Even with three medals, Olympics a letdown for Skate Canada

Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond competes during the figure skating women's free skate at the 2014 Sochi...

Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond competes during the figure skating women's free skate at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 20, 2014. (LUCY NICHOLSON/Reuters)

Steve Buffery, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:39 PM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - There was a ton of spinning going on during the ladies’ figure skating long program Thursday, and some in the media zone as well.

Skate Canada high performance director Mike Slipchuk — who has done a impressive job with the national figure skating team the last few years — certainly put a spin on Canada’s performance at these Sochi Olympics.

Slipchuk called Canadian skaters here “a special team,” though the reality is the Canadians disappointed more than triumphed.

Slipchuk pointed out that Skate Canada’s goal coming into the Sochi Olympics was to tie the team record for most skating medals at a Games, with three (previously set at the 1988 Calgary Olympics). And they did — with three silver medals.

But here’s the spin: The only reason Canads managed to leave with three medals is because of the newly added team event, where Canada won silver. The team won two medals in individual events and none was gold — and that was a big disappointment.

A silver medal is a wonderful achievement, but off-the-record you know that Skate Canada were hoping for at least one and possibly two gold medals — from Patrick Chan in men’s singles and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in ice dance. Unfortunately, as one former skater said on the night of the men’s free skate, Chan had the gold medal on a silver platter and chose the platter.

All the Toronto skater needed to win the gold was a decent free skate (by his standards) after his archrival Yuzuru Hanyu failed to nail a great skate in his long program. Instead, Chan stumbled to the silver.

As for Virtue and Moir, the defending Olympic champions skated their hearts out in the long and short dances, but somehow fell out of favor with the international judges and were relegated to second behind American archrivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. An unfair result, perhaps. But silver nonetheless.

Skate Canada was also hoping that one of Canada’s top pairs teams ­— Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford or Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch (who were third and fourth respectfully at last year’s worlds) — would be able to land on the podium in Sochi. But it was not to be. Moore-Towers and Moscovitch did well to finish fifth, but Duhamel and Moscovitch struggled and fell to seventh.

As for the women, both Kaetlyn Osmond (18) and Gabrielle Daleman (16) are young and skating at their first Olympics, but skating fans were probably expecting more from Osmond at least, who finished 13th here. At last year’s worlds, Osmond was eighth, though she had been fighting injuries this season and skated her long in Sochi with a sore hamstring.

The question is: With Chan and Virtue and Moir both expected to retire from competitive skating, who are the next stars of the Canadian figure skating team? And, are they even out there? It’s difficult to see if there is a future Olympic champion anywhere in the mix. Slipchuk thinks there are — pointing out that both pairs teams could medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang, South Korea Olympics, as could Osmond.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a huge dropoff in athletes,” said Slipchuk. “This is a pretty young team and from all accounts the majority of them will be staying on for the next four years and we have a good nucleus to build upon and keep our reputation and our standing in the world alive.

“But it’s going to be a challenge for a lot of younger people coming up,” he admitted. “And we need to have that next layer step forward and step up.”

Slipchuk said he was heartened by the showing of some young skaters at this season’s national championships — particularly the performances by teenagers Nam Nguyen of Toronto (15) and Roman Sadovsky (14), who finished fifth and eighth respectfully in senior men’s singles. Nguyen is coached by Brian Orser, who has coached Yuna Kim and Hanyu to Olympic gold.

“Canadians was very optimistic for me, especially the two young guys in Nam and Roman who really took a step forward,” said Slipchuk. “We see a lot of good depth, junior, novice down. But it’s so hard to say (how high they can go). Someone like Patrick came on the scene so fast, you just never know how quick they’re going to transition into the senior ranks. We saw that with Gabby (Daleman). Three years ago she was in novice. If you think back to Victoria (the 2011 nationals), she was eighth in novice and Kaetlyn was sixth in junior and here they’re two ladies at Olympics. That’s how fast things can materialize. In the last two years, Kaetlyn kind of came out of nowhere.

“I think the future is very bright on our ladies front,” Slipchuk added. “They’re both going to be up there and I think the (2014) worlds (next month in Japan) is a good opportunity to keep moving up. We’re very optimistic.”

That’s all well and good. But is there a Yulia Lipnitskaya (15) or Yuzuru Hanyu (19) or even another Patrick Chan in Canada’s future? At this point, we can’t quite see it.

RUSSIAN OUTDUELS DEFENDING CHAMP

2010 Olympic champion Yuna Kim of South Korea did everything she could to defend her Olympic women's singles title on Thursday night, but was washed away in a sea of white, blue and red -- the colours of the Russian flag.

Skating last in the women's free program, Kim was essentially flawless. Skating to her Adios Nonino" tango program, Kim, who trained in Toronto with coach Brian Orser before her 2010 triumph, landed all her jumps with her usual grace, earning a freeskate mark of 144.19, for a total score 219.11.

But that wasn't enough to overcome the performance, and emotion, of Russian skater, 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova, who brought the house down with a tremendous freeskate, performed to Rondo Capriccioso. On a tremendous night of women's figure skating, Sotnikova and Kim stood out. Both were sensational. The Russian two-footed a double loop on a jump combination and Kim had to fight to hold a triple lutz, but that was basically it for major mistakes. In the end, the judges favoured the Russian (149.95 for her long program and 224.59 total score), who jumped up and down the flower podium as the crowd chanted her name and cheered. Italy's Carolina Kostner was third (216.73).

"The atmosphere was wonderful," said Sotnikova. "I felt something amazing coming from the crowd. I could hear shouts and screams the whole time of 'Keep going, Adelina', and 'You can do it'. I just couldn't skate badly."

Kaetlyn Osmond, 18, of Marystown, NL was 13th (168.98) while Newmarket's Gabrielle Daleman, 16, was 17th (148.44). Both were competing in their first Olympics. Osmond fought hard to hold her long together and did a solid job, falling once on a triple toe. The Edmonton-based skater later revealed that a hamstring injury which has plagued her all season flared up again.

"I'm been fighting the last few days with my hamstring acting up again, so I was (proud) to able to pull through a program like that," she said.

Osmond appeared completely spent after her long.

"Being here so long it just tired me out," she said. "I don't remember being that tired at the end of a program before."

Daleman skated a well, with a couple of mistakes, and fought back to hold back tears after her skate.

"Yeah, just being the first Olympics and senior international and being my age and just everything, it's just great," said the Newmarket teenager.

Russian darling Yulia Lipnitskaya, who dazzled the home fans during the team competition event, rebounded from a poor short program with a solid long, and finished fifth (200.57).

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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