Rivalry creates rapturous ice dancing and the Queen out of her mind happy with her skating

Russian skater

Russian ice dancer Dmitri Soloviev is interviewed in the media centre after winning a bronze medal Saturday with partner Ekateriana Bobrova

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were the best skaters in the ice dancing competition at the World Figure Skating Championships, but Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White were the better performers.

Virtue and Moir’s athleticism, strength and entangled lifts were magnificent. Virtue was like a lithe whip that Moir swung around so quickly and forcefully you almost couldn’t believe the pair were on skates.

Davis and White were the consummate performers. They put so much feeling into every move it felt like we were transported to France in their passionate Notre Dame de Paris number.

The combination of their artistry and strong elements gave the U.S. team the edge in the competition Saturday as they captured gold. Virtue and Moir settled for silver.

It’s hard to know if we will see ice dancing like this again for some time after the 2014 Olympics, where it is likely the skating teams will retire after each being together 17 years at that point.

What is known is that the rivalry has created stunningly rapturous ice dancing.

Davis said if they weren’t exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally after their performance, then she and White weren’t doing their job.

Virtue said Saturday’s free skate was the best they’ve done this year. “We are so happy to end the season on a high note. Sochi is coming up quick, we are looking forward to next season. This is a great building block.”

The women followed the ice dancing in Budweiser Gardens. Yuna Kim of South Korea, known as Queen Yuna, easily claimed her second world title, to go with her Olympic gold.

She completed each element – every difficult jump and spin and intricate step – with finesse.

There was no question early in her program that this is a competitor for the ages. Such confidence is rarely seen in the women.

Her grey dress with sequins and jewels sparkled underneath the lights and she looked like a comet shooting through to the stratosphere of figure skating. “I was out of my mind, I don’t know what to say. I am just happy,” the 22-year-old Kim said.

Everyone else was out of their minds too after her routine.

Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond, 17, finished eighth but was thrilled to be in the Top 10. “Even last week, I was like, ‘OK. Maybe come Top 10. Let’s see if it can happen.'”

She fell twice while attempting jumps but otherwise had a good program for her first world championships.

Her coach Ravi Walia said Osmond was able to stay calm despite the huge stage. “The first half of the program was amazing. That tells me she wasn’t unraveled or nervous. I think..she was just a little bit tired at the end. I think she has a really bright future ahead of her.”

Carolina Kostner of Italy was second and Mao Asada of Japan won bronze.

Angry Chan wins on night of mistakes, while freedom fighter inspires silver medallist

The Miley Cyrus song, Everybody Has Those Days; Everybody Makes Mistakes, was running through my head at Budweiser Gardens Friday night.

And I don’t even like that song.

But as one after another competitor in the men’s free skate messed up, it was just ringing too true.

It would have been wonderful to continue the amazing skating that’s been on display all week at the World Figure Skating Championships.

But as the men upped the ante trying to include more quads, the house of cards fell flat at the Bud, which was a near sellout.

Chan did complete two quads, but missed two triples, and downgraded a couple of planned combination jumps. He was hitting himself on the forehead in frustration afterward.

“The more you fall, the more tired you are,” he told reporters. “I am angry at myself.”

Denis Ten of Kazakhstan won the silver and Javier Fernandez of Spain took bronze.

Ten had the best free skate of the night with another personal best of 174.92. Chan scored 169.41 on the long program, with 267.78 overall. Ten nearly caught him, finishing at 266.48.

An emotional Ten got down on his hands and knees at centre ice after his skate and kissed the ice. He touched his heart and blew kisses to the audience. Two Kazakhstan flags were seen in the crowd. Later he had one of them as he skated around the arena.

But he didn’t skate clean either, missing a triple flip. Still, the list of jumps he mastered was looong: quad toe, triple axel, triple toe, triple lutz, triple toe, double toe, triple salchow, triple loop, double axel. WOW.

And then there was his elastic flexibility, wonderful choreography and interpretation of The Artist and the towering height he achieved on those jumps.

