This year, the junior-level skaters will be the headliners for the 2010 BMO Skate Canada Junior Nationals in London, ON. In the past, juniors have competed in the shadows of the seniors at the Canadian Championships, but this year they have a chance to step into the spotlight.
As 2010 Skate Canada Junior Challenge champions and with the best Junior Grand Prix results in the field, the new team of Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam is the favorite to win this year’s junior title. On the JGP circuit this season, they finished fourth in Poland and fifth in Turkey. Their score of 163.18 at Challenge last month earned them the gold medal by a margin of almost 17 points. Last year, Paul won the Canadian bronze medal at the junior level with Jason Cheperdak. Islam had prior success with Joanna Lenko, including the junior silver medal at the 2007 Canadian Championships. Paul & Islam have been skating together since January 2009 and they train with David Islam in Barrie.
Qualifying second for 2010 Junior Nationals were Paul & Islam’s Central Ontario teammates and rivals, Olivia Martins & Alvin Chau. In their fourth season together, Martins & Chau finished sixth in both of their JGP events this year and have a great shot at winning their first national medal at the junior level. They train at Ice Dance Elite in Scarborough, ON, with Carol Lane and Juris Razgulajevs and were the national champions on the novice level in 2008. They have an entertaining Indian original dance to “Dhoom Taana” and could definitely make a move during that segment of the competition.
A bronze medal at Challenge last month marks a big jump in the standings for Nicole Orford & Malcolm Rohon-O’Halloran. The duo was 12th at the novice level at 2009 Junior Nationals, but this year, they are among the top group of junior teams in Canada. Orford & Rohon-O’Halloran placed ninth at the JGP event in Belarus this season, where they struggled in the compulsory dance, but their score at Challenge was 17 points higher than in Minsk. They are coached by Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe in Burnaby, BC, and they are in their second season together.
Abby Carswell & Andrew Doleman are another team with JGP experience, placing eighth this season at the JGP event in Lake Placid. Together since last spring, Carswell & Doleman train alongside Martins & Chau in Scarborough, but represent Western Ontario. Their polished style helped them placed fourth at the 2010 Junior Challenge, less than three points off the podium.
Andréanne Poulin & Marc-André Servant finished fifth at Challenge, just 1.07 behind Carswell & Doleman, despite a mistake on their twizzle sequence in their eighth-place free dance. Poulin & Servant had strong results at summer and autumn competitions — including winning the 2010 Québec Sectionals — and were substitutes for the JGP circuit. They are only in their first year together, but the comfort of their partnership is obvious on the ice. Elyse Hamel and Shawn Winter coach the team in Pierrefonds, QC.
The sixth qualifiers were Veronique de Beaumont-Boisvert & Sebastien Buron, who are one of the veteran teams in the field. This is their fifth consecutive appearance at the national championships. The duo competed twice on the JGP circuit this season, finishing seventh in Poland and eighth in Croatia, and improved their score by nearly eight points between the two events. The team has struggled this season with levels, but if they can execute their elements at the target difficulty, they could be medal threats. Two years ago, they won the novice silver medal behind Martins & Chau at 2008 Junior Nationals, and last year they finished sixth on the junior level. They are coached by Julie Marcotte.
Marie-Philippe Vincent & François-Xavier Ouellette, another team from Québec, are skating in their third season together and their second at the junior level. They are hoping to move up from a 15th-place finish at last year’s Canadian Championships and are definitely on track to do so. With a charming French original dance and a lyrical free dance, they won the bronze medal at the Québec Sectionals this fall. Pascal Denis coaches the team in Pierrefonds.
Mélissande Dumas & Anthony Quintal defeated Vincent & Ouellette by six points at Québec Sectionals for the silver medal, but placed behind them by about four points at Challenge. Dumas & Quintal are a new team this season with a lot of charisma that shines in their Italian original dance. Last season, Dumas competed on the novice level with Yoan Breton and finished 13th at Eastern Challenge. Quintal was 16th at this event last year with Laurence Fournier-Beaudry.
In their first year together, Alexa-Marie Arrotta & Martin Nickel were ranked ninth at junior level at the 2009 Canadian Championships. This season, they have made improvements to their skating and are sporting a more mature look. Arrotta & Nickel finished ninth at Challenge this season, just .12 behind Dumas & Quintal. They are the only dance team to represent Manitoba at the junior level and they train in Barrie, ON.
