Variations on a theme of Canadian Nationals

Part I

by Megi


London, ON Jan 17 – 23, 2005

First of all, a bit of a disclaimer – I’m just a fan and all you can find in this report is written from a fan’s perspective. Also, my style of writing is rather loose and funky – definitely different from what you’ve read at Absolute Skating so far. If you don’t like that – don’t read! (There’s nothing better than self advertising, lol).

Overall impressions

The level in seniors was, as you can guess, high. Of course, there were better and worse moments but overall it was just as good as I expected it to be.

Let me start with ladies. As much as I’m sad to admit that, there’s no real competition Joannie Rochette was head and shoulders above the other girls. She had a clean SP (well, except for loss of balance in the end of the midline step sequence) and her LP to “Firebird” was even more impressive. She landed all her planned jumps including 3t-3t combination and put a lot of emotion to that performance. There was no way someone would beat her at this event. Not even the defending champion, Cynthia Phaneuf who was really struggling with the jumps and landed only one triple in the Free Skate. I was really sorry for her as she’s improved very much since last season. Hope she’ll be able to get it all together for the World Championships.

Mira Leung, who finished third, had a clean LP, but still, she doesn’t have a loop and all of her jumps are of really bad quality. She’s still visibly slower than the other top Canadian ladies and the spins and spirals are still lacking quality.
Sorry guys, this must do it for the ladies. Oh, maybe one more general remark to finish: the level in ladies was unfortunately lower than last year. Most of the ladies are still very young though. Here’s hoping for a better ladies competition next year.


I didn’t see the Junior Ladies so can’t comment, sorry.

Pairs: I’m going to discuss the top two later in this review so bear with me. But anyway, is a good place to discuss the overall level of Canadian pairs. I must say that the future doesn’t look bad at all. There are quite a few talented teams (Putnam/Wirtz, Miller Moram, Boulin/Sturdy, and Findlay/Mattatall) that I think are material for top Canadian teams in the future. I won’t discuss Langlois and Archetto because as some of you may know, they had a really bad showing at Canadians and announced their split shortly after it was finished. As for the Junior Pairs, I was very disappointed. The level was clearly lower than last year. The couple who won the title (Michelle Cronin and Brian Shales) did not even attempt sbs triple jumps and didn’t even land their planned doubles, eeek. But there’s no question that their pairs elements are very solid and overall quality is there. But please, get some triples.


Men: just like in pairs’ case, more on top two will follow. Thank god, this event was not only about the top two, not only about the medalist. After the rather disappointing qualifications and short programs the gentlemen provided some great moments in the final. Fedor Andeev, who had a bad sp, was first to deliver a clean performance. Not only did he land the jumps, but also seemed to put a lot of heart to the program and really performed. Kudos to him for a strong comeback and placing 6th.

The next skater that deserves to be mentioned is Chris Mabee. He had a great skate, landed all his jumps and was so excited that he forgot to bow after his performance. He got a tremendous ovation from his home crowd. Good for him! I’m sure that boosts his confidence going to the Junior Worlds in Kitchener. However, I think that Chris needs to start working on his spins and soon as they’re noticeably one of the slowest in the senior men’s competition. The men who finished 4th and 3rd were not perfect by any means. Ben Ferreira struggled with both lutzes. I really felt bad for him as he had to skate after the winning performance and most of the audience was not really paying attention to him at the beginning. What is worth mentioning, Ferreira and Mabee received exactly the same total amount of points for their long programs.

Hmm… what to say about Shawn Sawyer? Yes, he is flexible but his skating still doesn’t appeal to me, and yes, he still has the tendency to double-foot the jumps. Had it been the old system, I’d put Chris Mabee above him.
Overall, the level in men was really good, even the skaters who placed from 12th to 18th had very solid long programs. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the Junior Men. Let me just tell you that Patrick Chan won the event with three hard falls in the LP.

Dance: All I have to say about this portion of the competition can be found in one of the following paragraphs. Check it out.

