The 2016 Canadian Championships: Novice And Junior Highlights


In its prior incarnation as the Metro Centre and in the last two years as the Scotiabank Centre, the host venue for the 2016 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships has played host to divas galore over the years - Céline Dion, Elton John, Tina Turner, Billy Idol and Cher among them - and like the divas who have graced the stage to wow audiences, the best young skaters in Canada have been bringing the glitz, glamour and guts this week in the novice and junior events here in Haliwood.

If history is any indication, this week's young winners have bright futures ahead of them. There's absolutely a precedent of skaters who have won medals at the Canadian Championships on the novice or junior level in Halifax going on to great things. In fact, in only those three times (1981, 1995 and 2007) that the city has hosted the country's top skaters in national level competition, no less than ELEVEN medallists in the novice and junior ranks at those events have gone on to become Olympians later in their careers. The first two were Melinda Kunhegyi and Lyndon Johnston, who won the junior event at the 1981 Canadian Championships and went on to represent Canada at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics. Since then, Neil Paterson, Karyn and Rod Garossino, Michael Farrington, Patrice Archetto, Emanuel Sandhu, Vanessa Crone, Paul Poirier and Mitch Islam have all proved that winning a medal in the novice and junior ranks in this city can be absolutely be a precursor of Olympic greatness to come.

Whether you've been watching in the stands or at home on the live stream, you also don't have to look much further than the kiss and cry to see the continuing influence of former skaters turned coaches who have won senior medals in Halifax at the Canadian Championships on a new generation of skaters. It's been a who's who of names, names, names sweetie. With Marie-France Dubreuil to Annabelle Langlois and Cody Hay to Kristy Wirtz and of course Brian Orser all standing rinkside mentoring the stars of tomorrow, the past of Canadian figure skating has been meeting the present this week in a very tangible way.

As much as I'd secretly love to be, I'm no Jackie Wong honey. You won't be finding exhaustive play-by-plays here. That said, I've had my eyes and ears open this week, have been watching more skating than you can shake a Skate Guard at and I want to share with you some of my impressions of the standout skaters moving up in the ranks that I really believe are going places:

IT FACTOR ICE DANCERS


Chatting with Mackenzie Bent and Dmitre Razgulajevs in the mix zone after their winning free dance

Coached by Carol and Jon Lane and Juris Razgulajevs in Toronto, Mackenzie Bent and her new partner Dmitre Razgulajevs were just delightful in the junior dance competition. You'll of course remember Mackenzie as the winner of last year's Canadian junior title with Garrett MacKeen and let me tell you, this new partnership is a keeper. They've only been together since last autumn yet already there's a great connection there and sense of interplay between them on the ice and technically, they had good carriage, attack and stretch. The duo claimed the junior dance title with a score of 145.31 and made history as the first skaters to be awarded medals at this year's event. If you haven't watched their short dance to Nelson Riddle's "La Valse Grande" and "Happy Ending" and Margaret Whiting's "Time After Time", make the time. It earned them a mean 57.71 with a TES of 29.73 and PCS of 27.98.


Hometown favourites Gina Cipriano and Brad Keeping-Myra on the ice for their free dance set to "Ammore Annascunnuto" by Céline Dion and "Broken Sorrow" and "Thunder" by Nuttin' But Stringz. They finished tenth in the junior dance event with a score of 116.20 

They weren't the only junior ice dancers who made a strong impression. Laval's Melinda and Andrew Meng's "Danse Macabre" short dance was just lovely and another junior dancer who caught my eye was young Haley Sales (a student of Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe), who with her partner Nikolas Wamsteeker really brought the 'it' factor and personality plus. The Meng's claimed a bronze medal behind Quebec's Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha, exceptional students of Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon and team in Boucherville. Sales and Wamsteeker ended the competition in an impressive fourth and a score of 134.73.

In the novice dance event, winners Olivia Han and Grayson Lochhead of the Kitchener-Waterloo Skating Club maintained their lead after the pattern dances over Quebec's Alicia Fabbri and Claudio Pietrantonio with a quirky, challenging free dance set to "Steampunk Telegram" by Raphaël Beau to take the title by less than a point. Han and Lochhead's program was cleverly choreographed to place the twizzles and more challenging step sequences right in front of the judges. Their team's gutsy move clearly paid off by dividends.

GO GO GADGET GOGOLEV

Owing the power of social media (which in case you haven't heard is kind of a thing these days) there was considerable buzz surrounding Brian Orser's prodigiously talented eleven year old student Stephen Gogolev from the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club before he even stepped foot on the ice in the novice men's event. In the short program to Meyebeer's "Les Patineurs", Gogolev tumbled on his opening jump, the triple Lutz, but rebounded with a clean triple Salchow/triple toe combination to lead the pack with a score of 46.02.


The final flight of the novice men's free skate at the 2016 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Halifax. Grab yourself a cocktail and bunker down - lots of potential among these young men!

In the free skate, Gogolev certainly faced competition. Thornhill's Jack Dushenki (coached by 1998 Canadian Champion Angela Derochie and David Long) reeled off four triples, Benjam Papp (the younger brother of Finnish Champion Béla Papp) landed three as did Corey Circelli, an impressive thirteen year old student of Lee Barkell. Alistair Lam of Hamilton, fresh off a win at the International Children's Games in Innsbruck, Austria only days before, also gave a very impressive performance in his free skate choreographed by Shawn Sawyer to "The Show Must Go On" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen that showed good attack and energy. Yet, Gogolev persevered for the win with an on again, off again swingin' free skate set to "Sing Sing Sing" and "Harlem Nocturne" that included a massive triple Axel. He took the title by over twenty points with a score of 142.30. However, if there was an award for heart, it definitely had to go to the silver medallist. Fifteen year old Matthew Markell of Prescott, Ontario is a training mate of 2015 Canadian Silver Medallist Alaine Chartrand and his free skate to Dvořák's "Cello Concerto Symphony No. 8" was to die for. Despite a fall on his second triple toe-loop attempt, Markell landed two triples and two double Axels and performed a fine Biellmann spin and change edge spiral for good measure. His obvious joy in the kiss and cry on winning his first national medal was enough to even make even the most jaded skating fan smile.

