Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tangent - nice work if you can get it

This is about the post below, in which we read about the lonely pluckiness of Jessica Dube as she trained alone without Bryce in 2010.

The article must have thrilled Dube Davison fans. It reported how Dube Davison talked every day, that Jessica felt lost without Bryce and still relied upon his support and advice, and it described Bryce not only showing up for her regional Challenge competition (with his family), but visiting Montreal to watch her practice. And not a mention of Scott Moir!

As an example of the double dealing that went on continually with the Dube Moir hoax put over on the public, this shines.

But the tangent part is reading quotes from Annie Barabe'. Such as this:

“In pairs, they were only doing the Axel and Salchow, just doing those jumps every day, and sometimes if it doesn’t go well, you just keep practising your mistakes in the jumps,” Barabe said. “When there’s more to practise, sometimes you have less problems.* Now she’s way, way more consistent in her jumping.”

What is she, a coach - or a spectator? There are skating parents with more of a clue.

If your skaters are practicing their mistakes, the coach is supposed to deconstruct the mechanics of the mistake and re-set the technique so it's proper. That's the job. I recall Bryce verbally deconstructing Jessica's salchow problem as her tending to get back on her heel. He said it was a matter of adjusting the mechanics, because other than that the technique was basically solid. He could and did deconstruct his own issues too - understand them, and work to correct them (such as his hip opening up in his axel landing). I really think Bryce coached himself most of the time. He had to have.

If your skaters' practice day is so dull and predictable their mind wanders and they fuck up, maybe you should step up and challenge them.

In watching Jessica (at first to see the much-reported "misery with Bryce" - which was never actually visible and was a projection by fans, and then to see what her mechanics were like when she slipped up) - I noticed in competition after competition she did one of two things when there was a mistake - got back on her heel or fell off an outside edge. It got worse as seasons wore on. She got lazy about it.

At the time I thought "Good luck with getting her to adjust that one, Bryce" because even then it was pretty clear that when Jessica makes mistakes she tells herself and is told it's all because of her high expectations of herself.** It's a perfectionist, emotional thing - that's more flattering, and it's how she prefers it. It's not about tedious stuff such as re-organizing what you're doing physically.

Second, from the below it also appears that at Barabe's camp, the skaters do the same damn thing every single day. Again - WTF, she's a coach. It's not like that's some winning formula for her either. 

I think many observers of Dube/Davison, including Davison, were dying for Dube Davison to do something other than the same damn program every season the same way. Easiest money David Wilson made every year.

If Barabe's theory was if her skaters can do something in their sleep it makes it less likely they'll make mistakes, it was a stupid theory, because a sign of a Barabe skater is a head case who chokes and wobbles. The positive reinforcement absent a challenging coaching environment is going to give you damn good reason to choke. If a skater's not prepared, they're going to be nervous. Her skaters get maintenance training. "Maintaining" isn't going to support you when the stakes are high.

It also leads to mental sloth. For someone like Jessica, she often appeared as if she HAD fallen asleep out there on the ice and had plenty of mental room to mull over other things, such as 'why did I stumble just there - better pull up short on the throw landing coming up to make sure." "Hmm, everything seems okay in this jump but what if I fall? Better put a hand down." And in the non arial stuff she'd occasionally trip over her own feet just because it appeared she actually had catnapped between dismount and spiral sequence. And of course, with her mind so focused on self-protection, she wasn't focused enough on the here and now, so more mistakes. She hadn't trained in a challenging enough way to engage either her mind or body.

Basically it appears as if Jessica hasn't been coached to take responsibility out on the ice.

That's not good coaching. Good coaching - good choreography - is the short program that someone - Zoueva or Wilson or someone else (commentators never settled on the name) did for Dube/Wolfe last year. While, naturally, Jessica appeared to like the ponytail swinging part the most, overall the short was her more dynamic skate last season. The rhythms and transitions and connecting moves were new even if the actual elements were the same, so she actually had to invest herself in each non-element move to pull it off. She couldn't do it in her sleep. If your athlete can do it in their sleep, that's not a good thing. Things get sloppy.

Third - the flattering spin in this Jessica interview! Oh, now that she's free from the expectations of all the winning she always does with Bryce - all those Grand Prix golds, for instance - Jessica is just knocking out those triples - lutzes, flips, salchows.

Except she wasn't. She never had a triple toe really. I can't recall her landing a 3 loop. She could get a lutz airbourne, but underrotated/two footed the landing. She didn't have a flip because it got edge called. During her first season with Wolfe they had sbs flips which were then abandoned because she couldn't take off on an outside edge. It was back to salchow.

I don't get how that training center decided that keeping a skater static was the best way to ensure success. It seems more like a daycare situation than a coaching one.

*Why didn't Barabe apply this insight to the layout of the programs? If a skater is skating the same program, same style, same layout, same everything, every year, it's going to get stale. Everything from the performance to the technique. Jessica got out of shape, and she got sloppy. Why didn't Barabe give her skaters "more to practise" outside of the jump area? Why is she such a fan of formula, of rote repetition of the dull?

**Later Jessica added more cover by throwing in "virus" "tendonitis" and now "ankle."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why'd you leave her lonely, Scott?

I cut-and-pasted this Canadian Press interview with Jessica Dube from the time Bryce Davison was first injured:

I added the link so the original article is accessible, as I'm live blogging this post and don't yet know how much I'm going to edit/butcher the cut-and-paste below.

Background: At the time of this article's publication in early 2011, Jessica Dube and then-boyfriend, Olympic gold medal-winning ice dancer Scott Moir, were hot and heavy. Scott Moir's facebook status still broadcast he was in a relationship with Jessica Dube, and Scott Moir had been announced as the choreographer person who'd designed the footwork of her singles skater short program. He would also soon post "Can't wait til next week - Jtaime" on Jessica's facebook wall, and appear at her Challenge singles competition, where he and Tessa, according to Debbi Wilkes and a Skatebuzz video purporting to display the event, had a book signing. (Even though no fans attending Challenge 2010 reported seeing either Tessa or the book signing.)

While previous interviews with Jessica had plugged in mentions of "boyfriend Scott Moir", this piece in particular cries out for the inclusion of Scott. When Jessica chose to skate singles while Bryce was recovering, it was immediately announced that Scott Moir had stepped in to choreograph Jessica Dube's short program, and this article isn't just about Jessica Dube's singles skating, it's also about her loneliness as new-minted singles skater. The relevance - it's everywhere:

Scott Moir, famous Canadian figure skater: 
  • is her boyfriend
  • has also had his season sidelined
  • is also newly partnerless
  • Has choreographed Jessica's short program that she's about to compete at Canadians
 Isn't he a significant component of Jessica's singles skating story? Shouldn't the interviewer ask if the lovebirds compared notes on partners training alone? Shouldn't it be asked what advice Scott was giving Jessica? How they were supporting each other during this challenging period?

