Four years ago, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje missed the 2010 Olympics by the most gut-wrenching of margins – 0.3 points kept them from going to Vancouver.
This time around, they left no doubt.
The pair took second place in the ice dance at the Canadian figure skating championships Saturday night, with a score of 110.86 in the free dance, and a combined score of 183.54 for the weekend.
Even though that left them behind defending Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir for the Canadian title, it was more than enough to secure a berth in the Olympics next month. By the time the scores were tallied up, Weaver and Poje had built themselves a 19.02-point cushion between themselves and missing the cut.
"It's taking every ounce of my being right now to not break down – for different reasons than four years ago," Weaver said afterward. "We are just so, so happy."
Canada has three spots in the Sochi Games for the ice dance event. Even though the Olympic team won't be officially revealed until noon on Sunday, Weaver and Poje are virtual locks to join gold medal favourites Virtue and Moir in Russia, along with and Alexandra Paul and Mitchel Islam, who also appear to have punched their ticket to Sochi.
"To think back on where we were four years ago, or even last year, I feel like that's made us into the people we are," Poje said. "And I feel like we've used that to prove to people and to ourselves that we want to be there and we want to be at the top."
"We are going to prove to the world that we deserve to be there," Weaver added.
The pair say their goal for Sochi is to be on the podium next to Virtue and Moir, who set a Canadian record Saturday night with a combined score of 194.03, helped by a 117.87-point performance in the free dance. It is their sixth national title.
Moir said the performance by Weaver and Poje helped get them focused on their skate.
"They're an elite team in the world, and when they bring the house down like that, it adds to the pressure," Moir said. "Stepping on the ice and [the crowd] going crazy, it's more real. More what we'll feel probably in Sochi. So it was great practice."
Virtue and Moir weren't happy with their performance in the short dance, and wanted to improve on it Saturday, their last competition before the Olympics. "It was a great performance I think," Virtue said, acknowledging that she botched one of her twizzles. "I think we're right on track. The point is to peak in Sochi, so it would be alarming if we skated perfectly both programs here. I think we're right where we need to be."
Paul and Islam scored 102.97 in the free dance, for a combined total of 170.64 and third place. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, who skated to a combined 164.52 points, ended up in fourth.
Though Paul and Islam had set themselves a goal of landing the third ice dance spot for the Olympics, both said they were stunned to have done it. "We got over 100 points [in the free dance] and that's definitely new for us," Paul said. "It's just such an amazing feeling, I can't even express it."
"This whole year we believed we could do it, but at the same time when it happens, it's still unbelievable." Islam added. "This is just the most amazing moment probably in my whole life right now."