The 2003 Bank of Montreal Canadian Figure Skating Championships ended on January 12 with the final home competitive performance for Canadian ice dancers Shae Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz. The world silver medalists set a new standard with their tenth ice dancing senior gold medal at Canadians, the most in any of the four disciplines. They left with a standing ovation from the audience and a string of nine perfect sixes from the judges for their free dance. At the gala, the couple thanked the Canadian fans for their unwavering support throughout years of adversity.
The dance event was the climax of a great week of skating that saw new champions crowned in men as Emanuel Sandhu replaced the retired legend Elvis Stojko atop the podium and in pairs as longtime competitors Jacinthe Lariviere and Lenny Faustino finally reached their golden goal. Another new record was set in ladies by Jennifer Robinson, who won her sixth gold medal to stand alone in that category among Canadian women. Robinson also extended her record of nine straight podium finishes at Canadians.
The ladies started off the week with two lengthy qualifying rounds, won as expected by Robinson and Annie Bellemare. Joannie Rochette, who was out all of the fall season with an injury, took second to Robinson, while Lesley Hawker repeated her outstanding qualifying skate of 2002 to finish second to Bellemare. Michelle Currie and Nicole Watt were third in their respective groups, a surprising effort from Watt, who had her knee drained only a few days before to alleviate fluid buildup called by her juvenile arthritis. Fellow Saskatchewan native Vicky Bryan also had the skate of her life to finish fifth.
Robinson took the short, followed closely by Currie, who actually took two first place ordinals. Both Robinson and Currie landed a triple lutz/double toe and a triple flip. Rochette was third, followed by Bellemare and Leah Hepner, making a return to competition after missing a few years due to injuries. Hepner landed a triple lutz/double toe combination and a triple flip in a clean skate. Watt, obviously in considerable pain, dropped to eleventh and was forced to withdraw to avoid risking more serious damage to her knee.
In the long, Robinson dominated, landing a triple lutz/double toe and a triple salchow/double loop in her “Suite Populaire Espagnole pour Violon et Piano” program. Rochette also skated well to take the silver, landing a triple toe-half loop-triple salchow sequence although she two-footed the salchow. Bellemare outlasted Currie to take the bronze, although neither had a good skate. Rochette used “Il Etait une Fois le Diable” while Bellemare skated to “Embraceable You.” Marianne Dubuc, who fought her way up from 11th in the qualifiers, and Hepner rounded out the top six.
The men’s qualifiers again went as expected with Emanuel Sandhu and Jeffrey Buttle winning their groups. Sandhu landed a quad toe/triple toe and a triple Axel/triple toe along with five more triples to surpass Fedor Andreev and Jayson Denommee, while Buttle triumphed over Ben Ferreira and Nicholas Young. The most intriguing program of the event was by Alexandre Hamel, who came ninth with a delightful Charlie Chaplin program.
The surprises came in the short program, when Ben Ferreira landed his quad toe (with a step out)/double toe plus a triple Axel and triple lutz to take the lead over Andreev and Sandhu, who missed both his quad and his triple Axel. Andreev landed a triple flip/triple toe to go with a triple Axel and triple lutz. They were followed by Buttle, last year’s junior champion Shawn Sawyer and Nicholas Young.
In the long, Sandhu won over the judges despite missing three quad attempts. He did land triple Axel/triple toe, another triple Axel, and triple salchow, loop and lutz. Buttle was second with Andreev third, his first senior podium finish. Buttle landed triple Axel/triple toe plus a spread-eagle into a triple lutz and an Ina Bauer into a triple salchow but missed his quad toe loop. Andreev, skating to “Firebird,” landed his quad toe for the first time in competition, plus a triple Axel/double toe combination and six other triples. Ferreira Young and Sawyer rounded out the top six.
With the departure of Olympic gold medalists Jamie Sale and David Pelletier to Stars on Ice, the pairs event was wide open with several strong and experienced teams all going for their first gold. Even Kristy and Kris Wirtz decided to come back for one more try, but it ended prematurely when Kris injured his rotator cuff and could not skate the free program. That left no former champions in the mix. Annabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto, who made the Grand Prix Final this season, took the short program, skating to “Harlem Nocturne,” even though she fell on the side-by-side triple toe loops. Jacinthe Lariviere and Lenny Faustino placed second with their “Where’s Bubba?” program after Lariviere put a hand down on a wild throw triple salchow and stepped out on the side-by-side triple toe. Valerie Marcoux and her new partner, Craig Buntin, who skated to “Scott and Fran’s Paso Doble” were third after he stepped out of the side-by-side triple toe.
