Goyang City, Korea

This week, thirteen teams will take the ice in Goyang City, Korea, vying for ISU Four Continents Championships medals, ranking points, and prize money. Last year’s champions, Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon, are not competing this season, taking a year off to tour with Smucker’s Stars on Ice. Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto, who won this event in 2006 and took silver last year, declined the invitation to compete. 

Canada’s Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, who captured their first Canadian National Championship gold in January, have won the bronze medal at the past two Four Continents Championships and on paper are the favorites heading into this event. Virtue & Moir’s free dance to “Umbrellas of Cherbourg” soundtrack has been well received by judges and heralded by fans at their competitive events this season and could propel them to the top of the podium in Goyang City.  

Their toughest challengers are American training mates Meryl Davis & Charlie White. Davis & White are coming off a strong U.S. Championships where they scored over 200 points and appear to have made up for lost training time from the beginning of the season. Their free dance to “Eleanor Rigby” and “Eleanor’s Dream” by the Beatles is much improved from its Grand Prix performances, and the revamped version drew the audience in with every step. In the original dance in St. Paul, their “Kalinka” had the highest technical score, besting even Belbin & Agosto. Davis & White finished fourth at the 2007 Four Continents in Colorado Springs. 

Several other teams are also in the medal hunt in Korea.  

Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre won the bronze medal at the 2008 U.S. Championships last month, earning a berth at both this event and the World Championships in March. Navarro & Bommentre finished fifth at this event in 2007, their first time competing at an ISU Championship. Their free dance to Corinne Bailey Rae’s version of the Led Zeppelin song “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is a step in a different direction for a team who normally selects more upbeat music for their programs. Navarro & Bommentre’s African folk dance OD makes for a fun change from the seemingly endless Russian/Gypsy offerings. 

2008 Canadian silver medalists Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje made a coaching switch just prior to their Nationals and are now with Shae-Lynn Bourne and Mathew Gates. With this change, Weaver & Poje look to improve on their earlier season performances and results. Their season best score of 154.20 has them less than six points behind Navarro & Bommentre’s best of 159.93. (National championships scores are not included.) 

Allie Hann-McCurdy & Michael Coreno are on a roll and followed up their fourth place finish at Skate Canada last fall with a bronze medal at Canadian Nationals in January. McCurdy & Coreno’s original dance to the “Log Driver’s Waltz” soundtrack is an audience favorite this season. The team scrapped an earlier free dance and replaced it to an elegant program to “Rhapsody in Blue.” They finished less than two points behind teammates Weaver & Poje in Vancouver last month. 

Jennifer Wester & Daniil Barantsev, the 2007 Nebelhorn Champions, will compete in their second international event together in Goyang City. Wester & Barantsev, who train in Detroit with Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova, have moved up at U.S. Nationals each year and finished just off the podium in 2008, placing fifth. Their country/western original dance is entertaining and a natural fit for Dallas-born Wester, while their free dance to “Singin’ in the Rain” is a tribute to the Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire Hollywood period. At Nebelhorn, the team scored 157.03 and after four months of polishing the programs, received a 169.37 in St. Paul. Wester & Barantsev are one of two married teams competing. Australia’s Maria & Evgeni Borounov have been married since 2002. 

The event starts with the Yankee Polka compulsory dance on Wednesday, February 13th. Valentine’s Day is for the original dance, and the competition concludes on the 15th with the free dance.