Going into Canadian Nationals, there wasn’t much doubt who would stand atop the pairs podium. Duhamel/Radford were the odds-on favorites, following an undefeated season on the Grand Prix. And indeed, they cruised to victory. However, there was still plenty of drama, as former partners Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch and their new partners battled for the other two spots on the podium. Unfortunately, I could only find video for the top 4 pairs in the event, so can’t comment on the lower-ranked teams. Let’s see what worked well and what didn’t for the top 4 pairs.
Meagan/Eric easily won their fourth national title in Kingston. Nationals was almost a formality for them this year. With longtime rivals Moore-Towers/Moscovitch having split last spring, Meagan/Eric really had no competition at this event.
What went well: Everything. They landed another terrific throw 4S in the long program. They landed their SBS 3Lz beautifully in both programs. They had almost no mistakes, except for Meagan singling the second 2T in their LP combo. What was most impressive, though, was their freedom and ease on the ice. They’re doing some of the most difficult elements, yet appeared amazingly relaxed and calm through the whole event. I’ve never seen them skate with as much joy and freedom as they did in Kingston. This team is truly at the peak of their powers right now. Everything is clicking; everything is working just right. Last season, there were so many times when Meagan/Eric seemed stressed and not quite comfortable with themselves or the programs. This season, all that is gone, and they just look so confident. I haven’t always been a big Duhamel/Radford fan, but they’re winning me over this season. It’s a joy seeing a team truly reach their potential. (And thumbs up on Meagan’s new hairstyle. :-))
What needs work: Not much. D/R’s challenge for the rest of the season is simply to maintain their current condition and momentum.
It was exciting to see Luba/Dylan skate at their first nationals together. Kingston is the city where Luba first caught the eye of the skating world with her electric performance at SkateCanada in 2010. Now she returned as a Canadian competitor for the first time (albeit not yet a citizen). No doubt, she and Dylan must have been feeling a lot of emotion, not to mention nerves and pressure. However, they handled it like true professionals and kept the focus on their skating. With two strong performances in Kingston, they claimed silver and a spot on the 4CC/World teams. A year ago, who could have imagined this happening? There is something a bit magical about this partnership.
What went well: Chemistry, strong programs, lifts. Luba/Dylan’s programs are such an asset this season. They consciously set out to create programs that are a little bit different and showcase their own unique, developing style. And it’s really worked. The programs are so enjoyable to watch and fit them so well. There are many great moments I love—the ending pose in the SP, Luba’s cantilever into the death spiral, and especially the gorgeous spiral sequence in the middle of their LP. The programs are enhanced even more by this pair’s tremendous chemistry. I don’t know what it is about them, but I just love them together. There is a certain emotional intensity and unpredictable element to their skating that is just so exciting. They have more chemistry than any new team I can think of in recent memory. And, to turn to the technical side, they also have good lifts. Dylan, of course, was always known for his lifts with Kirsten. His skills have transferred over easily to the new partnership, and, if anything, his lifts with Luba are even better due to Luba’s impressive flexibility. Altogether they earned 4.63 points in positive GOE on their lifts in Kingston.
What needs work: Jump consistency, triple twist, levels. Luba/Dylan had several jumping errors in the LP, so they’ll want to work on that. Their triple twist is also a weak point right now. It was low and crashy in the long program and got negative GOE. Tracy Wilson said on Canadian TV that this has been one of the hardest elements for them to learn as a team, so realistically, it probably won’t get much better until next year. Another thing to work on is levels. Their death spiral in the LP was beautiful but perhaps a bit slow and got only level 2. Their spins are all level 3, so they’ll want to try and get those up a level if possible.
Julianne/Charlie won the bronze medal, a bit surprising considering they competed internationally this year as juniors, not seniors. They are undefeated on the junior level. They managed to just edge out Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro to grab bronze and the final spot on the World team. Their margin of victory was just .95 points, and I think the result could probably be argued.
What went well: Consistency. Julianne/Charlie skated consistently well through both programs. There weren’t many standout moves or really exciting moments, but there weren’t any real mistakes, either. They’re using some different music for their programs (Grand Budapest Hotel and a Peter Gabriel medley), which is nice. I like the SP. Tracy Wilson commented that they had great flow through the LP. I’m not a Peter Gabriel fan, so in my case, I find this music and program a bit monotonous/dull. However, PCS is partly subjective, and they scored well in the LP.
What needs work: Twist and presentation. As you would expect from a team just coming up from juniors, their triple twist is a little low and small. Currently it’s getting level 2. They’ll want to work on this element and get it stronger. I think they could also work on speed, presentation, and lift positions. They have a bit of a juniorish look; just a lack of refinement and detail. Their lift positions right now are somewhat basic. Julianne could improve her extension and toepoint, and Charlie could improve the speed a bit.
Kirsten/Mike skated quite well here and just missed the bronze medal in a close decision. They’re definitely improving as a team. Fortunately, they will get an opportunity to skate at 4CCs, as Seguin/Bilodeau will be doing Junior Worlds around that time. Nice for them to be able to close out their season with a major international, if not Worlds.
What went well: Jump consistency and general performance level. Kirsten/Mike landed all their jump elements in Kingston, so that was good. And I felt like their performance level and comfort with the programs is improved since their GP appearances. They skated the programs quite well, and they definitely have a more mature, senior-level look than Seguin/Bilodeau. I’m a bit surprised they didn’t get the nod over S/B, because the teams were very close and ultimately, I do prefer Kirsten/Mike’s look on the ice. I guess the judges didn’t see it that way, though. Although Kirsten/Mike won the PCS battle in the SP by 1.38 points, S/B came back to win the PCS in the LP by 1.21 pts. Interesting.
What needs work: Quality of elements and lifts. MT/M are completing the elements, but not with great quality. Their levels and GOE marks are both on the low side. For example, in the short program, MT/M’s death spiral was only level 1 versus S/B’s level 4, so MT/M lost over 1 point on that element alone. They just need to keep working and improve the quality. Lifts are still also an area of concern. The lift speed looked better than in their GPs. However, Mike is still leaning forward in his carry stance. Hopefully they can correct that problem during the offseason. I think they are starting to come together as a team, though.
Overall, it was a good pairs event. I’m loving the top 2 teams right now and can’t wait to see them at 4CCs! And it’s great to see some depth developing in Canadian pairs. I’m sure next year’s pairs competition will be even better.