New crop of ath­letes glide onto the ice

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - GEMMA KARSTENS-SMITH THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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 all re­tired ear­lier 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 from com­pe­ti­tion.

Oth­ers, in­clud­ing reign­ing world cham­pion Kaet­lyn Os­mond, have opted to take time off fol­low­ing the Olympic suc­cess. It’s not un­com­mon for skaters to take some time away from com­pe­ti­tion in a sea­son fol­low­ing a Win­ter Games.

The suc­cess­ful Cana­dian skaters have all played a cru­cial role in the nur­tur­ing of the up-and­com­ing group of ath­letes, Slipchuk said. The group’s suc­cess in South Korea is also a push for the next gen­er­a­tion.

Mess­ing said ear­lier this week that work­ing with and watch­ing Chan has helped him grow as a skater.

The 26-year-old wasn’t orig­i­nally in the lineup here, with his scores on this year’s Grand Prix cir­cuit qual­i­fy­ing him in­stead for the first al­ter­nate po­si­tion. He gained a spot when reign­ing Olympic cham­pion Yuzuru Hanyu of Ja­pan dropped out with an an­kle in­jury.

Skate Canada was hop­ing to have skaters in the ice dance, pairs and men’s events this year, Slipchuk said.

There’s also a lot of tal­ent per­co­lat­ing in ju­niors and the de­vel­op­ment streams, Slipchuk said.

“They skate like se­niors,” Slipchuk said. “There’ll be ups and downs, but we’re look­ing for­ward to a bright fu­ture.”

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