Ten, 19, said he was extremely nervous. “I couldn’t sleep for two nights.”

He calmed himself down by pretending he wasn’t in medal contention. “I said to myself, ‘Imagine if you already lost…and you can just go and skate with freedom.’

“This is still the best skate I’ve done in four years.”

And speaking of freedom, thoughts of Ten’s ancestor, Korean freedom fighter General Min Keung-Ho (who sacrificed his life for Korea’s independence), brought courage to the skater.

“I wish I could meet with him and talk to him because I know how strong he was. All this helps me when I realize my great-great-grandfather was such a great man. Sometimes I skate and I think that he watches at me and I have no chance to fail him, to disappoint him. It’s sort of an additional responsibility to me.”

I was able to catch a quick moment with France’s Brian Joubert, who had a solid program, which included two quads and a triple axel right off the bat, but only received 148.09 from the judges. The crowd booed when his marks were displayed, hoping for higher.

Joubert, who finished ninth, said the marks were disappointing but he was pleased with his efforts. “That’s the judgement. For me, the most important was the feeling on the ice, the audience, my coach. I did my job. I have no regrets.”


NDP leader Thomas Mulcair presents flowers to Patrick Chan on the podium amidst a sea of purple.

Twizzles lack sizzle – Virtue and Moir second after short

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Victoria Kavaliova and Yurii Bieliaiev of Belarus used borrowed skates during their ice dance short program Thursday night at Budweiser Gardens after theirs were lost in transit.

Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue still have a chance to win gold in ice dancing at the World Figure Skating Championships but they’ll have to perform a remarkable free dance Saturday.

The local duo had trouble with both their synchronized twizzles – that didn’t synch – and in the no-touch step sequence, they were also off.

It was enough to leave them more than three points behind American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who set a world record with 77.12.

“It only takes a millisecond to get out of control,” Moir said.

“We’re further behind than we’d like to be,” Virtue added.

Virtue and Moir’s  program was still impressive, though.

Davis and White performed a superlative routine to Giselle Thursday night before a crowd with tons of American flags.

They were smooth and composed throughout the program.

It was well rehearsed and felt like a theatrical production on blades, so inventive and magical.

Even the U.S. team was surprised at their excellent performance.

“We’ve sort of impressed ourselves,” White said. “There’s a certain maturity that comes along with experience.”

Canadian teammates Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were charming in their short dance performed to The Sound of Music soundtrack and scored a solid 67.54, despite Weaver coming back quickly after suffering a broken fibula in December. “The sky’s the limit,” she told the media after the routine. They are in sixth place.

The crowd gave an especially long ovation to Belarus couple Viktoria Kavaliova and Yurii Bieliaiev, who barely made it to London and then had to compete with someone else’s skates.

“At first we didn’t get our Visa in time. We only got it Monday last minute and flew Tuesday from Minsk to Frankfurt, but a lot of flights were cancelled because of snowfall. We were re-booked on a different airline,” Kavaliova said.

“We just made the plane last minute but our luggage didn’t get here. We arrived Wednesday morning in London, but had no luggage.”

Volunteer Adam Jones gave Bieliaiev his skates and Paul Moir (Scott Moir’s uncle) lent his daughter’s skates to Kavaliova.

Bieliaiev’s skates were single blade, though. “They are longer and have a toe pick and I didn’t have enough time to adapt. I was five or six years old the last time I skated in this kind of boots.”

Still, they were pleased to be on the ice, they said.

Patrick Chan set a world record and a teenager from Kazakhstan soars to second

Canada is buzzing about two-time defending world champion, Patrick Chan, who was awarded 98.37 on his short program Wednesday at Budweiser Gardens.

Chan was impressive to be sure and the hushed crowd took in every breathtaking chisel of his skates as he painted a picture on the ice  surface. You could hear each stroke.

“It was so inspiring to be out there,” Chan said, moments after his world record-setting performance.

Close to the end of his program he said a cold rush went through his body, something you “only feel once in a lifetime. Or if you’re going to jump off a building.”

