VANCOUVER – Patrick Chan has accomplished what no other Canadian skater has, absolutely dominating his event in this country for a decade.
The 27-year-old from Toronto captured a record 10th national senior figure skating title on Saturday, in his final appearance at the event. And while he wasn’t able to execute No. 10 with the flawless precision of previous years, he took a moment to appreciate what he’s accomplished.
“Ten is, after seeing it on the screen, being past Montgomery Wilson (who won nine titles between 1929 and ’39), it’s pretty wild,” Chan said.
“And then you see Kurt (Browning) and Brian (Orser) and Elvis (Stojko) on that list, and to see that I’ve accomplished what they’ve accomplished, and a bit more, it’s amazing because I’ve looked up to them as idols.”
Gabrielle Daleman battled through pneumonia to win the women’s singles title on her 20th birthday, while Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir captured their eighth Canadian ice dance title, and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won a Canadian-record seventh pairs title.
Competing in only his second major event this season, the 27-year-old Chan scored 181.26 for his free skate, touching a hand down on his first quadruple toe loop, landing his second one, then downgrading two planned triple Axels — still enough to capture the title with 272.24 total points.
“It’s obviously not the dream skate you expect for Number 10,” Chan said. “Of course I would have loved to have landed and nailed every single jump, but I did what I had to do. I had a lot of my own demons to battle coming here, so I think I was able to accomplish a big goal and a big step forward, so I feel good.”
Chan’s demons included a dreadful performance at Skate Canada International, where he finished off the podium for the first time in eight years, and fled to the West Coast to consider his next move. He scrapped the rest of the Grand Prix season, choosing to stay in B.C. and work with a new set of coaches in his final push to Pyeongchang.
“It’s not the best skate of my life, having won the 10th,” he reiterated. “But there’s been a lot of great ones that I can count.”
He hopes for one more great one before the book closes on his career at the Olympic Games.
Keegan Messing, an Alaskan who recently chose to compete for Canada, was second with 259.25 points, virtually securing his Olympic spot. He edged Nam Nguyen of Toronto by barely a point (258.16).
“It means everything,” Messing said, on an Olympic berth. “It means every day of hard work, every day I didn’t want to skate and I pushed through and I took every hard fall and got up and kept pushing my body to what I felt was the extreme, it means that I did it, it would mean that I made something.”
Skating to “Rhapsody in Blue,” Daleman scored a Canadian record 229.78 points, landing seven triple jumps despite battling the pneumonia she’d been diagnosed with just two days earlier. Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown, N.L., fell twice to finish with 218.73. Larkyn Austman of Coquitlam, B.C., won bronze with 169.62.
“I said (Friday) that was the way to end 19 . . . this is the way to start 20,” Daleman said through a huge grin. “It is the absolute best birthday present I could ever ask for.”
Osmond and Daleman roared to an historic silver and bronze medal performance, respectively, at last year’s world championships in Finland, setting up a fierce rivalry on the virtual eve of the Pyeongchang Olympics, where they’re both within striking distance of the medal podium.
“This (national title) means so much more to me,” said Daleman, who won the gold in 2015. “You’re competing against No. 2 in the world, she’s a very tough competitor, she pushes me, when I’m home training I make sure I picture in my mind what would she be doing, and I try to push harder, I do that with (Russian world champion Evgenia) Medvedeva too.”
Daleman had been battling chest congestion for a couple of weeks and was diagnosed with pneumonia after Thursday’s practice. Unable to sleep Friday, she called her boyfriend back in Toronto at midnight, finally falling asleep around 1:30 a.m., and then had a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call for a hair and makeup session and a morning practice.
The illness and fatigue certainly wasn’t noticeable in her powerful skating and huge jumps, and her huge score that topped Osmond’s previous Canadian record by about 10 points.
“I didn’t even care that I couldn’t breathe, I just skated from my heart,” she said.
Osmond, meanwhile, was disappointed with her two mishaps. The 22-year-old fell on her triple loop in the short program the previous night. She got off to a strong start in Saturday’s long program to music from “Black Swan,” but fell on her triple loop and triple flip.
“Silly mistakes are what’s getting me,” Osmond said. “I don’t know the last time I did miss that flip. My loop, it was just the confidence, I lost a bit of confidence on the landing. So they’re silly mistakes, ones that I don’t usually make, I’ve been working on them so hard at home, and I’ve done them numerous times in a row. So I am frustrated that I can’t bring that into my competition side.”
Skating to Adele’s “Hometown Glory,” Duhamel and Radford battled uncharacteristic nerves, and Duhamel fell on their quadruple throw Salchow en route to scoring 234.55.
“It was a super emotional Canadians for ourselves and for our friends and our competitors,” Radford said. “And for me, it was just a big whirlwind of emotions before we took the ice. It was a unique challenge to try and steady that before we started out our program.”
Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau won the silver with 213.00, while Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro claimed bronze (209.85).
Virtue and Moir brought the crowd to its feet with their sensual skate to music from “Moulin Rouge,” scoring 209.82 for the victory.
Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., came back from a two-year hiatus with the goal of winning gold in Pyeongchang. They’ll retire after the Olympics.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Toronto scored 192.08 for silver. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., fourth after Poje fell in Friday’s short dance, climbed up to third with 191.09, grabbing the third Olympic berth.
The Olympic team will be named Sunday.