2023 Skate Canada in a nutshell: the rebirth of Sota Yamamoto.

And since a nutshell might prove too small for what Vancouver had to offer at this year’s edition of Skate Canada International, there you have the extended version of it all:

23-year old Sota Yamamoto, a wunderkid in his junior age, troubled by injuries throughout his senior career, wins his first senior Grand Prix gold.

Winning the gold medal in Vancouver, pair skaters Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps show they really want to medal at 2024 Worlds in Montreal – Deanna’s reaction at the end of their long program tells it all.

The confidence of a double World champion: Kaori Sakamoto wins gold on Canadian soil, eying the Worlds, and her third title, already.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier pushing once more the boundaries of ice dance as we know them with a staggering free dance to the soundtrack of “Wuthering Heights” – and winning the fourth Skate Canada gold of their career.

by Florentina Tone / with photos by C. Nguyen, Vancouver


That’s the Sota Yamamoto we’ve been dying to see ever since his junior years – he seems to have finally found the light at the end of the tunnel, he found serenity and joy.

His time to shine has come.

And his free skate – to the iconic piece “Exogenesis Symphony Part 3” by Muse – has proven almost redemptive. It tells the story of Sota’s life, career, that’s how we see it, and it shows him coming at the top in the end.

Into his coach’s arms in the Kiss and Cry, holding the green towel with his name, Sota seems relieved.

We are too.


Deanna thrusting her right foot in the air in the last lift of their long program, and then her burst of adrenaline, of relief, her roar at the end of it all – this is their season, Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps’ season, you can feel it, they don’t give you any room to doubt it.

Their free skate, to music from “Interview with a Vampire”, builds such a climax, such momentum, that you know: they’re in it for a World medal in Montreal next March, with golden aspirations.

And you know what? With the material, and the ambition they have, it can definitely happen.


What a start of the season for Kaori Sakamoto in Canada.

She had her free skate choreographed in Montreal, she won the Skate Canada gold in Vancouver – and she’ll surely come back to Montreal next March, to defend her World champion title.

Canada is already playing a big part in Kaori’s journey this season.

And we could even watch Kaori skate to the sound of her skates – and we actually do: we heard that beautiful, calm, soothing sound for a big part of her long program; Lauryn Hill singing “Wild is The Wind” gives so much space for it.

And we could watch Kaori skate to just everything – her presence fills the air.

“Love me, love me”, Lauryn sings.

We don’t need to be told – we’re in love with Kaori Sakamoto for a while now.


The ideas that speak to them, they turn them into programs: this season, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are skating to the haunting music of Ryuichi Sakamoto from the “Wuthering Heights” soundtrack, and that’s a program that literally screams “essence of Piper and Paul”.

Innovation, creativity, pushing fear aside, embracing risks – a story of love and hate, of passion and rejection, of pride, ambition; a program that is dark, and tense, intense, hinting at their trademark Hitchcock, but so much more than that.

“We’re really lead by inspiration, by the ideas that come to us in each moment – and the ones that are interesting to us, we follow them”, they told us a while ago.

“Every idea that pops into our heads, we take it and then we see if it’s possible. And if the answer is No, then the answer is No – and then we know. This is so true [about our skating career] – this is how we choreograph our programs, this is how we do everything”.

“What we’ve always tried to do is to look at the rules and, instead of looking at them as restrictions, to think: Well, within these parameters, what is possible? What is the freedom that I have? And how can I exercise it to the most potential? And that’s the way we liked to go and do our things…”

To know them better, you can always come back to this open, honest conversation with Piper and Paul – one that encapsulates their philosophy on life and skating.

It dates back to last season – but it’s so meaningful still.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier: “Going into this year, the focus was: Find joy”

TO FOLLOW: #photosthatyoufeel at 2023 Skate Canada in Vancouver