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Stars on Ice celebrate in Victoria as Canadian skating braces for future rebuild

The performers, most of them Olympians, were clearly happy to be back performing before an appreciative live audience after two dark years due to the pandemic.

Saturday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre was all about the pure joy of skating as Stars on Ice concluded its 11-stop Canadian tour with a flamboyant and fun performance, concluding with an Elton John medley. The performers, most of them Olympians, were clearly happy to be back performing before an appreciative live audience after two dark years due to the pandemic.

Victoria has been a regular stop for Stars on Ice with the 2018 show the most memorable as the Canadian skaters, who accounted for two gold medals and four medals in total earlier that year in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, received an emotive standing ovation from the Memorial Centre capacity crowd after they ended the show skating symbolically to Fields of Gold by Sting. The Island crowd that night sensed it was the end of an era. Indeed, it was.

With the likes of Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, Kaetyln Osmond, Patrick Chan, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford retired, Canada was held off the figure-skating podium this year in the 2022 Beijing Olympics. It will be a long time before Canada experiences another Olympian moment in the sport as it did at Pyeongchang.

“Pyeongchang was the pinnacle for us. Canada can rebound [from Beijing] but it’s going to take a while,” said Elvis Stojko, before the Victoria Stars on Ice show Saturday.

“There are always dips. In the 1990s we had the dream team,” said Stojko, three-time world champion and 1994 Lillehammer and 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics silver medallist.

“There is going to be a gap this time. We’re seeing a lot of sign-ups of young skaters. But it’s going to take 8-10 years, however. It’s going to be hard. We have to allow the process to grow. That 2018 group had been building for 10-12 years. It takes time, financial support and keeping the kids motivated.”

The Stars on Ice show ­Saturday was choreographed by three-time Canadian champion and Olympic-medallist Jeffrey Buttle, who also touched on the Canadian rebuild.

“We are in a developmental situation,” said Buttle, men’s individual bronze medallist in the 2006 Turin Winter ­Olympics.

“It important now, in this phase, that we nurture our young talent coming up and to know there is a purpose.”

It clearly won’t happen in time for the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics. The realistic target date for the re-emergence of Canadian figure skating looks to be the 2030 Winter Games.

There are always going to be down times and cycles, added Stojko, with the important thing being to stay the course through the developmental phase and not lose focus on the end goal.

Even if it looks to be, at ­minimum, eight years away.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com