Lucky Seven for Duhamel and Buntin?

Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin

For Craig Buntin, the road to success in pairs skating has included many traveling companions. His past partners have included Valerie Marcoux, Chantal Poirier, Elizabeth Putnam, Sarah Robinson, Angela Kang, and Marie Lavrier. With his last partner, Marcoux, he reached as high as 11th at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, fifth at the World Championships in 2006, third at Four Continents in 2004, and won three Canadian championships.

Now the 27-year-old is taking one last shot at making the Olympic Games in Vancouver with Meagan Duhamel. The 22-year-old is perhaps his strongest partner to date. Duhamel has competed in both singles and pairs for several years, making the Canadian international team in both disciplines. But she has now discontinued competing in ladies.

Duhamel has finished as high as fourth at Canadians and fifth at Four Continents in senior ladies in 2005. Competing with Ryan Arnold in pairs, Duhamel finished as high as sixth in pairs at Canadians in 2006. She finished 13th at Junior Worlds in singles in 2003 and eighth in pairs in 2005. With Arnold, Duhamel became the first pair to successfully land side-by-side triple lutzes in competition in 2005, but the pair split in 2006.

“We stopped after Canadians,” Duhamel said. “I made the national team in singles and I got funding for singles, but I enjoyed pairs more. I was injured anyway, a stress fracture in my foot that had bothered me for a few years. I had to get special treatment for the nerve injury in my foot and was off the ice for four months.”

“Then I got sick,” she continued. “When I finally got back on the ice, I got hit by another skater and cut into the muscle of my shoulder so I couldn’t do much. I had four weeks before Canadians that I was healthy and that was my whole season. I came in sixth in senior ladies and when I came off the ice, I was smiling. My goal was to be happy and I was.”

“Then I took three months off from skating to focus on university,” she continued. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I hit a plateau in skating and needed to go on with my life. In April or May, I decided that if I wanted to continue, I’d better get some choreography done. I went to New Jersey to have Nina Petrenko do my programs, then went straight to monitoring at the national team weekend.”

Marcoux and Buntin split in early 2007. “I knew Valerie was going to retire after last season,” Buntin said. “She felt that she had done all she could, but I still had goals. I hadn’t done all I wanted to do and I felt that I needed to do all that I could to get to the Olympics in Vancouver. I got in my car and drove everywhere for tryouts to try and find a girl. I drove over 3000 kilometers in Canada and the U.S. ”

“By May, I thought I’d done all I could and didn’t know what else to do,” he continued. “So I went to visit my mom in Toronto and tried to think if there was anywhere I missed that I could go. I knew that if there was a girl anywhere in the world that I would find her. I heard Meagan was interested and gave her a call. The last tryout I had was with Meagan and she was the one.”

“We skated for a few hours and it felt great,” Duhamel said. “I thought the tryout would be just for fun. But when it worked out, I told Craig that I would move to Montreal to train with him.” “The first five triple lutzes we did were perfect,” Buntin added. “We had no technical issues at all. So we knew it was a matter of how many hours we were wiling to put into it.”

“Our heads are in the same place,” he continued. “We both really want to succeed and are willing to put in the hours. If I suggest something, Meagan soaks it up like a sponge. It’s inspiring to go on the ice with her.”

The couple includes a throw triple lutz and triple salchow and side-by-side triple salchows and a triple toe-double toe combination in their long program. For the short, they use the throw triple lutz and side-by-side triple toe loops. “We didn’t want to try to do too much the first season,” Buntin said. “We know what we can do but we decided to get this program flying and improve our levels. In the spring, we’ll work on new elements. It was too quick this year.”

Richard Gauthier, Manon Perron and Bruno Marcotte coach the skaters, who train at Saint Leonard in Quebec. “We started in June,” Buntin noted. “In the beginning, we were spending eight or nine hours a day training. Now we’re back to a normal schedule, three hours a day, five days a week plus an hour of choreography with Julie Marcotte.”

Marcotte choreographed both programs for the new couple. They are using “Best Latin Tango” by Rodrigo Buertillo for the short and “Tosca” by Giacomo Puccini for the long. “I picked the music,” Duhamel said. “It was the first time in ten years that I picked both programs. My short program music was a Latin tango. When I typed that in on YouTube, that music was the first that came up.” “The music from ‘Tosca” is inspiring,” Buntin said. “I wanted to use something familiar, but powerful, fast and exciting.”

“In my old career, I had to skate to slow and boring music, so I wanted a change,” Duhamel continued. “Anything that Meagan wants, is fine with me,” Buntin noted. The duo choreographed their exhibition program to “Bolero” from the closing of “Moulin Rouge”. “I wanted to skate to ‘Bolero’ for years,” Duhamel said, “and Craig said he loved it. We did it two days before the Nebelhorn.”

The couple took the silver medal at the Nebelhorn Trophy in their first competition together. It was an auspicious beginning as Marcoux and Buntin won the event in their first competition in 2002. Duhamel and Arnold also took the silver in Oberstdorf in 2005. Duhamel and Buntin finished sixth at their first senior Grand Prix, Skate Canada in Quebec. They went on to win the bronze medal at Canadian Nationals in 2008, just five points out of first.

Buntin is taking a course in entrepreneurship at Athabasca University online. “I want to have some business related to skating,” he said. “I enjoy the creative culture of skating and I want to keep that in my life.”

Duhamel likes to travel, meet new people, bake and read. She also goes on Facebook every night before bed. Buntin enjoys riding a unicycle, swing dancing, watching indie wrestling shows, and playing the guitar among other things. “Three years ago, I made a list of all the things I wanted to do before I die and those are some of them,” he said. “I want to get in the Guinness Book of World records someday, scuba dive, and see the Great Wall of China. I used to carry the list around with me every day.”

Both skaters hope to compete for several more seasons. “I’ll go as long as my body works,” Buntin said. “Once it’s not fun, it’s over,” echoed Duhamel. “That’s why I quit for a while because it had stopped being fun. But now I’m having fun again.”

Rochette Remains Queen of the Ice

During an early Sunday morning, Joannie Rochette, proved she was still the queen of Canadian ice, and put an end to a streak of newly crowned champions. It was the fourth Canadian crown for the twenty-one-year-old who trains at Saint –Leonard CPA in Quebec. Hometown teen Mira Leung, of Vancouver, B.C. once again played bridesmaid and Cynthia Phaneuf, now 19, returned to the podium from which she has been absent since 2005.