Olga Lioudvinevitch & Thomas Williams are also in their second season as partners, as well as their second season at the junior level. In 2009, they were 14th at the Canadian Championships. Lioudvinevitch & Williams bounced back from a disappointing 16th place in the compulsory dance at Challenge with an energetic original dance that pays homage to Lioudvinevitch’s Russian heritage. A sixth-place free dance gave them another boost, and they ended up in tenth place. Paul MacIntosh coaches the team in Kitchener, ON, and they represent Alberta.
Catherine St-Onge & Alexander Browne were the fifth team from Québec to qualify for Junior Nationals. 2010 marks a ten-year partnership for this team, making them the “oldest” partnership in the field and the second longest in Canada behind Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir. Their first appearance at the national level was in 2004, when they won the bronze medal at the juvenile level. Since then, they have qualified for the national championships every year. This is their third season at the junior level; they finished 12th in 2008 and 11th in 2009. St-Onge & Browne are coached by Bruno Yvars, Aimé Leblanc, and Martine Patenaude.
Finishing 12th at Challenge were Jazz Smyl Joly & Ryan Behnia, who represent Alberta and train at the Minto Skating Club in Ottawa. This is their second season together and their first season at the junior level. In 2009, they finished ninth at the novice level at Junior Nationals. Behnia is a past Canadian champion — in 2007, he won the national title on the pre-novice level with Lisa Casselman.
Elisabeth Paradis & Tristan Laliberté finished just .37 points behind Smyl Joly & Behnia at Challenge. After an unusual free dance at Québec Sectionals where they “skated through” and earned no Technical Elements scores, obviously finishing in last place, they came back strong at Challenge, particularly with their fun Bollywood original dance. Last year, Paradis & Laliberté won the silver medal on the novice level at Junior Nationals.
Catherine Alarie & Benjamin Brisebois Gaudreau are the seventh and final team from Québec to qualify for this event. At Challenge, they finished out of qualifying position in the compulsory dance but gained momentum through each phase, their confident free dance securing their ticket to London. In 2009, Alarie & Brisebois Gaudreau won the novice bronze medal at Junior Nationals just behind Québec teammates Paradis & Laliberté.
The final skaters in the field are Kathryn Leak & David Mackay Perry, who were actually the third alternates to Junior Nationals. Leak & Mackay Perry found out that they would be replacing Lisa Casselman & Jonathan Arcieri last week. Both teams represent Eastern Ontario. Leak & Mackay Perry train at the Minto Skating Club and are making their first appearance at the national level.
Casselman & Arcieri were forced withdraw from the event due to an illness in Casselman’s family.
Another notable absence from the roster is Carolyn MacCuish & Tyler Morris, last year’s novice national champions who competed twice on the JGP circuit this season. The team had to sit out the rest of the season when MacCuish injured her foot in practice in November.
The junior dance event begins Tuesday afternoon with the Westminster Waltz. The original dance is on Wednesday and the event will conclude with the free dance on Thursday morning.
When competition for the 2010 BMO Skate Canada Junior Nationals opens on January 11, it will be the novice dancers who take the ice first. The competition is tight. At Challenge, the teams ranked from second to eighth scored within seven points of each other. The ninth and 21st teams were separated by just 3.60 points, but only the top 15 teams qualified for Junior Nationals.
2010 Challenge Champions Edrea Khong & Edbert Khong are the clear favorites. The talented young siblings won Challenge last month by almost nine points and were the 2009 pre-novice national champions. Their comfortable transition to the novice level is as much due to their precise technique as it is to their charming style. Although they are small in stature, they have a commanding presence, and their results this season have shown that if they skate clean, there is not much that can stop them. The Khongs represent Central Ontario and are coached by Andrew Hallam in Toronto.
The Khongs’ Central Ontario teammates and rivals, Kelly Oliveira & Jordan Hockley, are also having a strong season. After missing the podium at Junior Nationals last year by .20, Oliveira & Hockley return to the novice level this year for another chance for a medal. At Challenge, their energetic free dance to “All for the Best” moved them from third place to second and earned them a silver medal. Oliveira & Hockley train in Scarborough, Ontario, with Olympic team hopefuls Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier.
Another sibling team rounded out the podium at Challenge. Victoria Hasegawa & Connor Hasegawa of Québec had a strong competition in Mississauga and proved themselves to be one of the major contenders at the novice level. This is their second year at the novice level; last year, they finished 10th at Junior Nationals. The Hasegawas are coached by Julie Marcotte.
Baily Carroll & Peter Gerber are another part of the strong Central Ontario contingent. They finished fourth at Challenge this year, but were less than two points from the podium. Their lyrical free dance set to Lucia Micarelli’s version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” earned 57.48 points, just .01 less than the Hasegawas’ free dance. Last year, Carroll & Gerber also skated on the novice level and finished sixth at Junior Nationals.
Last year on the pre-novice level, Mireille Poudrier & Benjamin Smyth of Québec won the free dance and were just .30 points away from becoming national champions. This year, they are skating as novices for the first time, but their mature free dance to “Assassin’s Tango” shows off a confident and experienced attitude. At Challenge, they finished in fifth place, making big improvements since their fifth-place finish at Québec’s sectional championships.
Pénélope Mondion & Benoît Gagnon won the silver medal at the Québec Sectional Championships this year, but they did not have their best skate at Challenge. A fall in their modern free dance to “24” by Jem cost them at least one placement, and they finished in sixth place. In 2009, Mondion & Gagnon were fifth on the novice level at Junior Nationals and the 2008 pre-novice bronze medalists will certainly be fighting to move up this year.
Jade Marrow & Allan Stoll, the 2010 Western Ontario sectional champions, finished seventh at Challenge, less than a point behind Mondion & Gagnon. Of the novice teams that began their partnerships this season, Marrow & Stoll are currently the highest ranked in Canada. The team trains close to London, in Kitchener, so Junior Nationals is almost like a hometown competition for them.
They may be a brand new team, but joining forces just a few months ago has not stopped Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Yoan Breton from making a mark. After winning the bronze medal at the 2010 Québec Sectional Championships, they broke 80 points at Challenge and finished eighth, just over five points from the podium. Earlier this season, Breton was skating with Jade Robitaille.
Elizabeth Kang & Victor Vongsaphay of Québec were the highest-ranked team in the 3.60-point spread between ninth and 21st place at Challenge. Kang & Vongsaphay won the bronze medal at the juvenile level at 2007 Junior Nationals, but this will be their first appearance at the national level since then. In 2009, they struggled at Québec sectionals on the novice level, finishing 9th.
The second of three teams from Western Ontario to qualify for a “home” Junior Nationals is Kylie Knight & Benjamin Mulder. They are competing in their second year together and despite quite a height difference, they are able to highlight nice lines in their skating. Knight & Mulder earned 75.42 points at Challenge, just .37 behind Kang & Vongsapahy, and were 13th on the novice level at 2009 Junior Nationals.
Sarah Clarke & Steven Clarke are one of four sibling partnerships to qualify for Junior Nationals at the novice level and are one of two entries from Eastern Ontario. Like Kang & Vongsaphay, the Clarkes will be back at Junior Nationals for the first time since 2007, when they finished fifth at the juvenile level. The Clarkes train at the Minto Skating Club in Ottawa.
At Challenge, Josyane Cholette & Simon Proulx-Sénécal’s ninth-place bluesy free dance was enough to move them into 12th place overall, qualifying them for their first Junior Nationals together. They were seventh at the 2010 Québec Sectional Championships.
Joanna Salvagna & Christopher Lettner qualified 13th for Junior Nationals in their first year as a team. Last year, Salvagna finished eighth on the novice level at Junior Nationals with Marc-André Servant. This will be Lettner’s first trip to Junior Nationals.
Michaela Botsford & Scott Botsford were the fourth sibling partnership to qualify for Junior Nationals and the third team from Western Ontario. Although they train in Kitchener with Marrow & Stoll and Knight & Mulder, they are from London and represent the London Skating Club. This year, they chose to reprise their popular free dance to “Ramalama (Bang Bang)” from 2007, so they are sure to be a hit with the home crowd. The Botsfords were the silver medalists on the juvenile level at 2006 Junior Nationals. This will be their fifth consecutive trip to Junior Nationals.
Victoria Coulthard & Peter Ahluwalia took the final qualification spot to Junior Nationals. They are the only team representing British Columbia/Yukon at the novice level. Their 15th-place ranking at Challenge was less than two points from ninth place, but in such a tight race, they only avoided elimination by .58 points. Ahluwalia is making his sixth consecutive trip to Junior Nationals, while this is Coulthard’s first. Coulthard & Ahluwalia are coached by Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe.
Competition begins Monday evening with two compulsory dances, the Argentine Tango and the Silver Samba. For many of the teams, this will be the first competitive outing of the Argentine Tango. The free dance will be on Wednesday morning.