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

Chilliwack toy drive brings in gifts, money to Ann Davis Transition Society

People dropped by Superstore to donate toys and more for those in need this holiday season

Chilliwack RCMP find chemicals and cannabis extract in illicit lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

Chilliwack RCMP seek suspects in rash of poppy donation box thefts

Incidents at four different locations in Sardis in the days leading up to Remembrance Day

German-born British Columbian warns against a ‘yes’ vote on proportional representation

Agassiz realtor Freddy Marks says PR in his home country shows party elites can never be voted out

Train ride at Minter store not part of this year’s festive fun

Tough decision made to stop seasonal train in its tracks after injury suffered by Brian Minter

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

BC Minister of Agriculture loses stepson to accidental overdose

Lana Popham announces death of her 23-year-old stepson, Dan Sealey

Canadian military’s template for perfect recruits outdated: Vance

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff says that the military has to change because the very nature of warfare is changing, particularly when it comes to cyber-warfare

‘Toxic’ chosen as the Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries

Other top contenders for 2018 include ‘gaslighting’ and ‘techlash’

1 woman dead, man in hospital after ‘suspicious’ crash: police

Homicide investigators and Burnaby RCMP are investigating the fatal collision

Canada defeats Germany 29-10 in repechage, moves step closer to Rugby World Cup

Hong Kong needs a bonus-point win over Canada — scoring four or more tries — while denying the Canadians a bonus point

Avalanche Canada in desperate need of funding

The organization provides avalanche forecasting for an area larger than the United Kingdom

5 B.C. cities break temperature records

Parts of B.C. remain warm, at 10 C, while others feeling chilly

B.C. teacher’s Amazing Race takes students on Canada-wide adventure

Agassiz high school students say they had the experience of a life time

Most Read