The trio gracing the podium represented three Canadian champions, as it turned out, who shared a special moment together at centre ice on Saturday afternoon in Halifax. Nobody shone more brightly — or was more downright giddy and overjoyed — than the one occupying the top step. Maybe that was the moment that Alaine Chartrand finally knew that it was true — that a 19-year-old from small town Prescott, Ont., could really become a Canadian champion.
It sure had not hit her when she spoke to the media just minutes after beating back the formidable challenge of defending champion Gabrielle Daleman, and Kaetlyn Osmond, the two-time winner who showed up in Halifax hungry to regain the national crown. Quite frankly, Chartrand was rather content with just guaranteeing herself a return to the World Championships — her biggest goal coming into the week. But this?
Chartrand shook her head in amazement, and flashed an impish grin, as she reflected on a near flawless “Gone with the Wind” free skate that included seven clean triple jumps, including a pair of Lutzes, and some intricate entries into combinations. “After I knew I was guaranteed second, I was all right, job done,” Chartrand said. “I’m not feeling like Canadian champion yet. I’m pretty shocked.”
And the way she made the crowd shake the building with a standing ovation in appreciation of her superb performance. “Oh my God. I wasn’t even into the second spin yet (at the end of her program) and people were just screaming,” said Chartrand. “I can’t be happier. I did my job.”
With a 201.99 overall total, Chartrand became just the third Canadian ladies skater to crack the 200-point barrier at nationals, following in the footsteps of Joannie Rochette (whose 208.23 total in 2010 is still the Canadian record) and Osmond in 2013 and 2014.
While Daleman actually won the free skate by a hair (133.55 to 133.18), Chartrand’s short program superiority carried the day. Indeed, this turned out to be a ladies’ free skate final for the ages, perhaps the best ever seen at a Canadian Championships. Daleman laid down a seven-triple free skate of her own, but Chartrand rose to the challenge presented to her in a huge way. “That was really tough, hearing her score before I skated,” said Chartrand. “Our whole motto is just do your job and the pieces will fall (into place). I just knew that if I did my job, I would be happy. I was just so happy to put that out there after I’ve had some rough long programs this season. That feels so amazing.”
Michelle Leigh, who heads up Chartrand’s coaching team, has never seen her protégé skate better — especially on back-to-back nights. “By far the best she’s put two programs together,” said Leigh, who previously guided Jennifer Robinson to six Canadian titles. “One big hurdle for her is skating after someone who has skated so great, but having so much good training helped her take the next step.”
Daleman (197.99) edged out Osmond (197.87) by a scant 0.12-point margin, to claim the second World team berth. “I was six points behind Kaetlyn, and four points behind Alaine (after the short program), so I knew I needed a killer skate, not only to try to win the free skate and keep my title, but also to get to Worlds, which was the big goal here,” said an emotional Daleman. “I knew I laid down the gauntlet, I knew I did a good free skate but again, I was four and six points behind and that’s a lot. I knew it was going to be close.”
She had to sweat out the final skate by Osmond, who was trying to make it all the way back to the top after missing nationals last year while recovering from a broken leg. Though disappointed she could not make it happen, Osmond took a big picture approach to the result.
“The first thing I thought about when I heard I came third is that I’m back to where I was exactly four years ago now,” said Osmond. “At my first senior Canadians (in 2012), I won the short and came third in the long, and that led to two really great years afterward. Maybe that’s what I’m looking forward to now (again) is two really great years. Hopefully, a couple more than another two great years.”
But the night belonged to Chartrand, the silver medal winner at Canadians a year ago, who made one mighty leap to the top step of the podium, and was a popular winner in the eyes of her fellow medalists. “I was really happy to hear how Alaine did,” said Osmond. “It was really great to see. It’s really exciting.”