The 2002 Canadian Championships were held in Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ont. from January 7-13. Following the competition, Skate Canada named its Olympic and World team of two men, three pairs, two dance teams, and one woman. The Four Continents Championship team, consisting partly of Olympic team members and partly of up-and-comers, was also named. Additional skaters were named to the World Junior team, which will be finalized after the conclusion of the Canadian Junior Championships (for novice level skaters and below) later this month.
Like his American counterpart Todd Eldredge, Elvis Stojko proved to the world that the old guys still have it. Skating to the soundtrack from “Dragon,” the same program that carried him to Olympic silver and World gold in 1994, Stojko rediscovered a bit of his youth as well as his quad combination en route to winning his sixth Canadian title.
Stojko will be joined on the Olympic team by Emanuel Sandhu, last year’s Canadian champion and an up-and-down kind of skater who provides fans with both joy and frustration. Sandhu’s uneven free skate at Canadians was a victory of sorts. Rebounding from mistakes has been difficult for him in the past, and his “all or nothing” performances have gotten him in hot water with Skate Canada, which has been somewhat hesitant to promote him in the past. In all likelihood, Stojko will retire after the Olympics, leaving Sandhu to lead the Canadian men into Worlds. With the amount of berths for the following year depending heavily on his performance, Sandhu will need to skate with the presence of mind that he showed at Canadians.
Jeffrey Buttle, an extremely musical skater who made a splash with his second-place finish at the NHK Trophy in December, won the bronze medal with an audience-pleasing free skate to Nino Rota’s “La Strada.” Without a consistent quadruple jump or triple Axel, Buttle is at a technical disadvantage, but his style, refinement, and consistency on the other triples will hold him up well internationally. Buttle will compete at the Four Continents Championship in February and is expected to be at the World Championships if Stojko withdraws as planned.
The orchid did not quite bloom for World Champions Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, who made three uncharacteristic errors in their orchid-themed free skate to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Sale, who has otherwise been the picture of consistency this season, opened with a fall on a triple toe loop and never recovered, singling a solo double Axel and doubling a planned throw double salchow. The error-filled performance led Pelletier to utter a four-letter word while leaving the ice. Nevertheless, the pair easily defended their Canadian title-number three in all- and will move on to the Olympics as favorites. The main difference in Salt Lake City is that Sale and Pelletier will be skating their 1999-2000 competitive free skate to the soundtrack from “Love Story,” a less abstract and more emotionally captivating program that has drawn a series of perfect marks from international changes.
Thought to be outsiders for even the bronze medal, Jacinthe Lariviere and Lenny Faustino were the most consistent pair throughout the competition and took home a silver medal as their reward. Lariviere and Faustino declined fall international assignments in order to prepare for the championships, a strategy that paid off well for the young team.
Joining them on the Olympic and World teams will be Annabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto, a team that turned heads on the Grand Prix circuit, even taking home a bronze medal at Skate Canada International. Langlois and Archetto struggled at Canadians, but advanced to the Olympics and Worlds on a 5-4 judging split over Valerie Marcoux and Bruno Marcotte.
6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 18.104.22.168 6.0 6.0. The scoreboard flashed a series of nine perfect 6.0s for presentation for Shae-Lynn Bourne and Viktor Kraatz, winners of the Grand Prix Final and medal hopefuls at the Olympics. Their fun original dance to “Girl Fight” and “Cell Block Tango” captured the delight of the audience and judges. The string of perfect scores continued with six more in the free dance, despite their skating first among the final group of contenders. Bourne and Kraatz move on to the Olympics in an ice dance world of political unrest, where the top five teams could finish in any given order depending on the whims of the judging panel. They will watch the European Championships intently, to see if the decline of World Champions Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio continues, and to see where Russians Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh stack up after being out with injury all season.
Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, Canadian Champions in Bourne and Kraatz’s absence in 2000, were a strong second with marks up to 5.9. Tenth in the world in 2000, Dubreuil and Lauzon dropped to eleventh last season and will look to move up at the Olympic Games. Having defeated the seventh-ranked team in the world from Ukraine, cracking the top ten is certainly a realistic goal for the team who qualified for the Grand Prix Final due to their strong showings this fall.
Perennial crowd favorites Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe added another bronze medal to their collection, skating to a selection of tunes by the Supreme Beings of Leisure. Veterans who have been skating together for more than a decade, Wing and Lowe hope that the combined finish of the Canadian teams at the World Championships will result in an extra berth for next year’s World Championships.
Jennifer Robinson took her fifth Canadian title but not without a scare. Despite skating a clean short program, Robinson-the most decorated Canadian woman- found herself in second place. The veteran looked at the situation with poise, saying that it was good for the crowd to have a competition for the sole Olympic spot. That poise likely carried Robinson through the free skate, where she dominated and earned marks up to 5.7.
Annie Bellemare won the short program with the skate of life, which included a triple lutz-double toe combination and a triple flip. Unfortunately, Bellemare’s typical nerves surfaced in the free skate, where she finished third. Bellemare took home a silver medal overall and gets a trip to the Four Continents Championship, where she won the bronze medal in 2000, as a consolation prize of sorts.
Up-and-comer Joannie Rochette, who last year had the highest finish of any Canadian woman at Junior Worlds in recent history, fell on her triple lutz combination in the short program and found herself in fifth place in that phase of competition. True to form, she rallied back with an excellent free skate that pulled her up to third overall. The fifteen-year old will return to Junior Worlds with the hopes of a medal and will get her first chance at senior international competition with a trip to Four Continents next month.