by Anne Calder

Two Challenger Series events were held September 28-October 1. While some skaters were competing in Bratislava, Slovakia in Europe others were asleep in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Personal best scores were recorded at both sites. Thirteen dancers representing nine countries participated at the Ondrej Nepela Memorial in Bratislava.

The top four short dance leaders were the USA, Russia, and Germany. Two of the teams skated in back to back competitions, and two made their 2016 international debut. Igor Shpilband coached three of the teams and Alexander Zulin coached two of the thirteen.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA) beat last week’s Nebelhorn score by almost 2 points because of higher element levels. At Bratislava, the opening curve lift, twizzles, blues pattern, and not touching midline footwork were all level 4. An extended lift incurred a 1.0 deduction. The program was choreographed by Rohene Ward and used “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood and “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson for the blues and hip hop rhythms. The score was a season best 72.72.

Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUS) danced blues and swing to Christina Aguilera’s “Mercy on Me” and “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Louis Prima. The straight-line lift earned a level 4; the remaining elements were level 3. The score was a personal best 71.04.

Tiffany Zahorski & Jonathan Guerreiro (RUS) were third with a sultry blues interpretation of another Christina Aguilera song, “Naughty Naughty Boy”. They added “All Night” by Parov Stelar for their swing rhythm. The twizzles, rotational lift and pattern earned level 4, while both step sequences were level 3. Their TES was 1.28 points higher than their Russian training mates, but the PCS trailed them by over 4 points. They scored 68.04.

Germany’s Kavita Lorenz & Joti Polizoakis outperformed their Nebelhorn skate by three points. They increased their curve lift and not touching footwork levels and TES. The twizzles and lift were secure at level 4. The second year team captivated the essence of Michael Jackson’s dance. They opened with a blues interpretation of “Come Together” and closed with twizzles and footwork to “Black or White” remix that blended a hip hop rhythm with MJ movements. The score was 62.34.

Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev (POL) were a close fifth with a 60.25 score to “Back to Dirty Town” by Blues Mystery and “Sax” for hip hop. The twizzles and rotational lift earned level 4; the not touching midline step sequence was level 2 and received solid GOE marks.

The free dance and final placement played “applecart turn over” with multiple result changes.

Bobrova & Soloviev blended Chopin’s piano Prelude No. 20 and Nigel Kennedy’s riveting violin interpretation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons into a personal best 107.80 gold medal performance. The lifts and twizzles earned level 4; the diagonal and circular footwork each scored 9.30. The judges awarded the reigning Russian champions five +1.0 GOE marks; the rest were all +2 and +3. Their component scores averaged over 9.0. The total was 178.84 – another personal best score. Bobrova & Soloviev compete next at Skate America.

Americans Chock & Bates won the same color medal as last week at Nebelhorn, but scored ten points less – 98.20. Christopher Dean choreographed the silver medal program to “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. The reigning World bronze medalists had a rough skate including a twizzle stumble and hand down that earned level 2 and negative GOEs. The lifts and spin were level 4. The total score was 170.92. Chock & Bates next compete at Skate Canada.

Zahorski & Guerreiro (RUS) won bronze for their Challenger Series debut interpretation of Valse Triste by Finish composer Jean Sibelius. The skaters invoked the haunting melody to channel the sadness of the story. The lifts, twizzle and spin earned level 4; the footwork was level 3. A highlight was Guerreiro’s one-footed straight-line lift as Zahorski leaped onto his back and rested upside down. The total was 165.64. Zahorski & Guerreiro next compete at Rostelecom Cup.

Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev (POL) placed fifth in their free dance to a Dirty Dancing medley, but finished fourth over all. The spin and lifts earned level 4; the twizzles were level 3; and the footwork was level 2. The program scored 86.62. The total of the two dances was 146.86.

Kaliszek & Spodyriev next compete at Cup of China.

Kavita Lorenz & Joti Polizoakis (GER) skated to a Spanish medley including “Malaguena” for an 83.98 personal best score. The lifts and spin received level 4, but a twizzles mishap earned a level 2. The free dance was sixth, but the 146.32 total earned fifth place – .54 short of fourth.

Cortney Mansour & Michael Ceska (CZE) scored a personal best 86.78 and a free dance fourth place to a Godfather soundtrack medley. The lifts, twizzles and spin earned level 4; the footwork was level 3 and level 2. The team scored a total 143.10 and moved from seventh to sixth place. Mansour & Ceska next compete at the Trophee de France.