by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss
The World Junior Championships were held in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei March 15-19. 31 ice dance teams from 24 ISU nations competed in the short dance with twenty qualifying for the free dance.
After the short dance, Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd (67.59) of Russia led USA’s Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons (67.29) by a slim .30 points. In third and fourth place were Russian teammates Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin (63.38) and Anastasia Shpilevaya & Grigory Smirnov (63.26).
The four top teams all earned Level 4 for their blues patterns, twizzles, and lift and Level 3 for their not touching midline step sequences. Five of the six leaders chose swing as their second rhythm. Parsons & Parsons opted for hip-hop.
Loboda & Drozd danced a personal best to “St. Louis Blues”. Afterwards Drozd commented on their skating.
“We give our passion to figure skating and share it with everyone,” Drozd said. “We just live in our music. I think this is the strongest and most important side to our couple.”
Parsons & Parsons used “Born to Die” for their blues and “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody” for the hip-hop. Rachel shared her thoughts on the team’s strengths.
“I think one of our strongest points is how we match each other. We have similar minds.”
Skoptcova & Aleshin earned a personal best score for their performance to Michael Bolton’s “At Last” and “Swing Baby” by JYP. The team was pleased with its results.
“We’re happy we were able to end the short dance on a high note. Everything we’ve worked on we were able to show, such as the levels and speed.”
Shpilevaya & Smirnov used a Club des Belugas remix of the jazz standard “Air Mail Special” composed by Benny Goodman and sung by Ella Fitzgerald for both rhythms.
Canadians Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha (60.79) were fifth followed by USA’s Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko (60.53). The reigning champions Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter (60.30) placed seventh after an unfortunate misstep in the footwork.
On the second day of competition, five of the top six teams moved up or down from their short dance placements.
It was déjà vu from the Junior Grand Prix Final as Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons again slipped past the short dance leaders Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd to dance away with the gold medal. Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko vaulted from sixth to third to win bronze.
Parsons & Parsons danced a personal best (97.54) contemporary program to Sophia Sin’s vocal “Singing in the Rain” arranged by music innovator Alexander Goldstein. The soft sounds of falling rain sprinkled amidst the repetition of piano chords and drumbeats provided a mesmerizing background for their seamless and mature performance.
The reigning USA National Champions earned level 4 for the twizzles, lifts, circular step sequence, and spin; the diagonal footwork was level 3. The only technical snafu was the slightly shaky final rotational lift that received low GOE scores. The total was164.83.
The siblings won all their 2016-2017 competitions, which included two Grand Prix events, the Junior Grand Prix Final, the US National Championships and the ISU World Junior Championships.
At the press conference, Rachel exclaimed, “It feels incredible for us. Michael and I had a really good season so far, and this is just the perfect way to cap off our junior career.” Michael added, “The more important thing is all the work that we’ve put into this season and how we feel on the ice every day. This is what we love to do. To have a season like this just confirms this is what we love.”
Loboda & Drozd danced a dramatic silver medal performance to “Malaguena” for 96.78 points, slightly under their personal best. Ksenia Rumiantseva and Ekaterina Volobueva have coached the team for five years.
“This season we have also been working with choreographer Igor Rasporski who comes every morning to dance with us,” Loboda explained. “He helps us to focus.”
The Russian National silver medalist’s technical elements were the same as the leaders. The twizzles, circular step sequence, combination spin, and two lifts earned level 4; the diagonal footwork was level 3. The total score was a personal best 164.37.
Drozd reflected on performing the free program for the final time.
“We realized this was our last “Malaguena” this season and our last program as a junior team,” Drozd said. “We really hope we can improve more and do our best later.”
“I have mixed feelings right now, joy, relief, most of all joy because today we really skated well,” Loboda added.
Carreira & Ponomarenko scored a personal best 94.15 with an elegant dance to “Exogenesis Symphony Part 3” by Muse. The twizzles, lifts and combination spin earned level 4; the serpentine and diagonal footwork was level 3. The total score was 154.68.
The duo had a successful season with two Grand Prix silver medals, a fourth place at the JGPF, a silver at the U.S. Nationals and a bronze at their World Junior Championships debut in Taipei City.
“We are really excited to be here at our first Junior Worlds, and we are very happy with the results,” Carreira said.
“We came in, just wanted to skate two clean programs, and we’re very happy it ended this way,” Ponomarenko added.
Anastasia Shpilevaya & Grigory Smirnov remained fourth with a personal best 152.66 total to a snappy, hand-clapping Tarantella Napolitana medley. Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin fell from third to fifth, but scored a personal best 152.53 for their “O mar e tu” dance. The Canadian National Champions, Marjorie LaJoie & Zachary Lagha were sixth with a personal best 148.26 to Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini. The 2016 World Junior Champions Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter placed seventh with 148.11 points.
THE SENIOR SHUFFLE
Two of the medal winning teams will be dancing on the senior level next season. The skaters expressed their thoughts on the move.
Michael Parsons: “I really can’t wait. It will be a whole new environment, a whole new set of competitions, and a whole new set of competitors. I think we have so much to learn. I think us and Pavel and Alla are both really strong teams, but there are many, many strong teams in seniors. Just by competing with them we’ll be able to become much better.”
Rachel Parsons: “I think looking to skating at the senior level it is a really important transition time for us. We kind of proved to ourselves that we can compete at the senior level.”
Pavel Drozd: “I think it will be a big experience for us. You all know that there is a big difference between the junior and senior teams. So we want to improve in the time we have before our first senior season. There are many teams in seniors, it will be quite funny and it will be quite hard. Maybe the main advice for us is to be ourselves and show what we can do in our first senior season, because I don’t think we have so high goals as the next year is the Olympic season.“
Alla Laboda: “It will be interesting, and we are waiting impatiently for new emotions and feelings. We had the opportunity to train with Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov and I can’t say that there was such a huge different, it is not like it is terrifying to skate with senior teams, but it will be interesting.