That's nowhere in here.

Despite Skate Canada broadcasting Scott's involvement with her singles short at every opportunity (Jessica, Annie Barabe, P.J. Kwong, Skate Canada), here, in a mainstream media interview, Jessica's gold medal amoreaux was never mentioned, and the Dube Davison/Virtue Moir injury and separation parallels were ignored. How come?

I don't want to retroactively do anybody's job for them but I've added in the stuff this reporter neglected to write about only because it's so super glaring by omission. This is the article that appeared in the Canadian Press, along with material in italics that the journalist for some reason neglected to include:

Dube to skate singles at Canadian championships
Jessica Dube will be skating solo at the national, a strange experience for the traditional pairs partner.
Jessica Dube will be skating solo at the national,
a strange experience for the traditional pairs partner.

There are moments when loneliness strikes and Jessica Dube will seek out the company of her coaches just to fill the silence.

The figure skater from St-Cyrille-de-Wendover, Que., is going it alone this season after her pairs partner Bryce Davison underwent season-ending knee surgery in October.

With the pairs season a write-off for the former world bronze medallists, Dube is competing in singles as a way to stay sharp and motivated until her partner’s return. But it hasn’t been easy.

“It’s a big change to be alone all the time, I’m so used to having someone to talk to,” Dube said in a phone interview from Montreal. “Now, skating by myself, sometimes I enjoy it because I’m in my own bubble doing my own thing. But sometimes I’ll go to my coaches just because I need to talk to someone or I just need someone to be there.

“It’s a bit weird, but I’m starting to get used to it.”

Dube's longtime boyfriend, Michigan-based Olympic gold medalist Scott Moir, can relate. In 2008-2009, in an incident so little publicized this article won't bring it up, Moir's own partner, Tessa Virtue, was sidelined for months following surgery for chronic exertional compartment syndrome. "It's definitely an adjustment, training by yourself all the time when you're used to having someone else around" agrees Moir. "Skating teams do acquire a co-dependency. I know it was difficult for me when Tessa was away and I was in Canton [Michigan, where his training center, Arctic Edge, is located]. It really helped to have the sandbags and hockey sticks, but it wasn't the same. Sometimes I'd skate along the boards talking to myself, just to fill the loneliness. It was a totally new deal."

Nobody knows better than Moir the stressors that can undermine even the strongest athletic partnerships when one partner is recovering and the other is miles away, alone on a frozen cloud of ice. Unlike Dube Davison, Moir and his partner didn't communicate at all during their separation, and by the time Virtue returned to Canton, the two were Virtual strangers. It took another year to get their on-ice relationship back in sync. "I'd really recommend communication" emphasizes Moir.

Dube's loneliness was eased somewhat when Moir spent time in Montreal choreographing her singles skating short program. How did he do?

"He's an ice dancer and they're the best at steps, so it gave me a really secure feeling for him to do that part of the program. It was something new and fun in our relationship to work together on the ice." reported Dube, her voice briefly brightening. "It was a lot of fun to work with my girlfriend, Jess." confirms Moir. "I know there are other skaters who are romantically involved and work together, but this was a completely new experience for me."

The 23-year-old Dube will compete at the Canadian figure skating championships this week in Victoria, where she’s hoping for a top-five finish. Moir, who because of Virtue's renewed shin struggles is not competing at this event, has no plans to attend and lend Dube support in person, despite the rare situation of a completely open schedule during Canadians weekend and the opportunity to have his partnerless girlfriend all to himself.

She’s more accustomed to the top spot on the podium as she and Davison are three-time national champions in pairs, but her purpose for competing at all this season was simply to have a reason for going to the rink every day.

“I just want to go out there and enjoy myself, because that’s why I decided to skate singles this year, to do something and still be happy being on the ice,” Dube said. “I wouldn’t have stopped skating anyways, and then when I heard it would be six months (for Davison’s recovery), I thought, that’s a bit long to go to the rink every day and just do whatever.

“At least now I have programs to train and something to look forward to and work toward.”

This season was supposed to be a chance to make up for last year’s disappointment for Dube and Davison, who were sixth at both the Vancouver Olympics and world championships.

But a week before they were to open their season at Skate Canada in Kingston, Ont., Davison jammed his knee landing a jump. He underwent surgery Oct. 26 after doctors found a three-centimetre bone fragment had chipped off where his thigh bone meets the knee, due to a condition called “osteochondritis dissecans.”

Davison, who’s recovering at home in Huntsville, Ont., resumed walking just over a week ago, and it’s hoped he’ll be back on the ice by March or April.

Annie Barabe, who’s coached Dube in either singles or pairs for the past 15 years, believes her prized pairs team will come back stronger from this experience.

Dube, who used to skate singles and finished sixth at the 2008 Canadian championships, has traditionally struggled with her jumps. Her triple Salchow proved costly at the Vancouver Olympics when she failed to land it.

Now she’s had to expand her repertoire of jumps for singles, adding Lutzes, flips and toe loops, and the result has been more consistency across the board.

“In pairs, they were only doing the Axel and Salchow, just doing those jumps every day, and sometimes if it doesn’t go well, you just keep practising your mistakes in the jumps,” Barabe said. “When there’s more to practise, sometimes you have less problems. Now she’s way, way more consistent in her jumping.”

Barabe said there’s a lightness to Dube’s demeanour that she hopes she can carry into next season in pairs.

“When they were getting ready for the season, people were expecting: go to Grand Prixs, win, never make mistakes,” the coach said. “Compared to now, she’s doing it for fun, she decided to do it at the last minute, there’s way less pressure and I can see she’s way more relaxed. When she has bad days, it’s not the end of the world.”

Dube had just three weeks to prepare for her first event in singles after Davison’s injury and two of them were spent choreographing and learning her two singles programs.

She finished seventh at the Eastern Challenge event in Mississauga, Ont., to earn a berth at the nationals. “It was weird to be on the ice by myself,” Dube said. “At first I was a little bit lost, in the warmup I didn’t really know what to do, it took me a long time to get going because obviously I’m not used to it,” she said.

“Bryce and I always had our little routine, we always did the same warmup, I think that’s what made it so weird, because when I stepped on the ice, I didn’t have a plan, so I was like, ‘Oh my God, I need somebody to take my hand and do something with.’”

After the short program, Dube received a pep talk from Davison, who was in Mississauga to watch her skate. Moir was also present, along with his platonic partner, Tessa Virtue. When not cheering on his girlfriend, Moir and Virtue spent time in the concourse signing copies of their book for legions of eager fans. Almost working as a team of their own, while Moir signed in the concourse, Davison bolstered his partner's spirits.

“[Bryce] just calmed me down, he just said you know what you have to do, just set a plan, so that’s really helped me,” said Dube.

She talks to Davison daily, and he was recently in Montreal to watch her training.

"That's the way to do it" approves Moir. "I wish Tessa and I had kept talking."

Maybe experience is the reason the figure skating community points to Dube and Davison as such strong role models for healthy communication between figure skating partners. This isn’t the first time a serious mishap has separated the two. At the Four Continents in Colorado Springs in 2007, they were doing side-by-side camel spins when Davison’s blade slashed Dube’s face. The gash required 83 stitches to close and the two underwent counselling for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Shib Sibs and Social Media

Maia and Alex explain their social media strategy:
Maia: I don't know if we really have a strategy ... we like to give back or share with the fans.

Alex: I think it's nice for the fans to see a different side of us. It's one thing to see through the screen or live our performances on the ice, but I think it's special for them to be able to get to know us better as people and I think it's always interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes at a show or at a competition, so we try do our best to share that with them."
It's not charity on their part - obviously they're interested in film, enjoy brainstorming and executing a video, and are excited when it's a hit. It's a way for them to enjoy "film production", be creative in a different way, and express themselves. That's understood - they like it. It's not some burden they've assumed out of obligation to their fans. And of course not every figure skater is going to have the talent, energy or interest in creating this particular type of engagement with fans.

Still, when Alex says "get to know us better as people" it has nothing to do with revealing personal information. "Birthday beer with Grandma" and sharing a subject he and Maia study at school is about as personal as it gets. So once again - letting fans get to know a figure skater as a person simply means sharing an appropriate experience. It's not employing overbearing Skate Canada directors as camera hogging intermediaries between the figure skaters and the public, while flogging over-personal, yet fabricated, stories about the skaters.

I also felt that the Shibs talked about studying and used Tessa's favorite word - "balance" - without sounding pedantic or patronizing, as Tessa can when she "explains" school. Their examples of the scheduling challenges they face when it comes to school also sounds realistic, and they put their academic drive in context. They're not 100% self-referential.

As figure skaters, the Shibs/DW/VM have a lot in common. All train in privileged circumstances. Same training center. All of them can take family to every competition if they want to, no matter where in the world it's being held - or at least VM can take Kate. If they want many costume options, to bring in outside dance specialists or any other type of value add - they can and do without worrying over much about the cost, unlike many figure skaters, and their lifestyle (clothes, vacations, non-competitive travel) isn't compromised. If they want to go to university, they go to university, without worry that they can't afford ultra expensive training plus tuition. So, that's nice.

One of these teams is not like the other two when it comes to how they handle public relations. One team behave like people from a reality show who've acquired an inflated idea of their importance and fame, while the other two appear to behave more sensibly. Maia and Alex want fans to share in their experience, get to know them as people, and they produce funny videos shot behind the scenes to share with fans. The outlier team puts out a book and markets it as an opportunity for fans to go behind the scenes, when in reality the book is jammed with fabrications and its aim is to manipulate and misdirect fans, creating even more of a barrier.*

I wonder if the difference is the community where these teams are from. The Shibs are from Connecticut, and New York, DW are from Ann Arbor (which has a lot more going on than just figure skating - even after the Olympics Charlie White said he was hardly ever recognized even on his own campus). The world doesn't orbit around them. They have a good sense of where they fit in in the scheme of things, and while they have a public profile, it's nothing that can't be managed. It's just figure skating. The people where they come from have lives. Meryl Davis and Charlie White aren't the most exciting thing to ever happen to Ann Arbor, and the Shibs haven't validated Connecticut and put the good people of New York City on the map.

Scott and Tessa are the biggest thing in Ilderton and everybody knows them. They may feel as if they're the biggest thing in parts of London, Ontario as well. I just wonder if it's the community's fault fans are treated like shit by Scott and Tessa. If Scott and Tessa's experience with their community led them to believe it would be worse by a factor of a gazillion to bring strangers (fans) into it.

It's great to have community support; it might be less great to have everyone in your home town feel a proprietary interest in you and your personal business, everyone in your home town(s) eager to collar you and offer their advice, and to have everybody in your home town eager for the validation of your time and attention, flooding your mailbox and your relatives' in-boxes and voicemails with requests, invitations, favors, advice and comments about stuff that's really none of their business, but then again, they watched you grow up, so they're entitled, and knew you when, and you haven't changed or gotten too big for your britches have you?

I've always sort of admired Katia Gordeeva's brutal account of Sergei's funeral - it was in Moscow and half a million relatives descended on the service, all of them with opinions as to why he died, what should have been done instead, why were they living in Connecticut, etc. etc., and it was important that Katia herself hear their views.

It was unbearable. These are people who had good intentions, but Sergei wasn't the mechanic down the street - he was an internationally known athlete, and all the relatives and locals were that much more invested in their opinions and feelings, and virtually smothered Gordeeva with them.

The sham definitely was also a good displacement activity for community members - everybody could get busy on facebook after Scott's part was done (he'd often posed for the photos with Jessica way before they saw the light of day) and he and Tessa could get on with their lives and have some privacy, not from fans, but from those who knew them and felt as if they had proprietary rights.

Something gave Scott and Tessa a distorted idea of what it would be like to have fans know even basic facts about their actual status. Maybe they wrongly extrapolated from what it was like to have neighbors, friends, relatives know their business. And of course there's guilt from knowing you were supported and cheered on, or that the stands are packed when you compete at home, but you might also be wishing they'd turn their attention to something else, and crawl back out from up your hind ends.

So maybe they assumed fans knowing would be a gazillion times worse than having everyone in their home town know, and that was already awful - and exhausting.

However, fans are a totally different animal, and a sports management team that had half a brain would have quickly settled their minds about that. Instead they have Skate Canada, which made a lot of ignorant, no-logic, untested assumptions about a lot of stuff, including the public and fan management, and then set about creating solutions to problems Skate Canada had made up. The sham was certainly a boon to Debbi, however, and several others in their Directorships.

When the reveal happens, fans are going to be patronized up one side and down the other. There's nothing that Scott and Tessa can say that can justify the absurdities, the egocentricities, and the arrogance, but more and more it appears to me as if there are some people in Ilderton and London who need to broaden their minds and maybe acquire some maturity and self awareness. Maybe the way many of them jumped on board to "handle" fans for Scott and Tessa is a reflection of the way they interacted with Scott and Tessa themselves. Boorish, intrusive and tactless.
*I also wonder if some of those interviewed for Scott and Tessa's book - former coaches and the like, were informed that the book was also going to include a lie about a year-long rift after her shin surgery, and aggressively reaffirm the lie that they are and have always been platonic. IOW, I wonder if some of those interviewed for Scott and Tessa's book were aware that the realities they shared were going to be used to help enhance the plausibility of the lies Scott and Tessa intended to tell.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ice! Sweat! And TEARS!

Saw the preview. I already knew the title but not til the preview did the full impress of Ice, Sweat and Tears register with me.

The thing looks like Debbi Wilkes' "tough" campaign come to life. Is she still trying to make that one work?

Panting, sweating, muscles bulging, HARD falls. It's so DRAMATIC. Voice overs about the legions of girls and boys who want to be one of the elite figure skaters but only a few make it because it's so damn hard! What it does to the human body! There's almost no other pursuit that takes this type of toll, that demands this sort of control, except maybe dance and gymnastics.

It's all like real athletes!

A bonus for me is it seems to feature my absolute favorite Canadian figure skater, Kurt Browning. I can never ever get enough of that guy.

For people who don't get and will miss Ice! Sweat! and Tears! I recommend renting this as close enough:
A little more understated but, as a substitute, Black Swan will do in a pinch.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Try hard

The orange team at TEB asks Paul and Piper "What quality do you have that other skaters lack?" Piper's response is instananeous:
Personality. Skaters who aren't us lack it.

Blow me, both of you. Other skaters lack personality? Virtue Moir, MTM, Weaver and Poje, Paul & Islam, Duhamel Radford, Capellini & Lanotte, Pechelat & Bourzat?

The question wasn't "how would you describe your skating or your style on the ice."

It was specifically - what do you have that other skaters LACK.

Other skaters don't have personality. Other skaters aren't fun. We are.

Get a personality, Asher Hill.
(You know Piper is way more fun.)
I kind of took the question as skating-related but if Paul and Piper had to talk about what they have as skaters that other skaters lack there might be a lot of dead air on that video.

So let's not talk about that. 

With these two, Skate Canada pretends that figure skating is just an incidental vehicle for all the personality. There's no there, there.

I don't see that much freaking "personality" there either. I see one note mugging and relentless grinning. Know who else does that? Debbi. And what a lovely personality she does have.

Paul adds 'We're a lot of fun'.

Oh my, they are a blast. There's nothing funner than letting it be known, all casual, like it's your due, that you're guaranteed a place on the World team two months prior to the event that determines the World team. We know how Skate Canada's World Team selection is all about earning it on the ice.

Also fun is when the 4th place finishers at Trophee Eric Bompard don't so much as get to take a bow at the gala but the 6th place finishers (out of 8) get to skate 2 programs plus an additional group spot thanks to pre-comp dealing by their Federation, but they pass it off by smarming that they got the invite thanks to how their programs were received. Those two sets of exhibition costumes they brought along in their luggage? Big-assed coincidence.

Everything about Piper and Paul is fun like that.

Listen, Skate Canada. "We HAVE fun" is fine to say. We ARE fun is presumptuous, because unlike actual skating strengths, it's subjective. One person's fun is another person's obnoxious.

It's no surprise they said this, because fun! and personality! has been the brand message Skate Canada has been clubbing us over the head with since this team was created. "Fun" and "Personality!" was their fallback once it became obvious that Plan A: "Piper brings out Paul's masculinity in a way Vanessa never did", and "chemistry" wasn't going to fly.

The potshots that Carol Lane & Co. took at Vanessa's skating (she's not as 'elegant' as Paul but the girl keeps herself fit and is a hard worker! (Head pat.)) kind of got swept under the rug once we all got a look at just how elegant this new team was and what an outstanding example of classic masculine/feminine Gilles Poirier project on the ice. And we all got a gander at Piper's skating skills, and what an incredible upgrade she was from the skating of dear, hard working Vanessa.

Cue Plan B! Personality!

It's such an exhausting, peurile, juvenile idea of personality. Pose! Mugging! SMILES! Own the camp - and amp it up so everybody knows it's on purpose and nobody mistakenly thinks there's feminine stuff leaking out inadvertantly!

That's personality!
It's so freaking cheerleader/pageant/OTT, not to mention try hard. Skate Canada is striving to sell that one-dimensionality as the the ultimate in entertainment when the reality is it's as trite as it gets. It's also controlling (classic Skate Canada) and bullying and boorish (classic Skate Canada) - almost sort of like the worst of Kurt Browning. Imagine if Kurt Browning were as relentless as he is but not the figure skater he is. It gets a little less fun then.

I know Debbi Wilkes has a marketing degree from the 1870s but she might have misunderstood the whole "Show, don't tell" thing, because all of her ideas are about telling us stuff and never showing anything. We've all seen what a winner that is. Paul & Piper are right up there, classic Debbi - it's all talk about how fun they are, then Paul & Piper strike a "fun" pose to show much personality they've got. We all know that's what personality is. Cartoonishness and teeth.

And that's it. That's the gig.

Supposedly, this cookie-cutter personality show they're putting on, the relentless camera mugging, regular mugging and self-congratulation, justifies pushing them forward, giving them gala slots and inflating their scores.

(Debbi must think Plushenko's "Sex Bomb" exhibition is the best show program of all time because whenever I see Paul & Piper's act on and off the ice, that's the program I think about.)

In Piper Gilles, Skate Canada appears to have landed someone as voracious for self-promotion as Debbi Wilkes. Piper hasn't done anything yet (she's had something handed to her - not the same thing), and, as an American, she's brand-new to Skate Canada, yet her unearned sense of entitlement and lack of humility is eyebrow raising.

