The youth movement in Canadian women's figure skating is officially under way.
Teenagers Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman appear headed for their first Olympics, after placing first and second at the Canadian figure skating championships Saturday.
Though the team for Sochi won't be officially named until Sunday, their results make it all but certain that Osmond and Daleman will form one of the youngest Canadian women's squads ever -- at least since the sport instituted a minimum age for the Olympics.
Osmond turned 18 just over a month ago. Daleman will turn 16 on Monday, putting her about six months over the age requirement.
Asked what their early success says about the sport in Canada right now, Osmond ventured, "skating is getting younger."
"I think it is just the new generation is coming up, and I'm glad to be a part of it," she said.
The performances were commanding in spite of their ages. Osmond, who is from Marystown, NL, and trains in Edmonton, placed first in the long program with 136.94 points, after topping the short program on Friday. Her combined score of 207.24 for the weekend landed Osmond her second consecutive senior women's national championship.
Daleman, who is from Newmarket, Ont., was in third after the short program Friday, but skated a clean routine, landing several key jumps, for a score of 124.09 points, and a combined 182.47, good enough for silver.
Canada has two spots up for grabs in Sochi. Amelie Lacoste came third with 105.42 points in the short program, and a combined score of 166.69 for the weekend, securing bronze, but not enough to get the 25-year-old to her first Olympics.
According to international rules introduced in the 1990s, skaters must be 15 before July of the previous year before the Games. Canadian officials couldn't say offhand what the youngest women's team at the Olympics has been. The only entry officials can remember of a similar vintage is the tandem of Wendy Griner and Sandra Tewkesbury, who were 15 and 18 respectively at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, Calif.
Canadian women's figure skating has been undergoing an era of renewal since Joannie Rochette won bronze at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and stepped away from international competitions soon after.
For Osmond, who inherits the reins, the Olympic berth marks the culmination of her meteoric rise up the Canadian figure skating ranks. Only a few years ago she surprised onlookers when she made the jump from junior skating and began to win senior events as a relative unknown. Last year she drew international praise when she placed eight at the world championships. Now she heads to Sochi as Canada's best women's skater in the singles event.
With two years of seniority over Daleman, Osmond now suddenly becomes the veteran of the squad in Sochi. Given their youth, the Canadian women are looking to use the Sochi Olympics as seasoning for future Games, hoping to get as much experience under their belt. It's not likely they will fret about missing the podium, given their rookie status.
Osmond said she's not necessarily aiming to contend for a medal in Russia -- that may be getting ahead of herself -- but she wants to match or better her eighth place finish at the world championships last year. That would mean she has continued to improve.
"You never know what can happen, it's always a possibility," Osmond said, trying to manage expectations. "But I'm not going to aim for it right now."
Her performances at the Canadian championships were best she's ever skated a short and long program at the same event, Osmond said.
Daleman, who put skates on for the first time 11 years ago, at age 4, said watching Osmond's emergence on the senior figure skating circuit helped inspire her own performance.
"Knowing what Kaetlyn did last year was really big," Daleman said. "I love competing against her and she pushes my limits, because you know one day you want to beat her, so you just keep pushing and pushing, and we all try and get to the top."
Osmand's coach, Ravi Walia, said the emergence of the two women is a sign of what's to come in the next several years for Canadian skating.
"It's very exciting. And not just those two, but there's several skaters coming up, young skaters who are doing incredible things. They're pushing Kaetlyn, Kaetlyn's pushing them. I think it's a really exciting time for ladies skating in Canada," Walia said.
"Two years ago when Kaetlyn did a triple-triple in the short program, the younger group came and they saw that. And she won the short program with that. And she didn't wait her turn. They realize, they don't have to wait their turn either."