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Sports Canada’s figure skating wave of success cresting just in time for Pyeongchang

18:58  12 january  2018
18:58  12 january  2018 Source:   nationalpost.com

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Figure skating is one of Canada ’ s most successful sports at the Olympic Winter Games. Since 1924, Canada has won 25 Olympic medals, including four golds. The team heading to PyeongChang has been hugely successful in recent years. Vancouver 2010 gold medallists Virtue and Moir returned

Sports Virtue, Moir to be Canada ’ s flag bearers at Pyeongchang 2018. 22:42 16 january 2018. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir came out of retirement with one goal in mind. So when they lost for the first time in more than a year at the Grand Prix Final in December, the veteran ice dancers

File photos of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir on the podium after the Ice dance free dance during the ISU Junior & Senior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final at Nippon Gaishi Hall on December 9, 2017 in Nagoya, Japan.© Atsushi Tomura - ISU/ISU via Getty Images File photos of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir on the podium after the Ice dance free dance during the ISU Junior & Senior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final at Nippon Gaishi Hall on December 9, 2017 in Nagoya, Japan. VANCOUVER — Among the many factors that have contributed to Canada’s rise as an Olympic power, there is the fact that the country has taken advantage of the addition of a pile of sports to the five-ring schedule.

Canada has racked up medals in freestyle skiing, in short-track speed skating and in one of the very few sports you can do successfully while drinking beer, curling.

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  Virtue, Moir capture 8th Canadian title in last national appearance Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir captured their eighth Canadian figure skating title on Saturday, in their final appearance in the event. The Olympic gold and silver medallists brought the crowd to its feet with their sensual skate to music from "Moulin Rouge," scoring 209.82 for the victory. Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., came back from a two-year hiatus with the goal of winning gold in Pyeongchang. They’ll retire after the Olympics. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Toronto scored 192.08 for silver. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont.

Figure Skating - Ladies Single Skating . Kaetlyn Osmond (bronze) of Canada competes during the Ladies Single Skating Free Skating on 14 three of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 23, 2018 in Gangneung, Republic of Korea.

Canadian figure skaters celebrate after wrapping up the gold medal in the Olympic team event The three- time world champion revealed just a tinge of temper when questioned by an American I just sat there like a statue. Scott Moir, far left, believes Canada didn't take the team event seriously back

But there is also a throwback sport that in recent years has seen Canada has become stronger than ever. The national figure skating team won five medals combined over the Vancouver and Sochi games, behind only the seven won by the Russians and ahead of traditional skating powerhouses like the United States, Japan and China. Heading into Pyeongchang 2018, Canada has earned the right to send 17 figure skaters to South Korea, which would be the largest contingent of any nation. Barring injuries or disastrous performances at the National Figure Skating Championships this week in Vancouver that will go a long way to deciding those Olympic spots, Canada will have a shot at the podium in all four disciplines — pairs, dance, men’s and women’s singles and the team event.

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Pairs Free Skating - Figure Skating | PyeongChang 2018 Replays. To celebrate the end of the competition, the best skaters performed free of any constraints at the Gangneung Ice Arena on 25 February 2018.

Russian skaters have secured silver in the team figure skating competition at the PyeongChang Olympics following Alina Canada won the competition with 73 points. The US secured bronze at the pedestal with 62 points. She killed time in the beginning and then just jumped the second half.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Mike Slipchuk considers himself a lucky man.

The high performance director for Skate Canada and a former Canadian champion and Olympian himself, Slipchuk stepped into the director’s role a little over 10 years ago, a couple of years before Vancouver 2010. As such, he’s been witness to the most consistently successful figure skating team in Canadian history, with those Olympic medals, plus a host of world championships from Patrick Chan, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. At last year’s worlds in Helsinki the Canadian women added themselves to the mix, with Kaetlyn Osmond (silver) and Gabby Daleman (bronze) earning medals, the first time two Canadian women had ever done that at that level.

“I count myself blessed,” says Slipchuk about overseeing such a roster. He’s aware, too, that this season will be something of a last ride for this group: while nothing is certain, this could be the final competitive reason for everyone listed above other than Osmond and Daleman.

