Hearts skipped a beat when Skate Canada’s national team for the coming season was released early Tuesday: Patrick Chan and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were on the list.
However, both have indicated that they will skip the Grand Prix season, but they have not decided whether or not they will take part in the second half of the season, which would include the Canadian championships, the Four Continents and the world championships in China.
There’s always hope.
Michael Slipchuk, director of high performance for Skate Canada, said the national team list is built upon results from the previous Canadian championships – and you have to be top five to get on this team. Unless somebody announces a retirement, they are still included. Neither Chan nor Virtue and Moir have made any such announcement. If Skate Canada needs to make changes later, they can. They have an option to add others to the list, based on discretion.
Note: there are only four rather than five women on the national team (Kaetlyn Osmond, Gabby Daleman, first-timer Veronik Mallet, and Alaine Chartrand), but Amelie Lacoste retired and Skate Canada left the team at four.
It was a different story in the pairs event. There were so many partner changes and retirements that Skate Canada had to reach down to find some new teams, or they would have been left with only one team: Meagan Duhamel (just engaged to coach Bruno Marcotte) and Eric Radford.
That means Kirsten Moore-Towers can breathe a sigh of relief, because she’s been included on the national team with her new partner, Michael Marinaro, whose previous partner Margaret Purdy, hung up her skates at the end of the season.
Skate Canada also reached out to a relatively new team, Brittany Jones and Joshua Reagan, who finished seventh at the Canadian championships last January in their first season together. The American-born Reagan has had more partner switches than a square dancer. Originally a promising U.S. skater, he’s leaped the border to skate with a Canadian. He and Jones had to sit out the international season last year until Reagan got a release from U.S. Figure Skating. That happened this spring.
Reagan, partnered with Ashley Cain, won the 2011 U.S. junior championships and finished fourth at the world junior championships for the United States. The same year, Jones, teamed up with Kurtis Gaskell, won the Canadian junior title and then finished sixth at the world juniors.
In Feb. 2012, the Cain-Reagan partnership ended, and a month later, he teamed up with 2011 U.S. senior pair champion Caitlin Yankowskas. They were assigned two Grand Prix but never made either of them. The next season, he teamed up with Becky Bereswill, but before long, they split. And now he’s come to Canada.
Jones was a precocious young pair skater. She and her junior partner were capable of doing triple twists and throw triple Salchows and loops.
There will be more of a waiting game for Dylan Moscovitch, whose brilliant partnership with Kirsten Moore-Towers ended last spring. He’s since teamed up with Lubov Illushechkina, a 22-year-old Russian who was wildly promising when she skated with Nodari Masiuradze. Together, they were 2009 world junior champions, as well as Junior Grand Prix Final champs and they also won Skate Canada in 2010. But the partnership ended in March of 2012. A couple of months later, Illushechkina wanted to skate pairs with a French skater, but Russia would not release her. She hasn’t competed internationally since.
“She needs to be released from Russia,” said Slipchuk. “And at this time there is no release.”
Under ISU rules, skaters must wait a year after their last international competition for one country to skate for another country, but the skater’s home country has the right to hold them in its fold longer, Slipchuk said. “It’s their prerogative.”
Slipchuk said his federation is keeping in touch with the Russian federation, but Skate Canada will honour any decision that the Russian body makes, he said.
What happened in Canada at the end of the Olympic season to the pair discipline is happening world-wide, Slipchuk said. “We didn’t see a lot at the past Olympics,” he said. “But there is a lot this time. United States is going through it. Russia is too. It will be an interesting season this year.”
Jones and Reagan got a wonderful opportunity with all of the switch-ups, and they have lots of international experience. But they just need mileage and time to hit their stride, Slipchuk said. They train with Kristy Wirtz in Waterloo, Ont.
Canadian ice dancers are going strong, according to the national team list. Aside from Virtue and Moir, there are world silver medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier and Nicole Orford and Thomas Williams.
Among the men, 16-year-old Nam Nguyen has made the national senior team for the first time and will join Kevin Reynolds, Liam Firus, and Elladj Balde.
National team skaters are eligible for international assignments, and it’s important for all of them to get out and earn points and improve their world rankings for other assignments.
“It’s definitely a new look for the team,” Slipchuk said. “There are new faces. We shall have a good mix. After the Olympics, you never know. I think in the next two years, you will see an ebb and flow, but two years before the Olympics, you get a clearer idea of who might be on the next Olympic team.”