From now until after the 2018 Olympics in February, each week will be busy with international events as well as the national championships in many countries. This week includes the high-profile ISU Junior and Senior Grand Prix Final in Nagoya, Japan, as well the final competition of the ISU Challenger Series, Golden Spin of Zagreb. As usual, we’ve included links to results pages in our side bar.
SKATE CANADA CHALLENGE RECAP
by Melanie Heaney
Last week, Skate Canada held its annual Challenge, which serves as the qualifier for the Canadian Championships at the senior, junior, and novice levels, and the national championship for the pre-novice level. The event was staged at the Sportplexe 4 Glaces in Pierrefonds, Que. Teams coached by Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe in British Columbia won four medals, including three golds, and the newly amalgamated Skate Ontario section took home five medals, including the pre-novice Canadian title.
The senior title was won by national team members Haley Sales & Nikolas Wamsteeker. All senior teams in Canada will qualify for nationals this year, and they were the highest-ranked team of the five that elected to compete. Sales & Wamsteeker earned a season’s best score of 156.66, but they still have opportunities to improve before Canadians; they earned only a level 1 on the Rhumba pattern in the short dance and dropped a lift and footwork level in the free.
Their training partners, Sarah Arnold & Thomas Williams, came back from a third-place short dance to win the free. Their free dance levels were the same as Sales & Wamsteeker, but they netted a bit more positive GOE. Their silver-medal-winning score of 151.70 was also a season’s best.
Molly Lanaghan and Dmitre Razgulajevs fared fairly well with levels in the short dance, earning a level 3 for the Rhumba pattern and their not-touching midline steps, but were not as successful, overall in the free dance. They won bronze with a score of 142.94, also a season’s best.
Ashlynne Stairs & Lee Royer, last year’s Canadian silver medalists, jumped out in front after a strong, 59.12-point short dance with great levels. They earned level 4 for the twizzles, the first Cha Cha Congelado pattern, and their lift; their not-touching midline steps and the second Cha Cha pattern were called level 3. Stairs & Royer were only third in their well-skated “Un Monstre à Paris” free dance, but they did enough to hang on to the gold medal. Their winning score, 137.78, was a season’s best and the fifth-highest score this season among Canadian juniors. Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha, who have a bye through Challenge due to their Junior Grand Prix Final qualification, hold the top three scores.
Alicia Fabbri & Claudio Pietrantonio’s first-place Moulin Rouge free dance was skated with fire and catapulted them to the second step on the podium after a fourth-place short dance. They topped 80 points in the free and earned a score of 135.60 overall. Level 1 twizzles in the short dance held them back; if they nail their elements at Canadians, they should be in the mix for the silver there, as well.
About a point behind Fabbri & Pietrantonio were Olivia McIsaac & Elliott Graham, with the bronze medal and a season’s best score of 134.56. They were second in the short and fourth in the free, and their effort is particularly impressive, given that they have been skating together for less than a year, and it is McIsaac’s first year on the junior level.
Ellie Fisher & Simon-Pierre Malette-Paquette, another new team, were closed behind in fourth. They were second in the free dance, but their total of 132.14 was not quite enough for a medal this time.
Valérie Taillefer & Jason Chan, the junior-level veterans of this field, were fifth.
The race for gold at the novice event was very close, and it took a new Canadian record to win the event.
Miku Makita & Tyler Gunara, last year’s Canadian pre-novice champions, came back from a fifth-place Argentine tango to win the free dance and slide into first place, just ahead of Nadiia Bashynska & Peter Beaumont, who were first after the pattern dances. Makita & Gunara skated in the penultimate spot, notching a total score of 97.97 that eclipsed a record that had stood for almost seven years. The previous novice record had been set by Madeline Edwards & ZhaoKai Pang, formerly a part of the same training group under coaches Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe.
Bashynska & Beaumont, out of the Ice Dance Elite group at Ontario’s Scarboro FSC, skated very well in the free dance, even earning three level 4 calls to Makita & Gunara’s two level 4s, but did not leverage as much from the GOEs. They were only .74 behind the leaders overall, earning 97.23 points. If the skating order had been reversed, with Bashynka & Beaumont skating first, they would have held the Canadian record for a few minutes.
Moving up after eighth- and fourth-place pattern dances, Amelia Boone & Malcolm Kowan were third overall with a score of 87.56. They teamed up late in the year, and this was only their second competition together.
Three other teams scored over 80 points: Sophia Strachan & Everest Zhu had 81.18 points for fourth place, Isabel McQuilkin & Jacob Portz scored 80.86 for fifth, and Bridget LeDonne & Jakub Smal were sixth with 80.49 points.
