By Matteo Morelli | Photos by Robin Ritoss
Team USA’s Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko enjoyed a fantastic junior career and are on a promising journey as senior ice dancers, with a bronze at 2022 Four Continents and a recent first place at the Golden Spin Challenger Event in Zagreb, where they reached new season bests. We met with them after Grand Prix of Espoo in Finland, and talked about how they found each other, their career as junior and senior competitors, and their recent change of coaches and team.
How do you feel after completing your two Grand Prix (Skate America and Grand Prix of Espoo) of this season?
Christina Carreira (CC): I think we skated really well here. We put out two great performances, they were both pretty strong. We left a few points on the table in the free, but overall it was a better performance than Sheffield, and we are looking to improve again in the future.
Anthony Ponomarenko (AP): We had a very unique off-season, I had my surgery and we had to start late in the season so we wanted to show solid performances in both Grand Prix events and I think we have done that, with a season best again. I think we ride on that momentum until the next competitions and nationals, smooth down everything and keep that onwards positive direction.
Anthony, you touched on your surgery after Four Continents. How did it affect your training as a team and how did you recover from it?
AP: I had a pretty big surgery in February, it was a unique off-season for us. It was difficult for us to stop right away. I worked a lot on the mental side of things, with a psychologist and a performance specialist. I came back very slowly, improved the muscles and worked on what I needed to work on. They say that when one partner has a surgery, the team is recovering. I am really proud to have Christina as a partner, she worked very hard when I was gone and drove all the way to London, Ontario, every day to put the work in.
You have been skating together for almost a decade, since 2014. Anthony, I understand it was your mother that thought that you and Christina would be a good match. Seems like she was right!
AP: Christina was skating with her old partner, we competed against each other at a Lake Placid Ice Dance Championship way back in the day. From then on, my mom kept saying how good Christina was!
CC: My mum was doing the same with me, talking about all the competitions he was doing! We split with our previous partners around the same time. Our coach Igor Shpilband had us trying out for a month. I had a couple of other trials, but I already made up my mind and knew that I wanted to skate with him!
Your junior career started with you achieving a lot of successes, including a silver and bronze medal at Junior Worlds, two Junior Grand Prix golds and a Junior Grand Prix Final silver medal. What are your reflections on those years, and how did they shape you as the skaters you are now?
CC: Our junior years taught us how to compete, it is very different than senior. In a way, it feels like junior is a hobby and senior is a full time job. We were lucky to compete with great people, and they are still our friends to this day. It was a really fun time.
AP: It was nice to grow up with skaters and to have them to still be at competitions with us. It is great to see that and looking back at junior it was fun. We performed well, it was great to have those results, and have the momentum carrying us in the senior, but it also taught us discipline and how to act as an ice dance team. I am happy that we had those years in junior. We miss those days, but I agree when Christina said that junior is a hobby and senior is a job.
In your fifth year into your senior career, you have already collected a Grand Prix bronze medal, and a bronze at the Four Continents event. The hard work you are putting in is there and is paying back.
CC: It takes time to build maturity and all we require. The competition in the U.S. is one of the strongest in the world, so we have to be good to compete for that country. We are still working.
In January 2021, you announced your departing from your long-time coach Igor Shpilband to join the Ice Academy of Montreal (I.AM) in London, Ontario. What led to that decision? What did you take away with you from those years spent with him?
CC: There were many reasons why we left, but we will always be grateful for what he taught us. We wouldn’t be the skaters we are today if not for what he taught us. We are very grateful to him, but also happy with our new team of coaches at IAM and where we are now.
What is your relationship with your new coaches (Scott Moir, Madison Hubbell and Adrián Díaz) and teammates at I.AM?
CC: We have a really great relationship with our coaches. We have so much respect for them and we trust their vision, so it is very easy to work with them. We also have a really good relationship with the other skaters at IAM. They are all super nice and fun to travel and train with. We are really lucky to have such a positive and motivating training environment.
AP: I love the team we have around us. Scott, Madison, and Adrián are fantastic to work with and each one brings a different energy to the team. Being a part of IAM gives us the opportunity to train with some of the best and it is an honour to watch them work!
With the first half of this competitive season already completed, what are your aims for your next competitions?
AP: We aim to make the world team this year. The ice dance field in the U.S. is strong so we look to be prepared and at our best for the national championships.