BRINGING THE SASS AND SMILES

Alberta's Grayson Rosen competing in the junior men's event. Photo by Danielle Earl Photography.

I want to rave about a skater I'd never heard of before this week who I thought was just fabulous. Representing the Flightway Figure Skating Club in Edmonton, eighteen year old Grayson Rosen was like a breath of fresh air in a junior men's event where we saw some strong triple jumps but I'm afraid far too many sweater vests and stumbles. Picture a purse sized Shawn Sawyer bringing the flair and big, sassy arms - his short program to Christina Aguilera was sassy as all get out and I just loved it! I ran into him before his free skate and he promised he'd be bringing the glitter factor. He may have finished the competition in thirteenth place with a score of 130.91, but there's a lot to be said for those skaters who add a little colour to the sometimes grey tapestry of jump, jump, jump...

Another one of the junior men who made an impression was seventeen year old Christian Reekie of Liz Manley's old alma mater, the Gloucester Skating Club in Ottawa. Skating is a lot of fun and you're supposed to look like you're loving every minute. Whether attempting triple flips or lutzes or showing off his skills as an ice dancer in his footwork sequences, he absolutely did. Reekie, a student of Darlene Joseph, won the bronze medal with his free skate set to selections from the soundtracks of "First Knight" and "Man In The Iron Mask", earning a score of 164.65. The gold went to Joseph Phan of Laval, Quebec and the silver to Edrian Paul Celestino of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, a student of two time World Professional Champion Daniel Beland.


Small but mighty siblings! Olivia and Mackenzie Boys-Eddy skate their short program in Halifax. They earned a score of 46.40 with TES of 27.71 and PCS of 18.69 and earned fifth place in this phase of the competition but their personalities just shined out there!

The same can be said for the young brother/sister pair team of Olivia and Mackenzie Boys-Eddy from Brampton, Ontario. Their short program to ZZtop and "Black Betty" had personality plus and it was clear that they were having a lot of fun out there. Not taking anything away from the top four junior pairs - Hope McLean and Trennt Michaud, Bryn Hoffman and Bryce Chudak, Allison Eby and Brett Varley and Justine Brasseur and Mathieu Ostiguy - but tiny Olivia beaming during the lifts in their free skate to "The Addams Family" was too cute for words. They ended up in fifth with a score of 130.03, well behind McLean and Michaud's strong score of 154.45 but I have a sneaking suspicion we'll be hearing more about this team coached by Ashley Greenhalgh in the future.

EWW... YOUR CANADIAN WOMEN'S ARGUMENT IS SO 1995!


2016 Canadian Novice Women's Champion Aurora Cotop skates her winning free skate to "Sabrina". She earned a total score of 123.85, besting all of her rivals in the free skate with a score of 81.17 in that phase of the event. Her coaches are Jonathan Mills and Myke Gillman.

The novice and junior women also proved that the really tired, cliché sportswriter argument about Canadian women's skating being a splatfest is just that... tired and cliché. In the warmup for the novice ladies short program, a young woman named Béatrice Lavoie-Léonard was going for her triple flip (yes, triple flip in a novice women's short in Canada - process that for a minute) and saved it with knees that many of the senior women would be jealous of. Aurora Cotop of the Thornhill Figure Skating Club took home top honors among the novice women with a score of 81.17. She presented a quite stylised free skate to the theme from the "Sabrina" soundtrack that featured two double Axels, a triple loop, a triple toe/double toe combination and fine spins. The silver medallist, Olivia Gran of Kelowna (a student of Karen and Jason Mongrain) put out a gutsy free skate with a nice triple toe, triple Salchow and two double Axels and demonstrated a mature, controlled style that belied her twelve years.

In the junior women's short program, Sarah Tamura of Vancouver (a student of the one and only Joanne McLeod) skated to "Asturias" by Albeniz with commanding presence and a triple Lutz/double toe combination, triple flip and double Axel to boot. A botched final spin left her with a score of 52.48 that has her just ahead of the Minto Skating Club's Alexis Dion, with eight other women with scores of 45 or better trailing closely behind. The junior women's free skate is happening tonight and it's shaping up to be a nail biter.

Yes, among these young Canadian women there have certainly been tumbles but hey, this is figure skating. It happens in every discipline and country, sunshine. It may be a different ballgame than in Japan or Russia but you know what though? There's a heck of a lot of promise among the women that are coming up in this country. They aren't looking down constantly. They aren't popping jumps. They are going for them! You wouldn't have even said that in back in 1995 in this same building when Netty Kim took home the senior women's title with one clean triple jump. The times, they aren't a-changin'... they have already changed.

CONCLUSIONS

Conclusion number one: Carol Lane is just gorgeous.


Conclusion number two: The skaters I've highlighted today need to be on your radar if they aren't already. To be honest with you honey, the last few days was kind of an unexpected treat. I don't usually even watch novice or junior events so I have zero vested interest in any one skater or team so I really don't think I'm biased.


In all seriousness though, it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there in front of a rink full of friends and strangers and I have to give huge respect to all of the athletes who are doing that this week. They make it look easy and in reality, it's incredibly difficult stuff and it (obviously) doesn't get easier in a pressure cooker environment. The future looks brighter than ever and I think these novice and junior skaters collectively have buckets of potential. Look out world... Canada's a-comin' for you just as they always have been. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html

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