Skate Canada: my personal highlights

Here they are: my favorite moments of Skate Canada 2013.

by Florentina Tone

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir: dream a little dream (of the second Olympic gold)
I admit: I have a soft spot for the Canadians (and, after all, who doesn’t?) They are, in my mind, the true essence of ice dancing: they skate with lightness, with smoothness, as if they were stepping on a cloud. They are beautiful and balletic; and they seem to know each other by heart. They’re talking with their eyes and with their gestures – and I equally love to watch their faces when they’re skating. One thing is sure: Tessa and Scott are my favorite ice dance couple since Oxana Grishuk and Evgeni Platov. I love, I truly love the Glazunov-Scriabin combination in their free skating and I wish them the best – the best meaning their second Olympic gold.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in Nice (2012 World Figure Skating Chanpionships)

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in Nice (2012 World Figure Skating Chanpionships)

Akiko Suzuki: what a debut of the Olympic season
For her last season of competitive skating, Akiko has two exquisite programs. And she has skated them brilliantly in Saint John, with calm, softness, confidence, maturity. The Japanese is an absolute pleasure to watch: she has an amazing musicality and I do believe she has a choreographer career ahead, if she decides to pursue it. Until then, fingers crossed for her at the Olympics in Sochi; at this point she seems more than prepared for a wonderful final appearance.

A happy Akiko Suzuki in Nice, at the 2012 Worlds, where she won the bronze medal

A happy Akiko Suzuki in Nice, at the 2012 Worlds, where she won the bronze medal

Gracie Gold: a flirtatious violin
What an intriguing choice of music for Gracie’s short program: “Three preludes” by George Gershwin. But what a perfect match: the music seems to wonderfully embrace her personality. Gracie is joyful, playful, flirtatious, as the Gershwin’s violin. She is really portraying the character of the music – and I applaud the one who made that choice for her (Marina Zueva maybe?).
One could find the piece of music irritating or even nerve-racking; could say the choice is dangerous for Gracie in the Olympic season. Do watch the program again; I believe you’ll change your mind. At the end of the short program, a big, big red smile on Gracie’s face and an equally large smile coming from Mr. Carroll.

Kaitlyn Weaver: she is, indeed, Maria de Buenos Aires
Let me tell you that: with this new set of programs – but especially with this “Maria de Buenos Aires” in the free skating – Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are fighting tooth and nail for an Olympic medal. And if you ask me, they have already put their skates on the bronze medal ribbon. They are powerful and determined – and one could rarely find a more appropriate musical choice for them in the Olympic season. “Yo soy Maria”: what an intense, bold and passionate performance! It gave me shivers, I admit. And I found myself mumbling parts of the melody all day long (that beautiful voice belongs to the Argentine singer Julia Zenko)…

Kaitlyn and Andrew in Nice, at the 2012 Worlds: an equally emotional performance, on "Je suis malade"

Kaitlyn and Andrew in Nice, at the 2012 Worlds: an equally emotional performance, on “Je suis malade”

Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi: hats off to them for staying with Mr. Martin Skotnicky
In a figure skating world dominated by a short list of coaches (when it comes to ice dance you can count them on the fingers of one hand), staying with a coach that’s not on this official list of “personalities” is a rather courageous decision. But, at the same time, it leaves room for creativity, for something else, a different air, a different approach. Which is why I’m particularly thrilled by the fact that the German ice dance couple, Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi, hasn’t left Mr. Martin Skotnicky for a different (and more famous) coach like Marina Zueva or Igor Shpilband.

Though I admire the beautiful work of Zueva and Shpilband (as a pair and separately), I absolutely adore Mr. Skotnicky’s ideas for the German couple. Nelli and Alexander are reminding me, in a way, of Kati Winkler and René Lohse, another great ice dance couple from Germany, and this year’s idea, to continue the story from the short program in the free skating, wearing the same costumes, is a beautiful innovation. They’re actors on skates, Nelli and Alexander, and their choreographic details make a world of difference. Congratulations need to be extended, I’m sure, to coach Rostislav Sinicyn and choreographer Ilia Averbukh.

