Canada’s Gilles and Poirier win ice dance gold at Skate Canada International
Canadian ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier were so exhausted after an Olympic season of isolation and dodging COVID-19 that their six-week break over the summer wasn’t just a choice – it was a necessity.
“It was what we needed to be able to continue,” Poirier said. “I think otherwise we would have just…”
“We wouldn’t have come back,” Gilles said.
Making their season debut after the longest streak of their careers, Gilles and Poirier won gold at Skate Canada International, the third of their careers. And they said they never felt stronger.
“Absolutely,” said Gilles. “We are rested, we are in good mental health, everything is in place. We learned a lot from the very stressful season last year; we really made sure that we were ready and happy and believed in whoever we were, which I think helped.”
WATCH | Gilles and Poirier win gold in ice dancing:
Gilles scored 128.47 points for their passionate program to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita,” music they had thought about skating to since the partnership began in 2011, and scored 215.70 overall for gold.
Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson won the silver medal (209.18), while Canadians Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha won the bronze medal (195.49).
WATCH | Lajoie, Lagha claim the bronze:
Gilles, of Toronto, and Poirier, of Unionville, Ont., had considered retiring over the summer. It was only in mid-July that they decided to continue. They hadn’t done any choreography, or even selected music. They skipped the first competitions of the B circuit and did not know if they would be ready for the Grand Prix season.
It certainly didn’t show on Saturday as the 30-somethings got the Paramount Fine Foods Center crowd to their feet.
“I think we had a blast playing ‘Evita’ for the first time,” Gilles said. “It was a really special moment. So we’re really proud of everything we did today.”
Their second Grand Prix this season will be in Espoo, Finland, November 25-27. Skaters are assigned to two Grands Prix and the top six in each discipline compete in the final in December.
Watanabe wins women’s competition
Japan’s Rinka Watanabe won women’s singles gold earlier Saturday on a tough day for Canadians Madeline Schizas and Gabrielle Daleman.
Skating to the soundtrack of Japanese TV show “Jin”, Watanabe started with a triple axel – a jump that still eludes most female skaters – to claim the women’s singles title with 197.59. It was his Grand Prix debut, at junior or senior level.
“I was quite nervous but I think I did pretty well, so I’m really happy that I did well, solid, today,” she said.
WATCH | Watanabe skates to gold:
Watanabe, who had lived and trained in Vancouver from 2017 until the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to return to Japan, plans to include two triple axes in his free skate at his next event.
It was a disastrous day for Schizas and Daleman, who were 1-2 after Friday’s short program.
Schizas, a 19-year-old from Oakville, Ont., and defending Canadian champion, dropped to seventh place at 180.59. Skating last and to the music from the “West Side Story” soundtrack, she fell once and landed on two feet.
“I knew very well while skating that a door was wide open for me. Like so good,” Schizas said. “I knew I could have won this event just by not falling on my face on a double jump.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that difficult. I knew very well that this door was open. I just didn’t know how to get through it.”
WATCH l Schizas in the lead after the women’s short program:
Schizas spotted a plastic flower holder on the ice during his program, likely of a flower thrown after a previous skater, and missed by younger skaters picking up flowers and stuffed animals. She considered stopping her program to resume it.
Instead, she picked it up afterwards and brought it to the judges’ table.
“I didn’t slip on it, I just saw it. I just skated it four times,” Schizas said. “From the third or fourth jump of the program, I was like, oh my god, there’s something there,” she said. “But I’m not going to sit here and blame some stupid piece of plastic for my bad skate. I could have skated well anyway. I just have to learn to focus a bit more.
“I think I learned to skate at those events, I just didn’t learn to compete.”
‘I fought for everything. I didn’t give up’
Daleman, 24, from Newmarket, Ont., and a two-time Olympian, was on the cusp of a fabulous comeback after several tough seasons, but she fell on her third jump, a triple flip, and the program ended. continued to unravel from there. She fell once again, and nearly fell a third time to finish 10th (171.61).
Starr Andrews of the United States scored 191.26 for silver while You Young of South Korea, who also landed a triple axel, took bronze (190.15).
The event will conclude with the men’s singles on Saturday evening.
Watch live coverage of Skate Canada International on CBCSports.ca, CBC Gem and the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android.
- Saturday October 29: Men’s Free Routine (7:31 p.m. ET)
- Sunday October 30: Gala Exhibition (2 p.m. ET)