10SC-Dpod-4174-MH2010 Skate Canada wrapped up Sunday afternoon with the free dance. Canada claimed its second gold medal of the event (Patrick Chan took top prize in men’s) when Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier won the free dance, vaulting them into first place overall with a total of 154.42. Pre-event favorites, Sinead & John Kerr of Great Britain, fell out of a lift and just did not seem 100% recovered from Sinead’s subluxed shoulder that forced them out of Finlandia Trophy earlier this month. They placed only third in the free dance and ended the competition with 149.80 and a silver medal. Americans Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein placed fourth in the free dance (and in Friday’s short dance) but their total of 139.05 was good enough for bronze, their first medal on the ISU senior Grand Prix circuit.

Crone & Poirier’s free dance to “Eleanor Rigby” was choreographed by Christopher Dean and the difficulty and complexity of the program pushed the reigning Canadian national silver medalists. They did not maximize their levels, receiving 3s on both footwork sequences and their twizzles plus a level 2 on their first lift, but high Grades of Execution added 8.24 points from their base value. Of the 63 individual marks given, they received nothing lower than a single base 0. Thirty-six +2s and 21 +1s were highlighted with five +3s. Aside from one unimpressed judge who gave them PCS in the 6 range, the rest of the marks were generally in the 7.0-8.0 range, with two judges giving 8.25-8.75. Overall, the program showed off the work they have done this summer on posture and line. They are still developing, but have come a long way since their senior international debut at this event two years ago.

“He’s got us doing lots of intricate footwork and in-between stuff we’ve never done before,” Crone said of Dean’s choreography.

Dean spent a week with them early this summer at their rink in Scarborough, Ontario, after Crone & Poirier’s coach, Carol Lane (Dean’s former competitor), invited him to design a program for her Olympians.

Poirier indicated that the week they spent working with Dean was one of the toughest weeks of training they have had, but the results are worth it. What better time to try to make a move up the standings and to do something different than in a post-Olympic season?

Although they won the Program Components score, the Kerrs ranked sixth out of the nine teams in TES. The fall out of their second straightline lift wound up costing them only .79 in GOE deduction, and because Sinead didn’t splat, they saved themselves an additional deduction. Even with a major error, the element was still rated a level four, because they hit their difficult position before losing balance. Although their first straightline lift was called level 2, it earned high GOE, including three +3s. The remaining two lifts were both level 4. Their twizzles, level 3, were great once again, earning mostly +2 GOE. Both footwork sections were only level 2, three base points less than if they had been level 3s (no team earned level 4 footwork in the free dance) and their spin was also a level 2, a costly three base points difference from the teams who rated a level 4.

For the Kerrs, this season is less about placements than it is about doing their best and being happy with what they put on the ice.

Though Sinead acknowledged “a few little problems,” she focused on how much they enjoyed skating the program, a Peter Tchernyshev creation that was choreographed at home in Scotland, for the audience.

John explained that, when reflecting on the past year during the summer, they realized that they didn’t enjoy the Olympic season as much as they had hoped that they would; so in crafting this year’s free dance, they wanted to evoke what it felt like to skate when they were younger. As kids, “you do it for the joy of it,” John explained. “It (the free dance) is almost like a memory of childhood.”

After ditching their first free dance post-LPIDC, Chock & Zuerlein debuted their new Cabaret program en route to their first medal on the senior Grand Prix circuit. Though newness of the program was evident, they completed their elements well, earning level 4 on everything besides the footwork sequences (level 2 for the circular and level 3 for the midline). The Americans did not receive any negative GOE marks and even earned a +3 from one judge for their straightline lift, so the debut of the new program was deemed successful.

Chock said their old program “didn’t really match our skating style.” Even before leaving Lake Placid, Chock & Zuerlein were taking the feedback they received into consideration and brainstorming for a new program that had spark. Chicago was discussed briefly, but in the end, it was Cabaret that won out. The team felt this music gives both partners a chance to embody a role and project it to the audience.

Winning the TES, ranking second in the free dance, and likely surprising a lot of people who do not follow junior ice dance, brand new senior competitors Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam made a splash in the Grand Prix debut. The young Canadians absolutely captivated the crowd in the arena with their emotional program to “As Time Goes By,” choreographed by Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon. Their twizzles, though extremely well-executed, received a level 3, which was perhaps the only discernible flaw in the free dance. Their lifts, which were all level 4, were beautiful and floaty, designed to move with the ebbs and flows of the dance pattern’s arcs. They brought the crowd to its feet and earned marks primarily in the 7-8 point range for Performance, Choreography, and Interpretation.

After mistakes in the short dance, Paul & Islam easily redeemed themselves and nearly landed on the podium. Their total score of 138.16 was less than a point behind Chock & Zuerlein’s 139.05, an auspicious senior debut for last year’s World Junior silver medalists.

France’s Pernelle Carron & Lloyd Jones were in medal position after the short dance, but a couple of low levels cost them valuable points. Their final curve lift only earned a level 2, as did their midline step sequence, which also garnered -.14 GOE, their only element that netted negative points. Overall, their free dance set to orchestral arrangements of Rolling Stones music seemed to have more spark in practice than in the competition, and they fell to fifth place, three points from the podium.

Russians Kristina Gorshkova & Vitali Butikov dropped from fifth to sixth after the free dance, with a Latin performance that fizzled more than it sizzled. Canadians Sarah Arnold & Justin Trojek were delighted after their free dance that moved them up a place to seventh, despite receiving only level 1 for their final rotational lift. Stefanie Frohberg & Tim Giesen from Germany had trouble on an aborted rotational lift that received no credit and dropped to eighth. Americans Rachel Tibbetts & Collin Brubaker remained in ninth place through both phases of the competition after Brubaker fell at the end of a lackluster peformance.