Daleman fights back from rocky off-season to win Canadian title on 20th birthday

VANCOUVER — Gabrielle Daleman missed the ice dearly in the three months she spent rehabilitating after abdominal surgery.

So when she captured the women’s singles title at the Canadian figure skating championships — on her 20th birthday — Daleman paused to appreciate the rocky road she’d travelled to get there.

“You become way more grateful for what you’re able to do and how lucky you are when you can’t do it, and that’s what’s really changed me this past year,” said Daleman.

“I said (Friday) that was the way to end 19 … this is the way to start 20. It is the absolute best birthday present I could ever ask for.”

Daleman underwent emergency surgery for an abdominal cyst last May that she said saved her life.

Skating to “Rhapsody in Blue” on Saturday, the skater from Richmond Hill, Ont., scored a Canadian record 229.78 points, landing seven triple jumps despite battling pneumonia. Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown, N.L., fell twice to finish with 218.73.

Larkyn Austman of Vancouver won bronze with 169.62.

Earlier, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir captured their eighth Canadian figure skating title, in their final appearance in the event.

Osmond and Daleman roared to an historic silver and bronze medal performance, respectively, at last year’s world championships in Finland, setting up a fierce rivalry on the virtual eve of the Pyeongchang Olympics, where they’re both within striking distance of the medal podium.

“This (national title) means so much more to me,” said Daleman, who won the gold in 2015. “You’re competing against No. 2 in the world, she’s a very tough competitor, she pushes me, when I’m home training I make sure I picture in my mind what would she be doing, and I try to push harder, I do that with (Russian world champion Evgenia) Medvedeva too.”

Daleman had been battling chest congestion for a couple of weeks and was diagnosed with pneumonia on Thursday. Unable to sleep Friday, she called her boyfriend back in Toronto at midnight, finally falling asleep around 1:30 a.m., and then had a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call for a hair and makeup session and a morning practice.

The illness and fatigue certainly wasn’t noticeable in her powerful skating and huge jumps, and her score that topped Osmond’s previous Canadian record by about 10 points.

“I didn’t even care that I couldn’t breathe, I just skated from my heart,” she said.

Osmond, meanwhile, was disappointed with her two mishaps. The 22-year-old fell on her triple loop in the short program the previous night. She got off to a strong start in Saturday’s long program to music from “Black Swan,” but fell on her triple loop and triple flip.

“Silly mistakes are what’s getting me,” Osmond said. “I don’t know the last time I did miss that flip. My loop, it was just the confidence, I lost a bit of confidence on the landing. So they’re silly mistakes, ones that I don’t usually make, I’ve been working on them so hard at home, and I’ve done them numerous times in a row. So I am frustrated that I can’t bring that into my competition side.”

Virtue and Moir brought the crowd to its feet with their sensual skate to music from “Moulin Rouge,” scoring 209.82 for the victory.

Virtue, from London, Ont., and Moir, from Ilderton, Ont., came back from a two-year hiatus with the goal of winning gold in Pyeongchang. They’ll retire after the Olympics.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Toronto scored 192.08 for silver. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., fourth after Poje fell in Friday’s short dance, climbed up to third with 191.09, grabbing the third Olympic berth.

Larkyn Austman of Vancouver won bronze.

Patrick Chan competes for a record 10th Canadian title later Saturday, and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford go for their seventh consecutive pairs title.

The Olympic team will be named Sunday.

Lori Ewing , The Canadian Press

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