Not everyone was sure he deserved such high marks. A journalist from the Czech Republic was shaking her head. It was worth about 85, she said. A Canadian writer added, perhaps there was some home cooking going on.

I spoke to Skate Canada president Benoit Lavoie and he disagreed. He was a figure skating judge. Another international judge, not on the judging panel Wednesday, was disappointed Chan didn’t receive perfect scores, Benoit said.

But Chan even told reporters his landings weren’t great. He reached level four on his spins and footwork.

While I enjoyed watching Chan, it was 18-year-old Denis Ten of Kazakhstan who stole the show for me.

His artistry was stellar as he performed to the soundtrack of The Artist.

The passion of the skate sent a rush through the crowd, who gave him a standing ovation.

He pulled off a 91.56 score, tons better than his personal best of 75.94. He put his hands to his face when he realized he just had the performance of his career. He sits in second behind Chan

His bio said that he is part of the Korean minority in Kazakhstan. He is a descendant of Korean General Min Keung Ho, said to be famous, but I’m not sure why.

I also loved the performance side of Daisuke Takahashi of Japan. He also exuded charm as he skated to Moonlight Sonata.

Chan seemed like he was skating just to get it over with. I thought his flair was too forced.

He did say he was on “auto pilot.”

Chan also said there were doubts going into his short program. Now that he’s got those doubts out of the way, I’m sure Chan will skate a memorable long program Friday.

I’ve been following Max Aaron as I’m writing about him for Haaretz in Israel. He took a bump to the head last night during his warmup when he fell and slid into the boards.

“I felt it right away, I thought for a second I’d black out.” His coach, Tom Zakrajsek said he checked his pupils for any sign of a concussion.

Aaron set a personal best score of 78.20 and sits eighth.


Interviews, egg salad sandwiches and face mask

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A ghost appears to go by as Sue Reeve takes a photo of 83-year-old coach Gordon Linney at the World Figure Skating Championships Monday.


The first day of the World Figure Skating Championships ran smoothly at the Western Fair practice rink.

Volunteers were in place, the shuttles were ready, fans had lots of seat choices and there was tons of parking!!

(More importantly, however, was the food provided for the media. I had a lovely egg salad sandwich.)

I did two interviews today with U.S. skaters, Max Aaron and Ross Miner.

The early bird gets the worm, they say, and I was able to do the interviews one-on-one in the mixed zone. I was to the rink by 8 a.m. and there were few media members around then.

In the mixed zone after the practice, where a fence separates the athletes from the rest of the world, it was all  quiet.

This is unusual. At most events, there’s jostling by the media to get close to the boundary. At the 2006 Olympic figure skating competition, you would often be so far away from the athletes you couldn’t even hear them. A communications manager would record the athlete and then walk down the line afterward letting reporters hear what was taped.

I also had a great interview with Gordon Linney, who has been coaching for 56 years. More on him later in the week.

Also today I saw a Japanese TV crew member wearing a face mask inside the rink. I guess it’s a habit.

One more day of practices then the competition begins Wednesday.


The world is in London: Welcome

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I picked up my accreditation Saturday for the World Figure Skating Championships. Practices start bright and early Monday morning.

If you want to watch the skaters, you can do so for $15 at the designated practice rink at Western Fair Sports Centre. The first skaters on the ice start at 8:10 a.m. Be there early though, because there will only be so many spectators allowed.

If you want to watch practices at Budweiser Arena, you will have to pay. Tickets start at $22.

I`ll be doing my blog each day from the championships.

I am also doing stories for The Winnipeg Free Press, The Williston Observer in Vermont and Haaretz, a daily newspaper and online media outlet in Israel.

We say eh, use “u” in certain words and are gosh darn polite but where has it gotten us?

I argue that Canadians are incredibly innovated people, particularly our athletes.

But we don’t get the recognition we deserve.

Have a read of my column in last Saturday’s London Free Press and let me know if you agree or disagree.