“I am not a morning person,” Rochette told the media. “But, I was still able to come here with a smile this morning. My coach was impressed with that. It’s good practice. You have to be ready to do your job any time, any hour of the day.”

Rochette took to the ice in Vancouver, and skated with flair during her dramatic presentation to “Concerto No. 1” by P. Tchaikovski. The 2007 Four Continents bronze medalist opened with a light and easy double Axel, but then fell on the downgraded triple flip/triple toe which followed. Her triple Lutz was well-done as was her level three spins that were low, fast and well-centered. Joannie earned 59.32 points and entered the free skate in first place.

“It is never easy for me to skate last because you have to wait and you have to warm-up a bit on the ice and as you can see I had a little trouble with my feet. Overall I felt really good, I attacked the performance and I felt inspired to try the triple/triple,” Rochette explained.

Winning the bronze medal at Skate Canada and again at Cup of Russia in November gave the reigning champion confidence. She delivered a lovely lyrical program to “N’as tu pas Honte, Un Grand Homme est Mort, and Aimer” from Don Juan by Felix Gray earning 116.44 points.

Screams filled the arena when Joannie landed a solid opening triple Lutz/ double toe/ double loop, but she then struggled on the landing of the triple flip and fell on the triple Lutz. She rebounded quickly with steps into a triple loop, a triple Salchow and a triple toe + triple Salchow sequence.

She wobbled on her upright spin but delivered footwork with great flow. The twenty-two-year-old received a free skate total of 115.44 points and an event total of 175.76 points.

“I came here to do my own personal best. In the Grand Prix’s I did better but this was still good,” stated Rochette. “I did six triples out of my seven and my training made the difference. Even though I had mistakes, I was able to come back and do my combination at the end of the program.”

“I really liked what Jeff said. That it’s better to come second with a good performance than to come first with a bad one,” Rochette stated. “Even though this wasn’t my best, I still felt it was a good program. That’s all that matters.”

“It feels good to keep the title,” Rochette said smiling. First you just want to make it to worlds but inside it is emotional. I think that’s why I want to skate my best here for the exhibition.”

Rochette hopes to land a triple/triple at Four Continents and the World Championships. The Quebec skater has a bet going with coach Mannon Perron where she gets one-hundred dollars each time she lands her triple/triple jump. On the other hand, Joannie must pay Mannon if she does not do it.

“I want to land the triple/triple in the short at Four Continents and Worlds, and then I can go shopping (referring to the bet with coach Mannon Perron),” Rochette said laughing. “ Right now we are even, so no shopping just yet.”

The hometown fans were on hand to support local gal, Mira Leung, on her quest for her illusive first Canadian title. The two-time silver medalist got an unusual Christmas present this year – a new short program. When most were at home by the fire on Christmas eve, sipping hot toddies with family and friends; the eighteen-year-old laced up her skates and took to the ice to learn her new short program.

Leung showed a new more genteel approach in her short program which featured a solid triple flip/double loop combination, then followed with a triple flip and a well-executed double Axel. Finishing fifth at both her Grand Prix events –Skate America and Skate Canada, the jumping bean gathered 58.24 points and is currently in second place.

“I changed my program on Christmas Eve,” Leung stated. Actually, I am glad we made the change because everything has worked so well,” she added. “I was really happy I got to skate in front of my home crowd.”

Skating to “Piano Concerto No.2 and Piano Concerto No. 3” by Sergei Rachmaninov, the Olympian delivered a technically difficult program which featured five triples but fell on the flip. Leung, who trains at the BC Center of Excellence under Joanne McLeod, received a level 4 on three of her spins but the layback was judged a level three.

Stuffed animals rained down on the ice as her free skate score of 103.86 points posted on the jumbotron and reflected an event total of 162.10 points placing the teen in second place.

“I am very disappointed I made those mistakes – especially on the second flip.” Mira said with disappointment in her voice. “I was probably to close to the boards. I am happy with the rest of my program, and I know what I have to work on for worlds.”

When asked to elaborate Mira explained, “That flip I’m always having trouble with it, I need to take out some steps into the 0flip so I am not so close to the boards.”

Elegance oozed from return medalist Cynthia Phaneuf as she stepped on the ice. The 2004 Canadian Champion who finished fourth last season, returns to Canadians with a new-found confidence. The twenty-year-old skated a gorgeous program to “You’re So Beautiful” by Carol Hugo Van de Kerchhove. Cynthia nailed her opening double Axel and followed it with a strong triple Lutz/ double toe combination. Phaneuf, ran into problems when she singled the flip and struggled with her flying sit spin. The two-time medalist accrued 53.49 points and is currently in third place.

Her free skate to” Claire De Lune” by Angele Dubeau was exquisitely choreographed by famed choreographer, David Wilson. Her gentle presentation was highlighted by her exquisite line and flow on the ice. Phaneuf, skated with determination and fought for the landing on each and every jump. The 5’ 6” beauty lost her fight and put hands down on the double Axel and also put a hand down on the triple toe. The two-time Canadian medalist (2004-1st and 2005-2nd) earned 104.61 points for their free skate and achieved a personal best score of 158.10 points and captured the bronze medal.

“I am very happy to be back on ice,” said Phaneuf, 20, from Contrecoeur, Que. “This year, I was a lot stronger. I wasn’t as nervous as I was last year.”

Leslie Hawker, reigning Canadian bronze medalist, gave a lyrical performance to “Moon River” by Liberace, but had problems on the triple Lutz/ double loop then fell on a double flip. The Ontario based skater accrued 48.20 points and entered the free skate in seventh place.

Hawker, 26, gave a spectacular performance in the free skate, to “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “Hymn to the Fallen” by John Williams. Hawker rose to fourth place overall with an event total of 155.61 points – the second best of the day. The tears flowed freely at the end of her feat.

“I don’t know why I’m crying,” reported the twenty-six-year-old who trains in Michigan under Richard Callaghan. “This skating thing is stressful.”

“I take it one day at a time because I’m practically in the geriatric ward,” joked Hawker when asked about her age. “I train with Todd Eldredge who didn’t land his first quad till he was thirty and well Elvis, he was over thirty and contending for a World Championship. I really don’t think age is an issue at all.”

