The Canadian figure-skating team has completed one of its most successful trips to the world championships, signalling exciting things for the 2014 Olympics, especially for the team event that will make its debut in Sochi, Russia.
Canada earned more medals than any other country at the worlds that ended Sunday in London, Ont., with podium finishes in three of the four disciplines for the first time since 2009. Canada secured 11 berths for the 2014 Olympics – three each for the men, pairs and ice dance, and two for the women.
Patrick Chan wouldn't be denied a third consecutive men's title, while an eighth-place finish for 17-year-old Kaetlyn Osmond in her first world championships suggests she's on the rise.
In dance, silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir showed Sochi will be another stirring battle with their American rivals, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. A bronze medal for Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford put Canada back on the map in pairs. Canada's overall success last week suggests it is a serious contender for the first gold medal in the Olympic team event.
Ten nations, each featuring a male and a female skater, a pairs team and an ice-dance couple, will compete in an additional event over three days by skating long and short programs for the most aggregate points. It will be the first medal of the Olympic figure-skating competition, beginning on the night of the opening ceremony, before any other disciplines start. That means some skaters will perform four times during the Games.
"Because it's a new event added to the Olympics," Duhamel said, "people have been giving a lot of mixed reviews about what the skaters are going to think about it. At the Olympic Games, Eric and I will have to compete four times in one week, but we're going to be ready for that, and we want to seize the opportunity that Canada is going to have. So Eric and I are all for it, and Canada is definitely going to be gunning for the gold medal in that competition."
Some wonder whether Chan should participate in the team event, or whether he should forgo it to concentrate on chasing a gold medal in men's singles. The three-time world champion says he likes the idea of using it to build team spirit and momentum going into individual events.
"I wish they had had that in Vancouver, and I could have made that Olympics a lot more positive experience for me if I had a chance to win another medal," said Chan, who suggested he may skate one of the programs in the team event, and Kevin Reynolds the other. "Seeing the team here, seeing extremely strong pairs, ice dance, men's and ladies, I'm very pumped for the team event."
For Skate Canada, the strategy about which skaters will compete in the team event will begin soon so athletes can plan for it.
While the morale boost could be significant if skaters win a team medal, Skate Canada's high-performance director, Michael Slipchuk, says the organization must be as concerned about managing those skaters who aren't part of the experience, and how that could affect their individual skates.
Canada's depth should be advantageous. Some countries, like Japan or Italy, have a star skater in one or two events, but no contenders in other disciplines.
"This team event is new to everyone, so we can't really test it," Slipchuk said. "We have to factor in the effect it's going to have on the athletes who are striving to earn Olympic individual medals. We don't want to jeopardize that, but we want to do the right thing for the team, too."