Leave the outside light on.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are still hunting for perfection and believe their efforts at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships will take them closer to it. It’s a stepping stone, for now.
The ice dancing duo grabbed the lead after the rhythm dance at their nationals, ringing in with a lofty 86.78 points on Friday night (Jan. 12) despite a fumbly twizzle by Poirier. Incredibly, he stayed on the same foot and muscled it through, a testament to his abilities.
This miscue gave Poirier a level 3 rather than a 4 in that pesky element and they also got only a level two on their pattern step (Alicia Fabbri and Paul Ayer got a level three).
“It’s good,” Poirier said, “to get the cobwebs out of the system.
“We weren’t looking to peak at this event. I didn’t think it was the best skate of our lives, but there are some things that we’ve worked on that have been successful and other things are going to need more practice.”
The event lost much of its punch with the withdrawals of two of the top three teams in Canada. All top three teams competed at the Grand Prix Final, which features only six of the top skaters during the qualifying series.
Last year’s Canadian champions Laurence Fournier-Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen withdrew last week after a newspaper report said that Sorensen is under investigation for an alleged sexual assault of an American coach and former figure skater. Sorensen said they withdrew because “we feel that our participating would be distracting and that sportsmanship must continue to be the focus of the event.”
Canada’s other team, Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha, who have had a strong Grand Prix season, also had to withdraw last week after Lajoie suffered a concussion.
That left Marie-Jade Lauriault and her husband/partner Romain Le Gac to finish second in the rhythm dance at the Calgary event, 8.78 points behind the leaders and only .25 points ahead of third-place team Alicia Fabbri and Paul Ayer.
Ayer, 25, is from Calgary. His family had never seen him compete before. They got a standing ovation from the small crowd after delivering a personal best 77.75 in front of his family and friends.
Gilles and Poirier had won both of their Grand Prix events this season, but after finishing third at the Grand Prix Final in December, they made changes. In the rhythm dance, they felt that the routine (“No More I Love Yous and Addicted to Lovel) wasn’t “big enough” in the second half.
“The first half of the program, we really liked the direction that it’s going in,” Gilles said. “The second half just needed a little more in-your-face eighties. We kind of played around with placement of some elements and a little bit of change to the pattern of the Samba, I think so we can look bigger and faster.”
Gilles said the changes have interrupted their autopilot mode. “So we’re constantly trying to figure out where we need to start breathing again, where we need to pull back a little bit different so where we are right now is still in that thinking mode, which I actually don’t mind coming into a competition like this,” she said.
“It puts you a little bit more on your toes and thinking a bit more,” she said. “Obviously, you don’t want to make these little mistakes.”
But they are looking forward to seeing all of the changes build, as they go through Four Continents in China next month and the world championships in Montreal in March.