by Anne Calder 

The 2017 Grand Prix Series moved from Osaka, Japan, to Grenoble, France, for its fifth event held November 17-19. The last major skating competition held in Grenoble was the 1968 Olympic Winter Games, where ice dancing (then called “rhythmic skating”) was a demonstration sport won by Diane Towler & Bernard Ford of Great Britain. It became an official medal event in 1976 at the Innsbruck Games.

Ten ice dance teams from six ISU countries competed for prize money and points to qualify for the GP Final in Nagoya, Japan, December 7-10.

Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) won a second gold, Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA) added another silver, and Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin (RUS) were again bronze victors. The top two teams qualified for the Grand Prix Final.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA)

Short Dance: The Technical Specialist gave no level 4s for the Partial Step Sequence. The top seven teams earned level 3; the remaining couples received level 2.

Papadakis & Cizeron scored a season’s best score of 81.40 for their dance to music by Ed Sheeran, remastered by Karl Hugo and choreographed by Marie-France Dubreuil and Christopher Dean. The rhumba pattern, twizzles, lift, and not-touching footwork earned level 4. The GOEs were all +2 and +3, and the PCS had twelve 10.00 marks.

Chock & Bates were second, almost eight points behind the French, with a season’s best of 73.55. Their twizzles and curve lift earned level 4; the pattern and not-touching step sequence were level 3. Christopher Dean, Igor Shpilband, and Rohene Ward choreographed the Marc Anthony medley, which included the rhumba, salsa, and samba rhythms.

Stepanova & Bukin worked with Latin ballroom dancers and acrobats for their rhumba and samba program; it scored 70.02 this time. The twizzles and curve lift were level 4, the not-touching footwork was level 3, and the rhumba pattern received level 2.

Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (ITA) were .29 points behind the Russians, in fourth place with 69.73; Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (CAN) had an unfortunate twizzle mishap and landed in fifth place with 68.94 points.

Free Dance:

Papadakis & Cizeron set their elements to Beethoven’s keyboard in their “Moonlight Sonata” program. Six of the seven major elements earned level 4. The dancers gave a stunning performance, from the opening somber piano notes through the wildly frenetic middle section, before finally ending with a softer and calmer mood.

The two-time world champions won their third French Grand Prix by 20 points over the Americans. The 120.58-point free dance and 201.98-point total scores broke the records that they set two weeks ago at Cup of China.

Chock & Bates danced to the John Lennon classic, “Imagine,” and were second in the free dance with 108.30. They won silver with a total of 181.85. The lifts and spin were level 4; the footwork was level 3. A bobble in the second twizzle was costly and earned only 5.70 points—almost three points less than the French for the same element.

The 2015 World and Four Continents silver medalists will need to avoid leaving points on the table if they want to be on the podium at the Final.

Stepanova & Bukin were fourth in the free dance, but edged the Canadians by .27 points to claim the bronze medal. The music for their love story theme included a vocal selection, Rick Wakeman’s “Love’s Dream,” and “Liebestraum” by Franz Liszt.

The spin, signature twizzles, and straight-line and curve lifts earned level 4; both step sequences and the rotational lift were level 3. The program scored 107.22. Their total was 177.24, slightly lower than the personal best that they set at Rostelecom Cup.

Weaver & Poje were third in the free dance, skating to “Je Suis Malade” by Lara Fabian, for 108.03 points. Unfortunately, their 176.97 total was not enough to overcome their fifth-place short program score, and they finished fourth.

Guignard & Fabbri danced a light and lyrical contemporary program to “Exogenesis Symphony Part III” by Muse for 101.28 points. Their fifth-place total was 171.01. Both were season’s best scores.

Skate America is the next and last Grand Prix event before the Final. It will be held in Lake Placid, New York, November 24-26.


by Melanie Heaney

This week, the Grand Prix Series will make its sixth and final stop at Bridgestone Skate America in Lake Placid, New York. Skate America is usually the first stop on the circuit, but in this Olympic season, it is the last chance that skaters have to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. The picturesque Olympic village of Lake Placid last held the event in 2009.

In ice dance, seven teams from ten countries will take the ice. The champion of this event will qualify for the Grand Prix Final, and the silver medalist may as well.

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (ITA)

Americans Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani are the favorites for gold, as reigning world bronze medalists. They already have a gold medal from this year’s Grand Prix, so they will qualify with any podium finish, although they will certainly aim for the top. The Shibutani siblings won Skate America last year, and in fact, an American team has stood atop the Skate American podium every year since 2009. While their victory is likely if they skate without major errors, they will certainly be looking to earn a big score, with only two weeks to go before they face the other top teams, including two other American teams, in the Grand Prix Final.

Italians Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte are also looking to qualify for the Final after being third alternates last year. They already have a bronze medal from NHK Trophy from this year’s series. They got a late start this season due to a minor injury, and their programs in Japan revealed a bit of weakness, but they were as charming as ever and did enough for a podium finish. If they can upgrade to the silver medal this week, they will land among the three-way tie for the fourth, fifth, and sixth spots and earn a trip back to Japan. They were second at 2009 Skate America in Lake Placid.

