Amid uncertainty, Canada’s Paul Poirier relieved at cancellation of nationals

The morning after the Canadian determine skating championships have been cancelled because of COVID-19, nearly ending a season that by no means acquired off the bottom, Paul Poirier went to the rink.

“It was a really strange morning, we just all still showed up at the rink, even though the announcement had come the night before,” Poirier mentioned. “None of us really knew what to do, because we didn’t have time to kind of process what had happened.

“[Tuesday] morning we had no clue. So we all simply confirmed up on the rink anyway. Because what else are you going to do?”

The reigning Canadian ice dance champion with partner Piper Gilles said there is still a small chance they’ll compete at the world championships in Stockholm in March — if the championships even happen, and under the right protocols.

Otherwise, he and Gilles are content to start focusing on next year’s Beijing Olympics.

“I’m OK actually,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday. “In loads of methods, the choice is a reduction. It’s unhappy and it is bizarre. I’ve not [missed] a Canadian championships, whether or not it is the child one or the massive one, in nearly 20 years.”

The Canadian championships, originally scheduled for this month in Vancouver, were pushed back to Feb. 8-14, then cancelled outright on Monday evening.

“Plenty of us athletes have been talking to 1 one other the previous few weeks as nationals has been ramping up, and attempting to determine how we wish to all strategy coaching, and I believe loads of people have been simply able to form of transfer on and begin making ready for the Olympic season,” said Poirier, who was eighth at the 2018 Olympics with Gilles.

“I believe that’s most likely the most effective use of our time proper now, moderately than simply form of coaching with a lot uncertainty, which makes it actually arduous to do something for a contest that could be cancelled the day earlier than.”

Poirier said they kept Tuesday morning’s practice in Toronto fun. The four dance teams learned each other’s programs. They did a synchronized routine, videotaped and tweeted by coach Carol Lane.

Canadian skaters have been grounded for nearly a year. The world championships last March in Montreal were one of the first major international events scrapped due to the global pandemic.

Skate Canada International in October was also cancelled. Skate Canada Challenge, the qualifier for the national event, is being held virtually. Skaters videotaped their programs, which are being broadcast and judged last weekend and this weekend.

WATCH | Moore-Towers, Marinaro win Skate Canada Challenge:

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro finish 1st in the virtual Skate Canada Challenge pairs event with a total score of 206.22. 7:13

Skate Canada’s CEO Debra Armstrong said the tough decision was made in the skaters’ best interest.

“It’s at all times been about athletes security,” Armstrong said. “Our athletes want an acceptable period of time to coach correctly. And I do not imply partially or disrupted, I imply skilled correctly to be in peak efficiency situation.”

COVID-19 protocols vary across the country. While Ontario skaters were given a high-performance sport exemption to train indoors, Alberta athletes have had to skate outdoors.

“So any coaching that’s taking place within the province of Alberta is going on outdoor. And that isn’t optimum, clearly,” Armstrong said. “B.C. really might be one of many lesser restricted provinces from a coaching perspective. But 88 per cent of our opponents [at nationals] will have come from outdoors British Columbia. So, they’re getting on planes, and so they’re touring when we’re instructed in every single place within the nation, not-essential journey shouldn’t occur.”

Armstrong said doing the event virtually poses the same challenges around skaters not being able to adequately train.

Keegan Messing, who was third in men’s singles at Skate America in October in Las Vegas, is the only Canadian team member who’s competed in a live event this season.

American nationals on deck

The U.S. championships are this weekend in Vegas. A bitter pill for Canadians?

“I imply this sincerely, not likely,” Armstrong said. “The circumstances in our nation are very completely different, I might say markedly completely different than how issues are being managed within the United States.

“I just know that at the end of the day, we have to live with what’s happening in our jurisdiction and pay attention to what provincial governments and public health authorities are telling us in our country, and we have to make our decisions based on that.”

Poirier mentioned he’ll watch the U.S. occasion with no emotions of jealousy.

“I like skating, I’ll probably watch because I’m curious to see what people are doing,” mentioned the 29-year-old from Unionville, Ont. “But really, the truth is this has been a challenging season for everyone. Everyone’s faced a lot of setbacks. Everyone’s made very different choices, that are probably not the most ideal choices, but the best they could make, given whatever limitations they’ve had.

“Even simply wanting on the competitions to this point this season, everybody you possibly can inform has needed to make some compromises with their preparations and their coaching.”

‘It is what it is’

Poirier said if he and Gilles can get through the season unscathed and healthy, that’ll be enough. And whether they arrive at the Olympics having had four competitions this season or zero, it won’t make a difference.

“I really feel a bit of bit stoic about it. But I do not know if there’s one other solution to be, ultimately, it’s what it’s,” he said. “I can not actually want it in any other case. I nonetheless get to skate [at practice]. And that’s already actually good given simply how a lot is closed down proper now.”

Armstrong said Skate Canada will work on plans for high performance camps in the spring.

The world championships, meanwhile, are still scheduled for March 22-28, but there is much doubt in the skating community about them happening.

Poirier said, if they do, he and Gilles would have to carefully consider factors such as what the bubble would look like, if the championships will still used for Olympic qualifying, whether prize money will still be offered, and whether they’d have to quarantine for two weeks upon returning home.

Gilles and Poirier, meanwhile, will “compete” within the Challenge occasion Friday and Saturday, alongside with the senior ladies’s and males’s singles occasions. Programs have been pre-recorded and will be streamed on SkateCanada.ca. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro gained the pairs occasion final weekend.

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