by Michelle Wojdyla

Three juvenile dance teams. Three medals.

Two gold.

Huh?

When Zoe Sakas & Christopher Larosa finished their free dance and saw their overall score (48.50) posted, they assumed they would have a bronze medal. Danielle & Alexander Gamelin scored 72.34 and Tori Look & David Botero had 64.43.

This was not the case. Starting this competitive season, the juvenile and intermediate dancers would all go directly to the U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships (a.k.a. ‘junior nationals’) and skip their regional competitions. Competing in their sectional championship was optional. Both the Gamelins and Sakas & Larosa were from the North Atlantic Region, and therefore went gold-silver instead of gold-bronze. This was news to Sakas & Larosa.

“When they told us we’re like, ‘um, no. We got third,’” Sakas said.

Dressed in red and black, the young couple skated to Jennifer Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud” and a paso doble.

“It’s our first competition,” Sakas said. “We’ve been skating [together] for about six months now. It’s good experience to be down here. We worked really hard towards it. I think we did ok.”

“We did the best we could,” Larosa added.

With a short time before they head to Salt Lake City for junior nationals, the team is feeling ambitious.

“I think we should make our program more complicated, with harder movements in it, as long as we feel we aced all the stuff before,” Sakas said.

Her partner mentioned their action plan: “work, work, work.”

Twins Danielle and Alexander Gamelin skated a strong free dance to Arabian music. Out of the 30 GoE scores given, 28 were either 0 or 1. They received only two –1 GoE, both on their step sequence.

“Half of our footwork is on one foot and we tend to lose our balance at the end,” Alexander explained.

The team received three level 4 elements: the twizzles, straightline lift and combination spin.

“I was nervous at first,” Alexander confessed. “We tend to mess up the twizzles sometimes, and after we did the clean twizzles I was ‘whew’!”

The highlight of their free dance is twisted—literally.

Instead of going heel-to-heel in their pairs spread eagle, Danielle goes toe-to-toe. Her position is perfectly straight as she glides in front of her brother.

“I do it because my hips turn in and my knees aren’t aligned,” Danielle said.

“I was practicing spread eagles—“ Alexander began, before his sister finished his sentence.

“– and I got a little jealous,” Danielle admitted. “I was just standing against the boards, turning my feet in and then I was ‘I’ve got an idea!’”

With little time before their next competition, the Gamelin’s have a game plan similar to Sakas & Look’s.

“Fix the kinks and practice, practice, practice, practice,” Alexander stated, before putting in the exclamation point: “Practice!”

Hometown skaters Look & Bortero found competing at home a unique experience.

“It was really weird because we weren’t in hotels and stuff,” Look said. “This is our home rink. We were going to have more people come, but we didn’t know we were skating so early.”

The juvenile free dance started at 7:45 a.m.

Skating to Sarah Brightman’s “Harem,” Look & Botero earned a level four on their twizzles. Some balance issues brought multiple –1s on the move.

“I think it went pretty good,” Botero said. “We could have done better.”

Look concurred.

“There’s always something to work on.”

As the only team representing the South Atlantic region, Look & Botero stood atop the podium at the end of the day. Next on the schedule—after all that practicing—is to go west, young dancers, to the 2008 U.S. Junior Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah