Things get serious today at the world figure skating championships. The preliminaries are over, and the main draw rumbles into motion, with the pairs short program and the short dance.
Sure, this week, Patrick Chan is up to defend his world title and Olympic dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will try to win back their world title, but Canada has a third shot at a medal, from skaters who live in the shadows: ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.
In the past, Weaver and Poje missed several chances to shine on the world stage by fractions of a point, just trying to get to stay, the Olympic Games in Vancouver. But they have tossed the disappointments into a bucket somewhere and ploughed on ahead with ferocity, often getting standing ovations when they compete.
Virtue and Moir get all of the attention, but Weaver and Poje set a goal this season: to win a medal at every competition they entered. They had a major breakthrough at the world championships last year in Moscow, finishing fifth, leapfrogging past teams that had defeated them before. Because they were in the top six, they had the option to enter three Grand Prix events rather than only two and they were the only team that took up the option, getting valuable exposure and experience on the international level.
They've lived up to their goals by winning a medal in five of their six events, taking silver at all three Grand Prix events and missing out on a medal only at the Grand Prix Final in Quebec City when they were fourth behind the usual suspects at the top (Virtue and Moir and Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States) and French skaters Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat.
Twice this season, Weaver and Poje have finished ahead of the young American upstarts Maia and Alex Shibutani, a brother and sister team that shocked everybody to win the bronze medal in their debut at the world championships last year. But the Shibutanis have struggled this season, changing their short dance after the Grand Prix Final, after Weaver and Poje defeated them.
Weaver and Poje defeated the Americans again at the Four Continents Championships in Colorado Springs last month, with Alex apparently ill.
Now Canada's No. 2 ice dancers will take aim at their last hurdle, the French, who are their training mates in Detroit. Weaver and Poje finished behind the French at the Grand Prix Final, but this time, the French are coming into an event with a disadvantage: Pechalat broke her nose during a training accident just before worlds.
With her proboscis in a sling (a bandage really), will Pechalat be able to breathe, particularly in the longer free dance? And now, Weaver and Poje are saying that they are even stronger than they were at Four Continents five weeks ago.
The French had one more shock at the European championships in January, when Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev finished ahead of them in the short dance, edging them by only .17 points.
The crowd booed when the French were placed second with unusually low presentation marks, and the Russians getting markedly higher marks than they had at the Grand Prix Final, despite Bobrova's constant bent posture. The French came back to defeat the Russians in the free dance and took the title, but the point had been made for future competitions.
In the middle of all of this ice dancing angst sit Weaver and Poje, ready to pounce. And they have this goal, as they've had all season: to win a medal at every event.