Most of the couples seemed nervous for the long. Lariviere and Faustino won using their “Transylvanian Lullaby” program, highlighted by a throw triple salchow and throw triple loop in which her hand barely touched. They had trouble on the side-by-side jumps as Lariviere fell on the double Axel and put a hand down on the triple toe loop. Elizabeth Putnam and Sean Wirtz, the nephew of Kris and Kristy, took second in the free skate, jumping from fifth after the short to take the bronze. Their “Turandot” program included a beautiful spiral sequence, nested Ina Bauers, and side-by-side spread-eagles, made even more impressive since both skaters are tall. They landed a throw triple loop and triple salchow and a side-by-side triple salchow/double toe combination. Langlois and Archetto dropped to third in the long, finishing second overall with their “Tosca” program. They missed both the throw triple salchow and triple toe, had problems with the throw triple twist, and Langlois doubled a side-by-side triple salchow, but they landed side-by-side double Axels and a triple toe/double toe sequence.
That Bourne and Kraatz would win the dance competition was a foregone conclusion. They got straight first place ordinals in every dance and showed their new Russian-oriented style with a superb Strauss original dance and a free dance to “Adagio of the 21st Century“. The question was how much the other teams had improved during the season. Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, who have moved to France to train came in second, although both their original dance and “Dance With My Heart” free dance lacked spark. Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe showed dramatic improvement since going to train with Igor Shpilband in Detroit. Their original dance was a masterpiece, gaining a standing ovation, and their free dance to a medley of John Lennon songs was innovative as well as technically difficult. They settled for their usual bronze medal, but could beat most of the couples at Worlds. The young dancers showed a lot of promise. The teams of Judith Longpre and Shae Zuwisky, Tara Doherty and Tyler Myles, and Lauren Flynn and Leif Gislason each showed very different styles, but each should challenge for the podium with the retirement of Bourne and Kraatz. Doherty and Myles displayed one of the most entertaining free dances, using “Black Cat, White Cat.”
Canadians also showcased a strong cadre of younger skaters in the junior events. In ice dancing, Melissa Piperno and Liam Dougherty held off a strong challenge from Mylene Girard and Brian Yaeger to take the gold, with Siobhan Karam and Joshua McGrath taking the bronze. Girard and Yaeger, who have only been skating together since the fall, actually won the compulsory and original dances but Piperno and Dougherty took the free dance with a sultry “Tango Roxanne” from Moulin Rouge.
In junior pairs, Jessica Dube and Samuel Tetrault won both the short and the long to outlast Lindsay McCaustlin and Christopher Davies, who were third in the short and second in the long and Aimee Collier and Christopher Richardson, who jumped from fifth in the short to third in the long to take the bronze. Dube was one of two pairs skaters who also skated in the junior ladies event and made the podium. Cathy Harvey and Marc Babin, who had been one of the favorites in the event, were a strong second in the short but fell to fifth in the long.
The junior ladies saw a close battle between Meghan Duhamel and Amanda Billings for the gold, with both skaters receiving first place marks from the judges in both the short and the free, but Duhamel came out on top. Elizabeth Putnam and Jessica Dube, the two ladies who also skated pairs, came in third and fifth respectively. Duhamel, skating to “Scheherazade,” landed a triple lutz and salchow, a triple salchow/double toe combination, and a nice double Axel.
The junior men’s battle was equally close with Cedric Demers winning the short unanimously after landing his first triple Axel in competition in a triple Axel/double toe combination to go with a triple lutz and clean double Axel. Ken Rose, skating to Dupere’s “Finale from Xotica,” was second. Rose actually hit a soda can that had fallen on the ice as he went for his double Axel and still landed the jump. In the long, Rose won in another unanimous decision. He landed a triple flip/double Axel, a triple flip/triple toe and three other clean triples in his “Capriccio Italien” long. Vaughn Chipeur made a huge jump from seventh after to third overall with a dynamic program that included two double Axels, one from a spiral, and a triple lutz/double toe combination. Dylan Moscovitch, who was third in the short, dropped to sixth. The men’s event also included the year’s funniest program to a medley that also included “Black Cat, White Cat” by natural mime Michael Craigmyle, who continued his performance in the kiss and cry, leaving the audience in stitches.