Home Figure Skating News Wesley Chiu rises to the occasion in Calgary

Wesley Chiu rises to the occasion in Calgary

by Ted Flett
Skate Canada

Wesley Chiu

(L-R) Aleksa Rakic (BC/YK), Wesley Chiu (BC/YK) and Anthony Paradis (QC) pose in the Men’s ceremony during the 2024 Canadian Skating National Championships in Calgary.

2024 Canadian Skating National Championships: Men

In one of the most-anticipated domestic battles, the men’s event in Calgary failed to meet expectations. Since last season’s retirement of Keegan Messing, there has been great speculation over who would assume the Canadian throne. The 2024 Canadian National Skating Championships seemed to be billed as a showdown between the four senior men on Skate Canada’s national team: Wesley Chiu (BC/YK), Stephen Gogolev (ON), Conrad Orzel (ON), and Roman Sadovsky (ON).

Only Chiu rose to the occasion to win gold while the others failed to even reach the podium. Aleksa Rakic (BC/YK) won the silver medal with the best free skate of the night and fan-favorite Anthony Paradis (QC) won the bronze. Orzel came fourth, missing the podium by a quarter of a point. Sadovsky landed in sixth and Gogolev withdrew after the short program due to an undiagnosed back injury.

Wesley Chiu

Chiu won the title on the strength of his short program. Often reliable under pressure, Chiu earned 88.98 points for his careful but clean “Romeo and Juliet” short program. He landed a quadruple toe-triple toe and triple Lutz but could only manage a squirrelly landing on the triple Axel.

Afterwards, Chiu said that he struggled during the pressure-packed warm up in which his jumps felt uncomfortable. He said he “reset” with his coaches backstage before skating in order to deliver his clean skate.

“I sort of cleared my mind,” he said. “But I sort of knew what I had to do, and I just had to get it done.”

Chiu said he tried hard to focus on merely skating well and not winning the title.

The following night, after a rough opening to his free skate, Chiu scrambled and rallied to put together a performance that would not jeopardize the 13+ point lead he had achieved with his measured short program and secured his first title.

Opening with a solid triple flip-triple toe, Chiu then tumbled on his quadruple toe and doubled the Salchow. Rallying to land a triple loop, he then fell on his triple Axel. But the two-time national bronze medalist finished strong, cranking out a triple Lutz-Euler-triple Salchow sequence and a triple Lutz-triple toe. The seven triple jumps helped to offset the botched quads and Axel. He also managed two level-four spins in the routine set to music from Kill Bill. His free skate earned a score of 143.17, the third highest of the night, to finish with a total combined score of 232.15.

“I tried to scratch out every point that I could,” Chiu said shortly after he spent some nerve-wracking moments waiting for his marks, wondering if he had done enough to fend off the others.

“It was just sort of the struggle of being in this position and skating last,” said Chiu, explaining the mercurial performance. “Being in this position has sort of been new for me, especially at the senior level. It was really just more of learning how to handle myself in between the warmup and the program. And I definitely learned a lot from that.”

“This gives me confidence going into the rest of the season and even next season, having Canadian champion on my back,” he said of the honor. “I can skate with more pride now. But it also comes with responsibility and overall, I’m really motivating to go back and train hard.”

The new champion joked that persistence pays off. “I’ve come third twice in a row,” Chiu he said. “So, I guess third time’s the charm.”

Chiu and his coach Keegan Murphy said that Chiu functioned in a bubble in Calgary, focusing laser sharp on himself and paying no attention to his competitors’ performances and standings.

Aleksa Rakic

Rakic managed to finish second after the short program with a steady short program that earned 75.49. More impressive than his placement was the delta in points between himself and the three other primary favorites besides Chiu. Sadovsky was seven points back from Rakic. Orzel was 14 points back and Gogolev was over 20 points behind.