The pre-novice competition mirrored the novice one, in that it was a close race between the top two teams, both of whom scored totals higher than the previous Canadian record heading into this event.
Sydney Embro & Eric Millar scored a total of 79.38 points. The previous record was set last year at Challenge by Makita & Gunara. It was a season’s best for Embro & Millar by over eight points. The Kitchener-Waterloo-trained team skated with polish and composure en route to the pre-novice Canadian title. They were 12th at this event last year; in the 2015-16 season, they won the Western Ontario juvenile dance title.
Sophia Kagolovskaya & Kieran MacDonald won both pattern dances and skated well in the free dance, finishing second in that segment. Their silver-medal-winning total score was a season’s best of 79.12; if they had skated earlier, it would have been a Canadian record. The Skate Ontario sectional champions from this season, they flipped placements this time around with Embro & Millar. Kagolovskaya & MacDonald also competed at this event last year, finishing eighth.
Heading into this competition, Mia Saunders & William Oddson had the highest score this season; they topped 78 points at the Alberta/NWT/Nunavut Sectional Championships. They finished no higher than fourth in any of the three segments, but in an event that saw a ton of movement in the standings, their consistency helped them hang on and emerge with the bronze medal and a total of 73.54 points.
Kiera Kam & Mathew Carter were third in the free dance, but could not quite bounce high enough from skating in the penultimate group for the free dance. Their total of 72.98 points placed them fourth.
Nicole Gallo & Liam Carr struggled with elements in the free dance, making a mistake on their twizzles and earning level 1 for 3 elements in all. However, their strong performance in the pattern dances meant that they stayed in the top five, earning 70.17 points overall.
NEW ON IDC
EVENTS THIS WEEK
PREVIEW: ISU JUNIOR & SENIOR GRAND PRIX FINAL
Eyes will be on Nagoya, Japan, as the top six junior and senior teams from the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series will meet to determine who will walk away with medals. This is the fifth occasion that Japan has hosted the Grand Prix Final, but the first time that Nagoya has been the host city.
In the senior event, the top three qualifying teams each won two events, three of the teams represent the United States, and three of the teams train together in Montréal, but represent three different countries.
France’s Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron have had a whirlwind season, winning all of their events, including Finlandia Trophy, Cup of China, and Internationaux de France. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir’s season has closely mirrored that of the French as they have claimed the top spot at Autumn Classic, Skate Canada, and NHK Trophy. Nagoya marks the first time that the teams will meet face-to-face this season. Virtue & Moir won this event last season, while Papadakis & Cizeron have never taken the top step at the Final.
Also for the first time this season, the top three U.S. teams will compete against each other. Over the past two seasons, the gap between them has shrunk and the Grand Prix Final provides an opportunity for each to see how they stack up. Siblings Maia & Alex Shibutani capped their Grand Prix series at Skate America, setting a new personal best short dance and total score of 194.25, which set them apart from their U.S. teammates.
Since relocating to Montréal in 2016, Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue have continued to improve quickly and, this season, they have set themselves up to potentially upgrade their bronze medal placements at the past few U.S. championships. Hubbell & Donohue finished third in the short dance at the 2017 World Championships, which put them in front of both the Shibutanis and Madison Chock & Evan Bates. Although mistakes in the free dance dropped them to ninth overall, it proved that they belong in the top tier. If they are able to put forth two strong performances, Nagoya could be the breakthrough that they are looking for.
Two silver medals on the Grand Prix series qualified Chock & Bates for this year’s Final. Although their scores have been slightly lower than both the Shibutanis and Hubbell & Donohue, the team has often started slower in the season and built from those performances in order to peak at the right time.
Italy’s Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte are competing in their fifth Grand Prix Final in what could be their final competitive season. Cappellini & Lanotte were the last to qualify for the Final. After collecting the bronze medal at NHK Trophy, the team won a silver medal at Skate America. In the end, the Italians bested Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitry Soloviev by .61 on the second tie-breaker.
On the Junior Grand Prix series, placements switched at every turn, so the results for the junior ice dance event are anything but predictable.
Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko of the United States qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final by winning both of their events. They are the lone team to return to the JGP Final this year after finishing fourth last season. The reigning world junior bronze medalists will face four teams from Russia and one from Canada in Nagoya. After Carreira & Ponomarenko, the next four teams qualified by virtue of winning gold at one JGP and finishing second in the other.
This is the second trip to the JGP Final for Russia’s Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin; they last competed at the Final in 2015 where they finished sixth. This is the last year of junior eligibility for the team.
