Post-Pyeongchang departures means new opportunities for Canadian skaters

Canada captured two gold and two bronze in an unprecedented showing in South Korea

The departure of Patrick Chan might have opened up an opportunity in Canadian men’s figure skating, but Keegan Messing will miss having the retired three-time world champion around.

Six months after Canadian skating’s most successful Olympics in history, the national team gathered for its annual high performance camp to kick off the season — and the talk was as much about who wasn’t there as who was.

“I’m actually kind of sad to see Patrick go,” said Messing, who was 12th at the Pyeongchang Games as Canada’s other men’s entry. “Because it’s like he was somebody I could look up to that I could really watch his skating, and just every move he did out on the ice … well, honestly every move he did out on the ice was better than mine. It was like if I watched him, it was a way that I could learn, and so not having that anymore, all I have is this memory.

“Now it’s my turn, it’s my turn to try to keep his memory going, just to try to make myself better every day on the ice.”

Canada captured two gold and two bronze in an unprecedented showing in South Korea in what was a swan song for several veterans. Chan and two-time world pairs champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford retired. And while ice dance champs Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have made no official announcement, they’ve all but retired from competition.

RELATED: Olympian Patrick Chan helps B.C.’s ‘SuperChefs’ celebrate 10th anniversary

Kirsten Moore-Towers, who was sixth at the world championships last spring with pairs partner Michael Marinaro, said it’s time for others to step up as leaders.

“Absolutely. For a couple of years now we have been trying to be leaders in our rink, the teams we train with for the most part are younger than us … well everybody’s younger than us,” the 26-year-old said. “So we’ve been trying to be leaders there, but we believe we can take on a leadership role at this camp, and within Skate Canada and help the new teams. We hope to be a positive infulence for all the newbies here.”

Dylan Moscovitch, who skated with Lubov Ilyushechkina, also retired, opening up another spot on the Canadian pairs landscape.

Reigning world champion Kaetlyn Osmond is taking the season off, while ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, world silver and bronze medallists, are skipping the ISU Grand Prix season. Osmond, Weaver and Poje will join Chan, Virtue and Moir on The Thank You Canada Tour, which runs Oct. 5 to Nov. 24.

“At first, our initial gut reaction (when invited on the tour) was no, we still have a passion for competing, we feel like we’re getting back into the swing of things, we had a wonderful finish at the world championships,” Weaver said. “And then we went on the Stars on Ice Tour, and realized just how special this group is, to perform with, to travel the country with. And I have to say that was a mind-changing moment, and luckily our spot was still there.”

Rather than skate to “show” programs, Weaver and Poje, who won world bronze a month after the Pyeongchang Olympics, will use the tour to work on their competitive programs for this season.

“It’s a chance for us to expand our boundaries, to practise our programs not two or three times in front of an audience, but 30 times,” Weaver said. “We feel like it’s letting ourselves grow and have the freedom to do so as artists as well as athletes.”

RELATED: Patrick Chan hopes to open skating school in Vancouver

A few of the skaters were nursing injuries or illness from the off-season. Piper Gilles, who was sixth at the worlds with ice dance partner Paul Poirier, fell face-first at practice earlier this month, and broke her orbital bone (around the eye) and suffered a concussion. She skated in a black baseball cap Wednesday to guard against the arena’s bright lights, but hasn’t been cleared to do lifts.

“First thing I hit was my face. There’s not much cushion there. It’s never happened before, it’s very bizarre,” said Gilles. “It might be a blessing in disguise. It might be a slower start for us, and that might be a positive thing for us.”

Gabrielle Daleman was recently diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, the latest in a list of physical ailments to sideline the world bronze medallist. IBS affects the large intestine and causes cramping, abdominal pain, and bloating, among other unpleasant symptoms.

“As much as it sucked over the years, and we couldn’t figure out why, I’m very glad that we figured out why … that it’s not just made-up pain,” Daleman said.

She’s had to adopt a new diet that eliminates things like salad dressing, sauces, garlic, apples and peaches.

“And there’s a whole list of ‘maybe’ foods, and so far there’s been blackberries, peanut butter, sugar snap peas, shrimp, a whole different foods that were on the maybe list that now I can’t have,” she said. “It’s a big change, something I’m still getting used to.”

The ISU Grand Prix circuit kicks off Oct. 19 with Skate America in Everett, Wa. Skate Canada International is in Laval, Que., Oct. 26-28. Vancouver will host the Grand Prix Final, Dec. 6-9.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Your weekly Mountain Minute

This week’s top stories… Continue reading

Highway 1 closed to due fatal accident east of Revelstoke

A dump truck lost control and the driver was ejected

Stetski talks up NDP election platform

NDP candidate for Kootenay-Columbia riding outlines election ‘commitments’ to Canadian voters

UPDATE: Boat sinks in less than a minute on Mitten Lake

A Saturday afternoon at Mitten Lake quickly turned sour for a local… Continue reading

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

UPDATE: West Kelowna fawn euthanized, not claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer has been euthanized after a suitable home was not found in time

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

B.C. man pleads guilty in snake venom death of toddler

Plea comes more than five years after the incident in North Vancouver

Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

Prime minister says he knows B.C. residents are struggling and the federal government is open to ideas

Clock’s ticking to share how you feel about Daylight Saving Time in B.C.

Provincial public survey ends at 4 p.m. on Friday

Most Read