Size matters, they say.
Some pairs and ice dancers competing at Skate Canada International this week found the width of the Bell Place Arena rather tight.
The size gave French ice dancers Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres some grief in the short program. And Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier suffered a stumble close to the boards during their rhythm dance.
So how small is this rink?
It’s called an Olympic-sized arena, which is normally 100 feet x 200 feet. NHL hockey rinks in this country are 200 feet by 85 feet.
But Bell Place is listed at 200 x 98.5 feet, just a shade under the true Olympic size. It’s only 1.5 feet narrower than regulation.
But, said James, after she and her partner won the short program with 74.51 points: “It was a little tight everywhere. The rink is obviously smaller than Autumn Classic [in Oakville]. So it was very difficult for us to keep our speed.
“And the curves. I almost fell over before the flip because I was very close to the boards and I was doing cross-overs in a straight line.
“So we were not as fluid as at Autumn Classic.”
Cipres found this so as well. “I think it was a little tight everywhere,” he said.
Aside from that, the French team also had to make a change to the length of their short program, because they were deducted a point at Autumn Classic for exceeding the time allowed.
The solution? Since the timer doesn’t start until skaters actually move, James and Cipres stood motionless at their starting point for a few extra seconds, holding off on their opening arm movements. When they started “I wasn’t even on the music so we were a little bit late,” James said. “It was a little distracting.”
Nevertheless, Cipres found the competition stiffer than at Skate America (which he watched), making for good competition for them. They were able to improve some levels lacking at Autumn Classic, although the skating itself was shakey.
Young Chinese team Peng Cheng and Jin Yang were close on their heels with 72.00 points and Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro weren’t far behind that in 72.16.
Moore-Towers and Marinaro had been 12 points behind James and Cipres during the Autumn Classic short program, but were only 3 points behind here.
“A big goal here was to start to close the gap,” Moore-Towers said. “We respect them tremendously and we love what they do, but at course, we want to be at their level.”
Bring it on, James and Cipres seem to say. “We have to fight because at the end of this season is going to be a very big fight.” he said. “We don’t want to sleep and just skate. We have to skate better and better and better.
“We were happy about today, and we made mistakes, but I think it’s good for the beginning.”
Ice dancers, too, are affected by the size of the rink and the curves in the corners. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier anticipated a small rink and trained up to this event by skating inside of pylons at their home rink.
Still, there is no accounting for adrenalin.
“The steps are set [in the pattern section of the rhythm dance] and we’re used to training in an Olympic rink,” Poirier said. “So when we compete in North America, we know we have to squash it into a narrower rink.”
But they had a bit more energy than usual for their tango romantic and “we were going a little bit faster than usual and we didn’t leave enough space against the boards,” Poirier said.
Their feet tangled.
They say they will have to moderate their energy in the future.
The miscue against the boards cost Gilles and Poirier dearly and they sit only in sixth place among 10 teams with 66.95 points, one hundredth of a point behind Wang Shiyue and Liu Xinyu of China, who have been training with Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon in Montreal in preparation for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are leading with a massive 80.49 points over the comeback kids Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia with 74.66 points.
Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz of Spain, who also train in Montreal under Dubrueil/Lauzon are in third with 72.35. Gilles and Poirier are 5.40 points away from third place.
“We haven’t had scores like that in a long long time,” Gilles said. “So it came as a little bit of a shock.”
“But we picked ourselves up and kept going,” she said.
“That’s not how we trained, but stuff happens.”