Every once in a while, with a numerically-based judging system, something goes wrong. It could be an error from the technical specialist, a problem with a judge’s mark, a general computer glitch, or any number of human or non-human errors. Results announced in the arena are technically “unofficial,” but they rarely differ from the finalized results that are posted later. The novice free dance at 2010 Junior Nationals, however, was one of those rare times when a small error made a big difference.
After Edrea Khong & Edbert Khong received their marks in the kiss & cry, their faces lit up. They had fought back from a fourth-place ranking in the compulsory dances and, after their free dance, they heard the words that every competitor hopes to hear about themselves: “Edrea and Edbert are currently in first place.”
It was close. Really close, in fact. The Khongs were ahead of Kelly Oliveira & Jordan Hockley, the leaders after the compulsory dance who had also skated a very good free dance, by just .23. There was still one more left to skate, but Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Yoan Breton were in fifth heading into the free, a few points back from the leaders, and did not expect to challenge for the title this year. It was all but official — the Khongs had won.
Or perhaps not. An error was caught before the results were published. Oliveira & Hockley’s combination spin was not called a level 4, which it clearly should have been. They satisfied all the criteria for the level, so their protocol was adjusted. A level 4 spin is worth 4.70 points; a level 3 spin has a base value of 4.00. Seven-tenths of a point were added to Oliveira & Hockley’s free dance score, which had already been a personal best, making it 61.05. Instead of finishing behind the Khongs by .23, they won the event by .47.
It was still really close, and an unfortunate situation for both teams, but what else could be done? Edbert Khong, understandably disappointed but mature and gracious, put the situation into perspective after the medal ceremony that night. “If there was a mistake made, it’s best that the mistake is fixed,” he said with a shrug.
It’s true, of course, but the truth is not always easy.
On the other side of the coin, Oliveira & Hockley were elated when they heard the news, but Hockley was quick to keep the event in perspective. A small error on the twizzles cost them at least one-third of a point, perhaps more. Without the mistake, they would have won outright, so he emphasized that their free dance at the 2010 Skate Canada Novice Challenge had been their best performance of the season.
“I’m just really happy with the turn of events,” Oliveira said after the results were adjusted, grinning from ear to ear.
Oliveira & Hockley’s free dance to “All for the Best” is a choreographed ball of energy that gains momentum throughout the program. The charming characters suits Oliveira & Hockley perfectly, and aside from the twizzle mishap, the very polished program was executed with confidence. The team is excited about attacking the junior ranks next year, and they certainly look ready. Although they once struggled with compulsories, the hard work they have put in this year has certainly paid off, and the improvements to the compulsory dances have made them a smoother, more mature team overall. Add to that their infectious smiles and enthusiasm for performing, and they are a completely enjoyable team.
Regardless of the final outcome, Edrea Khong & Edbert Khong delighted the crowd with an entertaining Cirque du Soleil free dance that challenged them to take on the role of circus characters. The program has developed over the course of the season, and at Junior Nationals, they gave a clean, polished, and fun-filled performance that was well beyond their years. The Khongs are two of the smallest athletes in the field, but when they skate this well, they look like they are six feet tall. They made huge gains with their first element, a level 2 midline step sequence that earned +2 GOE from four judges and +1 from the remaining three.
“We felt really into the program,” Edrea said afterwards. “Everything was solid.”
Their effort earned them 63.27 points and first place in the free dance, but it was three points shy of the mark they had set in December at Challenge, where the Program Component marks had perhaps been a bit inflated.
Another sibling partnership, Victoria Hasegawa & Connor Hasegawa, won the bronze medal in a less dramatic turn of events. Last year, the Hasegawas finished tenth in Canada on the novice level, but vaulted up the standings this season. Their flow and power has certainly improved this year, something that was evident in their strong second-place compulsory dances and their “Stairway to Heaven” free dance. While the performance level was high, they did struggle a bit with their spin, which garnered -.40 GOE, and Victoria noted that there were a few stumbles in the program.
“It wasn’t as strong as it could have been,” she said.
“I’m a little disappointed we didn’t skate to our best potential,” Connor added, “[but] it’s a big step up from last year.”