Twelfth last year, Aleksa Rakic won the silver medal in Calgary with a free skate to “No One Like You.” He stepped out of his opening quad toe and later on the triple Axel, but managed five other clean triple jumps, including a triple loop-triple loop. His second triple Axel was underrotated. All of his spins and the footwork were given level-four ratings and the judges awarded him with the highest free skate score of the night, 149.90. Rakic completed the competition with a total score of 225.39.

“I have a lot of mixed feelings right now,” he said afterwards, reconciling the mistake with the silver medal. “It was a goal to be on the podium, but I didn’t want to really tell people so as to not jinx myself or anything. So, I’m really happy I did it.”

The result held particular satisfaction given Rakic’s troubling warmup in which he struggled to land any jump.

“My warmup was not even close to what I can do and what I normally do,” Rakic said.

From the time he left the warmup to when he took the ice for his free skate (fourth of the five men in the flight), coach Joanne MacLeod kicked into overdrive using every precious second to reset and compose her skater.

“He wants it so bad,” coach Joanne McLeod said, explaining Rakic’s rattled warm up. “So sometimes, when you’re focusing on the potential of what you can do and, on the outcome, you’re out of the moment. You shouldn’t be thinking about the outcome or the winning, or the end result. You have to stay exactly in the moment. I was trying to get him to talk to himself. Whatever he said and felt, I addressed. And I kept telling him how good he is.”

“She more asked me what I was feeling, like, what was going on,” Rakic said, reflecting on his coach’s intervention post-warm up. “I told her I felt shaky. I didn’t feel balanced. So, we started doing some balancing exercises. I had to stand on one foot. She was pushing me a little to test it and it helped when I got back on before my program. I did some more normal jumps, and I was feeling myself.”

Anthony Paradis

Similar to Rakic, Paradis managed a respectable short program to “Ace in the Hole” that featured a triple Lutz-triple toe, double Axel and triple loop which distanced him from the trio of medal contenders. In his senior national debut, the 2022 Canadian junior champion earned 74.16 thanks to the level-four grading of all his spin and footwork.

The following night, he gave a dramatic and expressive free skate set to “Yours” and “Heartbreaking Indifference.” Paradis managed a personal best skate with six triples jumps, including his opening triple Lutz-double toe, to earn 135.82 and edged out Orzel for the bronze medal by .26 points.

An equipment malfunction on Saturday night brought additional drama. Upon the landing of the triple loop, Paradis realized his skate lace broke and had to stop skating to address the repair. The judges deducted five points from the free skate score for an “excessive interruption.”

However, Paradis’ lines, flexibility and expression distracted viewers from the gaffe.

“Actually, I think it gave me time to just relax because I was nervous,” Paradis said of the break to repair his skate lace. “It gave me time to breathe, get back on the ice and start all over again. So yeah, it actually brought me energy.”

“They really helped me,” Paradis said of the enthusiastic audience.

The mishap aside, Paradis was overjoyed with his performance. “I’m really happy and really proud,” he said. “We’ve worked really hard, me and my coaches, so I am really happy. But, I never thought I would be on the podium today.”

“It’s super beautiful,” he said of his distinctive sleeveless costume, a mix of shredded white lace, tears and red crystals, representing blood. “I love it. It’s kind of like a heartbreak. You know, you get stabbed in the heart and then it bleeds. Just, it’s a beautiful thing.”

Conrad Orzel

Orzel kicked off his campaign for the national title with a disastrous short program to Carmina Burana that put him into tenth place with 61.72 points. He tripled both planned quads and singled the Axel. After the skate, Orzel said the thought he was “too calm.”

“I am a much more anxious person and I need that anxiousness to fire properly,” he said. “I was so in control, and it seems like that’s not the recipe I should be following in my head.”

Orzel said that in 2023, “I think I was a complete mess and I think that helped. I was trying here too hard to maybe be somebody else. And tomorrow, I think I’m just going to stick to being more energetic and a bit more antsy.” He said he wanted to make his family and coach proud of him in the free skate.

