Patrick Chan texted Mike Slipchuk during the men’s free program at the Canadian figure skating championships on Saturday night. Canada’s three-time world champion wanted Slipchuk to pass along a message to young Stephen Gogolev.
“He just said he admired how poised he was and that there’s something special there,” Slipchuk said. “And there is.”
Skate Canada’s High Performance director can’t recall a season that had seen so much turnover in Canada’s figure-skating team. Chan and two-time Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are among a decorated group of 17 skaters the national squad is missing this season.
“When you look at the level of athletes we lost, that were always at a Grand Prix fighting for medals, it was a big change,” Slipchuk said. “But the team this year really stepped forward, you could see them really take hold of the path moving forward. [Saturday] night in the men, we saw the present and future all in one flight, which is exciting.”
The future is in good hands. If not for a popped quadruple Lutz, the 14-year-old Gogolev would have become the youngest skater in history to win a Canadian men’s title.
“This has been a great season for him, and now he goes into world juniors as one of the favourites,” Slipchuk said. “And we’re going to see more of Stephen, and we’re going to need him there to push all our guys.”
Nam Nguyen and Alaine Chartrand headline the Canadian team named on Sunday for the world figure skating championships in Japan in March. Nguyen, a 20-year-old from Toronto, edged Gogolev for gold at the Canadian championships on Saturday night. Gogolev is still two years too young to compete internationally as a senior.
Three of the top five finishers in the men’s event are still juniors: Gogolev, Joseph Phan, who was fourth, and Conrad Orzel (fifth).
“That makes us feel really good moving forward,” Slipchuk said.
Chartrand, a 22-year-old from Prescott, Ont., climbed from fifth place after the short program to win the women’s title.
Skate Canada is leaving two spots on the women’s side open until after the ISU Four Continents event. One of them could go to Gabrielle Daleman, the world bronze medalist who dropped to fifth place after a shaky free program Saturday. Daleman, who suffers from depression and anxiety, took the fall competitive season off to focus on her mental health.
“We’re going to see over the next couple of weeks how Gabby is progressing, both personally and mentally and also condition-wise, because she hasn’t had a lot of training time, and that was a bit evident here in the long program, you could see the mileage wasn’t there,” Slipchuk said. “To compete at a world championships, you’ve got to be at the top of your game.
“So we want to give her some time to see how she’s doing and we’ll work alongside (her coaches) and just keep gauging how she’s doing.”
The other spot could go to Aurora Cotop, who won silver on Saturday evening, but doesn’t have the technical score needed to qualify for the world championships. Skate Canada will send her to an international event in Germany next month in an effort to get the score needed.
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who are world silver and bronze medalists, clinched their spot by winning the ice dance title in their first competition since spending the fall performing on the Thank You Canada Tour.
Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro won the pairs event to earn an automatic spot.
Keegan Messing joins Nguyen on the men’s side. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier and Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen, who used to compete for Denmark but just received approval to compete for Canada, round out the ice dance contingent. And Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud are the other pairs team representing Canada.
The world championships are March 18-24 in Saitama, Japan.