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Teenager Madeline Schizas claims her first Canadian figure skating title

Madeline Schizas now looks towards the Beijing Olympics
Madeline Schizas skates during the warm up for the senior women’s free program at the National Skating Championships, in Ottawa, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022. Schizas won the women’s singles title at the Canadian figure skating championships, all but clinching her trip to the Beijing Olympics. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Moments after clinching her first Canadian figure skating title, teenager Madeline Schizas was asked about her goal for the Beijing Olympics.

“My biggest goal is to avoid catching Covid,” Schizas said. “That’s my biggest goal, for the next three weeks I’m going to do everything in my power to stay healthy.”

Skating to Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” and dressed in dusty blue - with a sequined COVID-19 mask that she wore in warm-up to match - the 18-year-old from Oakvile, Ont., wasn’t flawless in Saturday’s free skate. But with a 12-point cushion from Friday’s short program, her total score of 198.24 was good enough for gold and to all but clinch her spot on Canada’s Olympic team.

Beijing was barely on her radar until she finished 13th at the world championships last spring.

“I am a very logical person,” she said. “Realistically one person is going to Olympics and the chances it was going to be me were very slim. Obviously, now that I’ve won a Canadian title the Olympics are on my radar but I never like to get too far ahead of myself. I think one moment at a time and I think that makes it even better qualifying.

“In a way I don’t think people expected it to be me,” she added. “I’m from a smaller club (Milton Skating Club), a smaller community. I don’t have coaches who have necessarily done this before. We have a really great relationship and I just won my first national title.”

Veronik Mallet of Sept-Iles, Que., scored 170.65 for silver, while two-time Olympic and world bronze medallist Gabrielle Daleman was third (167.50).

Because of safety concerns and provincial crowd restrictions due to the recent COVID-19 surge, the event is being held in front of no fans at TD Place Arena.

The pandemic has cast a pall over sports in the final weeks before Beijing.

Stephen Gogolev, who won silver at the 2019 nationals, withdrew on Friday after he tested positive in a PCR test upon landing in Ottawa. Pairs skaters Vanessa James and Eric Radford, who contracted the virus over the holidays, withdrew before Saturday’s free program.

The championships determine Canada’s Beijing Olympic figure skating team, which will be announced Sunday. Canada has one berth in women’s singles, two in pairs and men’s singles, and three in ice dance.

The men’s singles, pairs and ice dance free programs were scheduled for later Saturday.

– Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press