Myriane Samson had a stellar short program to “Within” earning a personal best score of 54.88 points which landed her in third place. The 2004 Junior Canadian Champion delivered powerful jumps which included a strong double Axel, triple Lutz/double loop and a triple flip.

The fifth place finisher at last years Canadians, plummeted to fifth place overall after placing fifth in the free skate with 88.30 points. The nineteen-year-old skated a disappointing program to selections from “Memoir Of A Geisha.” Things seemed to go awry for the teen when she doubled many of her jumps and fell on the triple Lutz/ double loop.

Jessica Dube, of Varennes, Quebec rebounded from her eighteenth place finish at Canadians last season finishing sixth here in Vancouver with a competition total of 131.62 points.

We Wanted to do it With the Fans

In a heartfelt ceremony Olympic Champions Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were inducted into The Canadian Figure Skating Hall of Fame. The honors took place during the 2008 Canadian Figure Skating Championships on Sunday, January 20, with thousands of fans, fellow skaters, coaches and officials present.

Sale and Pelletier were presented with a replica of a picture that will be hung at the main headquarters of Skate Canada. The outstanding presentation was made by Skate Canada’s Director of Marketing and Sponsorship – Debbie Wilkes.

A video was shown recapping the career of the charismatic couple. Tears welled up in their eyes as the two spoke of their career and thanked all those who willingly helped, inspired and supported them “in so many ways” throughout the years.

Sale spoke first and shared, “When we are at home and watching an induction or retirement; we always say ‘why are they crying?’ it’s supposed to be a happy occasion. We had a great career, and you don’t think it is an emotional thing but in that moment it really is powerful when they mention our names and people focus on you, and it’s all about you. We get it now.”

Jamie thanked their family and friends. She spoke of people like Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, World Champion Kurt Browning, Olympic silver medalist Debbie Wilkes, Olympic bronze medalist Tracy Wilson and the late Rob McCall, amongst others.

Then she moved to their coaches Richard Gauthier, and Jan Ulmark (who Jamie admits she thinks of like a dad). She thanked Skate Canada CEO William Thompson and then moved to Skate Canada President Benoit Lavoie. As Jamie spoke of Benoit tears filled his eyes and the two embraced.

“You saw us as people first and not just skaters, and we really want to thank you for that,” said the Olympic gold medalist.

Then it was Pelletier’s turn. He thanked his first coach and shared how he wanted to quit skating, but it was his coach’s charisma that kept bringing him back to the rink.

“I had fun with him and that kept me coming back,” shared Pelletier. He spoke of how the two got together. “Jamie called me in 1996 and asked me to skate with her, but I turned her down,” Pelletier shared.

“Jamie went and did singles and then two years later she called me again. This time I said yes. It is with Jamie’s perseverance, we got together, and I thank her for that. And without each other, there would have been none of this,” he told Jamie. David hushed Jamie stating, “It’s my turn, and I am not finished.

The crowd laughed. David continued,”The Canadian fans are the best in the world.” The crowd cheered. “We want to thank you most of all because without you, there would be no skating.”

Jamie again took control and realized she had not thanked her life-long partner.

“The best is that I was being inducted with David,” Sale shared during the press conference that followed. “I am just so grateful that I’ve had the career I’ve had with David. He’s been a great partner, he’s a great husband and a great father.”

“Skate Canada asked us where we wanted the ceremony and several venues were discussed. For us there was never a question as to where the celebration should be held. We want to do it with the fans, for without them; there would be no skating,” reemphasized Pelletier.

Chan Clips Buttle’s Wings

With amazing grace seventeen-year-old prodigy Patrick Chan took to the ice at the Pacific Coliseum Saturday, and became one of the youngest Canadian Senior Men’s Champions in the history of Canadian skating. It was originally thought Chan was the youngest but this has since been contested. Charles Snelling who was a six-time national champion reportedly claimed his first title in 1954 at the age of 16.

When Patrick was told of his feat his first comment was, “Holy Schmolly I didn’t know that!”

The 2007 World junior silver medalist edged out three-time Canadian Champion Jeffrey Buttle but the unpretentious teenager plays down any rivalry between the Canadian skaters.

“Jeffrey is my teammate, and I consider him a friend. He is an remarkable skater, and I can learn a lot from him” Patrick stated. “I did not come here to beat Jeff, I came here to get a spot on the World team, Chan emphasized.

Patrick who now has a complete set of Canadian medals – winning pre-novice in 2003, novice in 2004, juniors in 2005 and now seniors in 2008. The Toronto based teen is now coached by Don Laws and Ellen Burka but attributes his superb basic skating skills and sportsmanship attitude to his late coach Osbourne Colson who passed away in 2006 – at the age of 90.

Unbeknownst to many, Chan, who has not only excelled in ice skating, but is quite accomplished as a concert pianist and plays a mean game of tennis.

The highly musical skater gave a thumbs up performance to “Le Quattro Stagioni” by Vivaldi.

The 2007 Trophee Bompard Champion displayed a beautiful array of elements which reflected the nuances in the music.

Chan’s jumps were solid. He opened with a triple Axel with a pillow-soft landing, then followed it with a great triple flip/triple toe. His triple Lutz was stellar as was his double Axel and solo triple flip. He completed two additional combinations – a triple Lutz/double toe/double loop and a triple Salchow/double toe.

Patrick told the media, “Once I landed my opening triple Axel. I was on cruising after that.”

The youngster who gains power and speed with each stroke on the ice, highlighted his program with intricate patterns on his level thee steps.

The roar of the audience was deafening, as the crowd rose to its feet at the end of Patrick’s awe-inspiring free skate. The highly charismatic young phenomenon received a personal best score of 159.26 points and gathered a combined total of 232.68 points to capture his first senior title.

“I want to bring (Canada) three spots home for worlds next year,” Chan said with excitement. “This is my goal. We’ve got so many good Canadian guys.”

Buttle was no slouch in his free skate to “Ararat” by Michael Danna, but the overnight leader slid one spot when he was unable to match Chan’s magical performance.

The Olympic bronze medalist returned to his former program after having lackluster results earlier this season. The three-time Canadian Champion delivered a beautiful program which included six clean triple jumps.

