Skating fans were treated to quite the show this past weekend at 2017 Skate Canada International. While some of the pre-competition favorites prevailed, we saw a number of unexpected results that made our heads spin (and not in a Level 4 +GOE spin kind of way). My big takeaways from the competition below.
Duhamel/Radford rediscover form
A lot of question marks were on Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford coming into this season. After having years of consistency, they were at a crossroads last season, as a few consecutive competitions with major errors snowballed into career-low confidence for them. And even after changes in their coaching team over the summer, they started off their season with major mistakes in their free skate at Autumn Classic International.
And so Duhamel/Radford entered Skate Canada with doubts - and frankly, another poor showing could have derailed their entire season. But they really turned it around and threw down a free skate that we haven't seen from them since they won their second World title two seasons ago. It's possible that this could be the start of something great for this pair, and just in time for two skaters who were hoping that their time at the top has not passed them by.
Overall, it was quite the battle between the top three pairs at Skate Canada. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot took the silver after mistakes on their side-by-side jumps in the free skate took them out of contention. But their free skate is a masterpiece in the making - the kind of program that has the potential to transcend what we come to expect from pair skating and bring it into the realm of ice dance.
Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres skated two near flawless programs to grab the bronze right behind Savchenko/Massot (and you could make the argument that they deserved silver). But I am convinced that this is just the start for them this season - watch their scores pick up if they continue to throw down these kinds of programs.
Chan off the podium
A World champion who did not quite have the kind of competition he was looking for was Patrick Chan. His free skate was nothing short of a disaster, and it took him off the podium. It was a shame to see a champion who has done so much for the sport have such a poor skate. But as they say - better now than at the Olympics.
But perhaps more interesting was the fact that Chan talked about his strategy coming into Skate Canada - taking the quad salchow out of both programs to ease the pressure to let him enjoy his programs more. How does he recover from this? We'll see next week at NHK Trophy.
Regina is Underrotation City
From my count, there were 33 underrotations and 6 downgrades in the ladies' free skate spread out among 11 skaters (Kaetlyn Osmond did not get either call). It was possibly the harshest technical panel I have ever seen. From my perspective, it's all about consistency of calls. If panels were more consistent across competitions, it would 1) allow the audience to not be stupefied every time something like this happens, and 2) not give skaters mixed messages throughout the season.
In a lot of ways, the quarter-turn rule for underrotations provides a lot of room for scrutiny. It's not as simple as seeing where the skater's blade is when they take off and land. There are really two factors at play - the camera angle and the skater's direction of travel. Calling something "at a quarter-turn" as underrotated versus "under a quarter-turn" makes precision so very important, and when the callers are relying on judgment, it is nearly impossible to be consistent across competitions.
An old favorite #TheOriginalMalade
In a season of repeats and three-peats, there is another program to add to the Greatest Hits collection. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje decided to return to their signature Je Suis Malade program from the 2011-12 season. Though they had finished in the top five at Worlds the season before, it was this program that really propelled them to the top of the ice dance world. And with the magic of YouTube, we can see the two programs side-by-side.
No program they have done in their career has been so suited to their skating and them as a dance team. It is a choice that worked for them six years ago to show them off as superb ice dancers, and it is a choice that works for them now to demonstrate the strides they've made in their skating.