Sofia Polishchuck & Alexander Vakhnov have had their best season to-date, although they were upset at JGP Egna by the young team of Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov, who also qualified to compete in Nagoya.
After three seasons on the Junior Grand Prix series, Canada’s Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha broke through in 2017, winning two medals and qualifying for their first JGP Final.
Rounding out the roster are Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko, who have competed in two additional international events since the JGP series finished in October. Shevchenko & Eremenko won the gold at the Minsk Ice Star and Volvo Open Cup.
(all times local / Nagoya)
Thursday, December 7
8:40 AM – Senior Short Dance
Friday, December 8
2:40 PM – Junior Short Dance
Saturday, December 9
1:45 PM – Junior Free Dance
5:55 PM – Senior Free Dance
PREVIEW: GOLDEN SPIN OF ZAGREB
The current roster for the 50th Golden Spin of Zagreb is packed, and if all teams entered actually compete, it will be quite the exciting event. In addition to medals, several teams will also face off just prior to their country’s national championships. At stake is not only international placement, but also solidifying a competitive hierarchy for Olympic spot consideration. For some, it is an opportunity to gain additional ISU ranking points, while for others, it is a tune up on the road to PyeongChang.
In a very crowded roster, medal contenders include Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (Italy), Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker (United States), and a pair of Russian teams—Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitry Soloviev and Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro.
For the first time this season, a trio of German teams will compete at the same international event. Though scores for each cannot be compared across events, the edge in Zagreb might be given to Kavita Lorenz & Joti Polizoakis, who earned the Olympic spot for Germany at Nebelhorn Trophy in September. However, the results for Katharina Müller & Tim Dieck and the reunited team of Shari Koch & Christian Nuchtern cannot be discounted and placements here could count in a big way. The German skating federation is using the results of Challenger events, along with the upcoming National Championships, to decide who will earn the ticket to the Olympic Games.
The pressure will also be on for Olivia Smart & Adria Diaz of Spain, who will face Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin in Zagreb. Though Hurtado & Khaliavin are the reigning Spanish national champions, the Spanish federation chose to bypass their champions in favor of sending Smart & Diaz to the 2017 World Championships. Though some questioned this decision, it ultimately paid off when Smart & Diaz finished 18th and secured an Olympic slot for Spain. With both Smart and Khaliavin receiving their Spanish passports this fall, the results at this event will be taken into consideration when deciding who represents Spain in PyeongChang.
Junior competitions will also be held, in addition to the senior events. At the latest roster review, there are 20 teams from 13 countries in the senior event, and seven teams from five countries are entered in the junior event.
(all times local / Zagreb)
Wednesday, December 6
10:00 PM – Junior Short Dance
Thursday, December 7
12:45 PM – Junior Free Dance
3:45 PM – Senior Short Dance
Saturday, December 9
11:00 AM – Senior Free Dance
PREVIEW – 11TH SANTA CLAUS CUP
The trio of international events taking place this week concludes with the 11th Santa Claus Cup, which will be held in Budapest, Hungary. Medals will be awarded in non-ISU basic novice, basic novice, advanced novice, junior, and senior events. Teams in the medal hunt include Aleksandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin (Ukraine), Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson (Great Britain), and Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev (Poland).
(all times local / Budapest)
Saturday, December 9
8:00 AM – Non-ISU Basic Novice Pattern Dance
9:03 AM – Basic Novice Pattern Dances
11:25 AM – Advanced Novice Pattern Dances
5:10 PM – Junior Short Dance
9:04 PM – Senior Short Dance
Sunday, December 10
9:00 AM – Non-ISU Basic Novice Pattern Dance
10:11 AM – Basic Novice Pattern Dances
11:38 AM – Advanced Novice Pattern Dances
3:40 PM – Junior Short Dance
7:53 PM – Senior Short Dance
IOC BANS RUSSIA’S OLYMPIC COMMITTEE FROM PYEONGCHANG OLYMPICS
Earlier today, the International Olympic Committee banned Russia’s Olympic Committee from February’s PyeongChang Olympics. The decision is due to the scandal surrounding doping that took place at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia and the findings of the commission tasked with looking into allegations that the Russian anti-doping system had been manipulated.
The IOC did pave the way for athletes who meet specific criteria to compete under the name Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR). To review the criteria or read the press release in-full, please visit the Olympic.org website.
As this information was just announced today, it’s likely that over the next week there will be more press conferences and additional comments or decisions made (i.e. whether or not the Russian athletes will be allowed by their President to compete as a ‘neutral’ athlete in PyeongChang). We will post an update in next week’s Observer.
Until next time,