Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Flashback: Skate Canada Through the Years

Continuing with the Grand Prix series flashbacks, now we'll take a look at some memorable Skate Canada performances.

2010 Skate Canada winners and their budget-cut glass medals!

Skate Canada will be the second event in the 2011-2012 Grand Prix of Figure Skating, taking place on October 28-30 in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.  How bout some history?  Here it goes:  As per Wiki, the first Skate Canada was held in 1973.  In 1987 it was held in Calgary, Alberta as a tester event for the 1988 Winter Olympics.  Like Skate America, Skate Canada was added as an official event of the Grand Prix when the series began in 1995.

There are quite a few notable ladies who have this title to their name:  Caryn Kadavy, Katarina Witt, Midori Ito, Elizabeth Manley, Kristi Yamaguchi, Lu Chen, Maria Butyrskaya, Michelle Kwan, Irina Slutskaya, Sasha Cohen, Mao Asada, Joannie Rochette and Alissa Czisny.

Here they go:

1984:  Midori Ito, Free Skate
Midori will be remembered not for her gorgeous lines, remarkable style or fashionable dresses.  No, Midori will always be remembered for her killer roof-scraping jumps.  And true to her legacy, she motors through this program, checking off one huge effortless-looking jump after the other.  Look at the coverage of the 3t-3t!  This great performance earned Midori her first and only Skate Canada title, and made her the first Japanese woman to win the event.

1995:  Michelle Kwan, Short Program
Let it never be said that competing at back-to-back events and skating well isn't possible.  One week after beating the worlds' best at Skate America, Michelle showed up at Skate Canada and continued her streak of supreme ass-kicking.  The Kween delivered her SP to "Romanza" (one of my favorites) with a confidence and maturity we just don't see in 15 year-olds anymore.  She easily won both segments of the competition and walked away with the first of her three Skate Canada titles.

2000:  Irina Slutskaya, Short Program
I have never and will never profess to love Irina Slutskaya's skating.  As a person and competitor, I like her; but her skating?  Frankly, it aggravates the hell outta me... However, I am doing memorable performances, so I submit this gem.  The 2000-2001 season continued the seesaw struggle of the Michelle/Irina rivalry.  Irina was able to notch a check mark in the win column by placing first in both segments, beating Michelle and winning the second of her two Skate Canada titles.  And, well...yeah...that's all.

2003:  Sasha Cohen, Free Skate
The 2003-2004 season was, without a doubt, Sasha's best season.  This performance of "Swan Lake" was flawed (of course), but she still delivered the rest of the goods:  gorgeous lines, lovely choreography, wonderful presentation and, at that time, the best spins in the field.  Her dynamite SP paired with her solid FS beat out 2nd place finisher Shizuka Arakawa by more than 15 points and earned Sasha the second of her two (consecutive) Skate Canada titles.

2005:  Alissa Czisny, Free Skate
Ahh, a glimpse of the brilliance that was to, uh, five years later.  After Alissa's wonderful SP and gorgeous FS to "La Bayadere" here, the buzz started and many began tapping Alissa as the new "it" girl of the US.  Of course, that did not happen.  It's taken Alissa nearly five years to realize her potential, but this performance marked the beginning of that journey.  This performance secured her the first of her two Skate Canada titles (so far).

2006:  Yu-Na Kim, Short Program
This competition was Yu-Na's debut on the senior GP.  The budding artistic/technical powerhouse nailed her SP, though the improvements to her skating then versus now are blatantly obvious.  Here she's a bit clunky and unrefined--a diamond in the rough.  But rough or not, her jumps were spot on.  Lovely 3f-3t and huge 3lz to go with the fabulous choreography of her "Tango de Roxanne" program.  Yu-Na won the SP but had trouble in the FS and ended up finishing 3rd.  Regardless, this was an awesome debut for the future Olympic Champ.

2007:  Mao Asada, Free Skate
Oh yes, the Year of the Flutz.  2007 marked the year the IJS decided it was going to heavily penalize incorrect edges.  A botched combo and heavy deductions for an edge call resulted in Mao placing 3rd in the SP.  But flutz and all, she stormed back in the FS and delivered this lovely performance.  I love her ease, confidence and speed--three things we don't see a whole lot of in Mao's skating nowadays.  Very effortless jumping and elegant delivery of the program.  She won the FS and her first and only Skate Canada title (so far).

2009:  Joannie Rochette, Short Program
I always had a soft spot for Joannie because she proved that the IJS didn't mean we had to lose the classic look of skating.  She resisted a lot of the typical IJS cliches (super flexible spins, difficult 3-3s, fugly OTB tights), worked the system and managed to come out on top.  This program was amazing:  wonderful choreography and interpretation, gorgeously clean edges and powerful jumps.  Joannie placed first in both segments and easily won her third and final Skate Canada crown.

This year the top competitors fighting for the crown will be Mirai Nagasu, Rachael Flatt, Ashley Wagner, Alena Leonova and Akiko Suzuki, plus it will be the senior debut of Elizaveta Tuktamysheva.  Also competing will be Amelie Lacoste, Cynthia Phaneuf, Sarah Hecken and Adriana Desanctis.

Check back next week for Cup of China!

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