Madeline Schizas admitted to feeling some pressure this week as the defending Canadian champion.
The 19-year-old from Oakville, Ont., who was the last woman to skate Saturday at the Tribute Communities Centre, held off the hard-charging Kaiya Ruiter to win her second national figure skating title.
“I knew that the skaters ahead of me had put pressure on me to put out a skate that maybe didn’t need to be perfect but did need to be a fight from start to finish. And that was difficult,” Schizas said. “I was standing backstage and I was like, ‘Oh gosh, this is not going to be a walk in the park.’
“I’m just happy that it was a fight from start to finish. The end of that program wasn’t easy but I pushed right to the end and I’m happy with that.”
Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen captured their first Canadian dance title despite a mishap on their final move when Fournier Beaudry’s long skirt caught under her blade.
And Deanna Stellato-Dudek battled through a nagging virus to win the pairs event with Maxime Deschamps.
Dressed in coral colours and skating to music from “West Side Story,” Schizas landed six triple jumps to score 128.15 points in her free program, for 196.47 overall.
Ruiter, a 16-year-old from Calgary, vaulted from sixth after the short program to the silver medal with the highest free-skate score of 129.82, and a total of 189.36.
“Oh my gosh, it feels absolutely incredible,” Ruiter said. “It was so unexpected and just to skate my best skate and win a medal on top of that … oh my gosh, I still can’t believe it.”
Fiona Bombardier, the 17-year-old daughter of two-time Olympian Josee Chouinard, claimed bronze with 180.54 points.
Schizas won a legion of fans with her impressive Olympic debut last year in Beijing, where her short program in the team event propelled Canada into the final and eventually to a fourth-place finish.
She called her second consecutive Canadian title “surreal.”
“I don’t think if you told me as a kid or if you told me in 2020 I was going to be a two-time Canadian champion, I would’ve have bought into it — now here I am,” Schizas said.
Ruiter was the 2020 Canadian junior champion at just 13, trouncing a field of skaters who were in most cases at least a couple of years older.
She would have been just old enough to compete in the Beijing Olympics, but a gruesome injury sidelined her for the season.
“I landed on my skate blade, and it went through and cut two of my calf muscles,” Ruiter said. “It was really rough, and then coming back from that … I had some scar tissue issues and nerve damage all throughout the summer.
“So, I only really started training again in September.”
The national event determines Canada’s team for the world championships March 20-26 in Saitama, Japan.
Canada has just one berth in women’s singles.
While Schizas will earn that spot when the team is named Sunday, Ruiter looked forward to the world junior championship on home ice at Calgary’s WinSport Event Centre.
Montreal’s Fournier Beaudry and Soerensen, a Danish-Canadian, competed for Denmark before switching allegiances in 2018.
They scored 212.40 points despite their blunder, which they said cost them five points, to edge Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha by 0.6.
Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, who won the Grand Prix Final last month, withdrew from the national championships after Gilles’ appendectomy.
Fournier Beaudry and Soerensen had the crowd gasping just three seconds before the end of their music when Fournier Beaudry’s blade got caught up in her four-pound skirt.
“So listen, we had a really good time. When it happened, I just started laughing because like this is ridiculous,” Soerensen said. “You know, when you skate like that … the last words she told me right before: ‘Nik, just remember to enjoy every moment,’ because it goes by so fast when you’re out there.
“We train so hard for seven minutes of performance in front of a crowd, seven times a year … and with whatever mistake you do, we’re just really able to still enjoy and have a good time, because we’re humans, and it happens to everybody.”
Stellato-Dudek, a 39-year-old who came out of retirement after more than a dozen years away from the sport, has been ill for nine weeks with a virus that causes her throat to swell. She and Deschamps scored 199.18 for gold, while Brooke McIntosh, sister of swim star Summer McIntosh, claimed the silver (187.26).
“That was hard,” Stellato-Dudek said through a raspy voice. “Also, usually before a competition I’m really hyped up and I’m at 110 per cent and I’m just not right now … I’ve never felt not 100 per cent at an event. I feel like I’m a Diet Coke, not a Coke, you know what I mean? So, I’m not giving us much caffeine or sugar or energy.”
She said she was intent on competing to get her partner on the podium. Deschamps was competing in his 10th national championships — eight of them were with previous partners.
“Everyone always focuses on my story, because it’s so abnormal. But Max has an amazing story also. And I really wanted to be the partner that brought him a gold medal,” Stellato-Dudek said.
“After all those years that I keep fighting, persevere and everything that finally I arrived there and to be able to win, it’s just fantastic,” said the 31-year-old Deschamps. “I don’t know the word right now perfectly to describe what it’s feeling right now.”
The men’s singles free program was the final event Saturday.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press