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Chan wins 7th straight, Osmond defends title at Canadian skating championships

01/11/2014 05:25 EST | Updated 03/13/2014 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA - Patrick Chan will go to the Sochi Olympics buoyed by seven consecutive Canadian titles and the knowledge that his skating is on stronger ground then it was only a month ago.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will go with a greater sense of the pressure that will be waiting for them at next month's Games.

Chan won Canadian figure skating title No. 7 on Saturday, while Virtue and Moir claimed their sixth — neither performance was perfect.

But Canada's top hopes for gold say they accomplished what they came for in Ottawa.

"You know what? I'm so proud to be Canadian, so proud to skate for Canada, and to go to these next Olympics being seven-time national champion is huge," Chan said.

"It's so easy to overlook it, but I still want to make mistakes like (Friday's short program) that keep my humble and make me realize how nationals isn't easy and I can't overlook it, and today was a hard-fought program."

Kaetlyn Osmond secured an Olympic berth with her second women's title in a row Saturday, while Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won their third straight pairs title, and are all but assured of a ticket to Sochi.

The team will be announced Sunday. Canada has three Sochi berths in each of men's singles, pairs and ice dance, and two in women's singles.

Chan scored 277.42 points for his elegant skate to Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," opening with a lovely quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination, but then doubled what was supposed to be a second quad toe.

"After (Friday) my goal today was to turn things around and think about what makes me successful . . . and that was to think of one element at a time and not to get too far ahead of myself. And I was able to do that today."

Chan, who brought the Canadian Tire Centre to its feet, finished well ahead of Kevin Reynolds of Coquitlam, B.C., who scored 242.45 for second. Liam Firus of North Vancouver, B.C., was third with 238.13.

Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., scored 194.03 points — a Canadian championship record — with their romantic and floaty program to music by Russian composer Alexander Glazunov. It wasn't a flawless performance as Virtue wobbled on their twizzles (a sort of side-by-side travelling spin).

"It was a great performance I think. Obviously a little slipup in the last twizzle but overall I don't think that's a big deal," Virtue said.

"I didn't see it," interjected Moir with a laugh.

"The point is to peak in Sochi," Virtue added. "It would be alarming if we skated perfectly in both programs here."

Both Chan and Canada's top ice dance team admitted to pressure ahead of the Games, the 23-year-old Chan as a gold-medal favourite and Virtue and Moir as the defending champs.

"I'm on the right track mentally. But your mind can play crazy tricks and you can easily just get out of that rhythm and forget the things that have helped you have success," Chan said. "That's what's been happening lately, in training and here at nationals, I got out of the rhythm. Mistakes happen and that's to refocus me and remind myself what I need to correct."

Moir said they have a target on their back as defending champions, everyone wants to take them down. He laughed recalling how four years ago, a television crew showed up just before the Vancouver Games having just figured out the duo might win a medal.

"This time maybe we're on the radar a little bit more," Moir said. "But we have a little more experience too, so hopefully that balances it out."

Virtue and Moir took the ice right after silver medallists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who had the crowd on its feet in a rousing ovation — the perfect practice for Sochi, Moir said.

"They're an elite team in the world and it adds a bit of pressure stepping onto the ice when people are going crazy," he said. "It's more real. More what we'll feel in Sochi."

Osmond, meanwhile, clinched her spot on the Sochi Olympic team with a long program that chronicles Cleopatra's rise to power.

The story choice was strategic, meant to mirror Osmond's rise through the ranks to hopefully the top of the Olympic podium one day.

"Very proud," Osmond said after Saturday's victory. "It's exactly what I wanted to do in this program. It's the first time I did an actual clean (long) program in competition so I'm super excited. I'm still in shock."

The 18-year-old from Marystown, N.L., who's battled back from two injuries that sidelined her for much of the last four months, scored 207.28 for her program that included six triple jumps.

It was the second highest score in the history of the national event behind Joannie Rochette's 208.23, a month before the 2010 Vancouver Games.

But Gabrielle Daleman, a 15-year-old from Newmarket, Ont., provided the surprise of the night, passing the much more experienced Amelie Lacoste in the long program to finish second with 182.47, likely earning a spot on the Sochi-bound team.

"Very exciting and not just those two, there are several skaters coming up, young skaters, who are doing incredible things," said Osmond's coach Ravi Walia. "They're pushing Kaetlyn, Kaetlyn is pushing them. I think it's a really exciting time for ladies skating in Canada."

Weaver and Poje of Waterloo, Ont., scored 183.54 to clinch what will be their first Olympic berth, while Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam of Barrie, Ont., won bronze (170.64).

In pairs, Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Radford of Balmertown, Ont., won with 213.62 points, also a national championship record.

"I don't believe it yet, my legs are still shaking," Duhamel said, at times fighting back tears as she spoke with reporters. "We've waited so long to go to the Olympics and we're going and it's the greatest feeling . . . Four years ago it was a devastating experience for me at nationals and I've waited four years to relive this day, and I couldn't be prouder."

Duhamel narrowly missed the Vancouver Games team with former partner Craig Buntin, and pondered retirement before teaming up with Radford.

"I sat here in front of most of you guys crying and not knowing what was going to happen with my future, and behind the scenes Eric did the same thing, wondering what was going to happen with his future," Duhamel said. "When we got together four years ago we were just hoping to squeak in and make the Olympic team and now we're getting to go to the Olympics as three-time Canadian champions and it's such a cool feeling."

Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Dylan Moscovitch of Waterloo, Ont., were second with 209.44. Paige Lawrence of Kennedy, Sask., and Rudi Swiegers of Kipling, Sask., won bronze (176.31).

Osmond, meanwhile, has climbed the ranks by leaps and bounds since she won bronze at the Canadian championships two years ago with a score that was more than 50 points shy of Saturday's. She announced her arrival on the international scene in the fall of 2012 when she won Skate Canada International and then finished eighth at last year's world championships.

The teenager drew in the Canadian Tire Centre crowd with strength and confidence that seemed years beyond her young age.

"I think it's just confidence in knowing I can do what I can do, and knowing no matter what gets thrown at me, whether it's good or bad, I'll stay with a positive attitude and still stay focused and calm and able to skate," Osmond said. "That's a lot to do with my coach because he's so calm and he reminds me when I have to focus and when I have to breathe, and other times when I have to just enjoy it and let whatever happens happen."

Osmond has battled a couple of injuries this season — first a stress reaction in her ankle in August, then a hamstring tear that forced her to withdraw from the long program at Skate Canada in October.

Daleman, meanwhile, clasped her hands over her mouth when the marks were announced.

"I was not expecting that score at all. Just seeing that mark and getting over the 180 just made my day," she said. "I feel just so excited seeing that I'm second and doors could be opened for me."

The five-foot skater opened her program with a huge triple Lutz on her way to landing six triples.

Daleman said she's been inspired by Osmond's swift ascendance on the international scene.

"She pushes my limits, because you know one day you want to beat her so you just keep pushing and pushing . . .," Daleman said.

Daleman turns 16 on Monday and said a spot on the Sochi team would be "the best birthday present ever."

"My dream is coming true and I get to go to Sochi. It's the Olympics, it comes once every four years, and knowing that I'll be the youngest there (on the Canadian team) will just make my day even better."

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