Changes for Canadian Skaters
Patrick Chan moves his training base to Vancouver; Gilles & Poirier move their free dance into the realm of James Bond.
For the most part, this week, the news has been in Russia and Japan. After all, their the two countries holding their National Championships this weekend. The attention isn’t supposed to shift to North America until the beginning of January, when the U.S. and Canada hold theirs.
But two major pieces of news broke up north this week. One involves their long time top guy, who decided to change training cities, even though it required him to redo his coaching team. The other involves their third ice dance team, who have redone their free dance.
Patrick Chan Gets a New Coaching Base and Team
A year and a half ago Patrick Chan and his then-coach Kathy Johnson had expressed their intent to move to Vancouver, and their plans to set up a new skating school there. Then he fired her, and instead settled in Michigan to train under Marina Zueva. At the time, she was considered a strange choice of coach for a singles skaters, being mainly an ice dance coach. Since then, she’s taken on other singles students and showed herself to not be without ability.
Nonetheless, after struggling at his first Grand Prix event, and pulling out of his second, supposedly to focus on Canadian Nationals, Patrick Chan found his way to Vancouver after all, and decided to stay. He announced the change of clime this week, saying he feels at home there and has gotten an energy boost from it.
He hasn’t fired Zueva, whom he remains in communication with. But with her still down in Michigan, he had to get a new coaching team to work with at the rink. He’s also work recently with Ravi Waila, who is mainly known for coaching Canadian skater Katelyn Osmond. But he’s based in Edmonton, which means it’s easier for Chan to get to him, but he’s still not on site. Fortunately Vancouver has plenty of coaching available. His main coach now is Elizabeth Putnam, a retired singles and pairs skater who apparently has provided guidance to many skaters in the area, though Chan’s her first high-profile student. The article also names federation physiologist Kelly Quipp, and indicates there are others unnamed. Chan’s coaching arrangements have often included a whole team, so this is normal for him.
Chan is now nearing the end of a long and illustrious career, and it’s been a while since his results have been the priority. He’s a definite medal contender at the upcoming Olympics, but not one who’ll be favored to make the podium. While he presumably would not have made this move if he didn’t think he could make it work, it may also be he’s looking to the future, and what he’ll be doing in half a year’s time when his competitive career is finally over. It seems a safe bet he’ll be carrying out at least some of those plans he made back in 2016.
Gilles & Poirier Get a New Program (Sort Of)
Meanwhile, in Scarboro, Ontario, the local skaters held a Nationals “send off” show this week, a common enough practice in plenty of places with skaters who have qualified for an upcoming National Championship. But this one contained a surprise debut: instead of skating the Perry Mason free dance they started the season with, Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier skated a James Bond free dance! Right now there’s no footage available of it. Canadian skating blogger PJ Kwong, who was at the show and interviewed the skaters, has promised more videos about them both tomorrow and Friday. But it sounds like those won’t include the program itself. Especially since Gilles & Poirier themselves have released a little teaser which lists the release date as the day of the free dance at Canadian Nationals:
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Up today is Kwong’s interview, in which they talked a lot about what they note freely isn’t an entirely new free dance. Gilles at one point described it more as changing half their old free dance. It has a lot of the choreography and technical elements developed for the Perry Mason program, with the new program created around them. Apparently, they felt they had skated their Perry Mason free dance up to potential at Skate America, and didn’t get the scores they wanted. After which they decided the music wasn’t energetic enough, and the program not accessible enough. Turning it into a James Bond program solves both those problems. After making the decision, and that they wanted to use older, instrumental movie soundtracks to try to preserve some of the Perry Mason feel, they each in turn listened through the candidates, and each separately decided they wanted to use the soundtracks to Thunderball and Octopussy. Two days later, they had the rough cut ready.
We narrowly avoided having two of the top Canadian ice dance teams return to old programs, though. They mentioned early on that when they first expressed a wish to change their free dance, their coach Carol Lane wanted them to return to their highly praised tango free from last year. As it happened, however, they very much disliked the idea of going back to an old program.
Kwong noted the risk this is, changing programs so close to Nationals, although Gilles & Poirier once did a program change close to the World Championships. And when it comes down to it, there really isn’t anyone likely to unseat the top three in dance, so this is minimal risk when it comes to their Olympic chances anyway. And they’ll have a bit more time after that, especially if they decide to skip Four Continents.
The Canadian Tire National Skating Championships will be held January 8-14, 2008 in Vancouver.