Labrador City's Joey Russell wins bronze
© The Canadian Press
Labrador City's Joey Russell skates during the senior men's short program competition at the BMO Skate Canada Nationals in Victoria, B.C. Saturday. The national championships wound up Sunday in Victoria, with Russell winning the bronze medal in the division and reaching the podium along with defending champion Patrick Chan of Toronto and Sean Sawyer of Edmundston, N.B., the second-place finisher. All three medals will represent Canada at the 2011 world championships, while Russell also earns a berth at the Four Continents competition.
VICTORIA — It was both the boldest of statements and the nearest Canada’s Patrick Chan has ever come to perfection.
The 20-year-old from Toronto produced the skate of his life Sunday, roaring to his fourth consecutive Canadian men’s figure skating title and staking his claim as the man to beat at the world championships in March.
Chan landed two huge quad jumps in a stunning performance to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera,” earning a whopping 197.07 points for a world best overall score of 285.85.
“If this was a year ago, he’d be an Olympic champion,” gushed four-time world champion Kurt Browning.
Chan, who won two world silver medals before perfecting the quad jump this past off-season, rattled off two picture-perfect quad toe loops — one in combination with a triple toe loop — to open his program, and by the time he was turning in his final spin, the crowd at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre was already on its feet.
“That was the reaction I wanted when I was at the Olympic Games, that’s what I dreamed about every time I was going to bed every night before going to the Olympics,” said Chan, who was a disappointing fifth last year in Vancouver. “I finally got it. It wasn’t exactly the same situation, but you know what, I’m going to take it and that’s going to be one of my most memorable moments for sure, hands down.”
Shawn Sawyer of Edmunston, N.B., captured the silver well back with 229.09 points, while Joey Russell of Labrador City, N.L., took bronze with 204.02.
Chan’s performance left coaches and officials scrambling over notes trying to calculate the young skater’s score.
“When a skater finishes and we all have no idea what his score’s going to be. . .,” said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s high performance director. “We’ve never seen that before. we didn’t know if it was going to be 180, 190. . .”
Skate Canada’s CEO William Thompson said Chan, already a splendid skater before adding the four-revolution jump, is truly the full package now.
“He was totally on tonight, every jump was perfect, that was an amazing performance,” Thompson said. “That was the best men’s program I’ve ever seen in my life. After all the worlds and Olympics I’ve seen, that was unbelievable, it was crazy. I don’t know how you compete against that.”
The ice dance title, meanwhile, was decided by the narrowest of margins.
Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier captured their first national senior ice dance title, scoring 98.41 points for their performance to The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” for 164.21 points overall.
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, from Waterloo, Ont., finished barely a point behind them for silver with 163.18, scoring 97.54 with their dramatic free dance program to music from “Moulin Rouge.” Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam of Barrie, Ont., who won silver at the world junior championships last year, took the bronze with 153.90.
“It was definitely close and it was a great competition, Kaitlyn and Andrew have really pushed us,” Crone said. “It’s definitely good to have someone right there with you, it motivates you and gets you that much stronger and make you go a little bit more.”
The field at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre was missing Olympic and world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who announced earlier this week that they’ll make their season debut at next month’s ISU Four Continents event.
Their heir apparent is anything but. Weaver and Poje have been hot on the heels of Crone and Poirier, finishing runner-up to their rivals Sunday for the third consecutive year. At last year’s Olympic trials, Crone and Poirier beat Weaver and Poje by a mere half a point, securing a spot on the Vancouver team, and leaving Weaver and Poje to watch from home.
“Ten seconds ago, we were just thrilled with our performance and we still are, we can’t let the result change how we feel about today and how we feel about this week because we’ve grown so much coming miles from last year,” Weaver said. “This season isn’t over yet. With results like this that are so marginal, there’s no doubt in my mind that the tables could be turned at the worlds or at Four Continents.
“We just have to work hard at home and improve every single thing and I think we can definitely succeed in the last half of the season.”
Virtue is still recovering from surgery to alleviate chronic pain in her legs, but Canada’s ice dance stars will still be named to the team for the world championships this March in Tokyo.
Crone, of Aurora, Ont., and Poirier, of Unionville, Ont., earned an entry for the world championships with the victory. Weaver and Poje picked up the other spot.
“It’s been a very long road for Vanessa and I,” Poirier said. “It was such an intense competition again because everyone was so strong and we were just so happy to have been able to perform at our best this competition. We’re just finishing up our 10th season together, so this is just a really nice treat for us, a 10th anniversary thing.”
Despite the absence of the Olympic champions, Canada has enjoyed ice dance success this season. Crone, 20, and Poirier, 19, were 14th at the Vancouver Olympics and then seventh at last year’s world championships. They have been steadily climbing up the ice dance ranks this season, winning bronze at the ISU Grand Prix Final in December, where Weaver, 21, and 23-year-old Poje were fifth.
Both teams earned standing ovations for their performances Sunday.
“When you give the audience what they want like that, and when they stand for you, it’s the biggest adrenalin rush you can get in figure skating,” Weaver said. “We are elated with how we performed this week.”