Vanessa James and Eric Radford sat in the virtually empty TD Place Arena stands, watching as their rivals competed in the Pairs Free Skate at the Canadian figure skating championships.
A day later, James and Radford found themselves having to defend their berth on Canada's team for the Beijing Olympics.
Yesterday www.islandstats.com reported the pair withdrew from the 022 Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships.
The veteran skaters, who contracted COVID-19 just before Christmas, were awarded one of the two berths in pairs on Sunday, despite withdrawing from the championships in Ottawa after the short program. The decision drew the ire of some skating fans.
"The criteria was stated at the beginning of the season. And so, from the beginning until now, we all have the same opportunities to perform and score, and Vanessa and I posted the highest short and free program scores internationally, we had the highest placements," Radford said. "Sport is about what you do on the field of play within the set requirements for the season."
James and Radford, who teamed up last spring, pulled out of the competition Saturday after their fourth-place finish in Friday's short program. They said they weren't fully recovered to perform at their best.
"We think we made the best decision for us, so that we can be the best in a month when it's the most important," Radford said Sunday.
The Canadian championships are part -- but not all --of Skate Canada's Olympic qualifying criteria.
The selection criteria, written before the season started, also includes scores and results from international events this season, the placement at last year's world championships, and the potential for the best finish in Beijing based on the whole season.
"Unfortunately, with all sports, in an Olympic year when you have a national championship, a lot of people assume that is the end-all and be-all in the final determining factor," said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high-performance director. "A national championship is always important and it’s important for athletes to be a national champion, to be a medalist. But when we did the assessment with our committee, we looked at all those factors ... and not one is weighted higher than the other.
"If you look at the international season, Vanessa and Eric out of all our pairs teams had the strongest scores. Unfortunately, with a situation largely out of one’s control, with Omicron and COVID, they just weren’t able to complete the event. But we look at the body of work of all athletes and we want to make the best assessment for the strongest team we feel has the best ability for us at the Games."
The rest of the Canadian team selection was more cut and dried. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro secured the other berth with their excellent skates in both the short and long programs that earned them gold.