This whole thing is comparative on a personal level that's absolutely ridiculous. For instance, Piper & Paul are "refreshing". Compared to whom? Who are the tedious skaters from whom Piper & Paul are a refreshing change? 
Probably Paul Islam (here with J Butt).
Bleach your hair to straw, Alex, pound on the make-up
like a tranny and hot glue some rick-rack
to your skating dresses.Then we'll tak about fun.
I find Gilles Poirier as predictable as all the other camera hogs in sports who make the same faces, strike the same poses, put on the same stupid costumes (Dorks in lame' hot pants! Hilarious). Their schtick is as predictable as Mark Ballas surfacing in floodwater pants, spats and fish faces. It's common as dirt.

Skate Canada is trying to control the conversation here, change the subject, discuss the team only in the context that serves their purpose and justifies pushing this team forward. What about Piper and Paul's skating, her skating skills, her ice dance skills, their elements?

Uh, I'll have to look at youtube and get back to you!

When you want to sell yourself as crazy fun and full of personality, you might want to not come off like an asshole, as Piper has been doing for some time now.

When P.J. Kwong was quizzed about her "unbiased" opinion that Piper & Paul ought to have beaten Hubbell Donohue at Skate Canada, P.J. had no case. She could only turn questions around. It's the sort of thing where a reasonable question comes up and you answer questions with a question because you're full of shit and don't want to be pinned down, so you just muddy the waters and focus on the questioner.

"We're fun - we have personality!" Isn't something you say about your freaking SELF. It's not something you say others LACK, especially when many of those others are your teammates.

Gilles Poirier, know who finds you fun? You do. You know who loves your personality the most? You do.* You're gonna need rotator cuff surgery from patting yourself on the back.

WHY are Skate Canada skaters such morons? I get that Debbi is. Where's the reality check for the rest of them?

Look how idiotic Charlie White and Meryl Davis sounded when they started sort of talking about themselves in the third person this season - "chemistry you can cut with a knife" and their other attributes. It sounded weird and phony and not like them at all. Fortunately, they've pretty much kicked that experiment to the curb and are back to sounding normal. And that's Charlie White and Meryl Davis, who actually have a resume.

These two haven't earned anything, and that includes their scores at Canadians last season.

*I want to bash Tanith a little more for her shout out to Piper about how great it was to see someone SMILE in the KnC.When that type of remark is made, it sounds the opposite of fun and smiley - it sounds passive-aggressive bitchy, and hostile to the rest of the competitors. It's also also putting the focus on the wrong things, which I realize is the whole idea.

And, Tanith, I think more figure skaters would smile in the Kiss'nCry no matter where they placed if they knew they were going to go to Worlds no matter how they did on the Grand Prix or how they skated at Nationals, and if they were getting all of the perks and promotion of success prior to being successful. Everybody would be smiling!

P.S. I'll tell you what first struck me as hinky about Gilles/Poirier, and that's before all this other crap started.

It was the overcompensation. Successful teams have split before - Yanakowskas/Coughlin, Bobek/Beharry - why not Crone/Poirier?

It's just that as soon as Paul settled on Piper the verdict started rolling in as if it had been banked and scripted and just waiting for opening night. It was a little too on-the-spot.

There was nothing organic. It was practiced, conspicuous, compensatory bullshit. A whole lot of "I loved Vanessa and Paul ... BUT". They were really forcing the point, just like now with the fun thing.

What actually happened there? Does Vanessa really know? Do we? Was it all Paul's decision or did anyone else of interest have their fingerprints on the dumpage?

It's so normal, but the spin that followed wasn't. That made me pause. If it were just another partner split, well, that's figure skating. But this one came with pre-fab spin. Why does a partner split need a clearly rehearsed sales pitch that pretends to praise the former partner while actually backhanding her, while overselling the new team.

The initial reports pretended that Paul and Piper were burning up the ice with chemistry and sex appeal. Of course as soon as everyone else got a look the whole thing was re-set and we started getting the "fun" meme, but it still doesn't answer why everything felt as if Vanessa getting dumped and Piper getting brought on board was a little bit executed, like some battle plan that came with a built-in marketing scheme.

That article out of Scarborough pretty much positioning Paul as the real star of the team and Vanessa as his well-intentioned, try-hard but basically lesser cohort was a red flag.

There was the report that Vanessa wanted a new coaching environment and Paul didn't, and so he surprised her by dumping her. If that happened, sure, coach Carol Lane will talk up Paul as a major talent and backhand Vanessa. That's survival. It was all over that article.

However, if you know skating you know that Vanessa Crone carried herself lightly, was precise, musical, focused. She wasn't classically gorgeous in the way Paul projected (and Scarborough costumes its female ice dancers like shit - make-up too). She didn't swan and swoop like Paul, but she was the organizing principle in their performances. She was the one who made them a unit.

And that said, good teams split all the time, often for reasons that have little to do with what's on the ice, but the sell on Paul's teaming up with Piper was extremely quick on the draw.

P.S.  About three years ago I saw this 2008 video of Piper Gilles at Lake Placid

 personality for days

where she and Zach Donohue chat about their new partnership. I don't think I ever got through the whole thing mostly because I kept wondering if she were fully awake. I went looking for it after I put up this post.

There's nothing remarkable about it - that's for sure - but I was wondering where all the personality came from that Skate Canada is currently hyping as this video seems a little deficient in that area. And I wonder if the Skate Canada noise about Gilles Poirier is all in two dimensions. Strike a pose! Wear colorful, tacky-on-purpose costumes! Work yellow hair and smile, smile smile!!  Because it's not on the ice.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Girl you'll be a woman soon or maybe in the decade after this

I'm on a bit of a Tessa tear so may as well play it out.

As noted here before, Scott and Marina, especially, are pounding drumming home the message that Tessa Virtue is a real woman these days.

Scott didn't say anything about the "these days" part, but Marina sort of implied there was a point where Tessa wasn't a real woman, and then because of shin surgery and other unspecified dramas she got all these feelings and then she was a woman and was ready for Carmen.

It's not that I'm skeptical, I just think maybe they're being generous and grading on a curve.

What Marina and Scott are implying is that Tessa has had sexual intercourse.

Sexual_Intercourse (wikipedia. Safe for work.)

But I look at what Tessa does to discourage people from believing she's having sexual intercourse with Scott, and I start to wonder if she's a real woman after all.

Tessa believes that if you
  • enter a team banquet with your skating partner in celebration of your national championship and earning a berth to the upcoming home Olympics, you're admitting the two of you are having sexual intercourse.
Tessa enters the Canadians 2009 banquet on the arm
of Patrick Chan. If she'd entered with Scott
she might as well have banged him right there in the vestibule.

If forced to enter or exit a banquet at the same time, walk apart.
Otherwise go ahead and put out a sex tape. The jig is up.
  • admit you have their phone number, you may as well leak photos to the tabloids of the two of you two having sexual intercourse.
As mentioned in the post below, Tessa told the Orange team (or green team? The TEB team of card question fans at Bercy) that neither she nor Scott calls in sick to morning practice because they'd be standing up their partner who'd be waiting for them at the rink. Tessa had to put that in because if she didn't, the orange team would realize she had Scott's phone number and the cat would be out of the bag - they'd know she was having sexual intercourse with Scott.
  • are seen riding in the same charter bus toting fellow cast members, including your partner, to the rehearsal venue, fans will believe she's joined the five feet high club with Scott.*
Oddly, she appears to have no problems sharing that she frequently rides in a car with Scott, as long as nobody thinks she rides in a car with Scott to Arctic Edge in the morning. I figure she's relaxed about the car thing because it's always clear that Scott's driving, and even if it's just the two of them in the car, how can they have sex when one of them is driving?**
  • cop to knowing whether or not your partner is wearing protective padding under their skating pants to prevent your blade from slicing their femoral artery, it's like confessing the two of you've had sex.
NBC - Olympics 2010
"You don't, right? You don't wear padding."
We need to see that she has to check with Scott.
Otherwise, we might realize they're having sexual intercourse.
  • let your skating partner see you in your swimsuit, you're admitting you know each other in the biblical sense. This is why Tessa is welcome at Moir weddings held in the North (Charlie's in London, Leanne's in Ilderton), but banned from destination weddings nearer the equator. All of them, not just Moir weddings. If Scott's there, she can't attend, or we'd all know he's been below her equator.
Tessa's banging both these guys. But not Scott. He's
never seen her in her swimsuit.
I think Tessa's womanhoodness needs a little tweaking. One kind of wonders from what point she evolved in order to arrive at her current idea of what constitutes a giveaway that you and your skating partner are having sexy times:
Tessa's idea of intercourse at 15
Tessa's idea of third base at 22.
*Unless Jeff Buttle is aboard
**This is one reason I think Scott and Marina are grading Tessa's womanly development on a curve.

The Secret Seven

Both in person at Ilderton's Scott and Tessa's Gold Medal Celebration", and in her dedication to Our Journey From Childhood Dream to Gold, Tessa Virtue told that in the Olympic season, she pared her phone contact list down to just seven people. Her share of the book was dedicated to those seven, who know who they are, "wrote" Tessa.

Based simply upon those with whom Tessa has been publicly connected and those whom she herself declared were important during the Olympic season, those seven had to include:

1. Mommy (her roommate, then, now, forever).
2. Her partner, Scott.
3. Her sister, Jordan.
4. Her physical therapist, Mary Branigan.
5. Her boyfriend, Fedor (unless he used smoke signals to set up that outing at the Inn at St. John's in October 2009).
The Inn at St. John's, posted Oct. 11, 2009
4 days before TEB 2009.
Fedor recommends.
6. Daddy?
7. Brother Kevin?
8. Brother Casey?
9. The marriage counselor she and Scott said they were seeing in hopes of getting their platonic estrangement fixed and their platonic connection back on track?
10. Any one of their 4+ coaches and specialists?
11. Meryl?
12. Jeff Buttle?
13. Her Olympic "roommate" Joanne Rochette?
14. Anybody in her "French family" who attended TEB 2009? I.e. - Flor? Laurent?
15. Tracy Wilson? Scott says she was their psychological touchstone/advisor for Olympic prep.
16. Absolutely no Moirs, right? Aunt Carol, nope, Cara - nope?

Even if one subtracts Meryl (as a nod to drama junkies who think the two women aren't tight) that's still 15 people among those publicly connected to Tessa from whom it would appear to be impractical to isolate herself during the Olympic season.

I think it would be harsh to delete her dad, especially since that cute anecdote from Canadians 2008, when it was reported Tessa texted Jim Virtue just prior to taking the ice with Scott and told Dad to relax and enjoy the skate. But I guess as a member of the Board of Directors of Skate Canada Western Ontario, Jim could stay in the loop even if she'd cut off contact.

You know how it probably worked? Mom is her roommate. Mom had all the people on her phone. When they needed to communicate with Tessa, they called Kate, and Kate handed her phone to Tessa, or, given what Tessa describes as her extreme isolation during Olympic prep, they told Kate what they needed to relay to Tessa and Tessa told Kate what she'd like relayed to them.

Yep, I can see it.

"Tell Daddy I love him."
"Tell Scott I'll be there in five."

There's no possible chance that by seven people Tessa actually meant "Only seven people apart from the 20 people who are fixtures in my life." You know .. apart from.  Apart from, as in: "Scott and I are totally platonic and not a couple apart from being married and having a child together."

I really think they just pull shit out of the air all the time, cute details and charming he said/she saids and all. If it sounds like something they think people would enjoy, like something that hits the points they're emphasizing this month, they just make it up and never notice that it's really stupid.

Remember when Scott and Tessa were asked when they came to the decision to continue on after Vancouver? Scott said it was during SMOI, right before (or just after - can't remember) they skated their program.  He said they looked at each other and were mutually like "We're not done, are we?" and they both knew then, no, they weren't.

Some time later they're asked again, and Scott says it happened in the car when they were talking it over. He painted a nice specific picture of that conversation as well.

You know what's enjoyable - how they don't just lie, but they fill in the color details too. They CREATE. And then if they have a better idea, like a fan fiction writer or someone trying to get an A on an essay, they do a lot of editing and revisions.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Everybody thinks you're together

This post is about me thinking back to when Scott and Tessa revved up shamming, lying and propaganda to industry-level standards. In 2009-2010, it was more than a sham. It literally was an industry.

One of the things I'm curious about is Steve Milton, the author of Our Journey From Childhood Dream to Gold.

Did they lie to him? Did they exploit and manipulate a professional author, tell him a load of crap, allow him to advocate for their version of their story, pretend to walk down memory lane - oh the shins, oh the rift, oh the platonic-ness of it all, oh me and mommy who moved to be with me in Michigan where I wasn't even living* - did they sell him a whole bunch of lies and bullshit stories aimed at bolstering the lie that Scott and Tessa aren't and never have been together, allow him to put his name to those lies? Did Tessa's "big eyes fill with tears" as she told her fabrications? Did Scott's mouth set into a line when he remembered the period of not speaking?

Did they live the part, live the lies, so to sell them to Milton?

