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Gilles and Poirier claim third national title in Calgary

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier win third national title

(L-R) Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac (QC), Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier (ON) and Alicia Fabbri and Paul Ayer (QC) pose in the Ice Dance ceremony during the 2024 Canadian Skating National Championships in Calgary.

2024 Canadian Skating National Championships: Ice Dance

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier (ON) claimed their third national title at the 2024 Canadian Skating National Championships. Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac (QC) snagged silver, while Alicia Fabbri and Paul Ayer (QC) took the bronze.

Noticeably absent from the event were Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen. The team withdrew to avoid being a distraction in light of a recent allegation of sexual assault against Soerensen. Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha also withdrew due to a concussion sustained by Lajoie.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier

The 2023 World bronze ice dance medalists earned 86.78 points in the short dance which has undergone some changes since the Grand Prix series. Following their performance, Gilles says the program is still “thinky” and they have not yet “settled in” to the changes. Most noticeably, Paul wobbled on the side-by-side twizzles. They also received only a level two on the pattern step sequence. However, the veterans’ usual smoothness in the routine set to “No More I Love You’s” by The Lover Speaks and “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer was evident before the scattered audience at the WinSport Arena.

After the rhythm dance, Poirier said the team is not looking to peak in Calgary and it “wasn’t the best skate of our lives” since the program needs “more consistency and time to practice.”

Gilles was overall pleased with performance, stating that she is “looking forward to seeing the changes build over Four Continents and Worlds.”

The overnight leaders skated their sometimes-romantic and sometimes-unsettling free dance to Wuthering Heights with commitment and passion. Filled with several level-four elements and receiving eight program components scores of 10, the free dance earned a score of 136.17. They closed out the ice dance event in Calgary with a total of 222.95 points.

“I think Paul and I really skated like champions today,” said Gilles. “I think we stepped out onto the ice and just remembered who we were and why we’re here. We used this as a stepping stone for Worlds. We want to be on the top of that podium. So, we’ve got to start acting like those champions and I think we really did that today and really enjoyed the performance.”

With little competition in Calgary, the team is looking forward to their next two competitions of the season: Four Continents and Worlds.

“I do think the field is really deep and really strong,” said Poirier. “We have some really strong competitors. And I really do think the results at those major championships are going to come down to those small little things of execution. Also, I think the vehicles are right, but it will really be down to us to bring our best skating to that competition. Not letting the little nerves get to us. And really just skating the programs with precision and ultimately with freedom and with emotion.”

“I think the changes that we’ve made since the Grand Prix Final is really going to be our focus when we get home to make sure that we’re not in this thinking mode, we are in attack mode,” said Gilles of their priority when they return to training. “I think that’s going to be the goal of going to the Four Continents; to make sure that we’re confident and strong.”

“We’re in such a tight field, like Paul said, it makes it really exciting,” Gilles continued. “And I think we’re thrilled to bring our best and I think everyone else will do the same. Which I think is why, you know, the top three are the top three. We’re a fun bunch of people to watch. You never know, like, everybody has their own their own ‘thing.’ We have ours. Chock and Bates have theirs. The Italians have theirs.”

“And all the teams behind have theirs too,” Poirier added. “And that’s what makes ice dance so special. Everyone brings their own thing to the table and that’s what makes ice dance exciting.”

Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac

Last year’s national bronze medalists, Lauriault and Le Gac skated a rousing 80s short dance to “Need You Tonight,” “Never Tear Us Apart” and “Devil Inside” by INXS to earn 78 points and finish second. Highlights to the program were the team’s level-four twizzle sequences.

Lauriault said the team really pushed their training in the last few weeks in preparation for Calgary and their goal coming in was a podium finish, regardless of the recent withdrawal of their IAM training mates.

With regard to the climate at their training site given the recent allegations against Soerensen, Lauriault said she and Le Gac “have a lot of compassion for everyone involved but we stay focused on our training, and we have a really supportive team around us.”

The 2022 Skate America bronze medalists performed their free dance to the Corpse Bride with commitment, showcasing their performative quality and backed it technically with three level-four elements.

“We’re really happy with the performance today,” said Le Gac on Saturday after the free dance. “I think we really went one step at a time. It was really nice. The audience was pretty supportive today.”

“And, I think, for us, it was special. I feel like for the first time, we put out a performance that we’re completely proud of,” said Lauriault. “Everybody on the team put a lot of energy into it. So, we’re just happy it came out alive, like we train it. So, for us, it’s a great achievement today. With the training we have done, the costumes and the makeup, everything was on point. So we’re just really happy to have presented that to the viewers today.”

The effort earned 122.50 points for a total competition score of 200.50. The satisfaction of exceeding a competition score of 200 points, which was an expressed goal for the duo this season, spurred exuberant relief by Lauriault and Le Gac and their coach, Marie-France Dubreuil, in the kiss and cry.

Alicia Fabbri and Paul Ayer

Fabbri and Ayer separated themselves from the pack in the short dance, earning a 77.75 with level-four twizzles and circular lift. Fabbri said the crowd was “amazing” as she and Ayer performed to AC/DC.

Born and raised in Calgary, Ayer said that he started “boosting the energy” in response to the audience’s enthusiasm.

New to the national podium, the duo skated a heartfelt free dance set to “Someone You Loved” and “Composition”. With contemporary moves and contrasting costumes, the team received level-four grading on their twizzles and two lifts to earn a personal best score of 117.86. They finished the competition with 195.61 points.

Ayer received heaps of cheers and applause, particularly as he warmed up and lapped the ice surface. The applause followed him.

“It was motivating,” he said of the crowd response. “I allowed myself a minute at the start and a minute at the end to take in the environment.”

“We just love to give a show,” said Fabbri. “And it’s amazing when people are receiving it so well. Like yesterday, it just gives us so much energy towards the end.”

Last year at this time, Ayer was wearing a sling due to a shoulder surgery.

“So, within one year to be fighting for the podium, making it onto the podium at the very least, this is huge!” he said. “I mean, it’s exactly what we think we’re capable of. To come out here and show that to ourselves and everyone, it’s a very good feeling.”

Lily Hensen and Nathan Lickers (ON) placed fourth (176.62) ahead of Molly Lanaghan and Dmitre Razgulajevs (ON) (175.48).

After an uncharacteristic fall in the free dance in their senior debut, Nadiia Bashynska and Peter Beaumont (ON) dropped from fourth after the rhythm dance to sixth overall with 175.02 points.

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