I hope you enjoyed our coverage of the 2018 Olympics. In case you missed anything, links to photos, recaps, and special features are conveniently listed at the right. If this happens to be your first visit, the Observer recaps events from the previous week and previews upcoming competitions. It is posted on Tuesday of each week during the regular figure skating season.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ROSTER UPDATES
As we enter the home stretch of the 2017-18 season, there are only two events left – the World Junior Championships (this week) and the World Championships (in two weeks). Since the Olympics ended, the World Championships roster has changed multiple times. We’ve been keeping track and here are some ways the roster from Worlds differs from the Olympics:
Canada – Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus, who finished fourth at the Canadian Championships and won the silver medal at the Four Continents Championships, have replaced Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir.
Great Britain – Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson, who attended the 2018 Olympics as part of the British Olympic Association’s Ambition Programme, replace Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland in order to give Coomes the opportunity to fully rehabilitate her knee.
Russia – Tiffany Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro, who finished 13th at the Olympics last month, have replaced Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitry Soloviev.
Spain – Olivia Smart & Adria Diaz, the 2018 Spanish National Champions, will compete at Worlds instead of Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin. This is not a recent update, just a change from the Olympics entry.
United States – Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, the 2018 Four Continents champions, have replaced Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani.
FOURNIER BEAUDRY & SORENSEN MAKE A SWITCH
On March 1, the Danish Skating Union announced that going forward, Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen will be representing Canada. Fournier Beaudry is Canadian and the team has been representing Sorensen’s home country of Denmark since 2013. They have withdrawn from the 2018 World Championships in order to be eligible to compete for Team Canada in international competition starting 12 months after they last represented Denmark (2018 European Championships). The DSU press release is available for review on ice-dance.com.
Until next time,
Daphne & Team IDC
JUNIORS AIM TO MAKE A MARK IN SOFIA
by Melanie Heaney | Photo by Julia Komarova
This week, the world’s best junior figure skaters will take the ice in Sofia, Bulgaria, for the 2018 World Junior Championships. Sofia is a frequent host of junior events and last held these championships only four years ago, in 2014, when an American team, a Russian team, and a Canadian team stood on the podium.
This year, the same three countries are expected to fight for the medals, although of course, the competitors are different. Russians have nearly dominated the junior dance scene this year, with four entries at the Junior Grand Prix Final. Three of those teams will compete in Sofia, along with the other two JGPF qualifiers, from the United States and Canada. It is worth noting that the bronze medalists from the Final, Sofia Polischuk & Alexander Vakhnov, were left off the team after finishing fourth at the Russian Junior Championships.
Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin have emerged as the Russian junior leaders this season, winning the Final in December as well as the Russian Junior Championships in late January. They are among the oldest teams on the roster—Aleshin ages out of junior competition after this season—and they aim to show off their maturity with a tango free dance to selections by Gotan Project. If they skate their best, the title could be theirs, but they should expect stiff competition from both within their own country and abroad.
Fellow Russians Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko (pictured, right) were fourth at this season’s Final, finishing nine points behind Skoptcova & Aleshin. At the Russian Junior Championships, the overall margin was similar, but mainly because of a deficit in the short dance. Shevchenko & Eremenko and Skoptcova & Aleshin both topped 90 points in the free dance. Internationally, however, the free dance has not been quite as strong for Shevchenko & Eremenko. Their ISU best free dance score of 86.07 was set two and a half years ago, at a JGP in 2015. If they earn similar levels in the short dance and can deliver a great free, expect the margin between these two teams to be much closer this week.
Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov round out Team Russia. They are much younger than their teammates, but what they lack in experience and precision, they make up for in infectious exuberance. Their free dance to “Be Italian” vaulted them onto the top step of the podium at the final JGP event last fall. They were fifth at the Final and jumped from fifth to third at the Russian Junior Championships to edge out Polischuk & Vakhnov for the final spot on the podium.
Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko lead Team USA and have the best shot at challenging for the title. They were surprise bronze medalists last year, champions at both of their JGP events in the fall, and silver medalists at the Final, where they finished less than two points that Skoptcova & Aleshin. Carreira & Ponomarenko lost most of the ground at the Final in the short dance, but they were electric in that segment at the U.S. Championships in January, where they easily won the junior title. If they hit their levels in the short this week—where they benefit from skating last—the battle for gold could be quite close.
Joining Carreira & Ponomarenko from Team USA are Caroline Green & Gordon Green and Chloe Lewis & Logan Bye. The Green siblings are in their first year of junior international eligibility, and they brought home a pair of bronze medals from the JGP circuit. They were silver medalists at the U.S. Championships and should be eyeing a top-ten finish this week.
Lewis & Bye are at the opposite end of the spectrum. In their fifth year on the junior international circuit and in her final year of junior age eligibility, they made their first World Junior team. After struggling in the JGP series, Lewis & Bye performed very well at the U.S. Championships to earn the bronze medal and secure their place on this team. They are former training partners of Carreira & Ponomarenko, but switched coaches after the JGP series, from Igor Shpilband to Marina Zoueva.
Canadians Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha defeated Shevchenko & Eremenko when they won a JGP event in the fall, but underperformed at the JGP Final, where they finished sixth. The now two-time Canadian junior champions were back on form at their national championships in January and will be looking to improve upon their sixth-place finish at the 2017 World Junior Championships.
Olivia McIsaac & Elliott Graham earned the second spot for Canada after a silver medal performance at the Canadian Championships. Unlike the rest of the teams from the “big three” federations, they are a new partnership this season. As relative unknowns—and in McIsaac’s first international event—they were fourth at JGP Baltic Cup last fall, finishing behind the Greens. Because they only have a small number of ISU ranking points, McIsaac & Graham have to skate quite early in the short dance, so they will need to be very clean.
Natacha Lagouge & Corentin Rahier of France are rebounding from an injury that derailed their JGP season. After an 11th-place finish last year at the World Junior Championships, they are surely aiming for a top ten finish in 2018. Lagouge & Rahier won the bronze medal on the JGP series at Cup of Austria in the fall, but Lagouge sustained an injury to her hand while practicing at their second event on the series that required surgery and forced her off the ice for a time. They were back in action at the Bavarian Open in late January, where they finished second.
Ria Schwendinger & Valentin Wunderlich of Germany, who defeated Lagouge & Rahier on home ice at the Bavarian Open, and Darya Popova & Volodymyr Byelikov of Ukraine, may also be fighting for top-ten finishes.
In an ice dance world that often feels like it is shrinking, due to a small number of coaches dividing the top-ranked couples, it is interesting that none of the teams mentioned above share coaches.
The short dance kicks off the competition at the World Junior Championships on Wednesday afternoon. The free dance is set for Friday evening.