Knowing what it takes to defend a national women’s figure skating championship has Madeline Schizas feeling prepared to do it again.
Winner of two consecutive titles, the 20-year-old from Oakville, Ont., pursues a three-peat in Calgary starting with Friday’s short program.
“I felt definitely a lot of pressure last year going into Canadians,” Schizas said. “I’d had a subpar fall season and knew that I was going to have to kind of step up for nationals. That created a fair bit of stress.
“This year, I feel much calmer and what I took from that experience was just that I pulled off what I was trying to do and that was while being fairly stressed. So I’ve decided to just cut out the stress part and jump to pulling it off.”
Schizas would be the first woman to claim three consecutive victories since Joannie Rochette capped a run of six in 2010.
Watching Rochette skate her short program at the 2010 Olympic Games en route to a bronze medal inspired a seven-year-old Schizas.
“This is the most calm and the most prepared I feel like I’ve been coming into a national championship and I’m hoping to show that to everybody,” Schizas said.
“This is the third go-round of being favoured to win a Canadian title. I kind of know how long it takes me to get ready and I know what it’s going to feel like.”
Senior competition gets underway Thursday evening with the synchronized team short program and concludes Saturday with the men’s free program at WinSport Arena.
Two-time world ice dance bronze medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier return to the Canadian championship after withdrawing from the 2023 edition. Gilles underwent cancer surgery to remove an ovary.
Reigning ice dance champions Nikolaj Sorensen and Laurence Fournier Beaudry withdrew from national championship
USA Today reported an American figure skating coach and former skater accused Sorensen of raping her in Hartford, Conn., in 2012, and that a complaint has been filed with both Canada’s Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner and the U.S. Center for SafeSport.
The allegations have not been proven in court. Sorensen wrote in an Instagram post “these allegations are false and I intend to strongly defend myself and my reputation.”
Missing the Canadian championship doesn’t make Sorensen and Fournier Beaudry ineligible to compete internationally at the upcoming Four Continents and world championship under Skate Canada team selection criteria.
Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps return to defend their Canadian pairs title fresh off a bronze medal in December’s Grand Prix final.
Stellato-Dudek has pushed the envelope for women in figure skating by competing internationally at age 40.
“You’re doing this because you want to, because you have a deep desire for it, because you have a passion for it,” Stellato-Dudek said. “You need that passion because it is so painful.
“It’s not only painful in a run through. It’s painful every hour on the ice and it’s painful, because during that pain, you still have to improve. So you can’t just survive. You have to thrive inside of the pain. As you’re older, you kind of just get better at that.”
The retirement of two-time winner Keegan Messing opens the door for a new men’s singles champ. National 2023 runner-up Conrad Orzel, 2022 Olympian Roman Sadovsky and Wesley Chiu and Stephen Gogolev are candidates for it.
Senior skaters are vying for selection to the Four Continents championship Jan. 30 to Feb. 4 in Shanghai, as well as the world championship March 18-24 in Montreal.
Canada will send a full complement of three ice dance teams, three pairs, three men and three women to Shanghai. Three ice dance teams, three pairs, two men and one woman will compete on home ice in Montreal’s world championship.
“This will probably be my only chance at a worlds in Canada. I don’t know if there’s plans to host again, but I’m realistically halfway through my senior career,” Schizas said. “I don’t know how many more seasons past the Olympics I want to do, so this may be my only chance at it.”