Moments after claiming her first Canadian title in figure skating, teenager Madeline Schizas was asked about her goal for the Beijing Olympics.
Skating to Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ and dressed in dusty blue – complete with a sequined COVID-19 mask she wore during the warm-up to match – the 18-year-old from Oakville, Ont., No. was not perfect on Saturday free skating. But with a 12-point cushion from Friday’s short program, his total score of 198.24 was good enough for gold and nearly clinching a spot on Canada’s Olympic team.
Keegan Messing won the men’s singles title, wrapping up a roller coaster week that included 33 hours of travel and the temporary loss of his skates. Roman Sadovsky won the silver medal, all but clinching second place in the Beijing Olympics after perennial medalist Nam Nguyen struggled to place sixth, revealing he had recently had COVID-19.
World bronze medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier clinched gold and secured their second trip to the Olympics with their nearly flawless program on “The Long and Winding Road”. Gilles and Poirier of Toronto of Unionville, Ont., Totaled 219.24 points.
Gilles and Poirier had made significant changes to their schedule since winning silver at their last competition in France last November.
“We were a little nervous participating in the national championships,” said Gilles. “We’ve made so many changes since the Grand Prix series. I’m just testing the waters a little bit. Kind of like, don’t forget to do this, don’t forget to do this. Nothing’s on autopilot yet.
“But I’m happy that we had this opportunity to put this program out there and develop it. When we get to the Olympics, it should be in. [top] form. So we are happy. “
The dancers had qualified for the Grand Prix final last month, but it was called off as COVID-19 cases started to increase around the world amid the Omicron variant.
The cancellation was a beacon of hope, giving them time to rework their schedule, adding small changes everywhere that they hope will help them step onto the podium in Beijing.
“It’s quite a moving feast,” Poirier said. “Every day in training, we make small adjustments, we refine. There is never an end point, a kind of totally finished product, it’s always an evolution.”
Laurence Fournier-Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen took silver in ice dance (206.65), while Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha took bronze (192.67).
Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont. And Marinaro of Sarnia, Ont., Totaled 212.54 points to win the pairs event. Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud finished second with 186.52, while Deanna Stellato and Maxime Deschamps took bronze (178.60).
For Schizas, Beijing was barely on her radar until she finished 13th at the world championships last spring.
“I am a very logical person,” she said. “In reality, one person will go to the Olympics and the chances of it being me were very slim. Obviously now that I’ve won a Canadian title the Olympics are on my radar, but I never like to step forward too much. I think for a moment at a time and I think that makes qualifying even better.
“In a way, I don’t think people expected me to be,” she added. “I come from a small club [Milton Skating Club], a small community. I don’t have any coaches who have necessarily done this before. We have a very good relationship and I just won my first national title. “
Due to safety concerns and provincial crowd restrictions due to the recent spate of COVID-19, the event is taking place in front of no supporters at the TD Place Arena.
The pandemic has cast a veil on sports in the last few weeks before Beijing.
Stephen Gogolev, who won silver at the 2019 national championships, withdrew on Friday after testing positive in a PCR test upon arriving in Ottawa.
Pairs Vanessa James and Eric Radford, who contracted the virus while on vacation, withdrew ahead of Saturday’s free skate. They are still eligible for nomination to the Olympic team.
The championships will partly determine the Beijing Olympic figure skating team, which will be announced on Sunday. Canada has one spot in women’s singles, two pairs and men’s singles and three in ice dance.
The men’s singles and pairs free programs were scheduled for later Saturday.
Nguyen struggles a week after contracting COVID-19
Perennial national medalist Nam Nguyen contracted COVID-19 last week and was still feeling the effects on Saturday.
Nguyen, who won the world junior championships in 2014 and the Canadian senior title in 2019, was considered a favorite to be part of Canada’s skating team for the Beijing Olympics.
Nguyen said he isolated himself for five days after his positive PCR test, and then was back on the ice Tuesday after testing negative.
Nguyen had said a few weeks ago that he was planning to retire after this season, but is rethinking that decision, saying he doesn’t want to leave the sport on such a low note.
Stephen Gogolev withdrew from the men’s singles competition on Friday after testing positive for coronavirus. The 17-year-old from Toronto was a 2019 national silver medalist.