However, his program was not without errors as the 2007 World silver medalist fell on his solo triple Axel and doubled the Lutz. His intricate footwork was impressive and his top-like spins superb.

“I’d rather be second with a good skate than to have a bad skate and win,” said Buttle. “The energy in the arena was awesome. I know they were cheering for Patrick’s marks, but it got me fired up. Before the music started, I told myself I’m not going to give up without a fight.”

The twenty-five-year-old earned a segment score of 149.05 points. Buttle edged Chan on the components receiving the highest of the competition(79.26/77.60 points) but came up short on the technical. His event total of 229.85 points held him steadily in second place winning the silver medal by over thirty-two points.

“I knew as soon as the technical marks went up,” said Buttle. “I was really disappointed that I didn’t get my fourth title. My training is going really well, and I will go into Four Continents with more confidence.”

Sawyer was all smiles and had a superior skate jumping his way onto the podium with his flexibility and style.

Skating a lyrical program to “Moments in Love” by Art of Noise the twenty-two-year-old returns to the podium after placing third in 2005 and 2006 but managed only fourth place last season.

Sawyer opened his program with an outstanding level four change foot combination spin into a solid triple flip/triple toe. The twelfth place finisher at the 2006 Olympic Games, danced has way to the triple Axel but landed on two feet and then managed only level one on his circular steps.

Sawyer highlighted his program with a steady triple loop + triple loop sequence followed by triple Salchow/double toe/double loop combination. The Canadian, who trains under Annie Barabe in Quebec, received positive GOE’s for his sensational spins and straight line steps. He gathered 133.48 points for his free skate and a competition total of 197.48 points – a new personal best.

The Alberta boy, Vaughn Chipeur, from Edmonton, rose to the fourth spot despite a sixth place

free skate to the soundtracks from “Dances with Wolves, Out of Africa, and Zulu” by John Barry.

Probably, the most consistent triple Axel man on the Canadian team failed on both attempts this evening. Chipeur put his hands down on the first and popped the second into a single.

The twenty-three-year-old offered a marred triple flip/ double toe yet managed a strong triple Lutz. He later doubled the loop and landed on two feet.

The 2004 Junior Canadian Champion regained his form landing a nice triple Salchow and followed it with a stellar triple Lutz/double toe/double toe. He delivered four solid spins but his footwork was a mere level two. However, it was good enough to pull up to fourth place with an event total 191.36 points.

Dropping like a stone to fifth place overall was Christopher Mabee of Tillsonburg, Ontario with a free program worth 120.18 points.

The 2006 Four Continents silver medalist produced an error prone program to “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Bob Fosse which seemed elusive of the twenty-two-year olds usual charm.

Placing only seventh in the free skate the 2007 Canadian silver medalist struggled on his opening triple flip, went hands down on the first triple Axel and popped the second to a single. He managed five clean triples including a Lutz, loop, Salchow, Lutz/ double toe combination and wrapped it up with a solo triple toe.

Chris earned an event total of 190.64 points.

Kevin Reynolds placed sixth and made it to the history books with the first quad toe/triple toe/ triple loop ever landed at Canadians. Only the second man worldwide to accomplish this feat he placed fifth in the free program with 122.48 points.

His technical score was second only to Chan but the seventeen-year-old jumping bean suffered on the components and received only 52.46 points. His overall point total of 182.58 earned the teen a spot at the 2008 World Junior Championships.

Twenty-one-year-old Ken Rose gave a high-energy performance to “Sing! Sing! Sing!” by Louis Prima which lifted the 2003 Canadian Junior Champion to seventh spot overall after placing fourth in the free with 122.48 points. His total event score was 181.69 points – a new personal best.

The much talked about return of Fedor Andreev fell short of expectations when Fedor finished eleventh in his “Tango Concerto” by Astor Piazzolla.

The Russian born skater who has been out of competition due to a back injury, earned the third highest component scores behind Chan and Buttle. However, the Senior Challenge Champion was unable to produce the technical content of the top men and tumbled to eighth place overall with 178.80 points.

It’s a Hay Day for Langlois and Hay

Anabelle Langlois did not believe her partner when he told her that they had won the Canadian pairs title. In fact, she said “no” so emphatically it put doubt in his mind, and he had to double check the monitor to make sure they had won, reported the new Canadian champions.

Anabelle had tears in her eyes when she realized it was true and Cody told the media that was almost worth more than winning the prestigious title.

“When I saw the excitement and relief on Anabelle’s face that was almost a bigger excitement for me,” shared Cody. “I am aware of the highs and lows of her previous partnership (with Patrice Archetto). This was a long time coming for Anabelle but not too long for me.” Cody said jokingly, “I took the express route.”

The 2007 Canadian bronze medalists skated a sassy short program to “Historia De Un Amor” by Perez Prado.

They opened with perfectly synched side-by-side triple toes, but then the pair collided on the triple twist lift that followed. The throw triple flip was rock-solid but Cody slipped on their straight line steps, dropping their footwork to a level one.

The fourth place finishers at 2007 Skate Canada International completed their short program with 62.73 points.

“We didn’t have the Grand Prix season we wanted,” Anabelle told the media. “We kept moving up but we had a lot of adjustments to make.”

In their free skate to Dr Zhivago by Maurice Jarre, the fifth place finishers at NHK exhibited an outstanding throw triple Salchow and then followed it up with steady side-by side triple toes.

The duo then ran into problems when they doubled and went hands down on a planned triple Salchow but recovered nicely with a throw triple flip. Annabelle and Cody delivered three strong level four lifts and spiral steps but managed only a level one on the Lutz triple twist.

“Coming off the ice I was a little frustrated with myself because I came here to do perfect and I didn’t do that,” said Anabelle.

The pair finished second in the free skate with 112.28 points however, ended the event in first place with an event total of 175.01 points, edging out Dube and Davison by .15 points.

Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison gave an error-prone program to “ Galicia Flemenca” by Gino D’auri earning a total of 54.32 points and finishing the short in fifth place.

It was a rough skate tonight,” said Davison. “That’s all I can say. We didn’t skate our best. We have been practicing well all week. We’ve just got to look forward to the free.”

