Ahead of the women’s short program of the figure skating team event at the 2022 Olympics, the CBC published the truly unhinged opinion that Canada’s chances at advancing to the team event final rested squarely on the shoulders of reigning National Champion Madeline Schizas.
There is just so much wrong with this opinion, and it’s hard to know where to begin. Anyone who genuinely believes this is either following mandatory coverage of Canadian athletes by domestic networks or suffering from delusions. Let’s start with the fact that Schizas is a first time Olympian and had no part in the team event in 2018, at which Canada won the gold medal. Moreover, Canada’s 2018 team event team was comprised of veterans. There’s just no comparison to this year’s team, which is comprised of skaters with no chances at medals in their respective events, with perhaps one exception.
There was never any mechanism coming into these Games for Canada to have a chance at winning a medal in the team event. Before the event even began, reigning Canadian men’s champion, Keegan Messing, tested positive for COVID-19 and was unable to reach Beijing in time to compete in the men’s short program. That task fell to Canadian men’s silver medalist Roman Sadovsky, who has never been competitive on the international stage. His highest finish internationally was at last year’s Rostelecom Cup, and prior to that, it was an eighth-place finish at the 2021 Nebelhorn Trophy. Even if Messing had been able to compete in the short program, Canada wouldn’t likely have been left in any better position. As enjoyable as Messing can be to watch when he’s at his best, it’s worth noting he won the Canadian National Championships with a single axel, proof that he has nowhere near the technical nor the performance abilities of the world’s top figure skaters.
Pairs was another avenue that Skate Canada made sure was completely cut off at the knees. The truly baffling decision to refuse to send Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud to this Olympic Games in favour of a couple who simply came out of retirement to use one of two of Canada’s pairs spots to compete in the Olympics again deserves an entire piece on its own. Walsh and Michaud as a young, up and coming team would undoubtedly have benefited from an Olympic outing. Although they likely would have struggled to compete against the best in the discipline, they have been improving all season and would have been in an excellent position for the next Olympics. Unfortunately, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro have struggled all season with consistency, and despite being Canada’s pairs champions, were never going to be competitive here.
Even in ice dance, which is arguably the only chance Canada has at a medal when the individual events get underway, the outlook was bleak. Canada’s top ice dancers, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, are considered by some to have a real shot at the bronze medal in the ice dance event. However, they will need to be better than their best to beat both American teams of Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and Madison Hubbelll and Zach Donohue. They weren’t able to pull ahead in the rhythm dance portion of the team event.
All of this brings us back to Madeline Schizas. This is only Schizas’ fifth season at the senior level. She’s had limited senior international experience and has competed in one World Championships, at which she finished 13th overall. She was considered by some to be a surprise Canadian champion after the previous champion, Emily Bausback, struggled through this year’s Nationals and finished ninth overall. It’s completely nonsensical to expect a skater with Schizas’ experience and skating ability to carry the responsibility of earning Canada a qualifying berth in the team event.
To recap, only the top five countries in the team event advance to the final stage following all of the short programs. It was always going to be a challenge for Canada to make this happen since so many of Canada’s legendary skaters have retired. This is ultimately the problem that Skate Canada must address. By continuing to focus on big names and results of the past, Skate Canada continues to ensure that we can’t advance our own skaters in this sport. By supporting new, talented skaters, we can rebuild our program and perhaps be competitive on the international stage again.
This entitlement to top competitive results needs to stop, and honestly, it holds us all back. Skate Canada needs to do better. The strategy of relying on the fact that Canadians know how to skate clearly isn’t working. Maybe when these Olympics are through, we can go back to the drawing table, and come up with a better plan for success than pinning all of our hopes on an 18-year-old.
The Figure Skating events at the Beijing Olympic Games run from Feb.3-19 2022.