Home Figure Skating News Kaiya Ruiter crowned new Canadian champion

Kaiya Ruiter crowned new Canadian champion

by Ted Flett
Skate Canada

Kaiya Ruiter crowned new Canadian champion

(L-R) Madeline Schizas (ON), Kaiya Ruiter (AB/NT/NU) and Allison Reed and Hetty Shi (ON) pose in the Women’s ceremony during the 2024 Canadian Skating National Championships in Calgary.

2024 Canadian Skating National Championships: Women

Kaiya Ruiter (AB/NT/NU) was crowned the new 2024 Canadian champion on Saturday. Consistent with some of Canada’s historical women’s results at nationals, the standings in Calgary scrambled between the short and free programs. Madeline Schizas (ON) settled for silver, while Hetty Shi (ON) won the bronze in her senior debut at this event.

Kaiya Ruiter

In the short program, Ruiter set herself up to strike gold by earning 58.25 points (less than six points from Schizas), with her routine to “How Will I Know.” Mistakes included underrotating the backend of a triple flip-triple toe and landing a triple Lutz on the quarter.

“That was so much fun,” she reflected. “Honestly, just feeling all the love of everybody in the stands just made it so much fun out there.”

Ruiter is from Calgary, trains locally and had many family members in the audience including her grandmother, parents, three sisters and others.

For the free skate, Ruiter debuted a new shimmering dress adorned with gold, black and white crystals which she helped to design. She particularly loves the new costume’s crystals and gloves. The skater brought the sparse crowd at Winsport Arena to their feet with her mesmerizing “Inspiration” program. However, only three of seven triple jumps were unscathed by underrotation or edge calls. The silver medalist from last year calmly unspooled element after element in her heartfelt choreography to earn 122.61 points in the free skate. Her total score was 180.86.

“I just wanted to go in, skate the way I do in practice and just enjoy the moment,” she said. “I love this program so much and I just wanted to share that with the audience.”

Following her performance, Ruiter watched reigning champion Madeline Schizas skate and, like many at the Winsport Arena, was surprised by the Olympian’s repeated errors.

“I look up to her very much,” Ruiter said of Schizas. “She’s such an incredible competitor. We support each other. I honestly just wanted her to land as many jumps as possible. I wanted her to have her best day because when she has her best day, when everyone has their best day, it makes the sport better.”

Madeline Schizas

Unlike previous seasons in which Schizas created comfortable distances between her short program score and the scores of her competitors, Schizas’ short program in Calgary did her few favors. During her Spanish medley, the Olympian doubled the back half of her planned triple lutz-triple toe and she snagged only a level-two grading on her footwork sequence.

Schizas was surprised by the error given that she was so calm coming to Calgary.

“I have been skating it well in practice so when I landed heavy on the Lutz, I was like, ‘Ugh!’ but I thought the rest of it was really clean.”

The skater was equally surprised by the lower scores given her commitment to the presentation scores.

“I’m curious to see the report card,” she said. “It just was maybe a little bit lower than I thought it might be. I thought it’d be closer to 65 or 66 for the program I put out. I felt quite calm.”

Coach Nancy Lemaire said that Schizas’ snap judgement to double the toe is an indication of her maturity to “walk away with points and positive GOE and love for another day.” Lemaire said that her pupil’s training regimen is to attempt the planned triple-triple combination if she is standing up on the Lutz “but, in a competition setting, it’s a different set of rules.”

Lemaire attributes Schizas’ calm and composure in Calgary to the 2023 Ondrej Nepela Memorial bronze medalist’s more manageable lifestyle, including more online courses at McMaster University versus in person, to reduce the Olympian’s commuting time and stress.

Schizas was unrecognizable in the free skate and relegated to silver. She appeared tentative, cautious and bewildered. In her routine to Gershwin’s “Summertime” performed by Elle Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, the Olympian managed only three triple jumps and a score of 109.27 for a total competition score of 172.90.

“I’m hugely disappointed,” Schizas said. “Like, I could have walked away with that without trying that hard. Nothing felt comfortable today.”

The result was also a surprise since she says she has had “a very good few weeks of training.”

“It was a waste of everyone’s time, including mine,” she said in frustration.

Lemaire said that one explanation for the uncharacteristic performance was that the event did not “feel like a nationals this week. It was hard for [Schizas] to feel nervous or that this was a big event.” Lemaire pointed to the WinSport Arena event layout in which many of the skaters can mix with the public and sparse crowds at events that contributed to the 2024 championships not feeling like “a normal nationals.”

A class act, Schizas quickly congratulated and embraced Ruiter seconds after stepping off the Kiss & Cry.

Hetty Shi

In her senior national debut, the 2023 Canadian junior champion scored 52.31 points for her whimsical short program set to “The Prayer.” Disappointed with her popped triple loop, she still managed to finish in sixth place, just six points from third place.

Following her bronze-medal-winning free skate, Shi expressed disappointment with the spill she took on the back end of her triple-triple combination but otherwise said, “I’m pretty happy with it.”

The 15-year-old rotated four triple jumps in the free skate but fell on her opening triple flip-triple toe. She earned 110.20 for a total competition score of 162.51.

Shi admitted to having nerves as she skated among country’s top ladies. Although she had a “really good” warm up, Shi said she is now more driven to develop her trusty and maturity having seen her competitors who “look really mature on the ice.” Especially given that “people take me as a kid.”

Uliana Shiryaeva (BC/YK) finished in fourth place with a total competition score of 159.29, followed by Fee-Ann Landry (QC) who earned 157.69 points.

Fourth last year, Sara-Maude Dupuis (QC) finished in a close sixth (157.64).

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