Canadian figure skaters are set to compete under the Las Vegas lights at Skate America as the 2021-2022 Grand Prix Circuit gets underway this week.
Last year’s iteration of the event saw Keegan Messing as the only Canadian at the competition, which took place without fans as the pandemic slashed at the series. A Grand Prix Final was not held.
This year, a Canadian contingent of seven — contesting in all events except for women’s singles — is hitting the ice, as the Grand Prix roars back to life with the added intrigue of the 2022 Winter Olympics on the horizon.
The competition runs from Oct. 22 to 24. You can watch Skate America on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem beginning Friday at 7:48 p.m. ET.
A fight for the podium in ice dance
Fournier Beaudry, 29, and Sorensen, 32, have emerged with medals in Las Vegas before, earning bronze at the 2019 installment of Skate America. The duo found the podium four times that year — twice on the Grand Prix Circuit, the other being a matching bronze at the Cup of China.
While they missed a section of the 2020 season as Sorensen underwent knee surgery, the skaters returned to finish eighth at the world championships.
They’ll compete alongside Canadian duo Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus, who recently notched 11th and fifth place finishes at the Finlandia Trophy and Autumn Classic International.
Two powerhouse American ice dancing teams are expected to fight it out for gold.
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue will look to defend the Skate America crown they’ve held tightly for three straight iterations.
Four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France are scheduled to compete at other events on the circuit.
Canada’s Nguyen returns in stacked men’s field
The men’s singles is also a battle of skaters boasting a championship pedigree.
Reigning world champion Nathan Chen of the United States has captured gold four straight times in Nevada. He’ll compete alongside American teammate Vincent Zhou, who won bronze at the 2019 worlds and recently won the Nebelhorn Trophy.
Nam Nguyen will be the only Canadian in the men’s event, showcasing a new short program “White Legend” in his return to international competition after being sidelined by the pandemic.
Nguyen, 23, skated to sixth place at the 2020 Four Continents in his limited international run.
Walsh, Michaud representing Canada in pairs
Canadian pairs team Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud will also unveil new programs. The 20- and 25-year-old are aiming to impress this season and book one of two pairs spots available for the Olympics.
The duo have back-to-back 12th place finishes at world championships.
They’ll take on Russian pairs Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii, the reigning world bronze medallists, and fourth-place Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov.
Also present: American team Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, a partnership formed amidst the pandemic that skated to seventh at worlds, who are defending their title from 2020.
The competition was filled with skaters who only trained in the United States due to the pandemic and saw Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson in second place. They’ll also return to compete in 2021.
While there will be no Canadian competitors in the women’s singles event, Madeline Schizas, Emily Bausback and Alison Schumacher are all slated to appear at Skate Canada.
All eyes will be on Russia′s Alexandra Trusova, expected to attempt a dazzling five quads.
The top six skaters across the series in each discipline qualify to compete at the Grand Prix Final, which is scheduled to be held in Osaka, Japan from Dec. 9–12