Skate Canada set to go

Patrick Chan practices his program during Skate Canada International. (REUTERS/ Mike Cassese)

Patrick Chan practices his program during Skate Canada International. (REUTERS/ Mike Cassese)

MIKE KOREEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

KINGSTON, Ont. -- As Skate Canada regroups following a very successful home Olympics, Cynthia Phaneuf finds herself taking on a new role.

Still quite young at the age of just 22, the native of Brossard, Que. actually could be considered the Canadian veteran at Skate Canada International this weekend at the K-Rock Centre.

Of the 12 Canadian individuals or teams in action, Phaneuf made the earliest appearance at a senior world championships — back in 2005 after she won the national championship as a 16-year-old in 2004.

“In terms of how many years I've been doing Skate Canada, I'm one of the oldest. It's kind of weird,” Phaneuf said with a big smile.

“With all these young people coming in, I think it's great.”

Like many of the Canucks competing here, Phaneuf has a chance to grab the spotlight this weekend.

Much has been made about the reigning Canadian champs not at this event — ice dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue and pairs champs Bryce Davison and Jessica Dube are injured, while women's Olympic bronze medallist Joannie Rochette hasn't firmed up her competitive plans.

“I think that shouldn't change my expectations, whether (Rochette) is here or not,” Phaneuf said. “I can't control what others are doing. I just have to focus on myself.”

It's the proper attitude to take as Phaneuf tries to continue climbing up the international ladder.

Phaneuf finished a career-best fifth at the world championships last season, 10 places better than her showing the year before.

The run-up to this season has presented some challenges, however. Phaneuf's coach, Annie Barabe, had a baby girl about three months ago, taking her out of action for part of the summer.

Meanwhile, Phaneuf had to move out of her home rink in Contrecouer, Que., because of some damage to the roof.

All of this came as Phaneuf was installing two new programs — breaking out of her routine from the past two years.

Perhaps because she's been so busy, Phaneuf said she hasn't experienced any post-Olympic letdown, something that affects many athletes (she finished 12th in Vancouver).

“For me, it's been fine,” said Phaneuf, who was out of skating at the 2006 Olympics while recovering from injuries. “The Olympics is a very, very tough year mentally. You have to prepare yourself all year. You're training so hard and it's so intense.”

A trio of Americans, Alissa Czisny, reigning world junior silver medallist Agnes Zawadski and Alexe Gilles, could challenge Phaneuf at Skate Canada. Reigning Russian champ Ksenia Makarova also is in the field.

The big name at Skate Canada is two-time reigning world silver medallist Patrick Chan, who will be trying out a quad for the first time in competition on Friday night in the short program.

The Ottawa native revealed on Thursday that he hurt his back after taking a bad fall while mountain biking last month at his training base in Colorado.

It was a big scare for Chan (he thought he had suffered a serious injury), but he said he has bounced back.

“Just a little speed bump on the way here,” Chan said.

Chan's face lights up when he is asked about the quad.

“It's just like you're in a vortex,” he said.

Overall, Skate Canada acknowledges it has been a challenge to try to get back up to speed in the aftermath of an Olympics when Moir and Virtue won gold and Rochette won bronze.

“After an Olympic Games, it always is difficult to regroup and bring everything back up to the level it was before,” Skate Canada CEO William Thompson said. “Certainly after a home Games, it's really difficult. We've all felt the drop in energy. We need to find ourselves and re-focus and get back working hard.”

The women's short program kicks off the Friday matinee session at 11:30 a.m. It is followed by the pairs short.

Opening ceremonies go at 5:30 p.m. The men's short takes the ice at 6:15 p.m. and the ice dance short wraps up the opening day of the three-day event.


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