Podium promise

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- As preposterous a proposition as it surely would have seemed such a short time ago, it's possible Canada will put people on every podium for the first time in history at the World Figure Skating Championships.

And/or at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Ludicrous and laughable as the idea may have been back in Dortmund, Germany in 2004 when Canada snapped a 21-year run of putting at least one person on the podium at Worlds, it's now somewhere between possible and even being probable and predictable.

"We are now in position to be on the podium in every discipline. We've never done that," says new Skate Canada high performance director Michael Slipchuk.

"We're also in position to have two or three in the top 10 or 12 in every event. We've never done that before either.

"We've never been in position to be a leader at the Olympics in all four disciplines. Not in our hopes and prayers have we ever contemplated this before."

LAST YEAR IN GOTEBORG

It was in Goteborg, Sweden last year on the day which was at the same time as his 42nd birthday and his first anniversary as having been hired as the new high performance director that Slipchuk celebrated gold, silver and bronze at the Worlds.

There hadn't been an occasion since the Calgary Olympic year of 1988 our nation had medals in three different disciplines. A major restructuring brought William Thompson as CEO and Slipchuk together to strike a philosophy which has so far been stunningly successful.

When the two took over, there was real concern figure skating could come up empty in Vancouver. But all of a sudden they are here calmly contemplating unprecedented success.

"We didn't forecast everything that happened last year. Gold, silver and bronze was a great way to end our first season in this. But most importantly it was an indication of where our skating was moving," said Slipchuk, the Edmonton product who was Kurt Browning's top 10 running mate when he was winning world titles.

"The best part of what's happening here is that I think it helps everyone. The skaters know they are not in it by themselves anymore," says Slipchuk.

All of a sudden, last year, Canada had a surprise new world champion in Jeffrey Buttle and just as suddenly he retired. And it wasn't even a speed bump?

"When Jeffrey retired after winning the gold I think a lot of people expected a lapse but Patrick Chan stepped forward and has been the best male skater in the world this season. Patrick goes into these Worlds in the top two with Brian Jobert," he said of the 2007 world champion from France.

"Joannie Rochette has had a breakthrough year and has become one of the top women in the world now. I'd say there's Kim Yu-Na of Korea, Mao Asada of Japan and Jo. She's beaten Asada twice. She hasn't beaten Kim yet. But she's definitely in the mix with them with the opportunity to finish anywhere on the podium.

"Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have been out most of the year with her shin surgery but they stepped back in for one international event and had the third highest score of the year," he said of the dance duo which won a silver last year and go into a Worlds where the defending gold medal winners have withdrawn.

'STRONGER IN PAIRS'

"Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison are stronger in pairs than they were last year. There are three different world champions in pairs with the Germans and two Chinese teams, but they've closed the gaps with those guys," Slipchuk added of last year's bronze medal winners.

"All we've done is empower our coaches, really tried to install the concept that we're a team and take real steps forward in sports science. This is the first time, hopefully, we're going to sit down after the Olympics and not say we shoulda done this or coulda done that and didn't.

"We have a young, infectious group that wants to win. We now have skaters with a winning attitude who want to be the best, all at the same place and same time. They are all coming here to win and be at the top. This is a group which likes to train and likes to compete. We now have skaters who want to be the best and don't mind saying it.

"We've put ourselves in position to have the same success we had at Worlds last season or better."


Videos

Photos