It's a competition within a competition that will determine if Mitchell Gordon will be handed a plane ticket to Italy at the conclusion of this weekend's Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships in Mississagua.
The 16-year-old Connaught Skating Club member turned heads a year ago when he stepped up to the junior men's level at nationals and won gold. Now he makes his debut in senior men's where he is not expected to be a podium threat but there still will be plenty at stake.
Perform well enough in front of Skate Canada officials and Gordon will be skating for his country at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships next month in Milan. It's a goal that's well within reach, according to his coach Keegan Murphy.
Although Mitchell did go on to represent Canada at international junior grand prix events, including a pair this fall, it will take a couple of good skates in the most high-profile division to earn his first world invite.
"Mitchell is so ready for this and we are so excited for him," said Murphy who watched his prize pupil finish second at last month's Skate Canada Challenge in Regina. "As long as he stays within his own tunnel and stays focused, he will be fine. From dealing with the media to skating on national television, this is going to be new to him and we want him to soak it all in.
"He has most definitely skated well enough this season to get an invite (to junior worlds) and it really comes down to three or four guys in senior and junior competing for the spots."
Gordon is part of the largest contingent of skaters Connaught is sending to nationals since Murphy took over as Director of Programs at the Richmond club. Kurtis Schreiber (Novice Men), Larkyn Austman (Junior Women) and Shawn Cuevas (Junior Men) are also back east after qualifying at Skate Canada Challenge.
"We have never had this many skaters before skating at this high of level," said Murphy. "It's a group of athletes that keeps getting better and better and there pushing each other too.
Austman continues to make a strong impression in her first season at junior women's, winning her division in Regina. Her progress is ironically similar to what Gordon accomplished in 2012.
"It's been an incredible start to her year," added Murphy. "Just like Mitchell, we're not concerned about her result but rather skater to her ability and potential. The rest will take care of itself.
"This will be Kurtis' first nationals and a top 10 finish would be fantastic for him. More importantly, we want him to come away from this with something he will remember for the rest of his life."
"The great thing about Shawn has been his consistency this season. His performances in competition have been 90-95 percent to what he is doing in training. That was a big hurdle for him."
The Canadian Championships will be televised on TSN and CTV, starting Friday and wrapping up on Sunday afternoon.