in second place and Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro were in third, with three pairs spots available for Team Canada in South Korea. The team of Lubov Ilyusheckina and Dylan Moscovitch, needing a strong skate to jump up into Olympic position, instead had a couple of falls, and finished in fourth.
The Canadian figure skating team in Pyeongchang will be its largest ever with 17 skaters.
Though the team won’t be formally announced until Sunday morning in Vancouver, it is widely expected that the nominated skaters will match the results here at the National Skating Championships in Vancouver.
Patrick Chan, Ont.
Keegan Messing, Alta.
Gabrielle Daleman, Ont.
Kaetlyn Osmond, Alta.
Larkyn Austman, B.C.
Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir, Que.
Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier, Ont.
Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje, Ont.
Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford, Que.
Julianne Seguin/Charlie Bilodeau, Que.
Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro, Ont.
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies