In their finest moment, Coquitlam novice dance team Brianna
Delmaestro and Graeme Gordon's performance spotlighted their synchronized movements and precision.
Considering how one of the two had spent nearly seven weeks in the dark and avoiding movement due to a concussion, the turnaround was amazing.
The pair captured second place at last week's Canadian Tire national figure skating championship, unleashing a near-perfect performance that didn't seem plausible just two months earlier.
"I think we did really well for the first nationals together," remarked Delmaestro, 17. "We got Level 4 for our spins and that has been a big struggle for us entering the [nationals].
"Everything just seemed to come together."
They posted a score of 88.48, just six points back of B.C.'s Danielle Wu and Spencer Soo.
Like a large puzzle, the idea of meeting such a rigorous program, never mind the second-best marks in Canada, was a distant dream last autumn.
A concussion suffered in a non-competitive event kept Delmaestro sidelined for six weeks. It also derailed the course the pair had begun just a few months earlier when they initially teamed up.
"I basically sat in the dark for a month," recalled Delmaestro. "My coaches told me to do visualization, and we walked through things when I was able to, and I think that helped."
Her partner patiently waited for the day they could return to the ice.
"Brianna's one of the hardest workers I know, she spent almost two months almost sitting in the dark, avoiding stimulus and movement," noted Gordon, 19. "When she was given clearance to skate again, she worked incredibly hard."
Their window for qualifying for the nationals was abbreviated due to the injury. Their skills needed to be polished up, but their desire and competitive spirit were razor-sharp.
"The time they had was very short but the relationship they have was strong - they were extremely focused," recalled Centre of Excellence coach Aaron Lowe. "To pull it together and even improve on their compulsories was amazing."
In December they finished sixth at the Skate Canada Challenge, setting the stage for their national debut in novice dance. While nerves came into play last week, Delmaestro said it was nerves of the positive kind.
"I was a bit nervous before we started but I was excited to compete at my second nationals," the teen said. "I just like performing before people so while I was a little nervous, it was a good nervous."
Gordon, meanwhile, maintained his focus on the ice dancing routine while also mentally preparing to compete in his first senior men's national competition, against the likes of Coquitlam's Kevin Reynolds and six-time national champion Patrick Chan.
"Going in (to the senior men's rehearsal) I had just come off the ice from getting the silver in dance," recalled Gordon, "so I was pretty excited. My main goal was to skate a personal best and I just missed. It was exciting to be skating with [Chan] and the others who I've watched on TV, being at the rink with the best in Canada and some of the best in the world.
"The night of the short skate I was warming up and watching people come in to the arena," he said. "There were very few people at the novice dance, but here was a huge crowd. Justing seeing all those people show up and seated made me nervous, but being out there I don't think I've ever had so much fun on the ice."
Gordon would finish in 16th place out of 18 skaters.
The pair have only been dancing together since April, and prior to that Gordon had the only dance experience as a teen in Penticton. But their extensive resumes as singles skaters - and sharing the same coaches at the Coquitlam Skating Club, gave them a good foundation to build upon. Even more so now.
"For dance, Brianna and I now know what to expect based on the four competitions we've been to," added Gordon. "I think we'll continue to grow and learn together as a team."