Vanessa James and Eric Radford sat in the virtually empty stands of the TD Place arena on Saturday, watching their rivals compete in the pairs free skate at the Canadian figure skating championships.
A day later, James and Radford found themselves having to defend their place on Canada’s team for the Beijing Olympics.
The veteran skaters, who contracted COVID-19 just before Christmas, secured one of two spots in pairs on Sunday, despite withdrawing from the championships in Ottawa after the short program. The decision has drawn the ire of some skating fans.
“The criteria were laid out at the start of the season. And so from the start until now we all have the same opportunities to play and to score, and Vanessa and I have posted the most short and free skate scores. High internationally, we had the highest placements, “said Radford of Ottawa.” Sport is what you do on the playing field as part of the requirements set for the season. “
James and Radford, who teamed up last spring, withdrew from competition on Saturday after placing fourth in Friday’s short program. They said they weren’t fully recovered to be their best.
“We think we made the best decision for us, so that we can be the best in a month when it matters most,” Radford said on Sunday.
WATCH l This figure skating show goes by the Canadian Olympic team:
Canadian Championships are, but not all, part of Skate Canada’s Olympic qualification criteria.
The selection criteria, drafted before the start of the season, also include scores and results from this season’s international events, ranking at last year’s world championships and the potential for the top result in Beijing based on of the whole season.
“Unfortunately, in all sports, in an Olympic year where there is a national championship, a lot of people assume this is the end and most of the last determining factor,” said Mike Slipchuk, director of Skate Canada’s high performance. . “A national championship is always important and it is important that the athletes are national champions, medalists. But when we did the assessment with our committee, we looked at all of these factors … and none is more weighted than the other.
“If you look at the international season, Vanessa and Eric among all of our pairs teams had the highest scores. Unfortunately, with a situation largely out of control, with Omicron and COVID, they just couldn’t finish the game. ‘event. But we look at the overall work of all the athletes and we want to do the best assessment for the strongest team that we think has the best capabilities for us at the Games. “
“These Games will be extremely different”
The rest of the Canadian team selection was more cut and dried. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro secured the other place with their excellent skates in the short and long programs which won them gold.
Going to the Winter Olympics is such a dream.– 2022 Canadian Women’s Champion Madeline Schizas
“Obviously, with the climate of the world at the moment, these Games will be extremely different… I just heard from Paul [Poirier] say it’s different not being able to give your teammates a hug and show them how excited you are for them. But it’s been a great day for us and we’re super proud and excited. “
Keegan Messing and Roman Sadovsky are Canada’s entries in the men’s singles and Madeline Schizas secured a berth in the women’s singles.
WATCH This figure skating show recaps Messing’s first Canadian title:
“Going to the Winter Olympics is such a dream,” said Schizas. “I watched the 2010 Games in Vancouver. I watched Joannie Rochette there and it’s been a dream for me ever since.
World bronze medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier were a lock for an ice dance spot, while Saturday silver medalists Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen, and bronze medalists Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha completed the three places.
As for the controversial pairs spots, some skating enthusiasts have argued that silver medalists Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud have been stolen.
Meagan Duhamel, who won two world titles with Radford, tweeted, with a heartbroken emoji: “I’m disappointed with my sport today.”
“The Canadian pairs have all been zero all season,” Duhamel told The Canadian Press. “The only teams to do a strong short and a strong long in the same competition are Evelyn and Trent and Kirsten and Mike for the Canadiens. And since no [pairs] the team is a contender for a medal, we don’t have to choose based on potential. “
Radford, who won Olympic bronze with Duhamel in 2018 and team gold, came out of retirement at 36 to compete with James. James, 34, is from Toronto but competed for France, winning world bronze in 2018 with Morgan Cipres.
COVID-19 casts a veil on the Olympics
“[The season] has had its ups and downs, but it’s always been gradual, we’ve shown improvements, our scores have always been high enough for Canadian skating, and we’re always looking forward to reaching higher points, levels and positions. high in our skating, comparing us to the best in the world, ”said James.
“We are saddened that we weren’t able to participate in this competition… we wanted to show up and do our best, be sporty and give it all, and that didn’t happen for us in the short program. just solidified – the fact that we’re not ready to do a great program that we have to show off before going to the Olympics. “
The number of places allocated to each country in each of the four disciplines depends on the ranking at the world championships of the previous year.
COVID-19 cast a veil on the Games less than a month before they opened, athletes such as Canadian male skaters Nam Nguyen and Stephen Gogolev recently contracted the virus.
Gilles and Poirier, who aim to reach the podium in Beijing, said they were focusing on their skating preparation rather than focusing on the threat of the virus.
“You can just immerse yourself in it, so we just choose to be positive, it’s a very exciting time for so many people,” said Gilles. “I think that’s something people really need in times like these. We have to show the world that we can move forward and celebrate the things that we love to do. So we have to be positive. in all the things that we go, and it will be something to celebrate, not to look at the negative. “
WATCH | Ice dancers Gilles and Poirier win the Canadian title:
Radford said it was frustrating to be in quarantine for 10 days before the national championships, he is thankful the chance of catching COVID-19 is not constantly on his mind.
“It was both a really boring and bad thing at the same time because it didn’t allow us to prepare for this competition, but now compared to the athletes who haven’t yet, we can be a little more feel comfortable, ”he said. noted. “We will still be very vigilant. But I can tell you, talking with other athletes [who haven’t had the virus], I know I’m more relaxed than them at this point.
“We both feel a slight relief to be done with this, and now we have a slightly clearer and less stressful path as we train for Beijing.”
The Olympic figure skating competition begins on February 4 with the team event at the Capitol Indoor Stadium.