Winning the gold medal in ice dancing at Skate Canada wasn’t just a confidence boost for Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, it was a way of changing how the skating world perceives them.
Gilles and Poirier earned their best-ever scores over the weekend in Kelowna, B.C., lifting the Canadians to their first-ever Grand Prix title. Although they were pleased with the landmark victory, the ice dancers are thrilled with the message it sends to judges at future events on the figure skating schedule.
“It’s important for us and for the judges to know that we’re capable of that,” said Gilles on Thursday. “Our sport is subjective and people go with the people who’ve already won a few things before. It’s easy to go, ‘Yeah these guys are good, we’ll continue to score them high because of what they’ve done.’
“It’s not that they aren’t good, it’s just that for us to take the next step we need everyone to believe a little bit more in us and what we’re capable of. Whereas before, we really had to prove to everyone that we were good.”
Gilles and Poirier, who are based in Toronto, started dancing together in 2011 but had never won at the highest levels of competition.
They were second after the short dance with 82.58 points and then took the Skate Canada title with 126.43 in the free dance, both personal bests. Their combined score of 209.01 edged the defending Grand Prix final champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the United States in second at 206.31, while Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson were third at 195.35.
“I think Piper and I have gotten a lot of respect for the work we’ve done and ... the work that we and our coaches have produced,” Poirier said. “I think part of it is the psychological reality of confirmation bias where people go into the competition with these established hierarchies in their brains and you have to shake things up so much to break those biases.
“That’s just how psychology works. What we’ve learned over time in the skating world is the only way to make sure that you win is to be so obviously better than everybody else that they can’t do anything else.”
Poirier thinks their success in Kelowna was because of a productive off-season where both were completely healthy and able to fully commit to their training. Between Skate Canada and the Autumn Classic in Oakville, Ont., – which they won on Sept. 14 – they worked on some technical issues with their lift.
Now the aim is to keep building as they prepare for the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, Nov. 15-17.
“Leading up to each competition we give ourselves a goal of ’these are the things we want to focus on’ while we’re doing our run-throughs,” Poirier said. “If you just repeat mindlessly you won’t actually do anything better. You’ll get in better shape, but you won’t improve.”
Although Gilles and Poirier won’t be competing for two weeks, other members of Canada’s figure skating team are in action this weekend at the Internationaux de France in Grenoble. Nicolas Nadeau will skate in the men’s singles event, Camille Ruest and Andrew Wolfe will represent Canada in the pairs, and Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus are in the ice dancing entry.