New crop of athletes glide onto the ice
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.”