Connaught skaters reach podium at Skate Canada Challenge

Wesley Chiu wins gold in Novice Men's and David Li brings home silver in Pre-Novice

Career best skates on the national stage resulted in podium finishes for Connaught Skating Club members Wesley Chiu and David Li at the Skate Canada Challenge in Edmonton.

Chiu, a Grade 8 student at Richmond Christian, captured gold in Novice Men’s by winning the short and free skate programs with a 134.43 total — 11 points better than his previous best. He will now take aim at national gold at next month’s Canadian Championships in Saint John, New Burnswick.

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Li continued his outstanding season by earning silver in Pre-Novice Men. His score of 97.15 was a 12-point improvement from his total at B.C./Yukon Sectionals that also produced a silver medal.

“That big of an improvement for David with just two weeks in between the competitions,” said Connaught head competitive coach Keegan Murphy. “He just seemed to be skating with more focus and more concentration. I think finishing second at provincials was a real confidence boost for him and he just kept going with that.

“It was his consistency that changed. Instead of hitting two out of five jumps, it was five out of five. It’s the same level of skill but now he is doing it all the time.

Murphy and the Connaught staff knew exactly what Li was capable of but delivering it in practice and on a high performance stage in front of judges are entirely difference scenarios.

“You know their skills but you don’t know how the math is going to pan out until he does it and this was the first time he did it. We upped the difficulty a little but from provincials but not hugely,” continued Murphy. 

“What stands out for David is his quality. When you up (your performance) a little and you are up against guys who are a little sloppier, it  really can stand out.”

Li broke into tears when learning he had secured the silver medal. It has been quite the journey over the last 11 months with so much work put into his skating.

“I was motivated after finishing second at (provincials) and I just wanted to improve on that,” smiled the Grade 6 student at Whiteside Elementary. I just tried to stay calm but sure I was a bit nervous too.”

Li will be moving up to Novice next year and the work begins again in January.

Chiu’s victory reflected his steady progress since his bronze medal at the 2018 Skate Challenge a year earlier. He has since represented his country at a international competition and also won B.C./Yukon Sectionals last month in Coquitlam.

“His nerves and expectations just keep getting better. There are guys who can do everything he can do but he is getting cleaner and cleaner with his skates and it’s really nice to see,” said Murphy, who pointed out how Chiu landed five of his six scheduled jumps in his free program.

It was also a different path to the podium compared to a year ago when he had a huge free skate to make a big move in the final standings. This time, he led after the short program and was the final skater for the free skate the following day.

“The night before I was thinking there would be lot of pressure if I don’t do well in the short to climb back up,” said Chiu. “So I would just have the same amount of pressure to do well even if I wasn’t in first place.”

Chiu has about four weeks to prepare for the Canadian Championships.

“The approach to nationals is just taking his skill set and competing with it. The expectation is with himself and doing what he can do. You really have to take the result out of it since it’s not in your control,” added Murphy.

Chiu is a good bet to also be skating for Team B.C. at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer come February. Li may also have the opportunity to attend, depending on the final team selection. It is exclusively for Novice and Pre-Novice level skaters.

Other Connaught results at Skate Challenge included Neo Tran placing eighth out of 40 competitors in Pre-Novice. Victor Lum was 19th in Novice Men. Maho Harada and Isabella Arney were 16th and 24th respectively among 58 skaters in Pre-Novice Women. Caitlin Tai finished 38th in Junior Women. 

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