By Johanna Bear
Feature photo from Skate Canada
It was truly Canada’s week to shine as the Grand Prix series stopped in Mississauga, Ontario for Skate Canada International, with the host country taking home a total of seven medals across all four disciplines and with the return of some familiar faces to the international competitive stage.
Though he was not at his best during the free skate, Patrick Chan showed a tremendous return to form in his home competition, winning the gold medal with a total competition score of 266.95. Skating to music composed by Canadian pairs skater Eric Radford, Chan landed an impressive quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop combination and triple axel, but with a fall on his quadruple salchow, a hand down on his second triple axel, and a double Lutz-double toeloop-single loop combination, he left a great deal of potential points on the table, points that could have cost him the victory if not for the lead he built up over his closest competitors in the short program.
Many expected this event to be a showdown between Chan and 2014 Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu, but after a difficult short program, Hanyu found himself in fourth place going into the free skate. He was able to gain a great deal of ground on Chan with a first place free skate that featured two clean quadruple jumps, but he ultimately had to settle for the silver medal and a total score of 263.06.
The bronze medal in the men’s event went to Canadian Kevin Reynolds, who has not competed in the past two Grand Prix series due to injury and boot issues with his skates. Reynolds showed his jumping prowess as he landed three of his four quadruple jumps – salchow and two toe loops, including one in combination with a triple toe loop. Reynolds’ total competition score was 245.06 and his bronze medal marked his first-ever medal at a Grand Prix event.
It was a difficult weekend for the American men as both Grant Hochstein and Ross Miner struggled to find consistency in their performances. Hochstein found himself in last place after the short program but he skated a strong free skate featuring a quadruple toe loop, triple axel and five other triples. His eighth place finish in the free skate moved him up to 11th place for the competition with a total score of 204.69. Miner doubled the opening planned quad salchow in his free skate, fell on a triple lutz, and had other small jump errors, which resulted in a total score of 196.53, putting him in 12th place for the event.
Last season Evgenia Medvedeva burst onto the senior circuit, winning five gold medals including one at the World Championships and setting a record for the highest free skate score of all-time by a female skater in the process. Her performances at Skate Canada were a continuation of that fine form as she claimed the title with a score of 220.65, more than 14 full points higher than her next closest competitor. Medvedeva skated a moving, clean free skate to the soundtrack of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” which had the highest component score of any free skate performed in the ladies event.
Much like her compatriot Kevin Reynolds, Skate Canada was a return to form for Kaetlyn Osmond who missed the 2014-2015 season due to a broken leg and struggled last season, placing 11th at Skate Canada and 6th at the NHK Trophy and third at the Canadian National Championships. The start of this season has been a different story for Osmond, however, as the two-time Canadian national champion used her huge jumps and revitalized confidence to amass a total score of 206.45, giving her the silver medal in her home country and signaling a huge personal victory for her moving forward in the season towards the Canadian national championships.
Satoko Miyahara of Japan was fifth after the short program due to receiving an under-rotation and a deduction for an incorrect edge, but she fought for every point in her beautiful free skate and climbed up the leaderboard to claim the bronze medal with a score of 192.08 for the event. Her free skate to “The Planets” by Gustav Holst highlighted her elegant skating and storytelling abilities and she will look to use it moving forward to improve upon her fifth place finish at last season’s World Championships.
It was a disappointing weekend for USA’s Mirai Nagasu who struggled in both the short program and the free skate in Canada. Though she rallied in the free skate, skating to “The Winner Takes it All,” the triple jumps she landed were deemed underrotated by the technical panel and she finished in 9th place with a score of 151.42 for the competition.
In a somewhat unique display of consistency, the pairs podium stayed identical after the short program and after the free skate, with Canada taking home the gold after Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford’s dominant performances. The two-time World Champions ignited the crowd in the short program after landing a throw triple axel and though they missed their throw quadruple salchow in the free skate, they still landed their trademark side-by-side triple Lutzes in both programs and used their field-leading technical score to propel them to their third consecutive Skate Canada victory. They finished the event with a score of 218.30 points, more than 16 points ahead of their competitors.
In the offseason, the Chinese Skating Association decided to switch partners between two of its pairs teams, which was viewed as controversial by many in the skating community. Hao Zhang now skates with Xiaoyu Yu and Cheng Peng, Zhang’s female partner for the past three seasons, now skates with Yu’s former longtime male partner of seven years, Yang Jin. The move turned into a tremendously positive debut for Yu and Zhang, as they took home the silver medal in Canada with a score of 202.08 points.
After winning the silver medal at Nebelhorn Trophy last month, Canada’s Liubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch improved their total competition score by almost six points at Skate Canada International, taking home the bronze medal, their first Grand Prix medal in their third season together. Despite Ilyushechkina’s fall on the throw triple lutz and the side-by-side triple toeloop, their excellent lifts with flexible positions by her, preserved their spot on the podium with a total score of 190.22 points.
Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier continued their fine form from Skate America into this week, finishing just off the podium by a touch under two points due to errors in their side-by-side jumps, putting their total at 188.23 points. They seem to have returned to the high caliber of skating that they routinely showed before Denney’s serious knee injury, and now have great momentum and confidence heading into the U.S. National Championships in Kansas City later in the season.
In their much-anticipated return to the Grand Prix circuit, 2010 Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won their sixth Skate Canada title, edging out 2016 World bronze medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who actually beat Virtue and Moir in the free skate. Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier took home the bronze.
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The Grand Prix series will continue on November 4th with the Rostelecom Cup.