NOW, the things I really wanted to share with you:

Hope for the future

One of the skaters I was impressed with the most was Eric Radford (2004 Canadian Junior Men’s Champion), the young man coached by Paul Wirtz. I was looking forward to seeing him skate as I had been hearing a lot of good things about him both as pairs and singles skater. I was really disappointed when he didn’t show up on the ice when it was his turn to skate in the qualifying round. It was strange as he was there at the warm up just a few minutes earlier. Eventually, he skated last in the group. As it turned out later, he got trapped in the elevator going down from the third level of the building where he’d been relaxing before taking the ice. No wonder he had a rough time out there. Still, he managed to land quite a few triple jumps and deliver a solid overall performance skating to Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto no 3. But what I like in his skating the most are secure, deep and clean edges, picture-perfect posture and elegance. And yes, he’s easy on the eyes, too ? His SP was totally different in style (the music was “Leyenda” by Vanessa Mae) but still elegant. Eric landed 3z-2t, 3f but unfortunately singled the Axel. Still, it was a fine performance that gave him 13th place overall and a spot LP (only 18 out of 24 skaters qualify). Unfortunately, the LP didn’t go well for Eric, he fell on 3flip and 3lutz. But still, I think he’s very talented and lovely quality skater and I hope he keeps improving on the jumps. He’s almost there and everything’s possible.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph, Eric is doing pairs as well. He’s competing in Junior Pairs with Sarah Burke. They entered the event as 2004 Canadian Novice Champions and I was expecting a lot from them. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with what I saw from them in both SP and LP. They look good together as a pair, they body lines really match, the technique on pairs elements is really good but unfortunately Sarah seems to struggle with the jumps, plus I see no chemistry between them whatsoever. But anyway, I hope they stay together as I think there’s a lot of room for improvement and I have a feeling they can fulfill that.

Biggest surprise of the championships

This title goes to Meagan Duhamel and Ryan Arnold  and their great performance in the Senior Pairs SP. They nailed beautiful side-by-side triple lutzes in a great unison, even the curve going into and out of the jump was matching. I believe it was a first time in the skating history that a pair landed clean triple lutzes and I’m really glad I saw it live. And in addition to that, Meagan landed the throw triple Salchow. Unfortunately, the pair elements are still lacking difficulty. But for a pair that has been together for six months (Meagan had never skated pairs before teaming up with Ryan) they did a great job. Too bad the LP was a bit of a disaster for them (problems with the twist, sbs lutzes, both throws and the last element of the program – the death spiral). As I said, they’re a very new team and they still have time. Congrats and kudos to them for going that far in their first season together!

Controversy/Close rivalries

The Sandhu - Buttle rivalry definitely belongs to this chapter. It started right in the qualifying group A. Sandhu’s performance didn’t start promising. He popped his quad combo and fell on the next jump, 3a. He came back strongly after these initial mistakes landing everything including two triple axels (one with 3t). Buttle, on the other hand, struggled with the jumps but still managed to finished 2nd.
And here comes the drama: In a fluff piece made for Canadian TV Sandhu asked about how he sees his rivalry with Buttle he said there’s no rivalry until the other guy has two quads in his repertoire, which Sandhu “does”. This comment definitely added some spice to the men’s competition. In the SP both of them had bad skates – Buttle doubled his axel and put his hand down after the triple Lutz, Sandhu singled the axel and had a turn-out on the landing of his quad toe-loop. It was very disappointing event overall. The LP was way different, Buttle skated second in the final flight and delivered a personal best – passionate program with two triple axels (one in combination with triple toe) with a minor mistake on the lutz. That was the best I’ve ever seen him skate. For me, it was the best performance of the Championships. It was very emotional, even some of the off-duty judges sitting in my sector cried during and after the program. Buttle got a tremendous ovation, even Ben Ferreira who was to skate next stepped onto the ice and shook his hand; that was very classy.

Sandhu skated last in the group. He had a good performance, landed all his triples but doubled both quad attempts (toe and Salchow) which was very ironic considering some of his comments. In the final standing, Buttle won with 20-point advantage over Sandhu. In my opinion, both the final outcome and the difference in points were right.

To learn about the biggest disappointment, biggest highlight, the organisation and some fun stuff, read part 2!

Go to Part II

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