The reigning Canadian champions had trouble with their side-by-side triple Salchows (which were downgraded) when Jessica doubled and Bryce stumbled. She also fell on a throw triple loop and then Bryce stumbled on the straight line steps dropping the sequence to level one.

“I usually land (the throw) with no problem, so I have no idea what happened there,” Dube said disappointedly.

“We can still make it,” added Davison. “There’s still room for us to come up. We’re going to need to skate really well but we’re still confident. We will focus on making the world team and not regaining our title, at this point. ”

The Quebec based duo recouped overnight with a moving performance to “The Blower’s Daughter” by Damien Rice.

Their free skate was charming and earned the reigning national champion’s 120.54 points – a new personal best.

Despite a fall on the recently added throw triple Lutz, the duo delivered strong elements (double twist, double Axel + double Axel sequence, side-by side triple Salchows, and a throw triple loop) and skated with tenderness and passion. Their lifts were superb and the footwork intricate.

“We were really confident and even coming here this week, all our practices were good.”

The couple received an overall personal best score of 174.86 and captured the silver medal.

“We were happy winning the free program after a short like that,” said Davison. “It shows what we’re really made of, and I think we’re going to learn more from this than going out and having two clean performances. It’s going to help us grow as a team and that’s the way we’re looking at it right now.”

The newly formed team of Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin have only been together for a short seven months, however, the chemistry and unison between this team is already evident.

Buntin who was 2006 World bronze medalist Valerie Marcoux (who retired) paired up with Duhamel last June. Duhamel a strong single’s skater in her own right, also came equipped with strong pair skills; as she skated pairs with Ryan Arnold finishing eighth at the World Junior Championships in 2006.

Duhamel packed up her things and moved to Quebec after one try-out with Buntin. The pair currently trains at Saint-Leonard with Mannon Perron and Richard Gauthier. The couple gelled quickly and earned a silver medal at their first international competition – the Nebelhorn Trophy in late September.

Their powerful short program to “The Best Latin Tango” was exquisite and their elements superb.

“What you see right now is just a shadow of what we’re going to be. Even tonight wasn’t as good as we can be. It was very good, and we’re happy to come out at our first national championships like that. However, we have a lot of potential. We’ve worked so hard and just being here is an accomplishment in itself,” Buntin stated emphatically.

They opened with a high double twist followed by perfectly synched triple toes. They highlighted their program with well-timed level four spins, solid level three steps and a gorgeous Axel lasso lift with a unique dismount they call the helicopter.

The jam-packed program which was only marred by a hand down on the throw triple flip earned the duo a short program total of 61.48 points – a new personal best.

“We’ve put in 14 months of work in the past seven months,” Buntin told the media.

Skating to “Tosca” the couple skated with passion and conviction and were rock-solid on their triple toe/double toe combination, throw triple loop and throw triple Lutz.

Only managing marred double Salchows and a level one pair spin, they dropped one spot with a free program worth 108.80 points. Meagan and Craig captured the bronze medal with an overall score of 170.28 points.

“It’s been like an unbelievable journey,” Duhamel shared. “I’ve had a really bad run of Canadian championships, so this feels really good.”

The brother sister team of Kyra Moskovitch, 14, and Dylan Moskovitch, 23, gave a performance that shouted “hey watch out for us.”

Their high-energy short program to “ Bei Mir Bist Du Schon” and “ Jumpin’ At The Woodside” from Swing kids was flawless and opened with perfectly timed triple toes then followed with a high-flying throw triple flip.

The duo earned a level four on their pair combination spin and level three on their Axel lasso lift, backward inside death spiral and perfectly synched flying change foot combination spin.

However, the double twist and straight line steps were a mere level two leaving the Ontario based duo in third after the short program.

Coached by Kristy and Kris Wirtz the 2006 National Junior Gold Medalists skated a stunning free program choreographed by David Wilson to the music “ Sheherazade” by Rimsky Korsakov.

The seventh placed team at last year’s senior championship displayed matched lines and perfectly tuned elements.

Opening with a gorgeous lateral triple twist, double Axel/double toe and near perfect triple toe’s, the pair seemed to struggle on their Axel lasso lift for which they received a level one.

The audience became excited when the duo executed a beautiful toe lasso to carry lift but the couple received zero points because they failed to complete the required two revolutions.

The throw triple flip was outstanding as was their perfectly matched flying change foot combination spin which earned a plus two GOE from six of the eight judges. They earned 103.75 points for their free skate and finished the competition in fourth spot with a personal best score of 160.76 points.

Rachel Kirkland and Eric Bradford rallied from a disappointing short program where they placed eighth with 50.46 points.

The duo who train along side World bronze medalists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, of Germany, earned a new personal best score of 106.60 in their free skate to “X” Medley by Naoki Sato.

Their jam-packed program was choreographed by David Wilson and Ingo Steuer.

The fifth place finishers at last year’s Canadians produced a technically demanding program which was highlighted by a level three twist lift, triple Salchow, a throw triple Salchow and a double loop/ double toe combination.

The couple earned a free skate score of 106.60 and a competition total of 157.06 and pulled themselves up from eighth to fifth place.

After falling on the attempt of a quad Salchow Jessica Miller and Ian Moram slipped to sixth place with an event total of 153.92 points.

Hungary’s Hadford Heralds Her Heritage

Katherine Hadford

Katherine Hadford, from Vienna, Virginia, is the latest American-born skater to skate for the country of her heritage. “My mother is a Hungarian citizen,” Hadford explained. “My grandparents escaped from Hungary and emigrated to the United States in the 1950’s. When communism left Hungary in 1989, several families who were forced to leave for the sake of their lives thought about going back and several actually have moved back”

“I have always felt connected to Hungary,” she continued. “Until I was about three years old, my grandparents babysat us while my parents worked. I spoke only Hungarian and heard many stories about our great relatives, including Szechenyi Istvan, and about how productive Hungary was before the Soviet invasion. We also traveled to Hungary to visit our relatives.”

“I decided to skate for Hungary to broaden my life experiences,” she continued. “I am interested in foreign diplomacy and I wanted to live there to perfect my knowledge of the Hungarian language, culture, and people. At the same time, since I wanted to also continue skating, I explored the idea of skating for Hungary. I thought if I qualified to be a part of the Hungarian National Team I could live and train in Hungary, perfect the language, learn more about the culture as well as continue skating and competing.”