Was he their dupe, IOW? There was an entire segment of OJFCDG written by Milton summing up the eternal platonic nature of Scott and Tessa's relationship, how aside from the innocent hand-holding of early childhood, their relationship has never been anything other than the rarest form of platonic intimacy.

That's the opposite of the truth.

Or was Milton just all "yeah Canada!" and figured he was being patriotic if he helped Canada's rock star/gold medal heroes protect themselves from their smothering public?

I kind of hope it's the latter because the former - that takes fucking gall. Almost Madoff-level gall. They wouldn't have ripped him off financially but they would have made him a bit of a joke and a dupe, and helped damage his credibility. A man more than twice their age with a professional reputation to maintain, but, you know, it's them. It's Scott and Tessa.

Then everyone wonders about Roots. All that hoopla. Scott and Tessa telling us that from the moment of birth they'd been swaddled in Roots diapers and onesies, they'd skated in Roots warm-ups, packed their school books in Roots totes while daydreaming of the day they'd win the Olympics and get the best part of the Olympics - the Roots swag, just like David Pelletier talked about it. Roots was the reason they'd become figure skaters. Roots got them up at dawn to practice. Roots was how they'd survived the years training in Michigan because it reminded them of home, which was Canada, where Roots was founded.

Before we knew it, Scott was back wearing lululemon while offloading piles of Roots hand-me-downs and leftover swag at his most recent fake Xmas with Jessica & Co. Jessica shows up at the Liberty competition the following summer sporting the same Right to Play hoodie that had been Tessa's uniform the year before prior to Tessa also ditching Roots. One minute Scott and Tessa and Roots were agreeing to a four year commitment, the next it was "never mind."

Around the time of the Roots lovefest, the media was having a little fun with Scott and Tessa. For example, one article led with "Scott Moir has cut the cord." Did that journalist know what was up with Scott and Tessa? I think so. I think plenty did.

The Roots founders themselves had announced that they were in a four year "engagement" with Scott and Tessa. Not "agreement" "partnership" or "deal."

Everybody was having a little fun. It was like people were expecting something to happen next.

Then nothing did. Roots went away. It maintained and started relationships with a bunch of other Canadian figure skaters, but not Scott and Tessa.

Was Roots expecting - had they been led to believe - that Scott and Tessa would reveal the truth of their relationship? I think so - certainly this was something a considerable number of people familiar with Scott and Tessa anticipated also.

I'll say what I think - I think Roots figured there would be a charming reveal that their new athletic partners were actually a family with each other - a real one, not a platonic, of-the-soul, blah blah bullshit one. I think Scott and Tessa told them that's where they were headed, and soon.

But Scott and Tessa veered left after leading people to believe they were going right. Or actually they didn't veer at all. They stayed where they were and dug a hole.

Unlike, say, Skate Canada, I think Roots didn't have the stomach to spend four years promoting a pair of figure skaters as a couple of adorably platonic Canadian role models when they were actually a married couple with a child who were lying their asses off to, among others, Roots' market, so both parties said "never mind" and got an annulment. I think Scott and Tessa had different plans - or pretended to - when they got with Roots, but then they bailed.*

They can always find the lie, those two. They want to lie. That's their security blanket. That's what the bubble is made of.

On the propaganda end, there was the fact that the entertainment and sports media crawled into bed with Scott and Tessa and promoted this lie: The entire fandom insists they're together, mistakenly believes it - and nothing Scott and Tessa say can deter this conviction. It has to be beaten like a gong, this message, otherwise fans will not believe it.

Of course nobody asked why what fans believed or didn't believe about their romantic status was so freaking important. Small wonder - that's where everything unravels. Let's not go near it.

Scott and Tessa insisted this topic be raised at every interview so they could smile sheepishly, duck their heads and jiggle their feet, all modest and embarrassed.

Meanwhile back in the reality-based fandom environment, Scott and Tessa's word was gospel, Jessica Dube and Scott were a darling couple, and fans who expressed even the wish that Scott and Tessa would get together some day, at the same time made fun of themselves for having that wish.

Of course, as in all fandoms, there was an angry side to all of this, as anyone who questioned whether Scott and Tessa's word WAS gospel (an extremely small and random number of people quickly and easily bullied into silence) got policed by a vigilant troop of fan board Nazis who, if they couldn't speechify the rogue fans into shutting up, would promptly declare themselves an authority and announce themselves a) associates of the Moirs and b) witnesses to Scott and Jessica kissing on the lips.

They were lying, but that's the way it goes. Some fans were so upset at the idea that OTHER fans suspected Scott and Tessa were lying, that they told lies trying to shut those fans up.

There was nothing more canon in the Scott and Tessa fandom than the conviction that Scott and Jessica were real.  Apostates got taken to the woodshed. Scott and Tessa are platonic and Jessica and Scott are real was Ground Zero. That's how it still is.

This was inconvenient to Scott and Tessa's purposes so they continued to set up, bait and sting fans who already believed them. It was hot and cold running nasty, as usual. Scott's new "fan facebook" was used repeatedly. Scott exploited fans hungry for any kind of outreach or acknowledgement - shit it was HIS fucking fan facebook that HE set up - and he stung them like they'd forced the freaking facebook on him. After he got called out on his stings he took his toys and didn't interact at all. Hell, if he can't fuck people over he doesn't want to talk to them. Then he shut the thing down.

These fans were doing nothing but believing him and yelling at anyone who questioned him and he STILL wouldn't stop trying to run some type of petty, bitchy sting on that pathetic excuse for a fan page. He was still trying to set up and lead on people who did nothing but believe him.

Why? Why did he try to bait them? What's with the shit about 'Any suggestions for a profile picture' or 'thanks for the birthday wishes I'm saying thanks for the first time in my entire facebook life cause I'm intending to set you up to get whacked in the face with Jessica in Muskoka on my "birthday"".


There's no "why" I think, and fans have nothing to do with it. Fans are just a pretext. Scott and Tessa are talking to themselves and have been for a long time. There's no reality principle connected with this anymore. What there was of one was always tenuous. They don't let that stop them, however. Absent a convenient reality; they'll just make one up and aim everything at that.

If fans' attention wandered, Scott and Tessa would hint and maybe have a set of photos leaked (such as the two of them slow dancing right before May break 2010) just to get fans worked up enough to feel the Jessica/Scott dolphin vacation facebook spam like a slap with a wet sock. Scott and Tessa want fans to feel disappointed.They don't want fans accepting the platonic status. They want fans to feel disappointed - and even confused and hurt. And then of course, to feel stupid for feeling that way about a couple of people they don't even know. That must prove something to Scott and Tessa about fans - how pathetic they are, perhaps. Or maybe it proves to Scott and Tessa that they're a big deal. Maybe when fans settle down they find it threatening. So they start working fans, all to get them to the disappointed, foolish-feeling, letdown finale'.

