Hard toil has paid off for two Canadian women: Madeline Schizas, righting herself for Skate Canada with hard run-throughs, and Gabby Daleman righting herself from a litany of problems after not having done a Grand Prix in two years.
Incredibly, they sit one-two after the women’s short program at the Skate Canada International Grand Prix in Mississauga.
They are separated by 1.25 points. Mind you, the top four skaters are separated by 2.80 points and many others are not far behind that.
Schizas skated cleanly. Daleman was clean but for a triple Lutz landed slightly on two feet. Still, Daleman got slightly higher marks for the more difficult triple than Schizas did on her solo jump, the triple loop.
Daleman landed her big patented triple toe loop – triple toe loop – just as she did in the old days – and earned 10.08 points for that. Schizas did a more difficult triple Lutz – triple toe loop for 10.69 points.
“The skate was clean but perhaps a little cautious,” Schizas said later. “I’m really happy with it overall. I got my first level 4 step [sequence] in a long time. So that was pretty exciting.”
Being Madeline Schizas, she took a look at the protocol and saw lots of opportunities to gain more points, including not getting a time violation, like she did in the short program. ….But I’m pretty good with that. It was my first clean skate of the year,” she said. And she pulled it off at Skate Canada, in front of friends and family for the first time since 2020 nationals.
“It’s weird to think how different of an experience that was,” she said. “Because I was 16, I was really new to everything. And I was perhaps more excited about Piper [Gilles’] dog that was in the change room that year than I was about being a national medalist after….I was like: ‘Oh wow, this is cool, I guess.’”
She was the top Canadian going into this event and “it’s just a totally different experience,” she said. “And it’s a little bit crazy for me to think that it wasn’t that long ago. That wasn’t even a full three years ago.”
Daleman’s performance was a triumph. So many have counted her out for so long. Her last international event was the Four Continents Championships in 2020. And she’s had the summer from hell. She tore her groin and abdomen, contracted COVID, got into an auto accident, and developed Bell’s Palsy, an unexplained episode of facial muscle weakness or paralysis, that usually resolves itself in time. There is no cure and doctors don’t know the cause, although it may be caused by inflammation in the body.
Daleman said she tore her abdomen and groin during a normal training day.
She got COVID after a family vacation.
On the way to training one day, she was sideswiped by a car on the highway. She hurt her back in the accident, but physiotherapy has helped.
She figures she got Bell’s Palsy because she had been under so much stress and anxiety.
“Not my summer,” she said.
Daleman could easily have quit after so many frustrating performances and accidents of life, but she did not. “I didn’t want to end my career in a COVID season, that’s for sure,” she said. “I’ve had one of the longest international figure skating careers to this day. I’m been on the circuit for 10, 11 years now. It’s definitely been a great career and I didn’t want to end it during a COVID season.
“I wanted to be back with the audience, in my atmosphere and just bringing more people in, and that’s exactly what I did today, And I couldn’t be prouder of myself.”
Her ability to come back after all her challenges “just goes to show how strong I am and how much I love this sport and that nothing, no one, is going to hold me back or take me down.”
Third was American Eva Marie Ziegler, only 16, in her first senior Grand Prix after doing junior last year. She finished with 66.49, with a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combo and a triple flip. She’s young and powerful and her jump landings sung.
Rika Kihara, 20, of Japan, once tabbed as a future star in the sport, sits in eighth place as she makes a comeback after missing all last season with an injury. In the stable of Brian Orser since last season, she still hasn’t done flip or Lutz. But she did do a triple Salchow – triple toe loop, with a step out of it.
And since Japan Open, she has added a triple loop, which she did in the short program, also with a step out.
For her efforts, she earned 59.27 points, but Orser pointed out: “It was a good effort. You’ve got to start somewhere.”
Kihara was the first woman to do a triple Axel – triple toe loop in competition and she’s also done quad Salchow.
“I already felt I the six-minute warmup that I wasn’t up to my best condition,” she said. “…To be back in competition, the biggest thing for today that boosted my confidence was to land the triple-triple combination.”
She said her leg injury is still not fully healed. She’s not practicing all-out every day.
She’s been back in Toronto training for 2 ½ weeks.
Rinka Watanabe, also 20 and from Japan, sits in sixth place with 63.27 points, after stepping out of an underrotated triple Axel. She was the only one to attempt that jump in the short program.