Host country goes out with a bang at Skate CanadaVirtue, Moir pleased with marks; Chan: 'This is exactly where I need to be'
Canada did not get off to a great start on the second day of its Grand Prix event, as its top pairs team dropped from first to third and its ladies national champion was forced to withdraw with an injury.
But the host country closed the event with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir winning the ice dance competition (and fellow Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje earned the silver), while Patrick Chan claimed the men's title.
Neither victory came as a surprise, as both were the leaders after the first day of competition as well as the favorites in their events. But their victories were nonetheless well deserved, as Virtue and Moir performed a beautiful free dance that encapsulated their long career together, and Chan, although not perfect, was clearly the class of the field.
Virtue and Scott Moir won their fifth title at Skate Canada, scoring a season's-best 181.03 points, while Weaver and Poje finished second with 175.23 points.
In the men's event, Chan stayed on his feet on both of his quads and brought the crowd to its feet with his gold-medal winning performance to Vivaldi's classic work, The Four Seasons. He earned 262.03 points and said he feels well positioned as he continues his path toward Sochi.
By the time the day ended, the music of the night was not from a skating program but rather the Canadian national anthem.
Virtue and Moir had spoken throughout the weekend about being extra emotional in Saint John because it could very well be the couple's last trip to Skate Canada. The 2010 Olympic champions have yet to confirm whether they will continue competing following the upcoming Olympic Winter Games, but it appears as if this season will be their last on the competitive scene.
When asked if his eyes were misty during the medals ceremony, Moir laughed and said, "Misty? I was checking the [Toronto Maple] Leafs score."
"I don't know what's wrong with me," he added. "It's emotional, I think for Tessa and I, hearing your anthem in your own country; it's very special. We've been lucky to have some great opportunities: Olympic Games, many Skate Canadas. … But it's always special to stand up there to hear your national anthem and sing along to it. Smelling the roses, if you will."
Skate Canada marked the second victory of the season for Virtue and Moir. They opened the campaign by winning the Finlandia Trophy, but they had not been getting the marks they had been seeking. In the short dance Friday, they were disappointed after struggling with their twizzles.
But in the free dance Saturday, they skated well and received high marks for most of their elements, with the only major flaw coming on an extended lift. Their score at Skate Canada was a whopping 13.16 points higher than their first-place marks in Finland.
Canadians Weaver and Poje also did their home country proud with their free dance tango, which earned high technical marks as well as strong components scores. Weaver and Poje train in Detroit, often in the same practices as the American team of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who placed third with 153.20 points.
Hubbell and Donohue, who finished fourth a week ago at Skate America, were relieved to finish as well as they did at Skate Canada. Hubbell has been coping with some pain in her hip, and then during the morning practice, Donohue accidentally elbowed her in the head.
"Skating tonight was a question of if I could get through it," Hubbell said, adding, "We're very happy to have pushed through it and are really happy to get a week off."
The crowd was hoping to see another Canadian victory, this time in the men's event, and Chan was able to send the fans home happy.
Performing last, Chan opened his program with a quadruple toe-triple toe and followed that with a second quad toe. Although he doubled his triple Axel and later popped a double Axel, the crowd was clapping throughout, and it was clear he was the champion before the music ended.
The performance proved to Chan that both the program, skated to familiar music he has used in the past, as well as his pacing and training are right on target for achieving his Olympic gold-medal dreams.
"I walked off the ice and into the kiss and cry and said, 'This is exactly where I need to be right now," Chan said.
Before he stepped out on the ice, however, he was not 100 percent confident.
"I was nervous, honestly," Chan said. "I started having the (negative) feelings I had last season. … It was really challenging even before I got on the ice to stay positive and remember the things that I wanted to repeat that I had in the short program: looking forward to going out there, to look forward to doing the quad but not looking too far ahead, doing one quad at a time and then moving on."
Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, who trains in Toronto with Brian Orser, took the silver medal, and another Japanese skater, Nobunari Oda, earned the bronze. Hanyu fell on his opening quad and touched his hand down on the landing of his second one. Oda, meanwhile, did not land a quad.
Joshua Farris, the 2013 world junior champion who was competing in his first senior-level Grand Prix, was the top American finisher in fifth place. He fell on his quad toe but landed two triple Axels to place fourth in the free skate.
Jeremy Abbott, meanwhile, dropped from fourth place after the short to sixth with a free skate he described as "hideous."
"I was quite nervous," Abbott said. "I don't know if I ever settled into my legs. My knees were stiff, and I wasn't able to spring when I landed. It was just really unfortunate."
When asked if the fall he suffered on his opening quad caused the rest of the program to unravel, Abbott replied, "No. The tone was set from the time I got into my starting position.
"I am just extremely disappointed. I thought that I started something yesterday. I've been to the Grand Prix Final, been to the Olympics and fifth at the world championships. I really wanted to show the world that I can compete with the best in the world. It feels like I took the first step, but it was more like a step backward."
Ross Miner, the U.S. silver medalist, also struggled, stumbling out of his quad Salchow and then popping both of his triple Axels. Miner, who trains in Boston, was skating his routine as a tribute to the city following the Boston Marathon bombings and was wearing a "Boston Strong" T-shirt in practice here.
When reminded that the Boston Red Sox were playing tonight in Game 3 of the World Series, Miner said, "I hope they do a better job than I did tonight."