Four teams are entering Skate America that have finished fourth earlier in the series, so they all have nine points towards qualification for the Final. Technically, Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov of Russia, Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier of Canada, Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker of the United States, and Tiffany Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro of Russia all have a shot, but it would take a set of highly unlikely circumstances, including the Shibutanis finishing no higher than sixth. It is likely, though, that these teams will be in the mix for podium finishes this weekend.

Sinitsina & Katsalapov earned 177.15 points for fourth place at NHK Trophy, setting all new ISU personal bests in the process. They were coming off a disastrous outing at Minsk-Arena Ice Star and did not look to be at their strongest in Japan, so it will be interesting to see if they fare as well with another panel. It is also worth noting that they finished nearly ten points behind Cappellini & Lanotte at NHK. Sinitsina & Katsalapov last medaled on the Grand Prix in 2015, when they won bronze at Rostelecom Cup.

Gilles & Poirier are hoping to create some momentum of their own, after a 172.29-point outing at Rostelecom Cup left Gilles, especially, expressing her disappointment. With over a month between events, there has been time for the outrage to die down, and it will be interesting to see if they can get much closer to their personal best mark of 182.57 this time around. They missed a few levels in the short dance in Russia, so there is definitely room to improve.

At Skate Canada, Hawayek & Baker were fourth with a score of 166.20 points. Like Gilles & Poirier, they were about ten points behind their personal best, set at Golden Spin on the Challenger Series in 2016. They have also had about a month between events and should be aiming to improve their short dance levels and score, especially. Their lovely “Liebestraume” free dance always makes an impact when they perform it well, especially if they make the final group.

Zagorski & Guerreiro finished fourth and scored 164.41 at Cup of China, almost nine points below their best score from last year’s Challenger event in Warsaw. They have been skating well this season and even defeated Sinitsina & Katsalapov at Minsk-Arena Ice Star last month. Politically, they face a challenge in being ranked outside of Russia’s top three teams, but if they can finish ahead of Sinitsina & Katsalapov again this week, they have a chance to change that conversation.

Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons will round out Team USA at this event. The 2017 world junior champions finished seventh at Rostelecom Cup, their first senior Grand Prix event. Twizzle mishaps prevented them from scoring their best in Russia, so they have a chance to improve their scores here. The Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid is familiar to many ice dancers, especially the Americans; the Parsons siblings have already won a silver medal here this year, at the Lake Placid Ice Dance International.

Rounding out the roster are Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu of China, Isabella Tobias & Ilia Tkachenko of Israel, and Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed of Japan. Wang & Liu were sixth at their home Grand Prix event in China, while Muramoto & Reed were ninth in a deeper field in Japan. Tobias & Tkachenko withdrew from NHK Trophy and have not yet competed this year.



Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev (POL)

This week, teams head to Estonia for the 2017 Tallinn Trophy.  Held annually since 2011, it has been part of the ISU Challenger Series since 2015.  Tallinn Trophy also includes events for competitors at the junior, advanced novice and basic novice levels.  As with any international event roster, changes may be made at the last minute, but there are currently 18 teams from 12 countries listed to compete. 

  • Medal contenders include Kavita Lorenz & Joti Polizoakis (GER), Elliana Pogrebinsky & Alex Benoit (USA), Allison Reed & Saulius Ambrulevicius (LTU) and Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev (POL). 

  • Five teams are competing in back-to-back events, including Elliana Pogrebinsky & Alex Benoit (seventh) and Lorenza Alessandrini & Pierre Souquet of France (tenth) at the Internationaux de France Grand Prix event in Grenoble.  At Warsaw Cup last week, Turkey’s Alisa Agafanova & Alper Ucar finished sixth, while Robynne Tweedale & Joe Buckland (GBR) finished seventh, and Anastasia Polibina & Radoslaw Barszczak (POL) were 12th.
  • In their senior debut at Volvo Cup two weeks ago, Ukraine’s Darya Popova & Volodymyr Byelikov won the silver medal.
  • Tallinn Trophy marks the international debut of Russia’s Elena Ilinykh & Anton Shibnev. The competition should give them an idea of how they stack up against fellow Russians Sofia Evdokimova & Egor Bazin and Ludmila Sosnitskaia & Pavel Golovishnokov.

The short dance will take place at 2:45 AM (EST) on Thursday, November 23. The event concludes with the free dance on November 24th at 1 AM (EST). 



This week, Canillo hosts the fourth annual Open d’Andorra.  Like Tallinn Trophy, the event also features competitions for junior and novice level skaters. As of the most up-to-date roster, 13 teams from 9 countries are listed to compete. 

Medal contenders include Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin (ESP), Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson (GBR) and Cecilia Torn & Jussiville Partanen (FIN).

The short dance will take place at 2:00 PM (EST) on Friday, November 24.   The event concludes with the free dance on November 25th at 12:00 PM (EST). 



Until next time,

Team IDC