The ninth time was the charm for Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.
After amassing a collection of five silver and two bronze medals from their previous trips to Canadians (they finished fourth in 2014), the popular ice dancers now have the color of medal they have wanted for so long. And they earned it in record-breaking fashion. Few words have sounded better to Gilles and Poirier than “Canadian champion.”
“It’s something we’ve worked really, really hard to get and it hasn’t come easily,” said Gilles of the title that came one year after she and Poirier came agonizingly close to a golden finish at nationals in Saint John, New Brunswick. “But everything is about timing in life and we’ve finally found what works for us, and to be able to finally be Canadian champions is absolutely thrilling. We’re really proud of ourselves.”
The duo did it in convincing fashion, bringing the audience to their feet with a virtuoso free dance performance to Joni Mitchell’s classic “Both Sides Now.” Among the crowd were many family members and friends, on hand to support a couple that calls Toronto home. “Just being able to have a performance like that at home and knowing that we captured the gold is a moment that we will remember for a long, long time,” said Gilles.
Gilles and Poirier also etched their name in the record books with a 225.62 overall total, which established a new Canadian standard (they also received 19 scores of 10.00 for program components). In Poirier’s eyes, the couple is right on track for a big finish at the World championships in March in Montréal. “Overall, this is a stronger performance than anything we did on the Grand Prix circuit,” he said. “This is exactly where we want to be.”
The same might be said for Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha, the reigning World Junior champions, who climbed onto the silver-medal spot on the podium in their debut season as seniors at nationals. They turned in an energetic skate to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and finished with an overall score of 198.92.
“Finishing with a second place … we couldn’t do better,” said Lajoie. “Seniors is bigger and there is more pressure, but we dealt well with that.”
Added Lagha: “At the end today, we are more happy with how we skated than with the result.”
Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus came to nationals eyeing a silver medal themselves, but a fall by Firus early in their free dance scuttled those thoughts. Their 190.29 total left them in the bronze-medal position.
“It was very unfortunate, but I was happy with how we stayed together, because it’s so easy to let your mind go and (think) ‘screw the rest of the program.’ But it was really important, and I was very proud of how we brought it together.”
Haley Sales and Nikolas Wamsteeker finished fourth with 176.82 ahead of Molly Lanaghan and Dmitre Razgulajevs who danced into fifth with 170.45.