by Laura Flagg | Photos by Robin Ritoss
The Skate Canada Autumn Classic is the next event in the new ISU Challenger Series, with 15 ice dance teams scheduled to compete in Barrie, Ontario. This is the first time that Skate Canada has hosted a senior B international competition.
Since this is Canada’s event, they are allowed to enter four teams into the competition, and they are taking full advantage of this. Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (pictured, right), who are coached by Carol Lane and Juris Razgulajevs, are coming off a strong 8th-place finish at the World Championships in March, ten places higher than they ranked the previous season. Their free dance this season is a program to big band music, a change of pace for the duo.
Finishing tenth at Worlds—slightly behind Gilles & Poirier—were Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam, who will also be making their international debut for this season here. Paul & Islam, who edged out Gilles & Poirier at the 2014 Canadian Championships for a spot on the Olympic team, will be skating their new free dance to “Come Rain or Come Shine” and “The Way You Look Tonight,” selections that should fit their elegant style perfectly. They train at the Detroit Skating Club with Angelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo.
With Gilles & Poirier and Paul & Islam likely battling for the gold medal, Canada has a solid chance at a sweep of the medals. Their top contender for the remaining spot on the podium is the team of Nicole Orford & Thomas Williams. They were fifth last season at the Canadian Championships and have already won a silver this season at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. They are coached by Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe and will be skating to music from “Titanic” for their free dance.
Andréanne Poulin & Marc-André Servant are returning to competition after missing a season due to several injuries to Servant. The duo, who captured the 2012 Canadian junior title, is coached by Shawn Winter and Elise Hamel. This will be their first senior international competition.
The talented young French team of Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (pictured, left) will be among the other teams challenging for a medal, possibly even gold. In their first season as seniors, they placed 13th at the World Championships. Papadakis & Cizeron relocated to Montréal this summer with coach Romain Haguenauer. They will be skating to music by Mozart for their free dance, and are coming off a strong début at the French Masters last week.
Also in contention for a medal are Sara Hurtado & Adria Diaz. The popular Spanish duo placed 16th last season at the World Championships. They are coached by Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon in Montréal. Their free dance this season is to “Meditation” from Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity and music from the “Atonement” soundtrack by Dario Miranelli.
Two teams will be representing the United States in Barrie. Anastasia Olson & Ian Lorello will be making their international debut. They teamed up in spring 2013 and finished eighth at the 2014 U.S. Championships. Their short dance will be to music by Michael Laucke, and their free dance will be to music from “Anna Karenina” by Dario Marianelli. They also train with Krylova and Camerlengo.
Alissandra Aronow & Collin Brubaker, who finished one spot behind Olson & Lorello at last season’s U.S. Championships, will be the other American entry. Aronow & Brubaker, who train with Marina Zoueva, will be skating to a medley of George Gershwin music for their free dance. This will be their second international competition; they finished 13th at the 2013 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic.
The Autumn Classic is not on a traditional competition schedule; the short programs will be held on Wednesday, and the free dances will be held on Thursday.