Nelli, Alexander and their zombie-routine, in Zagreb, at the 2013 Europeans

Nelli, Alexander and their zombie-routine, in Zagreb, at the 2013 Europeans

Julia Lipnitskaia: she has matured
The 15-year-old Russian is definitely showing a different face of hers this season: she’s become more confident and, in a way, more relaxed; she smiles a lot and she got rid of the emotions of the senior Grand Prix debut. Last season, I frequently saw her teary eyes and frowned face; and when you’re full of ambition and have huge expectations, this – the frowned face and teary eyes – might happen very often.

This season’s Julia is a totally different one; and I particularly enjoyed the open and relaxed conversation that she had with her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, while waiting for the scores. But I liked even more Julia’s programs: the free skating, on “Schindler’s List” music, is wonderful – and her look at the beginning and at the end of the program, priceless. The Russian girl got standing ovation at the end of her routine – and this really says it all. “She brought a tear into my eye”, said one of the British Eurosport’ commentators – and I could swear I had one too. Well done, wonderful Julia. Of course, there are still some things to be fixed – I wish she would hold those flexible positions of hers a little longer, she still seems in a hurry – but I’m sure this will come with time. She’s a gold mine – and the future is hers.

Patrick Chan: a truly golden Vivaldi program
As a figure skating long-time admirer, I do have a problem with recurrent programs. And if you’re a fan too, you must know the feeling: the impatience, the emotions, the hurry to find out which are the musical choices of skater x and skater y. I see myself as a child waiting and anticipating: what will he/she/they choose for the season…? I haven’t changed that much, actually – and when I see some programs kept for the following season, well, I’m not that happy. And even if I consider them authentic masterpieces, seeing the short programs of both Patrick Chan and Yuzuru Hanyu at Skate Canada 2013 made me believe that I’m living in the past; that I’m experiencing, once again, the last season’s edition of the competition. Of course, last year, Yuzuru didn’t attend Skate Canada – but I guess you all understand my point of view: it’s wonderful – as a fan of figure skating – to be amazed by the choices made by skaters and choreographers; and not that interesting to see the same routines again and again. So, yes, I would have wanted to see totally different short programs of both Patrick and Yuzuru – contenders for the gold medal in Sochi.

Leaving this aside, one thing is sure: the long program of Patrick Chan is golden; and might be truly golden in Sochi, next year, in February. Vivaldi – what an inspired choice for him! David Wilson created a work of art for the Canadian – the violin and Patrick’s transitions are a perfect match. I particularly like the crescendo of the music – and listening to it I found myself, once again, at the Romanian Athenaeum, at George Enescu Music Festival. “Europa Galante”, conducted by the amazing violinist Fabio Biondi, played Vivaldi in the festival – and I was there, breathing every musical note. Patrick’s performance took me back in September, at the Athenaeum, and I have to thank him for that.

Patrick Chan in Nice, at the 2012 Worlds (practice rink)

Patrick Chan in Nice, at the 2012 Worlds (practice rink)

Anjelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo: what a job they’ve done for their students
Hats off to this amazing couple of coaches, Anjelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo: their students were great in Saint John, Canada. Akiko Suzuki’s routines are both exquisite, I’ve told you that already. The programs of Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje – a joy to watch. Wonderful progress have also shown the Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, coached by the same Anjelika and Pasquale. Madison and Zachary are, in fact, at their third competition of the season: they won the Nebelhorn Trophy a month ago, in Oberstdorf, were fourth in Skate America and got the bronze at Skate Canada. Last but not least, I was amazed by this beautiful Canadian ice dance couple: Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam. Their short program is a feast for the eyes – and I really regret I haven’t seen them competing at international level yet: I hope their time has finally come.

Team Scali-Camerlengo-Krylova in Nice, at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships

Team Scali-Camerlengo-Krylova in Nice, at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships