World Figure Skating Championships | Full of oxygen at the Bell Center

No offense to the Canadiens’ fans, the Bell Center has not vibrated very often this season. The best couples of figure skaters took it upon themselves to put a little soul into it during the first day of competition at the World Championships in Montreal, Wednesday afternoon.

The audience had just returned to their seats after a standing ovation for the Japanese Riku Miura and Ryuchi Kihara, who reminded us with fine choreography why they were the title challengers.

A few minutes later, the crowd rose to welcome its favorites, Canadians Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps, the contenders, fourth last year. On the music and lyrics ofOxygenDiane Dufresne’s success reworked by Cirque du Soleil, the Quebec duo put some 5,000 spectators in their little pocket.

At the conclusion of the death spiral, a second, more vibrant standing ovation accompanied the greetings of the local couple. As if to release her excess energy, Stellato moved away from her partner for a little loop, clapping her hands with an almost angry gesture, with a facial expression that Martin St-Louis would not have denied at when he was a player.

“We chose this program as a tribute to Montreal, I am very happy that we were able to offer a good performance to the public,” expressed the skater from Chicago as she left the ice rink.

At 40 years old – and less than five years after a 16-year return from retirement – ​​the former world junior singles runner-up has no time to lose and knows why she skates.

Nevertheless, the big “O” drawn by his mouth in the “kiss and cry” area testified to his astonishment at the announcement of the results. The 77.48 points, a personal high, allowed Stellato and Deschamps to win the short program – and a “small” gold medal to boot – with a significant lead of almost four points over Miura and Kihara (73 .53).

“It’s important to recognize that I’m a lot more nervous for this event than I have been for others,” Stellato nevertheless admitted. It’s a world championship at home and I know a lot of people in the audience, including some who have never seen me skate. I want them to think I’m cool! »

To be cool, she was, coming close to perfection with Deschamps in the sequence of the seven elements of the short program.

“It’s really a culmination of the whole year,” summarized the athlete from Vaudreuil-Dorion. We worked hard. It wasn’t always perfect, but each time we managed to achieve our goals. Today we managed to do them all together. »

Is this a lifetime best performance? “Hard to say, but certainly the most emotional of my career,” judged Deschamps, 32 years old.

Bronze medalists last year, the Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii (72.88) closed this inaugural event by settling in third place.

“A two-goal lead”

Deschamps promised himself “to come to his senses and become calm again because tomorrow is a new day”. “We will have to take things one at a time,” he added in view of Thursday evening’s free program.

Still, their four-point priority over their Japanese rivals, whom they beat at the end of January at the Four Continents Championships, represents a significant cushion.

“It’s like they started the third period with a two-goal lead,” conceded Bruno Marcotte, Miura and Kihara’s coach, who remembered with amusement cooking hot dogs in what was called the Molson Center at the end of the 1990s. “It’s not done, but it’s going well (for them). »

Impressed by the quality of skating offered by the 24 couples competing – something never seen before in his eyes – the Quebec coach had no regrets for the pair he has led for four years at his school in Oakville, in the west from Toronto. Kihara is recovering from a stress fracture in his back that ruined the majority of his season after participating in the last Pierrefonds Fall Classic.

After the competition, Marcotte led her skaters to the emblematic Orange Julep, on boulevard Décarie, to give them a taste of poutine. At a press conference, the tiny Miura expressed how much she enjoyed this local dish, having been introduced to it as a teenager when she often came to train with Marcotte in Sainte-Julie and in Saint-Leonard.

The conference of the first three was also the occasion for a small fraternal meeting. Julie Marcotte, Bruno’s big sister who continues to direct the Sainte-Julie school, is the choreographer of Stellato/Dudek and… Miura/Kihara.

“When I started choreographing, I did it in my spare time for my brother,” said Julie Marcotte. She then worked with her ex-trainer Josée Picard, whom she accompanied with Stellato and Deschamps in the “kiss and cry”.

“Today, I said to myself: we are going to be first and second, that’s the goal,” she added, welcoming her brother. “The better the world is, the better everyone becomes.” »

Josée Picard, who coached both Julie and Éric, agreed to immortalize this special moment with people she has known closely for 40 years. “Look at how the passion was transmitted,” underlined the woman who is in her 51st yeare season as coach. On Thursday, she will have the opportunity to win a second world title in pairs after that of Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler in 1993.

For the free program, it will be the Canadians Stellato and Deschamps who will start before Miura and Kihara by virtue of the draw.

“A wonderful time”

The organizing committee for the first World Championships presented in Montreal since 1932 could not have hoped for a better scenario. Already, mid-session, Kelly Ann Laurin and Loucas Éthier warmed up the crowd.

If they had the right, the young Quebec duo would have happily stretched the two minutes 40 seconds allocated for the short program. At his very first world championships, Laurin, 18, and Éthier, 23, achieved an almost masterful entry. The routine was not finished when the skater struggled to hold back her tears, while her accomplice concentrated on savoring the moment.

“Wow, that was sick!” » said the young man to his partner who had just snuggled against his chest a few seconds after the usual greetings.


Kelly Ann Laurin and Loucas Éthier.

Their fairy tale continued when the score was announced: 60.18 points, a personal high on the international scene. In the end, this performance, marked by a single error on the flying jump (she had to place her hands on the ice to preserve her balance), earned them the 14e rank.

“People told us how special it would be, but there was no way to prepare for it! smiled Loucas Éthier a few minutes later. It gave us wings and really helped us get through our program. »

“It was a wonderful time!” » added Kelly Ann Laurin, moved to perform in front of her parents and young skaters she coaches at the Saint-Jérôme club. “I tried to stay focused, but I told myself: take your time, have fun, enjoy the moment, because once in a while you get to skate at the World Championships at home, in front of all our friends and family. »

The young woman started crying again while talking about the presence of her grandmother, Patricia Laurin, who is ill. “It feels good to see her in the stands and for her to be there to see me. »

After this first stage which passed “in the blink of an eye”, the pair is ready for the rest. “I know we’re going to put the pressure back on ourselves tomorrow, but we’re used to living with that pressure,” said Éthier. It’s not negative either, but we will definitely know more what to expect. Today, it was the unknown that was stressing me out and I think we will be better equipped to handle that. »

Here are two others who already know how to “bring their game to the game »…


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