Skate Canada International was held at Saskatchewan Place, November 1-4, 2001, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. This is the second of a series of six competitions before the Grand Prix Final which is to be held in December in Ontario, Canada.
The ladies race to the Olympic gold medal became a three-way battle with American Sarah Hughes rallying to win the much anticipated showdown between Michelle Kwan and Irina Slutskaya. One of the only competitors to deliver a clean short program, Hughes’s advantage in this phase of the competition proved essential. Slutskaya handily won the free skate, but a fourth-place finish in the short program prevented her from taking the overall title.
Hughes and Slutskaya each landed six triple jumps compared to Kwan’s five. Kwan had planned two triple-triple combinations, but both resulted in falls. Presently coachless, Kwan’s attempt to up the technical ante resulted in the end of a remarkable streak of first or second place finishes dating back to February 1996.
Ironically, Hughes designated Skate Canada as a non-scoring event in the Grand Prix. In order to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, she will have to earn points at Trophee Lalique in two weeks. With a first-place finish at Skate America last week, Kwan’s spot in the Grand Prix Final looks secure. Slutskaya’s next point-scoring event will be Cup of Russia in three weeks.
Three-time World Champion Alexei Yagudin opened the men’s short program and remained atop of the standings through the very end with a brilliant performance to Bond’s “Winter.” Though somewhat flawed, his free skate was enough to unanimously keep him in first and offer a promising start to the season.
Showing great strides since the Goodwill Games, Canada’s Elvis Stojko landed his first quadruple jump in over a year to take the silver medal. Widely thought to be past his peak, Stojko was upstaged by fellow Canadian Emanuel Sandhu in the short program only to come back with a vengeance in the free skate, where Sandhu faltered and dropped to fifth overall.
American Todd Eldredge’s continual struggles with the quad showed no signs of improvement, although the 30-year-old did rotate a severely flawed attempt in the short program. While he landed two triple Axels including one in combination with a triple toe, Eldredge doubled two of the simpler triple jumps and received marks as low as 5.2 en route to winning the bronze medal.
Canadian favorites Jamie Sale and David Pelletier faced no competition in the pairs event and took unanimous ordinals across both programs. Sale was reported to have struggled with her triple toe loop in practice, but the fact that she landed it cleanly in both programs bodes well for the rest of the season. Their free skate was marred only by the reduction of a throw triple salchow to a double, the first time this team has ever missed a throw in a major competition.
Russia’s Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin backed up their perfect performance at Skate America with another clean skate at Skate Canada. One of the increasingly many teams to perform two side-by-side triple jumps, Totmianina and Marinin– like Sarah Hughes– received no points for their medal here after designating it a non-scoring event. In two weeks, they will go head-to-head with Americans Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman at Trophee Lalique for what could be their major international win.
Canada earned another medal when its bronze medalists, Annabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto, took home a bronze in their first Grand Prix event. With Kristy and Kris Wirtz recently announcing their retirement, Langlois and Archetto are odds-on favorites to occupy one of Canada’s three pairs spots at the Olympics. Their medal here fully qualified them to skate in the Olympics under the Canadian Olympic Association criteria, though they will still need to earn a spot at Canadian Nationals.
Canadians also claimed the dance title, with Shae-Lynn Bourne and Viktor Kraatz winning their second event and qualifying for the Grand Prix Final with the maximum 24 points. Bourne and Kraatz will get a better indication of where they stand internationally when they go up against World silver medalists Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat at Trophee Lalique, a non-scoring event for the Canadians, in two weeks.
Finishing second to the Canadians for the second consecutive week, Israel’s Galit Chait and Sergei Saknovsky will next compete at Cup of Russia over Thanksgiving weekend. France’s Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder rounded out the top three.
The Grand Prix series will continue next week with Nations Cup in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.