GP Fi­nal a glimpse at the fu­ture

The London Free Press - - SPORTS -

VAN­COU­VER — Sev­eral of the coun­try’s mar­quee fig­ure skaters have stepped away from com­pe­ti­tion, but Skate Canada’s high per­for­mance di­rec­tor says a tal­ented crop of ath­letes has emerged in their ab­sence.

“We had a very ex­tra­or­di­nary group that was with us for a long time,” Mike Slipchuk said Fri­day at the Grand Prix Fi­nal in Van­cou­ver, where just one Cana­dian (Kee­gan Mess­ing) qual­i­fied for the se­nior com­pe­ti­tion.

“But we’re happy with what we see with our se­niors and we have a lot of good ju­niors com­ing up. We know the fu­ture will be bright.”

Pa­trick Chan and the pairs team of Eric Rad­ford and Mea­gan Duhamel re­tired this year af­ter putting in strong per­for­mances with the Cana­dian squad that brought home two gold and two bronze medals from Fe­bru­ary’s Win­ter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Gold medal-win­ning ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have also stepped away.

Oth­ers, in­clud­ing reign­ing world cham­pion Kaet­lyn Os­mond, have opted to take time off fol­low­ing the Olympic suc­cess.

The suc­cess­ful Cana­dian skaters have all played a cru­cial role in the nur­tur­ing of the up-and-com­ing group of ath­letes, Slipchuk said.

“What those skaters did is they al­lowed this group un­derneath them to de­velop and have the time to grow and de­velop and be ready to step for­ward,” he said.

Thir­teen-year-old Stephen Go­golev has burst on to the junior scene in his first year of el­i­gi­bil­ity for the Grand Prix cir­cuit. He sat in sec­ond fol­low­ing the men’s short pro­gram Thurs­day.

Junior ice dancers Mar­jorie La­joie and Zachary Lagha were in fourth place af­ter their short.

“They skate like se­niors,” Slipchuk said. “There’ll be ups and downs, but we’re look­ing for­ward to a bright fu­ture for all three.” Moguls Ruka, Fin­land, has been the site of some of the big­gest mo­ments of Mikael Kings­bury's ac­com­plished ca­reer. It's where the Cana­dian freestyle ski­ing star made his first ca­reer trip to the World Cup podium, win­ning sil­ver in 2011. Four years later he earned his record 29th ca­reer World Cup gold medal at Ruka, pass­ing French le­gend Edgar Grosp­iron. And Fri­day Kings­bury earned a land­mark 50th World Cup win on the slope to open the new sea­son. But for the reign­ing Olympic cham­pion, 26, mile­stones are less im­por­tant than ex­e­cut­ing in the mo­ment. “I never had in the back of my mind, not even once, that it could have been my 50th to­day,” he said. “The goal was just to ski at my best. And when I'm at my best, I know I'm very tough to beat.” Ben­jamin Cavet gave it his best shot with a score of 86.45 in the su­per fi­nal Fri­day. Kings­bury, ski­ing last, beat the French­man eas­ily. “I was think­ing about my strat­egy, and the

goal was to do ... the same run he did,” said Kings­bury, who scored 88.14. “But I felt so con­fi­dent in my back full (back flip with full twist) and I knew I could push the speed faster than him and beat him in tech­nique in the bumps. So I just went with the run I had planned in my head and was able to ex­e­cute ex­actly what I wanted to do.” Luge

Alex Gough will have a farewell slide on her home track Satur­day when Canada's most dec­o­rated luger an­nounces her re­tire­ment. The 31-year-old was the first Cana­dian to win an Olympic medal in luge when she claimed bronze in women's sin­gles in Fe­bru­ary in Pyeongchang, South Korea. That Games break­through pre­ceded an­other two days later when Gough, Sam Ed­ney, Justin Snith and Tris­tan Walker won sil­ver in the team re­lay. Gough, who was mar­ried in 2016 and is in her third year of civil en­gi­neer­ing stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary, hasn't raced this sea­son. She will

make her re­tire­ment run prior to Satur­day's women's com­pe­ti­tion at a World Cup in Cal­gary. “I'm just div­ing into ev­ery­thing that's com­ing next for me and I've been busy all sum­mer, busy this fall,” Gough said. “I'm pretty at peace with the de­ci­sions that I made.” On Fri­day, Aus­tria's Wolf­gang Kindl won his sec­ond straight World Cup men's gold in Canada. Kindl, a win­ner in Whistler, B.C., last week, posted a two-run time of 1:29.249. Speed skat­ing

Canada cap­tured bronze in women's team pur­suit in Poland on Fri­day at a World Cup speed skat­ing event. Ivanie Blondin, Is­abelle Wei­de­mann and Keri Mor­ri­son fin­ished be­hind gold medal-win­ning Ja­pan and Rus­sia, the sec­ond podium fin­ish of the sea­son for the Cana­di­ans, who brought home sil­ver from the last World Cup in To­mako­mai, Ja­pan. Canada's men's team pur­suit squad of Ted-Jan Bloe­men, Jor­dan Bel­chos and An­toine Geli­nas-Beaulieu fin­ished fourth Fri­day.

GETTY IM­AGES

Cassie Sharpe of Canada flies down the course in the World Cup half­pipe fi­nal in Cop­per Moun­tain, Colo., on Fri­day. Sharpe fin­ished sec­ond with a score of 90.50 to earn her best re­sult at Cop­per Moun­tain, a venue that she has called her “neme­sis.” Kelly Sil­daru of Es­to­nia fin­ished first with 93.00. “I’m re­ally ex­cited to start the sea­son off with a podium. It was a good con­test and it was re­ally fun to have (Sil­daru) there and put some fire un­der the skis,” said Sharpe, who won gold in half­pipe at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

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