Reigning Canadian champion Roman Sadovsky found it hard to watch himself, remotely, at home in front of a screen, competing at the Skate Canada Challenge – which being that the national championships have been cancelled due to COVID-19 – remains the closest thing to it.
When Sadovsky performed his virtual routines about six weeks ago, it seemed all a blur. And the question nattered at him: When he finally watched himself do his short program again on Friday, would it live up to his memory of it?
He found that it did. Judges splashed huge marks out for the 21-year-old skater, handing him an easy win with 94.43 points, 5.09 points ahead of his closest competition, Nam Nguyen with 89.34. Close on his heels was Conrad Orzel at 87.22.
Orzel, 20, sixth nationally last season, left a lasting impression, dressed in simple classic black garb, skating to Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever?” He was the only one among the 24 senior men that attempted two quads, and he landed both. Out came a big quad Salchow – triple toe loop to wake everybody up at the outset, and then along came a quad toe loop, even better, with GOE of 2.38 points. A triple Axel sealed the deal. It was magnificent.
Sadovsky skated immediately afterwards (although watching it at home, this skating order was news to him) and he attempted only one quad, an easy quad Salchow, so good he got 3.10 bonus points for it. “I do want to get a quad toe in there at some point,” he said afterward. “But we just decided to play it safer, to have [the program] more consistent, until the quad toe is similar to my Sal.”
He’s found it difficult in training to keep all of the elements in the routine humming when he attempts to add more difficult jumps. “It’s a huge mental game for me to incorporate, especially if I’m trying to incorporate the emotion, the performance of the whole program,” he said. “It just takes such a hit, it’s not really worth it.”
Although it’s impossible to compare an international mark to a national one, Sadovsky’s effort surpassed his official best short-program score of 86.34, set at the 2019 Finlandia Trophy. The Challenge mark was buoyed by high technical marks – he received 2.88 GOE for his triple Axel, a jump that long ago, was his nemesis. He lost .47 of those bonuses by underrotating the back half of a triple Lutz – triple toe loop combo.
But Sadovsky’s marks were also lifted by his component marks, because that is what Sadovsky has always been about. Skating to the hushed tones of “Exogenesis, Part 3,” Sadovsky wove a spell with his silky strides and quiet blades, whisper landings, arms that float up and back and away and back again, and his beautiful positions on a deft spin. When all is well on the Sadovsky wagon, you feel you are in a Christmas box.
Early in the season, Sadovsky had to figure out what to do about programs. That led to keeping the short program and designing a new long. But instead of keeping last year’s program, Sadovsky reached back to his “Exogenesis” routine from the 2016-1017 season.
That season, Sadovsky didn’t perform “Exogenesis” as well as he would have liked. He made the decision to do it three or four weeks ahead of Skate Canada – which was cancelled. It gave him more time to work on it. It already had many miles on it from years ago, but choreographer David Wilson revamped it. “It’s very different,” Sadovsky said. “And I was a different skater back then.”
Nguyen, silver medalist last year, but a two-time national senior champion, kept his brilliant “Blues for Klook” routine and nailed a big quad Salchow – triple toe loop for HUGE bonus points of 3.23. He held onto the landing of a triple Axel, and earned level fours on all of his non-jumping elements. Orzel outdid him on technical marks by about three points, but Nguyen roasted Orzel on the components.
And – a pleasant surprise – Corey Circelli, an 18-year-old first-year senior (he was the men’s junior champion last year), came out with a new look, longer locks, simple grey pants and black top – and let his skating speak for him. Skating to Andrea Bocelli, Circelli attempted no quads, but all of his elements were quality and his ballet training helped him show off an Ina Bauer with a luscious bend. He’s an artiste, indeed. All this was good for 81.11 points.
All four were in the first group, by luck of the draw, leaving us lying in wait for Joseph Phan, now 19, skating to “Money” by Pink Floyd. Phan ended up in fifth place with his new dynamic style, landing a quad toe loop – triple toe loop (2.09 GOE) but he stepped out of a triple Axel, and lost a few points with a hand out on his triple Lutz, which he executed with both hands up. That landed him 79.76 points.
Nicolas Nadeau is sixth with no points for one of his spins, and only a level two on the other. His quad toe was landed on two feet, but his triple Axel, as usual, was divine, with 2.40 bonus points.
All in all, it was a stellar men’s event, even though Keegan Messing was missing because Skate Canada was “unable to provide the support needed for Keegan Messing to complete his Challenge video in Anchorage, Alaska.” However, he was the only Canadian skater who competed outside the country, finishing third at Skate America in Las Vegas last October.
Steven Gogolov, a major Canadian hopeful that had an array of big quads at an early age, was injured and unable to get a video together in time for Challenge deadlines. But he’s back training. Our last sight of him showed marked growth.
It’s a season of many stops and starts. Sadovsky said during the summer, skaters were forced to look for ice at different locations. Or they would have different schedules than the norm. Sometimes the hours weren’t the same every week. “The most difficult part is we were not fully training day to day in a normal regime,” he said.
Even with the lockdown in Ontario, skaters are doing okay right now, Sadovsky said. They can skate in a building only if it has been designated for high-performance athletes. It’s still not normal, but the situation differs every month. “We’re still training and we have a more or less consistent schedule,” he said. “I’m thankful for that.”
Joking, he said he would try his best to skate well tomorrow, when Skate Canada will show the men’s free program. (He skated the program in early December.)
While senior men were humming, little Kaiya Ruiter was just happy that the lights were on, and she was skating, ready to put on a show. She’s grateful for everything. She’s grateful that, incredibly, the first-time senior came out on top with 62.91 points in the women’s short program. She’s only 14.
She won the junior title last year in her first try with record points of 174.83. And she had been the novice champion, also with a Canadian record of 139.57, the year before that.
The score was enough to put her ahead of the elegant Alison Schumacher, 18, who kept her quiet, lovely routine, “Claire de Lune” from last year and showed off her polish in palest pink. She’s only a step behind the wonderkid, with 60.52 points, and landed her double Axel with the softest touch, a good triple flip – double toe loop, and a triple loop. Her step sequence earned her level four.
Ruiter had landed an easy triple flip-triple toe loop, a double Axel and a triple Lutz. The kid has grown and improved.
In third place sits former two-time Canadian champion Gabby Daleman, 23, in bright pink, skating to “Jazz Man.” The peppy, entertaining routine wasn’t perfect. Daleman’s trademark triple toe loop – triple toe loop escaped her, as she stumbled out of it. She also stepped out of a triple Lutz. But she earned level fours on all of her spins and steps for 57.80 points.
Note, the score for the women’s short program at the U.S. nationals, held by Bradie Tennell was a record 79.40. But Tennell was clearly seasoned and ready and earnest about getting her title back, after losing it twice to youngster Alysa Liu.
Madeline Schizas, third last year in Canada, sits in fourth place. Skating to Sarah Brightman singing “Stranger in Paradise,” Schizas whipped up a nice triple Lutz-double toe loop, but took a step out of a triple loop that was overrotated. The double Axel was no problem. She finished with 57.71 points.
Last year’s surprise champion, Emily Bausback, finished fifth with 55.73, fighting for the landing of a triple flip – triple toe loop, but landing a solid triple loop and double Axel. She had level two on her step sequence and slowed on a flying sit spin that dropped to a level three.
Michelle Long, ever the emotional skater, is sixth with 54.73, skating to gorgeous music “O Mio Babbino.” She suffered a hard fall on a double Axel.
The senior women’s free program will be shown late this afternoon, while the men skate their free program Sunday afternoon.