Wesley Chiu, a young Canadian star on the rise, turned many heads in his first full season on the international circuit.
The soft-spoken Vancouver native produced a gold medal at a Junior Grand Prix event in Courchevel, France, at the end of August 2021. Three weeks later, he was a bronze medalist at the Series stop in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, where he landed his first quad jump (a toe) in an international competition.
“It’s probably one of the best seasons I have ever had so far. I am just trying to keep the momentum going up to my competitions later this season,” said the 16-year-old from Richmond, British Columbia. “I was happy about the win (in France), but after that competition there was lots to work on as I made quite a few mistakes in the long program. It was also a big achievement for me to put the quad out in competition in Russia.”
Keegan Murphy, who along with his mother, Aileen, coaches Chiu at the Connaught Skating Club in Richmond, said his student’s success is part of a “very strategic plan” that was put in place in the spring of 2021.
“Once the season got started, we took each event as it came, with targeted goals for each one,” said Murphy. “Our main goal was to skate a short and long program that represented what he executed in training. Regardless of the podium position, I was very proud and happy to see him gaining confidence with each international competition.”
Chiu qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final in Osaka, Japan at the beginning of December, but the event was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions in that country.
“It was definitely pretty disappointing because all those skaters have worked really hard to earn a place at the Grand Prix Final,” said Chiu. “So, it was kind of heartbreaking to get that taken away from us, but with the health of the public being so important … ultimately, it was not up to us whether we could hold a Final or not.”
In November, Chiu had his first opportunity to test himself in a senior international setting at a Challenger Series event in Poland. After placing 11th in the short program Chiu made his biggest statement yet by winning the free skate. While he ultimately wound up just off the podium in fourth place, Chiu added to his growing confidence. He also earned the minimum technical scores required to compete at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
“I did really well, especially in the long. It was my first time landing two quads (in a program), so that was another big achievement,” said Chiu, who also executed six triples in the free skate. “Honestly, I think it was a mistake on the combination in the short that really motivated me to give ‘everything I’ve got’ in the long and do my best.
“It was my first senior international, so I really had no expectations for myself. I had nothing to lose.”
Murphy said it was not an easy week logistically, “but Wesley’s hard work and careful preparation paid off. I am so happy the skating world is starting to get a glimpse of what his coaching team and training mates get to see him do every day in practice.”
Chiu first started figure skating at “6 or 7” years old, after dabbling in both hockey and speed skating and began to closely follow the careers of two of the sport’s biggest names.
“Patrick Chan and Yuzuru Hanyu were the two I really watched when I was younger,” said Chiu. “I just thought Patrick’s skating was really cool … his artistry and everything, the way he moved on the ice, it was amazing to watch. And Yuzuru, it was because of his jumps at the time. Back then, not many people were doing quads and if they were, it was only one or two. So, seeing all those quads from Yuzu was really cool.”
Chiu has a quad Salchow of his own “ready to put into the program.” He is also working on the quad Lutz and quad flip.
The silver medalist at 2020 junior nationals, Chiu finished third in the senior men’s event at the 2022 Canadian Championships in January. He will close out his first full international season at the World Junior Championships in Tallinn, Estonia in April.
“He has zero limits technically and artistically,” said Murphy. “If he wishes to do all the quads, he will. He is incredibly athletic, intelligent and dedicated to his development. It’s completely up to Wesley.”