It's funny if you're them!

Lovely, lovely people.

Here's an example of how it actually was on the web from the Olympics on:

Here is Scott changing his facebook status from "in a relationship" to "in a relationship with Jessica Dube" before he'd even washed the Olympic village celebration beer stains out of his Olympic Hockey Team jersey. This was when his facebook and Jessica's started robo-sweeping every fan that asked into their facebooks as friends.

Look at the weeping and wailing in the comments from fans and friends up there!

Oh wait.

"Bravo Scott!"

"About time you put that up!"

"That is good news"

"You are too cute."

A bunch of gloating is there too, satisfaction that those vile, evil people who dared to suspect the horrible, hateful, disgusting truth that Scott and Tessa were a normal romantic couple in a real relationship - would now have their lies CRUSHED by the man himself. Of course this was about maybe six people on the entire web who occasionally expressed these thoughts, but they needed to be TOLD!

(I still want the ferocity and anger about this explained some day. This was long before the blog, yet people were PISSED if it was suggested they were together. Even shippers got pissed!)

I'm organizing and will later post some of the typical online conversations of the day - from to fan boards to television show boards, all with the same point:

"He's dating Jessica Dube."

Scott and Tessa could have had sex on camera and the way they were running things unless they admitted it the fandom would pretend it wasn't actually sex and he was still with some other girl.

This never really had anything to do with fans.

*Figure slating at elite level is a punishingly expensive sport. How many Skate Canada skaters could afford to ditch a partnership with Roots? It would elevate their profile, mainstream their names and accomplishments, help set them up for more corporate partnerships after retirement. This just goes to point out that much of what Scott and Tessa do isn't a necessity, it's a luxury. Lying is an option they enjoy because they don't need to nurture relationships the same way figure skaters whose financial status is more precarious would. Lying is one of their indulgences afforded to them by their money. I'm sure there must be other privacy-loving, disclosure averse, self-conscious, hothouse flower control-freak skaters out there who just have to pull on their big girl and boy pants and get on with adulthood because survival in the adult world requires it. Postponing participation in the adult world is another luxury Scott and Tessa enjoy, and going by some of the antics of their friends and family, they come by that postponement naturally. There are people in their circle an entire generation older who have yet to embrace the idea of maturity and responsibility.

Scott and Tessa aren't Canadian rock stars beseiged by passionate fans. They're privileged, and this is what they do with their privilege.
*Tessa recently shared that she and Scott are only permitted to be in the USA about half the year (180 days I think she said). Let's just set aside the question that raises about - do they live in Michigan - or just across the border and commute - and look at Kate "moving to Michigan."

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Paul Poirier explains

The week ended with another big surprise for us. Shortly before the beginning of the gala, we were asked to speak to the organizing committee about a problem… Due to illness, one of the teams was forced to withdraw from gala, but the slot still needed to be filled to keep the TV schedule consistent. We were asked to fill it, based on the reception our programs received. As I mentioned in the last paragraph, Piper and I were so pleased by all the positive feedback, and so honoured by the OC’s request.
I think this was like the big surprise when skatebug "malfunctioned" and Debbi Wilkes ended up enthroned next to the Kiss'n'Cry where, throughout the entire event, up to and including the medal ceremony, nobody in the entire arena could avoid looking at her nor escape her incessant, imbecilic bloviating.

Like Debbi, Paul and Piper are prepared for surprises. They'd packed two sets of gala costumes, as well as copies of two pieces of gala music, and brought them to Paris all the way from Canada having no idea there was such a big surprise in store or that their competition programs would be as well received as they were (finishing with 135.85 to the American dance team, Hubbell & Donohue, who finished two places ahead of Piper and Paul at 145.23).

Sixth place for Piper and Paul  = 3 gala slots for G&P, while finishing in fourth place, just off the podium = zero, zip, no available gala slots for H&D. 

Reminds me of reading in a Donald Trump bio about Marla Maples toting her wedding dress around with her from golf course to golf course from New York to Palm Beach in hopes she'd catch The Donald in a marrying mood between games. Is that how Piper and Paul roll?

Considering Paul and Piper say they were asked to fill the slot of a team that couldn't perform due to illness, what accounts for the 2.5 slots Paul and Piper ultimately skated? Gosh, poor Hubbell Donohue. They're nice skaters, but they're just not the instant crowd favorites Paul and Piper have become worldwide.

"Based on the reception our programs received"* - there's your humble brag and the chosen angle of spin. Last I checked, their positive feedback included a 51 in the short program while Hubbell Donohue cleaned their clocks in the long. But the audience knows what it likes, and they want Paul and Piper! 
Piper and Paul had packed these clothes to wear to dinner in Paris.
It was a big surprise they were then asked to skate in them.
Fortunately, Paul and Piper were able to swiftly download
and edit copies of their music on cds for the gala playlist.
Last minute group spot! The team with the illness wouldn't
have fit in nearly as well so it all worked out.
Paul and Piper are real troopers to be able to skate two gala programs and a brand new group spot on next to no notice.

Skate Canada has been as subtle as a brick in the face when it comes to promoting Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier. But surely even Skate Canada wouldn't arrange in advance of the competition for the TEB OC to invite Paul and Piper to skate in the gala, and then try to pass it off as an invitation by popular demand once some other team fell ill.** 
*It also uses the old weasely, evasive passive voice, so conspicuous in Paul's explanation.
"Received" by whom? The crowd? The OC? Or received by Debbi Wilkes and Skate Canada? "Well" received, for that matter, since they didn't specify?

I think they're hoping to insinuate all good things without having to flat out say it and risk contradiction by others there who didn't have the same impression.

**We might want to keep an eye on some near-the-bottom French skater's gala appearance at London Worlds, or a French skater or team receiving an unusually generous p.r. boost or shout out from Skate Canada (or one of Barb's friends at

Withdrawal from the gala by another team or not, that would simply pad out Paul and Piper's gala participation, not make it possible in the first place. And even that pretext is suspicious. Give us a break. Two sets of gala costumes and two sets of gala music cuts in their luggage for a competition where they were sure to finish off the podium? What for? A team that wasn't on the podium - the sick team - was going to skate two exhibition programs?