Olympics will be the final farewell tour for Canadian figure skating elite

  Olympics will be the final farewell tour for Canadian figure skating elite VANCOUVER—Their “best-before” date hasn’t quite arrived yet, fingers crossed.That hopefully won’t happen until the Pyeongchang Games are won and done, at least for the 11 of 17 figure skaters formally named to Team Canada on Sunday who have been there before and aren’t expected to pass the Olympic way again.But for the moment, for these Winter Games, Canada is sending the largest, most experienced figure skating complement ever to South Korea, currently ranked No. 1 globally, as determined by world medals collected and results over the past Grand Prix season, ahead of Russia and the United States.

Canada easily took the gold medal in the team figure skating event, while Mirai Nagasu landed an extremely difficult triple axel to boost the Americans. Team Figure Skating Finals. Men' s Free Skate . Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times . Women: Mirai Nagasu Nails Triple Axel for U. S .

The Skate Canada CompetitiveSkate Program offers nationally standardized competitions to competitive skaters . The Skate Canada Challenge is an elimination event for the Canadian Figure Skating Championships (Novice, Junior and Senior skaters ).

“To go through with them over the last 10 years of their careers, I just feel so fortunate,” Slipchuk says.

But it isn’t just good fortune that has given Canada such a deep figure skating roster. Slipchuk’s arrival coincided with the pre-Vancouver development of the Own the Podium (OTP) funding program that allocates government support to the sports that are most likely to produce Olympic winners. Money for medals, in the shorthand.

And Slipchuk is quick to say that the OTP money has been “vital” to his team’s development. Skate Canada received about $2.7 million in the four years leading to Vancouver 2010; for the same period leading the Pyeongchang games, that number is up to about $4.6 million. By comparison, OTP funding for alpine skiing dropped from $8.7 million before Vancouver to $5.4 million for this Olympic cycle.

Slipchuk suggests that the stable funding envelope — more than stable, since it’s rising — is one of the reasons why Canada has had its best skaters stick around in the competitive amateur ranks for so long. If a skater doesn’t have to hustle a part-time job to offset training costs, it makes remaining an amateur a lot easier. Slipchuk also notes that Own the Podium “gives us the opportunity to do things that we might not have been able to do.” Chief among those, for example: Skate Canada now runs an annual high-performance camp leading into every season in which International Skating Union judges are brought in to assess the performances and programs of the country’s top skaters. In a sport where the subjective judging is involved, the chance to have a program given the once-over by the same judges who can be found on the Grand Prix circuit is invaluable. It gives skaters the opportunity to tweak certain things, to replace one element with another, to be more confident about the strength of their program before they hit the competition circuit.

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“It just helps with feedback and with readiness, and we have found it’s a good launching pad for the season ahead,” Slipchuk says. The results would agree with him.

And so, with the senior skaters here scheduled for their final practice sessions on Thursday and their short programs beginning on Friday, Skate Canada is just a few days from naming that biggest-ever Olympic figure skating team — three slots in women’s, pairs and dance, and two in men’s. Some of those spots are already assured, but “we will have some battles for spots, for sure,” Slipchuk says. The goal is an obvious one: “We want to send the best team.”

From a Canadian historical perspective: it’s already a given that they will.

Gabrielle Daleman, left, and Kaetlyn Osmond shared the podium at the 2017 world championships in March.

A view from both sides

Slipchuk missed a shot at the 1988 Olympics when he finished fourth at the national championships. But he won the nationals in 1992 and made the Canadian team for the Albertville Games.

“It’s tough, because I’ve been on both sides of it,” he says.

Canada’s spots for Pyeongchang 2018 will be named Sunday after the nationals wrap up on Saturday night, but the performances in Vancouver won’t be the sole factor in determining who goes to South Korea. If Tessa Virtue were to come down with the flu and couldn’t skate on Saturday, she and partner Scott Moir, silver medallists in Sochi, would still make the team, one can comfortably assume.

Other spots are harder to call, as with the men’s singles, where one of four or five men are vying for the second Canadian spot alongside likely team member Patrick Chan. Slipchuck has a succinct phrase for the selection process: “heartache and happiness.”

Email: [email protected] | Twitter: @scott_stinson

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