Their free dance earned 58.46 points, up almost a point from Challenge. They also increased the levels of their twizzles and their midline step sequence. Next year, the Hasegawas will also move to the junior level, and during the off-season they plan to work on being stronger individual skaters, which will make them even better together.
Just missing the podium, Baily Carroll & Peter Gerber scored 57.96 in their fourth-place free dance and 83.66 overall. A deduction for a long lift cost them a point, although that did not directly affect the final ranking. Skating to the same music that fellow Central Ontario dancers Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier use in their free dance (Lucia Micarelli’s “Nocturne” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”), they showcase an elegant style and long lines. The program was very clean, and they were the only team to receive level 3 for their step sequences.
“It was one of our best skates,” Gerber said, citing the twizzles and the side-by-side footwork as the highlights.
The road to Junior Nationals was not without its obstacles. Carroll broke her wrist a couple of weeks ago and skated at Junior Nationals wearing a cast. Gerber had broken his ankle in the summer, so they have been trying to make up for lost time all season. Next season, they plan to move up to the junior level — and hope to stay injury-free
Mireille Poudrier & Benjamin Smyth had a great start to their national championship. Their crisp attention to detail and excellent character helped them finish third in the first compulsory dance, the Argentine Tango. Unfortunately, disaster struck in the Silver Samba. A fall midway through the first pattern left them in 14th place for that dance and in seventh overall, heading into the free. Fortunately, Poudrier & Smyth have a extremely well-choreographed free dance — also a tango — that plays to their strengths. In the twizzle sequence, Poudrier nearly lost her hold on her blade on the first twizzle, an error that would have cost a level, but she fought to keep the points and completed the rotations as well. They scored 55.17 points in their fifth place free dance to “Assassin’s Tango” and leapt into fifth place overall, with a final score of 78.60.
Smyth said later that although the free dance was not their very best performance, they were not affected by the mistake in the Silver Samba. “We had to take time to fix it and pass over it,” he explained. “In general, we are very proud [of the free dance].”
Finishing sixth with 77.17 points were Pénélope Mondion & Benoit Gagnon, who maintained their ranking after the compulsories. The intense team from Québec had a small slip in their level 2 circular step sequence, resulting in -.60 GOE, but overall, they gave a strong, dramatic free dance to “24” by Jem. Their modern program to a current pop song certainly stood out from the more traditional choices. Mondion & Gagnon were obviously thrilled with their dramatic performance, embracing on the ice when they finished. They earned 53.80 points in their sixth-place free dance.
In fifth place after the compulsories, Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Yoan Breton found themselves in the last group for the free dance and drew last, with the challenge of skating right after one of the favorites. They captivated the audience with strong lifts and an engaging dance set to “I Put a Spell on You,” but the technical aspect was not as proficient as their performance. A couple of stumbles and a near-collision on the midline step sequence dropped that element to a level 1 and they lost a point on GOE. With a seventh-place free dance and a close seventh-place finish, just .12 behind Mondion & Gagnon in sixth, Fournier Beaudry & Breton have done well this season, especially considering that their partnership is the youngest in the field.
Fournier Beaudry & Breton were in separate partnerships at the beginning of the season; Fournier Beaudry was skating in the U.S. with Paul Bellantuono and Breton was skating with Jade Robitaille in Montréal. When Fournier Beaudry returned home, she felt like she’d found a better fit for a partner in Breton, but they had to act fast — it was already the end of September. Two weeks before Québec Sectionals, they choreographed their free dance, and from there, they decided to just take one competition at a time. Their placement at Nationals was a delightful surprise. The team is looking forward to having an off-season to further develop their partnership.
“We need to be stronger,” Fournier Beaudry said. “Me on my side, him on his side,” she explained.
“We want to be a better match together,” Breton added.
Less than three points separated the eighth-place team from the 12th-place team, so without the attached point totals, the rankings for each segment of the competition hardly make sense. These teams were also involved in a tight race just to qualify for Junior Nationals, which is a testament to the depth in Canadian ice dance at the novice level.
