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Canada heading into golden age of figure skating

By Steve Buffery, Toronto Sun

Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform their short program at the World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario on Thursday, March 14, 2013. (DEREK RUTTAN/QMI AGENCY)

Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform their short program at the World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario on Thursday, March 14, 2013. (DEREK RUTTAN/QMI AGENCY)

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This town may be known as The Forest City, but it’s gold, silver and bronze on the minds of Canadian figure skaters at the world figure skating championships this week.

Canada has a long and proud history in figure skating — on Friday night Toronto’s Patrick Chan became the third Canadian to win a third gold medal in men’s singles — but it appears as though the sport is heading into a real golden age in this country.

For the first time in history, Canadian skaters could win medals in all four disciplines at the worlds. Already, Canada has won a bronze in the pairs at Budweiser Gardens — Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford on Friday afternoon and later Chan’s gold, his third straight world crown. Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C. finished fifth. On Saturday, the dance team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 Olympic champions, are almost a sure bet for a medal (they are sitting in second behind American rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White heading into the freeskate). As well, Kaetlyn Osmond, of Marystown, NL, has a shot to move up one spot and win a medal in ladies singles. The Edmonton based skater is currently in fourth. Barring a complete meltdown, at the very least Canada will win medals in three disciplines in London — the first time since 2009.

What’s even more exciting for Canadian skating fans is the Team event will be added into the Olympic Games for the first time next year in Sochi, Russia and, suddenly, Canada is looking like a frontrunner, along with the host nation, to win the gold. That possibility has not been lost on the Canadian skaters here.

“It’s kind of like fantasy football or fantasy hockey. It’s like we’re picking our team and it’s really, really exciting because we get to work as a team and by the looks of how we’re all skating this week it’s looking very promising for us to win the Team event,” said Chan. “I would say we’re probably one of the biggest contenders, and I would say we’re probably going to win the gold medal in the Team event.”

“It rocks,” added pairs skater Kirsten Moore-Towers, who finished fourth on Friday with her partner Dylan Moscovitch, the first time since 1962 Canada placed two pairs teams in the top four at worlds.

“I think it’s definitely ours to win,” added Moscovitch. “It’s very exciting for us to be part of this generation of skaters.”

Of course, if Canada can pull off medals in all four disciplines at this year’s worlds, or at least win three, there’s no reason to write off the idea, especially with the way the 17-year-old Osmond is progressing, that the team can win medals in all five events in Sochi. That, of course, would be a high-water mark for the Canadian program. Canada has only won medals in three disciplines in figure skating at an Olympics, in 1988 in Calgary.

The Team event in Sochi will start the day before the opening ceremonies and will run over three days. Olympic skaters already skate short and freeskate programs in their individual events, and the addition of the Team event would add a ton more work to the competition. But after their showing so far at this year’s worlds, none of the Canadian skaters are complaining about the prospect of more work in Sochi. They’re pumped about the idea of winning the first ever Team gold.

“We’re very excited for that event,” said Radford, a native of Balmertown, ON. “It’s really starting to look like we have an opportunity to win a gold medal. And that would be yet another dream come true.

“Because it’s newly added to the Olympics, people have been getting a lot of mixed reviews about what the skaters are going to think about it,” added Radford’s partner Duhamel, a native of Lively, Ont. “But you’re at the Olympic Games. Eric and I are going to 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. Eric and I are for it, and Canada is going to be gunning for the gold medal in that Team competition.”

Heading into Friday’s men’s program, most Canadian skaters here have already posted personal best scores in either their short or freeskates.

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