Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje skated in a show last season in Astana, Kazakstan, and on the flight home and for days afterward the Canadian ice dancers couldn't get a particular song out of their heads.
"SOS, d'un terrien en detresse," by Kazakh superstar Dimash Kudaibergen, was the song Denis Ten skated his free program to last season. The Kazakh skater had just stepped off the ice as Weaver and Poje were about to go on.
"And then we just couldn't get it out of our heads, kept humming this tune over and over," Weaver said.
They played the song for their coach Nikolai Morozov, and his response was quick.
"He said 'This is it,'" Weaver said.
The reigning world champions will debut their free dance to "SOS, d'un terrien en detresse" — they chose a different version by Los Angeles: The Voices — at this week's Autumn Classic International in Oakville, Ont.
Weaver and Poje couldn't have known the emotional wallop that would come with picking this piece of music. Ten was stabbed to death in July by a couple of men reportedly trying to steal his car mirror.
Ten was the best skater to come out of Kazakhstan, winning bronze behind Canada's Patrick Chan at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. His murder rocked the close-knit skating community.
"We were saying 'Thank you Denis for bringing this music to us.' And then following that tragedy it's with a heavy heart that we say we are now making this piece a tribute to him. It's our way of saying thank you to him," Weaver said, fighting back tears.
The Autumn Classic is the only time Weaver and Poje will compete this fall. Following the event, they'll join the Thank You Canada Tour, a cross-country show tour featuring Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, plus Patrick Chan, Kaetlyn Osmond and others.
The 29-year-old Weaver and Poje, 31, who will pick up the ice dance mantle from Virtue and Moir — Canada's two-time Olympic champs are expected to retire — initially said no to the Thank You Canada Tour invitation. They'd been keen to compete on the heels of their bronze medal from the world championships in Milan.
But then they performed alongside Virtue and Moir & Co., on the Stars on Ice Tour exhibition tour last spring.
"And we realized how special this group is, to perform with and to travel the country with, and I have to say that that was a mind-changing moment, and luckily our spot was still there," Weaver said. "It's also a chance for us to expand our boundaries, to practise our programs not two or three times in front of an audience, but 30 times.
"And we've gotten pretty used to sharing the ice with Tessa and Scott and this season will be no different. It's nice to be surrounded by the world's best. Literally the world's best."
They'll return to competition at the Canadian championships in January in Saint John, N.B.
The Autumn Classic is part of the International Skating Union's Challenger Series, which is like a B circuit to the Grand Prix Series. It's also a chance for skaters who train locally to receive some feedback from judges on new programs before the Grand Prixs get underway.
This year's event at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex will feature two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Olympic silver medallist Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia. The two train with Canadian coach Brian Orser at the Toronto Cricket and Skating Club.
Canada's other entries are Kevin Reynolds, Roman Sadovsky, and Bennet Toman in men's singles; Larykyn Austman in women's singles; pairs teams Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro and Lori-Ann Matte and Thierry Ferland; and ice dancers Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus and Molly Lanaghan and Dmitre Razgulajevs.
The Grand Prix circuit opens with Skate America Oct. 19-21 in Everett, Wash. Skate Canada International is Oct. 26-28 in Laval, Que.
Vancouver will host the Grand Prix Final, Dec. 6-9.
Lori Ewing , The Canadian Press