Jade Marrow & Allan Stoll came out on top of this close portion of the rankings, in eighth, with a total of 73.33 points. After finishing 11th in the compulsories, their gentle Memoirs of a Geisha free dance took ninth, despite a fall from Marrow on the twizzle sequence. The team made big gains with their lifts, though, earning level 4s and +.50 GOE for both of them. Their ambitious rotational lift is similar to the one-armed lift that two-time world silver medalists Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon invented and “trademarked.” Marrow & Stoll, along with many other dancers from the Ontario sections, worked with Dubreuil & Lauzon at a Skate Ontario training camp last summer.
Less than a point behind them and finishing ninth were their Kitchener training mates, Kylie Knight & Benjamin Mulder, who took 11th in the free dance after a tenth-place ranking in the compulsories. Knight had some trouble on her first twizzle, but she recovered enough for a level 3 for that element, although they did lose a full point on GOE. The drastic height difference between Knight & Mulder allows for spectacular lifts; both of their lifts in the free dance were quite strong, including the same rotational lift that Marrow & Stoll executed. Knight & Mulder’s free dance score was 49.45.
With 71.78 points, Joanna Salvagna & Christopher Lettner were tenth, also less than a point from the team ahead of them. After struggling in the Argentine Tango and finishing 14th in that dance, Salvagna & Lettner had a fantastic Silver Samba that ranked sixth. Their tenth-place fiesty tango free dance scored 49.67 and left them in tenth overall. Lettner is also a tall partner, so they are another team suited for impressive lifts. They had some trouble in the twizzle sequence, but made up for the mistake with strong musical interpretation.
Victoria Coulthard & Peter Ahluwalia took the last berth to Junior Nationals by a margin of only .58 at Challenge. After rough skates in the compulsories that left them in 15th heading into the free dance, they had nothing to lose — and they skated like it, even though Coulthard was fighting through illness. Coulthard & Ahluwalia had lost levels on several elements at Challenge due to some mistakes, but their levels at this event were back on track, and as a result, they improved their TES by almost four points. Their Slumdog Millionaire free dance was a lot of fun for the audience, and they looked like they were having a great time. In the end, they were eighth in the free, which propelled them to 11th overall, just .05 behind Salvagna & Lettner.
Josyane Cholette & Simon Proulx-Sénécal finished the event in 12th place with 70.42 points, just over a point behind Coulthard & Ahluwalia. Good compulsories put them in ninth heading into the free, but a couple of mistakes in the free dance cost them a few spots in the rankings. Their twizzles were done well, but were only a level 3, and the biggest problem came when they fell out of the end of their level 3 spin, costing them -1.10 in GOE. Cholette also lost a part of costume on the ice, which meant a one point deduction. The tall, fluid team typically skates with a lot of finesse and power, but the mistake on the spin really seemed to shake them. Cholette & Proulx-Sénécal earned 47.27 points in their 12th-place free dance.
Siblings Michaela Botsford & Scott Botsford had the chance to skate on hometown ice and did really well in the compulsories, particularly in their fifth-ranked Silver Samba. They were in eighth overall heading into the free dance and with an innovative program to Roisin Murphy’s “Ramalama (Bang Bang),” with an excellent chance to meet or improve upon last year’s seventh-place finish at Junior Nationals. Unfortunately, they had a rough time with some of the elements in the free dance, receiving no level (or points) when Michaela put her hands down in the spin, and only earning a level 2 for their final curve lift. Despite the mistakes, their modern choreography earned big cheers from the many friends and family that they had in the audience. With 44.64 points, they finished 14th in the free dance, giving them 67.98 points for 13th overall.
Sarah Clarke & Steven Clarke finished 14th overall, almost a point behind the Botsfords. They did a nice job on their twizzles and their combination lift was strong, but they struggled a bit through their spin, which only earned a level 1, and were slow through their rotational lift, the final element of their Requiem for a Dream free dance. They scored 45.19 in the free and 67.06 overall.
Rounding out the field in 15th were Elizabeth Kang & Victor Vongsaphay, who were 13th in the Argentine Tango, seventh in the Silver Samba, and 15th in the free dance. A fall at the start of the twizzle sequence meant that they only received level 1 for that element, as well as -1.50 GOE and the -.50 deduction for the fall. After the mistake, though, they recovered well, with two strong level 4 lifts. Their free dance to “Harem” earned 44.11 points, and they ended the competition with a score of 66.44.