Hello and welcome to the Ice Dance Observer. If this is your first visit, the Observer recaps events from the previous week as well as previewing upcoming competitions. It is posted on Tuesday of each week.
With the Olympics due to start in nine days, all other events are winding down as all eyes will be on PyeongChang.
Until next time,
Daphne & Team IDC
FOUR CONTINENTS RECAP: NEW FACES STAND ON PODIUM
Asia wins first Four Continents medal!
by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss
The ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships (4CC) was established in 1999 to allow non-European countries to experience a pre-World competition like the European Championships. It was also meant to even the playing field in terms of awarding championships points for the ISU world rankings. Skaters from the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania are invited each year to compete.
The 2018 event was held in Taipei City, Taiwan, from January 22-28. Fourteen ice dance couples from six countries participated. China, Japan, and Korea sent their 2018 Olympians. Canada and the USA assigned their fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-place national competitors.
The 2018 4CC’s ice dance winners were all first-time senior ISU Championships medalists. The podium included: Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker (USA), gold; Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus (CAN), silver; and Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed (JPN), bronze. Muramoto & Reed’s medal was the first ISU Championships ice dance medal won by a country located in Asia. In all of the previous Four Continents Championships, the ice dance podiums were made up of teams from the United States and Canada.
The short dance was held at 9:30 am on a weekday, which probably explained the sparse attendance. Latin music needs enthusiastic support from the audience. The almost-empty arena was unfortunate for the competitors.
The SD leaderboard was Hawayek & Baker, Muramoto & Reed, and Soucisse & Firus.
Hawayek & Baker skated very cautiously during their pattern and footwork, which were all level 3. After cleanly executing their level 4 twizzles, a spark was lit and the duo came to life. The score of 69.08 was their best of the season. They spoke about the bounce received from their fourth-place finish at Nationals.
“We felt we came off our National Championships with good momentum and new confidence,” Hawayek said. “Today, we were just hoping to continue that.”
Muramoto & Reed skated one of only two level 4 Rhumba patterns in the competition. Their twizzles and rotational lift, with its jump-in entry, also earned level 4, and the step sequences were level 3. Their personal best score of 65.27 was a great confidence boost heading to the Olympics.
“It was our first time getting a yes yes yes (key points) for the Rhumba, so that was a really big achievement for us,” Muramoto noted. “We’re now more confident we can get an even higher score.”
Soucisse & Firus made their 4CC’s debut dancing samba, rhumba, and samba to an Enrique Iglesias medley. Their twizzles and stationary lift earned level 4; the pattern and parallel footwork were level 3. The Canadians were just .16 behind the Japanese with a personal best score of 65.11.
“It felt really good. It’s our first really big event except for Skate Canada,” Soucisse said.
The fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-place finishers were Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter (USA), scoring 62.83 in their first 4CC’s, Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu (CHN) with season best of 62.36, and Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons (USA) with 60.18, also in their first senior-level ISU championship.
Hawayek & Baker danced a mesmerizing performance to “Liebestraum” by Franz Liszt. The seamless connection of the elements highlighted by the crescendos of the music allowed the duo to maintain their “dream of love” connection from beginning to end.
The twizzles and lifts earned level 4; the spin and step sequences were level 3. The segment scored 105.21; the total was 174.29. Both were season best scores.
“We’re really happy with the way that we pushed it,” Baker said. “We were very careful. We really wanted to make sure that we brought out our levels here, like we did at Nationals.”
Hawayek spoke about what they intended to strive for going into the next four years: “I think we have the tools to be at the top right now, we just have to fine tune everything, really work on the tiny details that you see all the top teams mastering, just finish the quality of all the elements.”
Soucisse & Firus moved up to second with a “Fred and Ginger”-style program to “I Won’t Dance” and “Cheek to Cheek,” performed by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. The duo earned level 4 for five elements; the footwork was level 3. Their TES was only .02 behind the Americans. Both the segment score of 99.85 and total score of 164.96 were personal best scores. The silver medal was their first on the international stage.
“We are really happy that we are able to do that level of performance at a championship like this,” Soucisse said.
“We just want to keep this kind of feeling – just keep enjoying as we compete,” Firus added.
Muramoto & Reed danced to The Last Emperor and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, both original film scores by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Since the music is by a Japanese composer, they blended the elements seamlessly with the theme of a cherry tree blossoming, highlighted by a quick costume change with Muramoto’s dress. The effect of the program created a special aura.
The twizzles, lifts, and spin earned level 4; the step sequences were level 3. The three-time Japanese champions’ 98.59 free dance score and 163.86 total were personal bests that earned them a bronze medal.
“I kind of got emotional during mid program,” Muramoto confessed. “Towards the end I started to get tired, but it still felt really great.”
Reed spoke about what they needed to do before PyeongChang. “This really helps for the upcoming weeks of training before going to the Olympics. We know what additional improvements we can work on. We know now that there is more emotion that we can add into this. It’s not fully bloomed yet.”
The teams ranked fourth through sixth remained the same as after the short dance—McNamara & Carpenter (160.12), Wang & Liu (158.21), and Parsons & Parsons (155.30).
The three Olympic bound teams are: Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed (JPN), Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu (CHN), and Yura Min & Alex Gamelin (KOR), who finished seventh.
- The 4CC’s USA ice dance was made up of past world junior champions: Hawayek & Baker (2014), McNamara & Carpenter (2016), and Parsons & Parsons (2017).
- Taipei City has hosted the 4CC’s four times. An American couple has won each competition.
(2011) Meryl Davis & Charlie White
(2014) Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue
(2016) Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani
(2018) Kaitlin Hayayek & Jean-Luc Baker
- Since the 4CC’s began in 1999, the USA has won 11 gold medals in dance; Canada has won 9.
- There has been only one national sweep of the podium. In 2005, the USA won all three medals:
(Gold) Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto
(Silver) Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov
(Bronze) Lydia Manon & Ryan O’Meara
- Two men have won medals with two different partners:
Evan Bates, who has medaled with both Emily Samuelson and Madison Chock
Paul Poirier, who was medaled with both Vanessa Crone and Piper Gilles
RECAP: RUSSIAN JUNIOR NATIONALS
by Anne Calder
The 2018 Russian Junior National Championships were held from January 22-26 in Saransk, Republic of Mordovia, 400 miles east of Moscow. Fifteen ice dance teams competed for the opportunity to represent Russia at the World Junior Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, from March 5-11.
After the short dance, Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin were six points ahead of the pack, but teams 2-5 were separated by less than one point. As expected, four of the top five teams also recently competed at the Junior Grand Prix Final. In December, the four teams went head-to-head. Skoptcova & Aleshin won gold, and Sofia Polishchuk & Alexander Vakhnov won bronze.
After the free dance, the National medalists were: Skoptcova & Aleshin, gold; Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko, silver; and Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov, bronze. Polishchuk & Vakhnov were fourth.
It may seem incomprehensible that the current bronze medalists from the JGP Final would be left off the World Junior Championships team, but that may be the case. The situation even has precedence in Russia. In 2011 and 2015, Russian teams medaled at the JGPF, then went on to finish fourth at the Russian Junior Championships; they were not sent to the World Junior Championships. Since 2000, the three Russian junior medalists have been assigned to the World Junior Championships all but four times.
The 2018 World Junior Championship Team has not yet been announced by the Russian Federation.