Around the World of Ice Dance Blog #1

by Daphne Backman | JN photos by Barry Gropman


Welcome to the first of many blogs on the world of ice dance. I was inspired by Melanie Hoyt’s blog about Canadian ice dance and wanted to bring attention to ice dance happenings not only in the U.S., but also around the world. My first entry is long-winded as it’s been a busy two weeks in ice dancing.

Grand Prix Final tidbits

charlie-vmThough I’ve been to Canada for Skate Canada and the World Junior Championships before, this was my first trip to Quebec and Quebec City. Beautiful doesn’t even describe this location and I hope they host another international event in the near future.

Teams at the senior dance practice on Thursday could perform either their short or free dances. Teams were separated into two groups of three for practices based on qualification, which meant all three of the Canton teams were in the same group. All three teams skated their free dances with the performances faced opposite judges’ side. At one point during the Shibutanis’ program run-through, Meryl, Charlie, Tessa and Scott all stopped what they were doing and moved to a line and performed the steps to the Shibs’ program, giving those in attendance a chance to witness the camaraderie that exists in their training group.

The Canton bunch are not the only training group that supports each other. Many of the international skaters that competed in QC either train or have had programs choreographed here in the U.S. Detroit is one such training location and during events, it was common to see training mates supporting each other. Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje attended part of one of the junior practices to support Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton. Detroit peeps could also be heard during the men’s and ladies events in support of Alissa Czisny, Jeremy Abbott and Michal Brezina.

Other International Events

While the Grand Prix qualifiers were duking it out in QC, others were competing at the 44th Golden Spin of Zagreb in Croatia ( Germany’s Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi took the top spot. (Zhiganshina is the older sister of 2011 JGP Final champion Ruslan Zhiganshin.) This was the second international win this season for them this season as they also won Ondrej Nepela Memorial. The silver went to Great Britain’s Penny Coomes & Nick Buckland, who have closed the gap considerably between themselves and the Germans. They finished just seven points back in Zagreb, but were 14 points behind them at the 2011 World Championships. Bronze was won by Italy’s Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri.

Zagreb marked the international debut of Lucie Mysliveckova & Neil Brown. Mysliveckova, whose partnership with Matej Novak ended at the end of last season, teamed up with Brown, who is from France, to represent her home country of the Czech Republic. They finished 10th.

Wheaton takes two titles at U.S. JN’s

5378While most everyone was focused on the junior and senior Grand Prix Final events, teams in the U.S. were competing for the national titles at the juvenile and intermediate levels at the 2012 U.S. Junior National Championships in East Lansing, Michigan. Both titles were claimed by teams coached by Alexei Kiliakov, Elena Novak, and Dmytri Ilin at the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy from Wheaton, MD.

At the juvenile level, Eliana Gropman & Ian Somerville (Washington FSC) edged out training mates Gwen Sletten & Eliot Verburg (Washington FSC) by less than three points to take the gold. Sletten & Verburg had led by .52 through the pattern dance phase, but Gropman & Somerville (pictured, left) won the free dance by 3.40 to take the title. Though both teams received the same score for their twizzles (2.93), Gropman & Somerville had a higher score for their spin, which was graded level 4 and scored 6.00, while Sletten & Verburg’s received a grading of level 2 and a score of 3.57 for the element.  

12intchampionsWinning the bronze was McKenzie Schurman and partner Chandler Schaak of the Pond Figure Skating Club. The fight for pewter came down to .33 points separating fourth from sixth. Madison Fox and Val Katsman had the highest PCS of the three teams and took the final spot on the podium. In fifth, Morgan Tromp & Zachary Milestone were just .03 behind Fox and Katsman. Tromp & Milestone had the highest technical mark of the three teams and are coached by 2010 Olympian Otar Japaridze and Adrienne Koob-Doddy, who dance fans may remember from her days as a competitor. Aya Takai & Jason Cohn, the 2012 Midwestern Sectional Champions, finished in sixth with 70.03.

