They are only the national championships, but the Canadian Olympic figure skating trials in London, Ont., could be a barnburner.

It’s more than just hyperbole to suggest this gathering promises “sudden death” for some Olympic dreams.

There is, in fact, “no tomorrow” and two spots on the Canadian roster will depend on “do or die” performances in each of four disciplines — pairs, dance, ladies and men’s singles.

In the men’s competition there are at least six skaters with a chance. They come from the far reaches of the country and five are chasing Toronto’s Patrick Chan, the world championship silver medallist, who has been less than stellar in this crucial season.

It means Joey Russell of Labrador City, N.L., Shawn Sawyer of Edmundston, N.B., Vaughn Chipeur of Lloydminster, Sask., as well as Kevin Reynolds and Jeremy Ten, both of British Columbia, are in the hunt for a supporting role at Pacific Coliseum come February.

“With our nationals a few weeks out of the Olympic Games we will have those skaters who are at their best representing us in Vancouver,” says Michael Slipchuk. As Skate Canada’s high performance director, Slipchuk will have a heavy hand in making the final cuts.

He’s well qualified for his job.

At the 1992 Canadian championships in Moncton, N.B., Slipchuk won a surprise title over Elvis Stojko and earned a ticket to his first and only Olympics in Albertville, France, where he placed ninth. That performance cemented the international notion that Canada had tremendous depth in men’s skating as the injured Kurt Browning, Stojko and Slipchuk all finished in the top 10.

Slipchuk believes a system of trial by fire is the only way to ensure success at the Games.

“They will have shown the ability to do it when it counts,” he said. “And that’s exactly what they’ll have to do to reach the Olympic podium.

“It’s very humbling as one missed element can have you on the outside looking in. You have no margin of error in our sport if you want to be the best.”

So that’s what to expect in London, and for my money there’s no more dramatic scenario in all of sport.

At the end of the day, in order to live their dreams, all of these skaters will have to nail a single, required element.

They must stand and deliver.

– Scott Russell is the Host of CBC Sports Weekend seen Saturday afternoons. He has covered professional and amateur sports including nine Olympic games and numerous world championships.