HALIFAX — Now that was splendid skating from Canada’s women.
Only .12 of a point made the difference between going Worlds and staying home.
A new national champion in Alaine Chartrand, which made all those motorhome weekend treks with the folks — schlepping from one far-flung training venue to another, one detail coach to another — completely worth the effort.
And three young females now who’ve each earned the title in the past three years, which augers well for distaff skating in this country.
Gabrielle Daleman, from Newmarket, uncorked the highest score in Saturday’s free skate, elevating the 18-year-old from third to second. Chartrand was just a smidge behind — 133.18 versus 133.55 in the long program segment — but superior in the combined marks, rising from second to top podium. That left two-time champion Kaetlyn Osmond, head and nose stuffed with a cold, on the outside looking in, her final combined score of 197.87 a hair’s breadth behind Daleman’s 197.99. Bronze but excluded from the Worlds invitation-for-two. Yet Osmond, only a year removed from a leg horribly busted, could take heart from her performance. She’s not broken anymore and there’s nothing to fear.
It’s been a long time — beyond memory, actually — since Canada’s leading ladies pushed each other so forcibly at nationals, issuing challenges that induced the best of skates rather than rewarding the least-worst.
“I’m not feeling like Canadian champion yet,” an overwhelmed Chartrand admitted. “I’m pretty shocked.”
Shouldn’t have been, not with a seamless and poised rendition of her Gone With the Wind program that featured seven clean triples, including a triple Lutz-triple toe to start and a distinctive, perhaps even slightly weird double Axel-single loop-triple Salchow combination that looked quite fine when the 19-year-old from Prescott, Ont., completed it.
Chartrand’s combined tally rocked her through the 200-mark ceiling at 201.99 — rare accomplishment for a Canadian woman, though Osmond did it twice before her career was beset by injuries.
The teen had to pull out all the stops while committing no errors after Daleman had already pronounced her podium bona fides with a strong bid for gold in a routine beautifully choreographed by Lori Nichol. Daleman pulled off an irreproachable triple-triple amidst seven clean triples, including the Lutz on which she’d fallen in Friday’s short program, creating a gap in marks the defending champion could not completely close.
Chartrand, meanwhile, has long-struggled to put together clean short and long programs in competition. On this weekend, nailed both.
“I was trying really hard not to be like, ‘Oh, I’m skating clean, it’s going to be a great program.’ But after I did my second Lutz and the step sequence I knew I had two easier jumps left, so I was feeling strong at the end.”
For Daleman, who’d taken the ice earlier in the final flight of women, this was a redemption skate. Flinging down the gauntlet, she agreed.
“Oh big time, I laid it out there. I knew I needed to do a killer skate to not only try and win the free and keep my title but just to get to Worlds.’’
Nichol had called her when Daleman was on the way to the rink. “Then, after the warmup, I was, like, I need to call her again. I need more motivation. I need someone to calm me down and tell me I can do this, tell me that I have worked hard. Just hearing that from her really helped get me more in the mood, more motivated and more determined.”
Determination wasn’t quite enough for Osmond, though, as the 19-year-old Newfoundlander doubled a triple and over-rotated the opening jump, which stranded the planned triple-triple.
“My jumps sometimes just get away from me. It’s something I’ve had to deal with growing up. But I know they’re there and I know I can do them. So this is only a stepping stone. That’s all nationals was for me — a stepping stone — and I’ll go from here.”
In the ice dance, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje defended their title in 10 years together.
“I’m happy to say we’re not a blip on the champions’ record list,” said Weaver, following their dramatic free performance of This Bitter Earth. “Two times means you’re not just 15 minutes of fame.”
The marks were plump — 115.53 on the segment, 191.73 overall. Yet, with their eye on the prize of a world title in Boston two months hence, neither was totally pleased by the execution on this day.
Weaver: “For me, personally, I finished that program saying: ‘Shoot!’ That wasn’t as good as I can do. I seemed a little off in places.”
They’ve won every competition contested since bronze at the worlds in 2015, including December’s Grand Final. Next up, presumably, is Four Continents. And then — winning worlds?
“Of course,” assured Weaver. “Save the best for last.”