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Kaiya Ruiter claims Canadian women's figure skating crown

Kaiya Ruiter Kaiya Ruiter - The Canadian Press

CALGARY — The moment wasn't too big for Kaiya Ruiter.

The 17-year-old Calgarian won Saturday's free skate in her hometown to claim her first Canadian women's figure skating championship.

Trailing two-time champ Madeline Schizas after Friday's short program, Ruiter laid down her best free-skate score this season to take the crown at WinSport Arena.

"Just having that skate out there, that just felt like magic to me," Ruiter said. "That was one of the most special performances I've ever had in my life and just to get to share that with my family and friends and everyone that I love, it's just surreal."

Vancouver's Wesley Chiu claimed his first national men's singles title Saturday. Double world bronze medallists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier captured ice dance gold, while Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps defended their pairs title.

Ruiter, who will compete for Canada at the Youth Winter Olympic Games starting Friday in Gangwon, South Korea, posted a winning score of 180.86 points.

After judges gave her 122.61 for her free skate, Ruiter watched on a television screen behind the kiss-and-cry area as 20-year-old Schizas of Oakville, Ont., struggled to land jumps.

Schizas hugged Ruiter and congratulated the victor, but was incredulous at her own performance that scored third-place marks to drop her to second at 172.90.

"I just, like, walked my way through the program making mistakes one after another after another," Schizas said. "I cannot pinpoint one good thing that happened in that program. It was a waste of everyone's time including mine."

Canada's 2023 junior women's champion Hetty Shi of Mississauga, Ont., was third with a score of 162.51.

Chiu carried a sizable lead from the men's short program into Saturday's free skate, in which he was unable to land a quadruple jump or a triple axel.

The 18-year-old did enough to win after two straight years of bronze, however. Chiu threw in an unplanned triple-triple combination toward the end of his free skate.

"I just tried to scratch out every single point that I could," he said. "After hearing the long program score, I still wasn't quite sure just because I wasn't paying attention to the scores, really. When the final results came out, it was a big stress relief for sure.

"Having Canadian champion on my back, definitely I can skate with more pride now. It also comes with responsibility. Really motivating to go back and train hard."

Silver medallist Aleksa Rakic of Burnaby, B.C., won the free skate to finish with 225.39 points behind's Chiu's 232.15. Anthony Paradis of Boisbriand, Que., was the bronze medallist at 209.98.

The Montreal-based Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps led the pairs competition by less than a point after the short program, in which Stellato-Dudek face-planted while landing a throw jump.

Stellato-Dudek and Poirier executed two throws in Saturday's free skate to go just over 10 points clear of Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud for a total of 205.79.

"We're happy that we were able to come back from that really bad performance yesterday and show the work we've been doing on those throws," said Stellato-Dudek, who won a national championship at age 40.

"Those were two very smoothly landed throws and I was not going to back down on those after what happened yesterday."

Pereira of Milton, Ont., and Michaud of Brantford, Ont., upgraded from their bronze medal of 2023 with 193.14 points. Kelly Ann Laurin of St-Jerome, Que., and Loucas Éthier of St-Alphonse, Que., were third at 187.40.

Gilles and Poirier withdrew from last year's nationals because Gilles underwent cancer surgery to remove an ovary. Toronto's Gilles and Poirier of Unionville, Ont., swept the short and long programs for a score of 222.95.

"Paul and I really skated like champions today," Gilles said. "We stepped out onto the ice and just remembered who we were and why we're here. And using this as a stepping-stones for worlds, you know, we want to be on the top of that podium, so we've got to start acting like those champions."

Silver medallists Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac of Ste-Anne-Des-Plaines, Que., totalled 200.50 points. Alicia Fabbri of Terrebone, Que., and Paul Ayer of Brossard, Que., ranked third with 195.61.

Canada's 2023 ice dance champions Nikolaj Sorensen and Laurence Fournier Beaudry withdrew from this year's championship.

USA Today reported an American figure skating coach and former skater accused Sorensen of raping her in Hartford, Conn., in 2012, and that a complaint has been filed with both Canada's Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner and the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

The allegations have not been proven in court. Sorensen called the allegations false in an Instagram post.

Results at nationals factor into selection for the Four Continents championship Jan. 30 to Feb. 4 in Shanghai, as well as the world championship March 18-24 in Montreal, but are not the only criteria.

Skate Canada also considers scores and results from previous world championships and this season's Grand Prix circuit.

Three ice dance teams, three pairs, two men and one woman will compete on home ice in Montreal's world championship.

Canada will send a full complement of three ice dance teams, three pairs, three men and three women to Shanghai.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2024.