Names, Names, Names!: The Skate Guard 2016 Canadian Championships Preview

With the start of the 2016 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships less than a week away here in Halifax, it was Skate Guards off and game faces on as several of Canada's top skaters took turns dishing the deets of their preparations for the competition and reflections on their seasons thus far in a series of Skate Canada teleconferences this week. Why not break out the bubbly a little early and pour yourself a glass to go along with this finely curated collection of questions, answers and quotes from the country's biggest stars? To borrow from the words of Edina Monsoon herself, it's "names, names, names" sweetie!


Photo courtesy Danielle Earl 

(on coming back and being injury free): "So far this year, it's been definitely a roller coaster.  It's half what I was expecting coming back: not knowing exactly what to expect coming back in competitions... [From Nebelhorn to Skate Canada] I think I've gone to both extremes this year. I'm really excited leading up to Nationals. My practices have been going really well. If I had any little injuries through the beginning of my season, they are completely healed now and I'm feeling better than ever. I haven't been practicing better in my life... Nationals is always my favourite competition of the year so I'm really happy to be back."

Read Kaetlyn's July 2014 Skate Guard interview.


Photo courtesy Danielle Earl

(on her season so far and goals in Halifax) "My season has been going pretty good so far. I'm happy with what me and my team have done. We've focused a lot on the second mark and skating the jumps proper with the music... I'm really happy with how I'm feeling going into Canadians. My goal is to hold my title and to try to beat the Canadian record."

(on competing at Trophée Éric Bompard during the Paris attacks): "It was a pretty scary experience because we didn't know what happened until the next morning and I didn't know what happened until after my practice. My practice was around 7:30-8 AM so I never grabbed breakfast, never turned my TV on... so I just went to practice, came back, had breakfast and Patrick Chan's coach was like 'did you hear what happened? Like, do you know if they're going to cancel the competition?' and I had no idea! As far as I knew, the competition was still back on and the ladies were in two hours, so I went back to my hotel room, took my hour and a half nap, was starting to get ready and my coach Lee Barkell phoned me and said, 'Gab, I'm sorry to say this, but the competition is cancelled.' My heart and soul was with France and I was terrified. I didn't know what to feel. I was disappointed I didn't get to finish the competition, but they said it was for our safety and that they had all athlete's best interests so I was just thankful that they were able to get everyone out safe and sound and everything."

(on rebounding to finish third in the free skate ahead of World Silver Medallist Alena Leonova and Four Continents Champion Kanako Murakami in the free skate at Skate Canada in Lethbridge): "I learned that I CAN do it and that I trust my training. I knew what I needed to do. I stayed calm. I didn't panic, I wasn't like 'Oh my God, If I don't do this, I'm going to be in this place.' I wasn't overthinking it. I was just trying to stay calm, stay in my bubble with me and my coaches, just focusing on me and what I can control and just having fun and enjoying the moment."

Read Gabby's July 2014 Skate Guard interview.


Photo courtesy Danielle Earl

(Meagan on confidence, changes and goals going into the competition): "I think we feel pretty good going into Canadians - a lot more settled and confident than we felt in the Grand Prix circuit. We've made some changes - a lot of changes - to our short program and we feel like the program as a whole is breathing and flowing a lot better which in turn helps us train it more consistently and improves our confidence. We had a great start to our season results wise but we weren't skating our very best so we're really hoping to come out and start this second half our season in Halifax with a bang with two personal best performances that will hopefully take us to our fifth national title."

(Eric on changing the short program and injuring his finger): "As Meagan said, we've restructured and that's led to everything being a lot more comfortable and I think it makes skating a clean program more achievable and a little easier. Basically, everything is right where we want it to be except that I sprained my finger yesterday at the gym and it's really annoying."

Read Meagan's July 2013 Skate Guard interview.


Photo courtesy Danielle Earl

(on going into Nationals and adding changing his free skate to add a second triple axel): "[I'm] excited. I finally feel for the first time this season that I'm calm, not feeling like I'm trying to catch up, not rested. I had a great break during the new year and was able to recuperate after [the Grand Prix] Final and reassess some little things that we needed to change in the program - more technically than artistically - for Nationals and moving towards the World Championships. So, it's good! Nationals is always a blast and sure, I'm going for my eighth title but I think there's a lot more at hand that I'm trying to achieve at Nationals in terms of adding technical elements and trying it for the first time and seeing how it works... and also, like I said at the beginning of the season just getting my legs under me this year and get myself ready for the next two years to make them a lot smoother than this year."

(on finishing fifth in only his second time competing at the senior level at the 2007 Canadian Championships in Halifax and coming full circle almost ten years later): "Looking back at it now, it's really funny how serious it is and how important it is to skate at the National Championships and so on. You make it bigger than it is. Now, looking back and going into Halifax again nearing the end of my career, it's really exciting! It's a breath of fresh air to come in with the skills that I have and seeing how different of a skater I am now than I was then - I was just a young pup back then - and now I've developed into a really great athlete and I think a really great figure skater and well-rounded... which is really a bit of a full circle, starting there at only my second National Championships and now going for my eighth title, it's come a long way. It's a bit of a flashback and it's really actually interesting and fun."