The 23-year-old tripled his first planned quadruple – a Salchow – in his “Imagine Dragons” free skate. Orzel managed to squeak out a quadruple toe-double toe and later, a triple Axel. With four other triple jumps, the 2023 Canadian silver medalist earned a score of 148 in the free skate to finish fourth overall (209.72).

“I was prepared to skate a lot better,” Orzel said. “Everything was a fight.”

In comparison to his tentative short program, Orzel said, “I definitely put some more effort into having a bit more grit and just having a bit more higher energy level.”

Matthew Newnham

After his animated short program, Matthew Newnham (AB/NT/NU) attributed his fatigue in the latter moments of his program to a lack of training given his early season injuries. While he was hoping to replicate his strong short program in 2023, the skater said that he did not feel external pressure to repeat that performance. Newnham said he aims to do his best in the free skate and hoped to land his second triple Axel and “stay on my feet!”

He scored 71.96 for fifth place in the short program.

Newnham struggled again in his classical free skate which earned 134.30 for a total competition score of 206.26 points. A single Axel, double Lutz and double flip were among the free skate mistakes that frustrated him.

“It wasn’t my best skate,” he said after the free skate. “I’m happy I came back with the second triple Axel after I missed the first one. I just sort of lost the energy towards the end and started doubling things, which I don’t normally do.”

“Next season, I definitely want to integrate some quads into the program,” Newnham said, looking forward. “I just wasn’t able to work on them this past year. So hopefully we’ll go back, start working on that and getting those better. Hopefully, put them in the program and see them happen in the program next year.”

Roman Sadovsky

Sadovsky skated a beautifully choreographed short program set to “Unconscious” by Charlie Winston, but struggled on the opening combination, landing only a triple Lutz. He then managed a double Salchow-double toe. A stumble on the triple Axel sealed his fate and a score of 68.29, put him in seventh.

The 2020 national champion said that he “overthought” the opening combination. A crowd favorite, Sadovsky said he certainly felt the enthusiasm and pop of the sparse audience when he was announced and feels his fans’ desire for him to succeed purely as motivation and not pressure.

Though he managed to move up a spot in the men’s standings, Sadovsky’s difficulties continued in his fourth-place free skate 136.65. He opened his program to “Nureyev” with a smooth triple Lutz-triple toe, but then doubled his planned quadruple salchow. With two falls later in the performance (triple Salchow and quad Salchow), the fan favorite’s mesmerizing choreography still managed to garner the best program components score of the night (79.09). He did not attempt a triple Axel but said afterwards that he never planned to. He placed sixth overall (204.94).

“Well, I was really pleased that I did the first Lutz-toe,” Sadovsky said, searching for the silver linings. “I was surprised how tired I was this morning from yesterday. That’s where it kind of comes down to a little bit of lack of competition experienced this year. Perhaps I didn’t pace my breathing enough going through it.” Sadovsky endured an acute ankle twist in the fall that resulted in two months off the ice and made nationals his season debut.

“The injury right now is actually really good,” Sadovsky reported.

Coming off a disastrous national appearance last year in which the Olympian placed eighth, Sadovsky was grateful to be able to skate in Calgary.

“I feel like I’m still carrying some of the demons from last season to this season,” he said. “But yeah, it’s definitely getting better.”

Stephen Gogolev

Gogolev gave a labored short program to “The Sound of Silence” in which he doubled the first jump before falling on a quad Salchow. He then popped an Axel and found himself in 13th place (53.80) His coach, Lee Barkell, advised that the 2023 Autumn Classic bronze medalist was nursing a “flare up in his back” which started four days prior to the short program. Gogolev did not practice on Friday and only landed doubles in the warmup. Gogolev was reportedly getting ongoing physiotherapy in Calgary.

Barkell said they were assessing Gogolev’s health “minute by minute” and “the intention is to keep going” and “keep him in a good mindset.”

His withdraw from the competition was announced on Saturday morning.

Related Info:

Related Articles

Founded in 1999, Golden Skate provides resources for the sport of figure skating worldwide. This includes interviews, features, videos, club listings, a discussion board and more.

You cannot copy content of this page