“Languages, geography, and history are my favorite subjects,” she continued. “Training in Hungary as well as in other European countries and competing for Hungary give me an opportunity to increase my knowledge in these subjects as well as continue my passion for figure skating. I also hope to bring some good results for Hungary and to promote figure skating in Hungary.”

Hadford began skating when she was seven. Prior to that, she had tried tennis, skiing, soccer, and swimming. “Nobody else in my family figure skates,” she continued. “My mother was a competitive skier and tennis player and everyone in my family still skis and plays tennis. My brothers and sister also play travel and high school soccer. One of my uncles was the Hungarian national fencing champion, another was a Hungarian swimming champion and participated in the Olympics, and one of my aunts was a competitive horseback rider in the United States.”

“One summer my Mom took me to the local ice rink to sign me up for group lessons just for fun,” she recalled. “I had done some ballet classes but I was really bored with ballet and asked to try something new. I had seen Oksana Baiul on TV and loved her skating and thought it would be fun to try it out also.”

Once she started, she gave up other sports to concentrate on skating. “I landed my first triple jumps at about eleven years old and they were the triple salchow and triple toe loop,” she recalled. “I really like to learn new elements and spinning in different positions. I also enjoy competitions and especially enjoy charity shows and exhibitions. My favorite charity show in which I have performed several times is Harvard University’s Evening With Champions. I also love traveling to different countries, meeting new people, and learning about different cultures.”

In the United States, Hadford achieved her best results in the 2002 U.S. Nationals when she finished fourth in novice ladies at the age of twelve. That same year she earned a bronze medal in Slovenia at the Triglav Trophy – her first international assignment. But was too young to qualify for further international assignments. Her last U. S. Nationals was in 2005, when she finished 17th in senior ladies.

Although she began skating in Hungary in 2005, the 18-year-old did not start competing in Hungary until 2006, finishing third in seniors the last two seasons before taking the silver medal this season. Hadford finished 24th in a field of 52 at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in 2007, her first major international. This week, she is competing at the European Championships in Zagreb, Croatia, her first senior ISU championships.

Earlier this season, although she skated well, she placed a disappointing 23rd in the ISU JGP Vienna Cup, but rebounded with a 12th place finish at the ISU JGP Pokal der Blauen Schwerter in Chemnitz, Germany in October. She scored her personal bests in the free skate and overall.

Jerana Ipakjan coaches Hadford, who trains in Budapest, Hungary full time. Last season, she trained with Zsofia Kulcsar in Hungary. While still in the United States, Hadford had worked in Delaware with Priscilla Hill and Natalia Linichuk, both of whom she strongly admires and respects even to this day. “On the average, I train about three hours on ice, about an hour off ice, and another hour for ballet and Pilates,” Hadford said. “Running, swimming, and bicycling are often part of my off ice training routine.”

Ipakjan choreographed Hadford’s programs for the 2007-08 season. She is using “Flashdance” by George Moroder for her short program and “Selections” by Michael Smith for the free skate. For a gala program, Hadford has chosen several favorites among which are: “My Heart Will Go On”, “I Will Survive,” “March With Me,” and “Ave Maria.” She usually chooses the one which best fits the show’s theme.

“Whenever my coach or I hear a piece of music we like we show it to each other and then she decides if it will work for me or not,” Hadford said. “We choose music that best fits my skating style and ones that will best allow me to do everything required under the new judging system. In competitions, I prefer to skate to classical or modern classical. In exhibitions I enjoy many varieties, especially music with words because for competitions we cannot skate to music with words.”

“Under the new judging system it is very difficult to be creative,” she continued. “The rules spell out exactly what you are allowed to do, how many points each element is worth, etc. The new system does not allow a lot of room for creativity or uniqueness. Sometimes I do come up with new spin positions, combinations, spirals, footwork ideas and I show them to my coach and then she decides which can be used in accordance with the new judging system rules and which is worth the most points.”

Hadford is in the twelfth grade at Seton School. Her favorite subjects are history, geography, and languages. “I hope to continue learning at least one other language but preferably two more,” she said. “I am fluent in Hungarian and English. I plan to be involved in foreign affairs in the diplomatic field.”

Aside from her demanding skating schedule and school studies, Hadford has also given several hours of free figure skating lessons to Hungarian children afflicted with cancer, devotes many hours to raising money for “Food For The Poor,” and will also begin tutoring Hungarians in English.

“I plan to attend university after skating,” she continued. “Since full time skating training means I must be on the ice or in off ice training during school hours, it is impossible to be in a classroom at the same time. Your body cannot be in two places at the same time! Right now I plan to put attending university on hold for a short time until I am finished with my competitive skating career. Once I attend university, I want to make sure I attend all the classes like the regular full time students.”

Off ice, Hadford said, “I like going to the movies or watching some of the old time movies and modern shows on TV. Some of my more recent favorites are Pursuit of Happiness, Legally Blonde, Freedom Writers, The Devil Wears Prada, and Music and Lyrics. I like taking long walks with my family and dogs on the beach. We have two dogs. One of them is an adopted dog that someone abandoned. He is epileptic and requires a lot of care. We also have two dwarf bunnies. I like sewing and making things. I like just sitting around the house and relaxing with my family or visiting my cousins who live nearby. Sometime its fun to go to the malls and just look around.”

Hadford enjoys listening to a variety of music. “It is difficult to pick favorites because I like so many different types,” she said. “With classical music, violin and piano are my favorites. I like listening to current musical hits but I also enjoy many of the older hits like Sonny and Cher, Sting, and Gloria Gaynor.”

“My favorite thing to do when I have nothing to do is reading,” she stated. “I like to read just about anything — magazines as well as books. Sometimes I read magazines that are mostly gossip, and often I read really interesting ones like National Geographic. Aside from the many schoolbooks I am required to read, I love reading the diaries of various people who lived through war, especially people from Eastern Europe and China.”

“I love to travel, especially with my family,” Hadford said. “I cannot specify one favorite trip because each trip I have taken had very special and memorable moments. Some of the most memorable ones are Venice, Italy, our first trip to Hungary, Lake Placid, and Los Angeles. When I have some free time I like to play tennis and soccer. I like skiing also but we do not have many opportunities to do that because of my busy schedule.”

