Fun bits at the Autumn Classic

Oh didn’t we have fun at the Autumn Classic today!

The fun bits:

Seeing Jeffrey Buttle working as the one-man Ice Bucket Brigade during resurfacing. Filling the holes with his bare hands. As the day wore on, people in the audience began to notice that it was him.

Up in the stands, Buttle watching Nam Nguyen perform his wonderful Sinnerman routine – and he skated it with him, his shoulders rolling at all the parts where shoulders should roll. It really is a masterpiece. One of those routines you don’t tire of seeing.

Ross Miner looking the best that perhaps he ever has. Huge, powerful split jumps. Generally, skating with power. Looking fit. Says he does three run-throughs a day. No biggie for him. Landed quad Salchow. A goodly 80 points to take the lead. He wants to put the year of ankle troubles behind him and get back on that U.S. podium that he missed last year. This looked to be a mighty good start. Get ready for his free program, to be skated to Andrea Bocelli, the hunky Italian singer. Lori Nichol choreographed this gem for him. Beautiful.

Ronald Lam. Ronald Lam! Having worked in obscurity in Coquitlam, B.C., all these years, Lam lies in second place in the men’s short after landing a quad-triple and if anybody didn’t see that coming, well, he’s been doing them for a while. Just not in an international venue like the Autumn Classic, which although it is a senior B, was well worth the watch. He’s still with the same coach, Bruno Delmaestro, that he’s had since he started skating – how many skaters can say that? – and he switched to skate for Hong Kong in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics, but didn’t qualify. Interesting fact: he loved the Canadian championships. There was an atmosphere about it that made it addictive. It wasn’t just the event, but all of the prep beforehand, just thinking about it. He misses it. He’s studying computer science at university. He’s 23.

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, skating their short program to highly inspiring music with a freedom and lightness of heart they’ve never had before. Duhamel missed a triple Lutz, and the jump had been messing with her since she came to Barrie, but the air of the entire performance almost made it seem unimportant, especially for this time of year. They are still easily in the lead.

The power of the Marie-France Dubreuil/Patrice Lauzon dance school in Montreal. Their skaters finished first and third in the short dance at the Autumn Classic – and they are from France and Spain. The French, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, showed up, looking more polished than ever (they had been 13th at worlds), while the Spanish team Sara Hurtado and Adria Diaz, (16th at worlds) even delighted me at the Olympics.  And the Spanish had quite a cheering section. European champion Javier Fernandez was a spectator.

The new Canadian team of Natasha Purich and Drew Wolfe, together only five months, show worlds of promise.  It’s the right match. Purich was teamed up last year with Mervin Tran, who has traversed countries again and now skates with Marissa Castelli from the United States. But in Wolfe, the delightful little Purich has found the right pair partner. They are buddies. They knew each other from having skated in Alberta. They like each other. She shines with him. She’s a bright penny, now.

And get this: Wolfe has skated dance for the past four or five seasons. He’s never done pairs before. He learned the pair skills at the speed of light, a natural. And he has the edges from his time in dance. And the two of them are in good hands, skating in the Richard Gauthier/Bruno Marcotte school. Suddenly, the pairs event in Canada has started to look interesting.

Don’t forget about Vanessa Grenier and Maxime Deschamps, skating in only their second international event after winning the Canadian junior title last year. Grenier was a good singles skater who reached a plateau, and switched disciplines. Pair skating has brought back her joy in skating and it shows in her face when she skates. And she loves those scary elements.

And here’s another team. Although Julianne Seguin is skating singles at the Autumn Classic, she’s really making a name for herself as pair partner to Charlie Bilodeau. Together they swept both of their Junior Grand Prix events to qualify for the final quite easily. They are dynamic. Seguin, too, loves the lofty pair moves. Bring it on, she says. They will skate at the senior level nationally.

There are more to be sure, but it’s late, laptop problems scuttled my immediate reports and we’ll be back tomorrow to see how everything works out.

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