Gigi Becker & Luca Becker (Washington FSC) and Julia Biechler & Alexander Petrov (Hershey FSC), faced off at last year’s 2011 U.S. Junior championships at the juvenile level with Biechler & Petrov winning the title. Heading into the intermediate free dance, .70 separated the two teams with the Becker siblings (pictured, right) sitting in first. In the free dance, both teams received negative GOE for their twizzles, but Biechler & Petrov’s were reduced to level 1 after a mistake. The Beckers’ performance to a medley of Michael Jackson songs received higher technical scores  than Biechler & Petrov, with the latter’s performance to Di Blasio’s “Otona”l achieving higher PCS marks. In the end, Gigi & Luca won the gold by 2.14 points.

Skating to music from The Pink Panther, Sammi Wren & Alexei Shchepetov (Philadelphia SC & HS) moved up from fourth place after the pattern dances to take the bronze. Wren & Shchepetov are coached by Slava Uchitel and Oleg Fediukov. Kimberly Berkovich & Micah Jaffe (Pavillion SC of Cleveland Heights), who train with Jackie Miles and Brandon Forsyth, won the pewter medal.

Although Sarah Feng & Anthony Ponomarenko (son of 1992 Olympic gold medalists Marina Klimova & Sergei Ponomarenko) finished third in the free dance, it was not enough to vault them onto the podium from their ninth place finish in the pattern dances. The 2011 juvenile bronze medalists settled for fifth.

Nationals galore

Speaking of Nationals…with the international competitive season half over, it’s now time for countries to start holding their National Championships.

Great Britain’s was last month with Penny Coomes & Nick Buckland edging out Louise Walden & Owen Edwards for the title. Buckland’s younger brother, Joseph, won the junior title with partner Olivia Smart.

France’s wrapped up this past weekend with Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat winning their third National title in a 21-point lead over Pernelle Carron & Loyd Jones, who scored 142.69. The up-and-coming team of Tiffany Zahorski & Alexis Miart made their season début, scoring 120.49 and winning the bronze. Don’t let a 22-point difference from second to third fool you—Zahorski & Miart are battling back from an injury and will likely earn higher scores as the season progresses.

Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia once again held their national championships together, with the new team of Alexandra Zvorgina & Maciej Bernadowski of Poland taking top honors. Gabriela Kubova & Dmitry Kiselev rebounded from fourth place in the short dance to win the free dance and the silver medal. Lucie Mysliveckova & Neil Brown snagged the bronze. The highest finishing team from Slovakia, Federica Testa & Lukas Csolley, were fifth. Junior ice dance was also contested, with Natalia Kaliszek & Michal Kaliszek taking gold. The Kaliszeks of Poland competed in both the junior and senior events, finishing sixth at the senior level. A pair of Czech teams won the silver and bronze – Jana Cejkova & Alexander Sinicyn and Katerina Konickova & Matej Lang.

Italy crowned Anna Cappellini & Luca LaNotte as national champions. Despite competing at five of the last six National Championships, this is Cappellini & LaNotte’s first title after winning four silvers.  Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri won the silver, scoring 141.06 and Lorenza Alessandrini & Simone Vaturi took bronze. Italy also held its nationals for junior ice dance with Sofia Sforza & Francesco Fioretti taking the top spot. Silver runs in the family as Andrea Fabbri, younger brother of Marco Fabbri, claimed silver with partner Alessia Busi. Carolina Moscheni & Igor Ogay snagged the bronze.

Two teams took the ice to contest for gold in Finland. Flip-flopping after the short dance, Henna Lindholm & Ossi Kanervo won the free dance and successfully defended their title, while Olesia Karmi & Max Lindholm settled for silver. Karmi & Lindholm have won the past two national titles at the junior level. This year, Sara Aghai & Jussiville Partanen were the lone entry, thus they are the junior national champions in their first season together.

Coming up next week:  

Japan National Championships – December 22-26, 2011

Russian National Championships – December 25-28, 2011

Next week, I’ll recap the first annual Istanbul Cup, highlight results from additional national championships, and review other tidbits that pop up.