Canadians galore at the Fall Classic figure skating event

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The Fall Classic has never been so Canadian.

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It is a competition in the Challenger series, a step back from the six-stage Grand Prix of figure skating circuit, which this season includes Skate America, Skate Canada International and events in Tokyo, Grenoble, Turin and Sochi. , as well as the Grand Prix final in Osaka.

Normally no more than 15 Canadian skaters would participate in a fall classic, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has not been a normal figure skating season since 2019. Thus, the national governing body Sport, Skate Canada, brought a shipment of athletes to an ice rink in Pierrefonds, Quebec. After two late retirements on Friday, there are three Canadian men, three women, three pairs teams and four dance teams competing this week, for a total of 20 skaters. The vast majority are members of the national team, which is not always the case for an event of this level.

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In contrast, there were only eight Canadian skaters at the 2019 Fall Classic in Oakville – where there was no pairs competition – 14 in Oakville in 2018 and 15 in the 2017 Fall Classic, which was also held in Pierrefonds.

“We’re giving everyone as many opportunities as possible to get back to competition,” said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada High Performance Director. “Just because other than the World Championships and the World Team Trophy, no one has really had the experience of competing live. We don’t have a crowd here, it’s just competitors and the support staff from nations, but the judges are live.

“My feeling is that at the start of this season everyone has to get back to the rhythm of skating. Skaters get used to competing live, one day of competition, and the judges get back to judging because they too weren’t there. They did it virtually. As much as virtual has been a good resource for us over the past two years, nothing beats live for our sport. “

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The pandemic has taken the life of figure skating, of course. In a shortened 2020-21 season, most events were canceled, including the Skate Canada International, the Grand Prix final, eight of the 10 stages of the Challenger Series tour, the European Championships, the four continents, the nine events of the Junior Grand Prix Series and the Junior World Championships.

So what were most athletes doing in the meantime?

“It was so out of our control so everyone kept preparing, training and in some ways it gave a lot of athletes and coaches time to work on the areas that they needed to improve, time that you just don’t have in a normal season when you’re competing, “Slipchuk said.” When we finally came back to watch and see the athletes, we found that everything the world was healthier, fitter and had time to train. We saw a lot of improvements in a lot of areas. So as bad as things are, I think there has been a lot of improvement. positive points that came out of everything. ”

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The current international schedule has been largely unaffected by COVID, except for the cancellation of two events that had been set for China; the China and Four Continents Cup.

“It’s so good to finally be back,” said Slipchuk. “We did our (high performance) camp the penultimate week of August, which we haven’t done for two years. It was awesome. Then I competed in a junior event in Slovakia, then in Italy last week and now here. For me, things are starting to return to normal. Everyone starts to compete again and the judges judge. Everyone feels comfortable again, which is good.

Indeed, by far the biggest positive point is a return to normal competition; a short program followed by a free program, just like in the good old days. Vanessa James and Eric Radford’s new team – they had competed for France and retired after the 2018 Olympics – finished second of seven teams in the pairs short program on Thursday, to lead the Canadian contingent. That same evening, Gabrielle Daleman, a 2018 Olympian who was not named to the national team this year, finished first among the Canadians and eighth of 11 athletes in the women’s short program.

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The men’s short program, rhythmic dance, pairs free program and women’s free program are all scheduled for Friday afternoon and evening. Men’s competition is limited to just five Canadians, as the entire international field has withdrawn. Slipchuk said there were various issues at play there, including some skaters focusing on the Nebelhorn Trophy event, with the final Olympic qualifying taking place in Oberstdorf, Germany, next week. The national team Roman Sadovsky is taking part, hoping to add an Olympic spot for a second Canadian.

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Twitter.com/sportsdanbarnes

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