Host country takes most medals from Skate Canada

Four countries represented on top of podium in Quebec City

Skate Canada organizers hope skaters like Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison will increase waning fan support for figure skating around the world.
Skate Canada organizers hope skaters like Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison will increase waning fan support for figure skating around the world. (Getty Images)


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By Laurie Nealin / special to
(11/04/2007) - QUEBEC CITY -- As HomeSense Skate Canada International wrapped up on Sunday in Quebec City, the Canadian team held bragging rights as the country taking home the most hardware from the second event in the ISU Grand Prix series.

Canadian athletes earned four medals -- one gold, one silver and two bronze -- although the host country also had the largest team, having been allowed three entries in every discipline.

The gold medals were captured by skaters from four different countries: Brian Joubert of France, Mao Asada of Japan, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.

The next stop on the Grand Prix circuit is next week in Harbin, China. The only athlete here who will compete at Cup of China is men's competitor Jialiang Wu. Many will rendezvous in Paris, however, for Trophee Eric Bompard, in two weeks time.

All week, the athletes have spoken about the enjoyment they get from competing in front of a Canadian audiences. As Joubert described, "The crowd was superb -- in the short, in the training [sessions], and in the long."

HomeSense, the title sponsor of the event, has embraced Skate Canada wholeheartedly. The president of the company even handed out gifts to each skater as they came off the ice. As well, the company gave out complimentary wooden castanets -- a sophisticated version of clap sticks -- which fans clicked in unison when their favorite skaters were introduced as well as to reward good performances.

In all, 11,900 tickets were sold for the three days of competition, somewhat short of what Skate Canada [the organization] might have liked.

Skate Canada CEO William Thompson said on Sunday, "Of course, we'd like to see full buildings, but we know the sport is in the rebuilding phase. When the public gets to know about the Tessas and Scotts and Jessicas and Bryces, the excitement in figure skating in Canada will return, and people will be back in the building.

"We know stars drive the sport and these people are stars," Thompson added.

He was particularly thrilled with the performance of Virtue and Moir who scored over 197 points in the ice dance event, just four points shy of the total posted by Bulgarians Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski in winning the 2007 world title.

In conclusion, Thompson said, "We were delighted with the level of competition and pleased how the event was executed. The in-venue entertainment is making it a more interesting event for everyone."

That entertainment included giving audience members ballots to vote for their favorite costume in each event, which has proven very popular given the ever-increasing glitz of the competitors' attire.

Overall, the fields across the board in the Grand Prix circuit show considerable depth in the men's, women's and ice dance disciplines, but the ISU could have cause for concern as the ranks in the pairs events continue to thin. Of the pairs with world rankings who were originally assigned to compete in the Grand Prix series' six events, 10 couples have already withdrawn, compared to five in ice dance, five men, and four women.

At Skate Canada, that left only six pairs to compete when eight are the norm. In ice dance, a full field is 10 couples.

With pairs competitions already being held at just four of the eight Junior Grand Prix events because of the small number of junior pairs competitors, it appears the discipline could find itself increasingly short of senior competitors in the not-too-distant future.