by Anne Calder | Photo by Julia Komarova

Moscow, Russia hosted the third event in the Grand Prix Series from November 4-6. Ten teams representing seven countries competed for prize money and points for the ISU GP Final (GPF) in Marseilles, France from December 8-11.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA) skated their second straight Grand Prix competition on foreign soil – the only ranked ice dance team to do so. They travelled across seven time zones and arrived in Moscow a few days after a tough competition at Skate Canada where they narrowly lost the gold medal battle to the returning 2010 Olympic champions. Kaitlin Weaver & Andrew Poje (CAN) made their season debut after moving to train with Nikolai Morozov.

SHORT DANCE: CHOCK & BATES EDGE INTO SD LEAD

The 2016 World bronze medalists, Madison Chock & Evan Bates, opened their program with “Bad to the Bone” for their midnight blues rhythm and followed with hip-hop to “Uptown Funk”. They earned level 4 for the curve lift, twizzles and blues pattern, while both step sequences received level 3. The Rohene Ward choreographed program scored 75.04.

The Moscow home town favorites, Ekaterine Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev were a sliver behind the Americans with 74.92. The reigning 2016 European bronze medalists chose Christina Aguilera’s “Mercy on Me” for blues and Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” for their swing rhythm. Their pattern, straight-line lift, and twizzles were level 4; the footwork was level 3, giving them the same base value as the leaders. Their GOE scores were a smidge lower.

Reigning Canadian champions, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje skated their much-anticipated program to “The Way You Make Me Feel” by Judith Hill (blues) and “Dangerous” and “Jam” by Michael Jackson (hip-hop). Poje had an unfortunate stumble on a twizzle move, dropping it to a level 2. The straight-line lift received level 4, with the pattern and footwork both getting level 3. The program scored 69.81.

Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri delighted the audience with a snappy, hand-clapping dance to a Grease medley including “There are Worse Things I Could Do” and “Greased Lightnin”. The twizzles, pattern, and curve lift earned level 4. The Italian silver medalists were rewarded with a season best 67.72 score and fourth place.

Tiffany Zahorski & Jonathan Guerreiro (RUS) danced to “Naughty Naughty Boy” by Christina Aguilera (blues) and “All Night” by Parov Stelar (swing) for fifth place and 64.28 points.

Elliana Pogrebinsky & Alex Benoit (USA) performed to “Trouble” by Elvis Presley. The blues and swing program earned 62.93 – 4.75 points higher than Skate America and sixth place.

The remaining competitors placed: (7) Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen (DEN) 62.82; (8) Alisa Agafonova & Alper Ucar (TUR) 59.31 (9) Sofia Evdokimova & Egor Baxin (RUS) 55.83; and (10) Viktoria Kavaliova & Yuri Bieliaiev (BLR) 54.64.

Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen (DEN) also competed at Skate Canada.

Chock & Bates and Bobrova & Soloviev entered the free dance with visions of the GPF dancing in their heads. The Americans wanted to lock in a spot; the Russians wanted to remain in the mix. Weaver & Poje, in their first 2016 GP event wanted to begin with a bang and keep alive their two year streak of gold medals for four straight GP’s and two Finals.

FREE DANCE: RUSSIANS VAULT TO GOLD MEDAL

Bobrova & Soloviev danced a season best 111.76 performance to “Prelude No. 20” by Chopin and “The Four Seasons” arranged by Nigel Kennedy. The team set a mood of soft and subtle passion with the opening Chopin piano music that changed with the emergence of the more frenetic Vivaldi violin tempo midway through the program. They were rewarded for their fast moving entrances and exits to the elements with level 4 for the lifts, twizzles, and spin. The 186.68 total score won them their first GP gold medal since the 2013 Rostelecom Cup. Bobrova & Soloviev have earned 26 points toward the Grand Prix Final.

Chock & Bates performed to David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure” choreographed by Christopher Dean. The spin and lifts, including a spectacular cartwheel exit to the curve lift, received level 4 and the footwork was level 3. Unfortunately, Bates had a mishap on the first twizzle. He was unable to maintain the right edge on his blade and the mistake lowered the base value and gave a negative GOE mark. The 109.09 score was a third place free dance finish. Their 182.13 total was enough for the silver medal. Chock & Bates have earned 26 points toward the Grand Prix Final.

Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (CAN) were second in the free dance to “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Joaquin Rodrigo. The two-time Canadian champions introduced several new moves including a spectacular multi change-of-direction curve lift straight into the combination spin. Five elements earned level 4; both step sequences were level 3. Poje had a slight twizzle bobble that was reflected in a lower GOE score. The program received 108.76 points, and a total 178.57 for the bronze medal.

Guignard & Fabbri remained in fourth place with a season best 102.73 free dance to “Pas de deux” and “Waltz of the Flowers” from The Nutcracker. The program opened with a dramatic one hand level 4 rotational lift followed by their synchronized twizzles and back-to-back straight-line and curve lifts – all demonstrating great strength and speed during the elements. The team’s performance was a more modern interpretation of the classic Tchaikovski ballet.  The total 170.45 was a season best and five points higher than their Skate America score.

Tiffany Zahorski & Jonathan Guerreiro (RUS) danced to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen and scored 92.67 points with a 156.95 total and a fifth place finish in their Grand Prix debut.

Elliana Pogrebinsky & Alex Benoit (USA) were sixth with a 90.99-point performance to the opera Sadko by Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov and “The Feeling Begins” by Peter Gabriel. The total score was 153.92 – 2 points higher than Skate America.

The remaining competitors placed: (7) Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen (DEN) 152.52; (8) Alisa Agafonova & Alper Ucar (TUR) 143.90; (9) Sofia Evdokimova & Egor Baxin (RUS) 133.37; and (10) Viktoria Kavaliova & Yuri Bieliaiev (BLR) 129.55.