“My competitive skating goals for the next season are to train focused, to stay injury free, and to perform optimally at my competitions,” she said. “I hope to be able to qualify to participate in some senior Grand Prix competitions in the future.”

Virtue and Moir Dance Away With Gold

Tessa Virtue, 18, and Scott Moir, 20, performed as expected in Vancouver and sailed to the gold medal with an event total of 209.09 points. The team who has been together for over ten years out-danced their peers in all three phases of the competition.

Their Yankee Polka showed marked improvement, since they won their first gold of the season at Skate Canada International in early November. The duo couldn’t put a foot wrong and took command of the ice on their joyful portrayal of the polka. The dancers sat steadily in first place eclipsing their closest competitor by over seven points.

They took command with every step in their dramatic portrayal of their “Dark Eyes” folk dance exhibiting deep edges and stunning choreography. Their sensational level four combination spin, unique curve lift and quick-stepping circular footwork were highlights in their high-energy Russian Folk Dance.

The 2007 Canadian silver medalists were awarded level four on all elements except for their opening combination spin. The gold medal favourites received a huge ovation from the crowd when their original dance score of 65.29 points flashed on the scoreboard.

However, it was really in the free dance that the duo shined leaving their competitors in the dust with a free dance score of 103.76 points. Their heartfelt presentation to “Umbrellas of Cherbourg” soundtrack by Michel Legrand displayed exquisite choreography set by coach and choreographer Igor Shpilband.

“We’ve trained hard so that every competition, we do is better, and we have been working really hard on our conditioning and the expression of the program,” Moir stated. “We had three solid skates here, and we want to build on the momentum going into Four Continents and Worlds.”

Their near-perfect free dance received a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd. Delivering dizzying-fast twizzles, impressive lifts, and a very close diagonal step sequence the Canadians clearly out-paced the rest of the field ending the event with an incredible victory by 33.48 points.

“It means a lot,” Moir told the media about winning the championship. “It’s definitely a huge goal of ours, I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet. We’re hoping to take this momentum and use it at Four Continents and Worlds, and hopefully be best in the World – hopefully soon.”

“It is great to skate in this arena building towards 2010,” Virtue commented about the 2010 Olympic venue.

Kaitlyn Weaver, 18, and Andrew Poje, 20, finished in the second spot with 175.61 points. The American/Canadian match-up were third in the Yankee Polka with 32.54 points, but pulled up to the second spot with a blazing fast folk dance to Galactic music earning them a segment score of 55.60 points.

The duo displayed elegant lines, deep edges and great speed.

“We’re both tall, so we try and use it to our advantage,” Poje told the media. “This is only our second season together, and we’ve been working really hard with our coaches to improve our programs.”

Finishing sixth at 2007 Skate Canada, the duo has made coaching changes and are currently training with Matthew Gates in the USA and Shae-Lynn Bourne in Canada.

“We are working out the logistics right now. We have been doing a lot of travelling right now, but so far it’s worth it. We have seen big improvements already, and we hope we can make more,” Poje stated. “While our poor result at Skate Canada was a wake up call for us, it was not the sole reason for our move to Shae-Lynn and Matthew.”

Kaitlyn and Andrew were fourth in the free dance as they suffered a deduction for a fall when Andrew lost his balance. However, the couple who have been together since July, 2006, displayed impressive level four lifts and an outstanding level four circular step sequence.

“We were lucky it was not on an element, otherwise the penalty would be much more severe” said Kaitlyn. We tried to put it behind us and not think about it during the program.”

The Waterloo based skaters accumulated a total event score of 175.61 points and a new personal best.

“We’re looking forward to going to Worlds, and we don’t know about Four Continents, yet” Weaver stated. “We were in Korea once overnight when we were on our way to a JGP. It would be nice to go back.”

The hometown kids Allie Hann-McCurdy, 20, and Michael Coreno, 23, took to the ice and edged their way to the second spot with a fun-filled and light-hearted polka worth 32.62 points.

In the original dance, the duo fell short of the second spot and were eclipsed by last year’s bronze medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. The duo train at the BC Centre of Excellence under the tutelage of Victor and Maikki Kratz.

It was surprising when the duo dropped to third place with their charming Newfoundland Jig set to the soundtrack “The Log Driver’s Waltz.”

The Nebelhorn fourth place finishers displayed improved speed and lively steps engaging the audience who clapped to each beat. The highly animated couple successfully captured the character of the dance and the hearts of the audience to gather a total of 54.60 points for this phase of the competition.

“It was a really difficult after last year’s Canadian’s, and you have no assignments. Then you have to change your program in the middle of the summer,” Allie told the media. “You then have to do a summer competition to prove yourself to get an international assignment. We had to then compete at Nebelhorn to get a spot at Skate Canada. At first we were just hoping for a top five finish at Canadians, but then when we placed fourth at Nebelhorn and then fourth at Skate Canada, we started believing maybe we can make it to the podium this season. I just feel really proud of us,” she added.

However, it was really in the free dance the 2006 Junior National Champions really let loose. They skated a free-spirited and animated dance to “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin.

The couple opened with an extremely fast rotational level four lift which displayed strong changes of position that earned them a positive GOE.

The dancers placed only fifth in their free dance despite a strong skate which exhibited exquisite level four lifts and spot on level four twizzles. They were judged only level two on their no touch midline steps and level three on their dance spin and circular steps.

“We need to go home and go back to the drawing board,” Allie stated. “We need to work on bringing up our levels before Four Continents and Worlds.“

The audience supported the team and clapped along giving them a huge ovation when they took to the ice.

“The crowd here was behind us and numbers are numbers. The audience started cheering for us midway through our free dance, and they just got louder and louder. When we stopped and saw them on their feet it was amazing. I wish every skater could experience that feeling,” Michael shared as he reflected on the program.

Despite the fifth place free dance which gathered 86.64 points Allie and Michael captured the bronze medal with 173.86 points.

“We’ve trained hard so that every competition we do is better and (we want to) use that and climb even higher at Four Continents and worlds,” Coreno stated.

Vanessa Crone, 17, and Paul Poirier, 16, have been stellar on the Junior Grand Prix circuit all season placing first in Croatia, first in Romania and placing ourth in the final.