Photo courtesy Danielle Earl 

(on feeling ready to compete in Halifax) "I'm feeling ready for Nationals next week. Training has been going fairly well. Some days are a little bit harder than the others, but I've been pushing through and I feel ready for next week."

(on training in the last two weeks at the Cricket Club and going back to his "Sinnerman" short program): "Training the few weeks leading up to Nationals has been very intensive. The main focus for us is the skating in the program and the choreography. We want to make everything very, very big and very mature and we've also worked on my old short program because I went back to my short program from last year, 'Sinnerman'. We needed to brush up that program, make it look nice and also working on the consistency of my elements. So yeah... the last two weeks have been intensive just making sure I'm ready for next week."

(on training focuses this season): "Well, first the main focus of this season was to improve on the skating skills and the overall skating, but to be honest with you I don't think it improved - like, maybe it did a little bit - but not as much as I'd like it to be but these past few weeks, I've been training very, very hard and making sure that I pay attention to the little details in my program and also at the same time, I can't completely give up my jumps. My main focus is on the skating skills but also on the jumps too just to make sure that when I completely focus on one thing, the other thing doesn't go away."


Photo courtesy Danielle Earl

(Kaitlyn on their philosophy and skating in her tenth Canadian Championships with Andrew): "Andrew and I feel really good right now. Obviously, it's been a great season so far. Not only have the results been very positive but I feel like we're really enjoying ourselves this year and we're growing with each competition and enjoying the day to day and I think that's really important with overall well-being. We're not spring chickens anymore and I think that happiness is an advantage and it helps us to perform better and better. We've of course been pushing ourselves to make little changes and work on details heading into Halifax. It's pretty exciting. It will be our tenth year together and Halifax is where it began in 2007, so it's nice to be coming full circle... We're feeling great and fit and really excited to be going to Canadians this year."

(Andrew on the decision to send The King packing and develop a new short dance after the Finlandia Trophy): "We definitely took all the feedback from the audience and the judges that we had at our first competition in Finland. We wanted to treat that sort of as the test run and see what the feedback was and see where that program could take us. After talking to everyone, we felt like we enjoyed the program but we felt in order to succeed this year, we could do a different [program] that would be better suited for this season. We wanted to make the change right away to ensure we had the longevity behind the program so that when it came to the championships we were prepared and ready. We feel like we've done a good job at adapting quickly to the new program but every day it grows more and more with us and we try to push ourselves to make sure we portray that Waltz feeling throughout the program."

(Kaitlyn on choosing "The Blue Danube" for their new short dance): "It was a pretty split second decision though. We came back from Finland and the day we came back we had our debrief meeting and I said 'OK, something needs to change'. Our minds went to starting something new and 'Blue Danube' might have been the first song we listened to and we were like 'OK, this is it, this is going to be the right thing' and we were on the ice that night re-choreographing. Sometimes I think when you're in a very dire situation you make those split second decisions that end up being the better ones in the end and so I'm happy that we made that decision. We miss Elvis of course but I think we ended up with the right program in the end."

(Andrew on winning the bronze medal with Kaitlyn at the 2007 Canadian Championships in Halifax): "There was so much emotion in that whole Nationals experience. That was our first senior competition together as a team. We went out there and we didn't know what to expect. I mean, I had been to Nationals with different partners but being there with Kaitlyn was a very different experience and a memorable one because that special journey that we had that season was a whirlwind of emotions. {We were] going through the free dance and finishing the free dance... and then as people were skating, knowing that we were going to finish on the podium was just so amazing. It seemed like all that hard work that season had really paid off and it ingrained a strong memory in us."

(Kaitlyn on being starstruck on the podium in Halifax in 2007): "As Andrew said, so much happened that year but Halifax holds a very special place in my heart. It was my first Canadian Nationals, first competition with Andrew, first competition IN Canada, first senior... there were so many firsts. We just had fun. We were kids! We were doing that Canadians more for fun than for anything else because our goal (or so we thought) was just Junior Worlds. We were competing to MAYBE make National Team so when we ended up on that podium with Marie-France and Patrice and Tessa and Scott... I get chills just thinking about it. We were just starstruck and so excited! I don't think anybody really understood just how really surprised we were. We kind of got thrust into the spotlight and then we're here now, ten years later. It's an incredible feeling now under such different circumstances but nonetheless, we're still the two kids that are having fun and it's been a great, great journey."

Enjoy these interviews, sweetie darling? Keep yourself glued to the blog over the next two weeks as I chat with more of figure skating's names, names, names. You also are NOT going to want to miss some of the most fascinating stories from Canadian skating history you can shake a Skate Guard at!

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":