The 2007 Canadian junior champions are competing in the senior ranks for the first time. The youngsters placed sixth in the compulsory dance, but pulled up to fourth in the original dance.

In the free dance, the couple was remarkable as they tangoed to “A Los Amigos” by A. Pontier. They displayed matched lines, deep edges, and finely tuned steps. The all level four program was rated second best and the duo earned a segment score of 88.60 points. When combined with the other segments they missed the podium by 0.89 points and finished the event in fourth place with an event total of 172.95 points.

Mylene Girard, 23, and Liam Dougherty, 23, finished in fifth with an event total of 172.28 points.

Stellar in the Short

The Canadian senior men put on quite the display at the Pacific Coliseum, Friday afternoon, during the men’s short program. From bottom to top it was a showcase of the ability and performance quality of each skater. Personal best scores were the norm rather than the exception. It was not about quads, but rather the consistency, expression, and the joy of skating.

Jeffrey Buttle gave a performance that stated, “Hey wait, don’t count me out yet.” Jeff was so on top of his game that teammate Patrick Chan referred to Jeff’s short program, as “Jaw Dropping” and continued on with “I can learn so much from him.” The three- time Canadian Champion gave an awe-inspiring performance and finished in first place with 80.08 points – a new personal best.

“I’m not here just to have a good time. I want to enjoy myself but I’m here to defend my title and I don’t want anyone else to take it from me,” Buttle said emphatically.

Jeff is the first to admit he has not had a good season to date, but told the media, “I felt confident out there, and I have been practicing so hard and they have been going so well. I couldn’t help hearing the scores of the other guys, and each time I said to myself – I can beat that.”

The twenty-five-year-old couldn’t put a foot wrong in his dynamic program to “Adios Nonino” by Astor Piazolla. The 2006 Olympic bronze medalist applauded for himself as the audience showed their appreciation with a standing ovation.

Buttle who started skating at the age of two, opened with a high triple flip/triple toe and went on to nail his nemesis – the triple Axel. His triple Lutz was solid and his spins were superb, but where the 2005 World silver medalist shines is in his ability to encompass the music into the presentation of the program.

When asked to comment on his program Jeff told the media, “I felt great and my levels were very good. I trained really hard coming in. There was no reason for me to go out there and not have a good time so I did.

Patrick Chan edged his way to the second spot with a marvelous performance to “Exile to Snowy West” and “In the Bamboo Forest” by Tan Dun.

The fifth place finisher at the Grand Prix Final stated, “I came to Vancouver with the hopes of making the world team and not to become Canadian Champion – so I am happy. I was fifth last season and if I can be second this season that would be a big jump.”

Chan fell on his opening triple Axel, and turned himself into a near-perfect triple flip/triple toe and a sure-footed triple Lutz. The Trophee Bompard Champion carved his way across the ice on his level three step sequences and spun like a top on his level four spins.

Chan told the media, “I felt really good out there tonight. I enjoyed my time in Vancouver, the crowd here has been great. I felt warm feelings from the crowd and I am hoping tomorrow will go just as well.”

The seventeen-year-old, who has been skating since the age of five, exhibits remarkable quality in his skating – deep edges and outstanding control of the blade. He earned a segment score of 73.42 points.

The impressive teen has had a meteoric rise in the sport winning the pre-novice title in 2003, the novice title in 2004, and the junior title in 2005. He placed seventh at the senior level when he was barely fifteen and placed fifth last season at sixteen.

Christopher Mabee of Tillsonburg has been referred to as the “dark horse in the race,” but Chris proved he was no dark horse, but a solid contender with a great skate to “Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia” by Aram Khachaturian.

Despite a marred landing on the back half of a triple flip/ triple toe combination, the 2007 Canadian silver medalist was solid landing a steady triple Axel – with an impish smile, then followed with a high triple Lutz which was spot on the peak of the music.

Chris chuckled and said, “To be honest, I really felt like garbage out there on the warm-up and my jumps were all over the place. So I was so happy I could regroup and be able to come off the ice tonight knowing I had a good program.”

His well-choreographed program by Lori Nichol, highlighted his expressive movements and solid steps. The twenty-two-year-old gathered a segment score of 70.46 points.

Vaughn Chipeur vaulted to fourth place with an explosive program to “Street Music” by Russo.

The twenty-three-year-old floated across the ice on his huge triple Axel earning a +1.50 GOE. He over-rotated the back half of a triple flip/ triple toe combination, but then followed with a well-done triple Lutz.

The 2006 Nebelhorn bronze medalist received level four on all three spins but managed only a level one on his straight line steps. Vaughn received a segment score of 69.10 and sits within reach of his goal to make the World team.

His emotions were there for all to see when Fedor Andreev returned to the ice after being side-lined as a result of a back injury since 2005. The Russian born skater gave an intense performance to “Diva Mia” by R. Musumara.

Andreev returns with a new found love of the sport and shared his experiences off the ice inspired him to return. Fedor has modelled, toured the world, and driven race cars but none fulfilled his need to skate.

Hoping to return to the Canadian podium (he won bronze in 2004) and make the World team Fedor was explosive and let out a yell midway thru his short program.

Andreev was impressive landing a sensational triple flip/triple toe, triple Axel and a triple Lutz. The 2002 Nebelhorn bronze medalist received low levels on his spins and footwork and was penalized for a problem on his flying sit spin.

“I have been working on my overall conditioning,” said Andreev. “I am trying to keep myself in good shape. I am into the whole maturity thing right now, and I changed my nutritional habits and my training regimen is totally different. Now I am more conscious of what I put in my body, and I try to eat organic foods.”

His portrayal of the character was first-rate earning him the second best component score for performance and interpretation. His segment score was 67.16 points, and he remains in contention for a medal at this event.

“I just love to perform, and I hope the audience likes it too,” Andreev stated.

Shawn Sawyer sits in sixth place with 64.00 points after he two-footed the triple Axel and singled a planned triple Lutz.

Kevin Reynolds landed the only quad of the day (a Salchow) but then only completed a single toe on the back end of the combination. The Vancouver based skater is currently in seventh place with 60.10 points.

Kenny Rose is in eight despite a clean skate earning 58.48 points. He received low levels on his step sequences and executed only a planned double Axel rather than the more difficult triple Axel.