Ice Dance Observer: October 16, 2017


by Anne Calder 

The seventh and last event in the 2017 Junior Grand Prix Series was held October 11-14, at the Würth Arena in the northern Italian medieval village of Egna. Eighteen teams from 13 ISU countries competed in the short dance. The German team of Ria Schwendinger & Valentin Wunderlich withdrew after the short dance. Two teams qualified for the JGP Final.

Podium: Russians Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov were second after the first night, but won the free dance and the gold medal. Sofia Polishchuk & Alexander Vakhnov, also from Russia, slipped a notch and took the silver. Canadians Alicia Fabbri & Claudio Pietrantonio won the bronze.

Short Dance: The SD was a struggle for technical supremacy, with Fabbri & Pietrantonio winning the battle, but losing the war. Their TES was the highest (31.73), while Ushakova & Nekrasov (31.70) outscored Polishchuk & Vakhnov (31.67).

However, once the program component score (PCS) was added to the mix, the segment outcome changed and the positions flipped. Polishchuk & Vakhnov were first with 61.44, followed closely by Ushakova & Nekrasov’s 61.07. Fabbri & Pietrantonio scored 57.28.

The remaining top six included: Ellie Fisher & Simon-Pierre Malette-Paquette (CAN) 55.09, Chloe Lewis & Logan Bye (USA) 53.72, Avonley Nguyen & Vadym Kolesnik (USA) 52.84.

Free Dance: Ushakova & Nekrasov vaulted into first place with a flirtatious free dance to Fergie’s “Be Italian” from the soundtrack of the film Nine. The judges rewarded the level 4 lifts, twizzles, and spin with all but three +2, +3 GOEs. The segment was 87.94; the total gold medal score was 149.01.

Their first place points plus those from the Minsk Arena Cup qualified them for the Final.

Polishchuk & Vakhnov performed their second place free dance to the score of the film Black Swan. The team earned level 4 for the lifts, twizzle, and spin. Their rotational lift posted +3 from eight of nine judges and earned a +1.71 GOE score. The program scored 85.34; the total was 146.78.

The second place finish, when added to their Brisbane score, was enough to punch them a ticket to the Final.

Alicia Fabbri & Claudio Pietrantonio were third in the free dance and skated to selections from the Moulin Rouge movie soundtrack. The Montréal-based team won their first JGP medal, a bronze. Their lifts, twizzles, and spin were level 4; the circular step sequence was level 3. The segment score was 78.73; the total earned was 136.01.

The rest of the top six retained their rankings from the short dance. Final standings: Fisher & Malette-Paquette (133.38), Lewis & Bye (130.48), and Nguyen & Kolesnik (125.30).

The country in bold signifies the event at which the team officially qualified for the Final.

  • Belarus: Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko (USA) 30 points
  • Croatia: Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha (CAN) 28 points
  • Croatia: Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Erenenko (RUS) 28 points
  • Gdansk: Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin (RUS) 28 points
  • Egna: Sofia Polishchuck & Alexander Vakhnov (RUS) 28 points
  • Egna: Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekresov (RUS) 26 points

Featured JGP Egna Video:  Chiara Calderone & Pietro Papetti (ITA) free dance (via ISU Youtube Channel)


by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss

The 22nd annual international figure skating event was held in Nice, France, from October 11-15. Seventeen teams from 10 countries competed, including the 2016 champions from this event, Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac (FRA).

In the short dance, the top three teams represented different countries, but all train in Novi, Mich., under the watchful eyes of Igor Shpilband and his team.

Coomes & Buckland (GBR)

Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland (GBR) danced to the top of the leader board with a 68.40. The team skated to a remix of Torvill & Dean’s famous “Rhumba D’Amour” – choreographed by Dean – and earned the only level 4 Rhumba pattern in the event.

Alexandra Nazarova & Maxym Nikitin (UKR) had music issues, which forced them to stop skating temporarily and leave the ice. After a brief discussion with the referee and sound operator, they resumed the program and scored a second place 61.02.

The team of Angelique Abachkina & Louis Thauron (FRA) was the only duo in the top five to earn a level 4 for their twizzles. They were third with a score of 59.54.

Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu (CHN) with 59.00, Marie Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac (FRA) with 57.94, and Katarina Mueller & Tim Dieck (GER) with 56.96 completed the top six placements.

The free dance scores changed the final placements and the medal winners.

Coomes & Buckland widened their lead to almost 20 points and won their second gold medal in two weeks. Wang & Liu and Lauriault & Le Gac each vaulted over two teams into second and third for the silver and bronze medals, respectively.

In June 2016, Coomes suffered a devastating knee injury. Sixteen months later, after a grueling recovery period that included several surgeries and plenty of pure grit and determination, the team returned to competition. They chose to keep last season’s program.

The haunting musical sounds of “Battle Remembered” accented their level 4 elements, which included the combination spin, lifts, and twizzles. Their GOEs were mostly +2 and +3 and increased their TES by almost 14 points over the base value. The dance scored 104.58; the total was a gold-medal-winning 172.98.

Wang & Liu were third in the free dance, but second overall. The 2017 Asian Winter Games Champions danced to “Over My Shoulder” and “Happy Ending” by Mika. Their spin, curved and straightline lifts, and twizzles earned level 4. Both step sequences were level 2 with lower base values and GOEs that reduced their TES and total 94.94 segment score. The combined total of 153.94 was enough for silver.

Lauriault & Le Gac were second in the free dance, but third overall and skated to “You Take My Breath Away” and “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. The rotational and straightline lift combination, spin, and twizzles were level 4. Their closing choreographed lift earned a +2.54 GOE. The program scored 95.44, but their total of 153.38 was not enough to overtake the Chinese – they won the bronze.

The fourth, fifth, and sixth teams changed from their SD positions. Abachkina & Thauron slipped from third to fourth (151.94), Nazarova & Nikitin fell from second to fifth (151.41), and Great Britain’s Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson (145.50) moved up from seventh to sixth.

In the final results, only 2.52 points separated the second and fifth place teams.

Grand Prix Assignments:

  • Wang & Liu (CHN) – Cup of China / Skate America
  • Lauriault & Le Gac (FRA) – Rostelecom Cup / NHK Trophy
  • Abachkina & Thauron (FRA) – Cup of China / Internationaux de France
  • Nazarova & Nikitin (UKR) – NHK Trophy
  • Alessandrini & Souquet (FRA) – Internationaux de France
  • Coomes & Buckland (GBR) still have not picked up any Grand Prix assignments.



by Melanie Heaney

This week, the much-anticipated Grand Prix of Figure Skating will kick off in Moscow, Russia. This is the first time that Rostelecom Cup (previously Cup of Russia) has taken the leadoff spot for the series. It has only been held in October once before, in 2009. Rostelecom Cup is usually in Moscow—the event was occasionally held in St. Petersburg during the first decade of the Grand Prix series, but it has been in Moscow every year since 2006.

The roster of ten teams represents seven countries and features three teams that have been previous Grand Prix Final qualifiers and finished in the top ten at the 2017 World Championships. Even this early, the results of this competition could set up expectations for the Olympic Games.

The host country will send its top team, Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev. Fifth in the world last year (but third in the free dance at the World Championships), they have a chance to establish themselves early on as Russia’s best chance to continue their ice dance medal streak at the Olympic Games. The Zhulin-trained team has looked less than impressive in test skates, but they are often late bloomers and typically do well at home; they have won Rostelecom Cup both times they have entered it in the last five years. Bobrova & Soloviev won Ondrej Nepela Trophy last month by a sizable margin, but they did not face any other top ten teams.

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin (RUS)

Joining them on Team Russia are Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin and Betina Popova & Sergey Mozgov. Stepanova & Bukin won a coveted spot on the World team last year, but they are by no means assured an Olympic spot, and the race to secure their position has already begun. They finished second at Finlandia Trophy a couple of weeks ago, where they performed well, but their take on a “Liebestraume” free dance stood out more for the absurd vocals in the music than for their skating. Popova & Mozgov were only fifth at Finlandia, but their “Carmen” free dance made more of a positive impression, as Popova’s fierce commitment to the character reminded many in the skating world of Anjelika Krylova’s famous “Carmen.” In only the second year of their partnership, Popova & Mozgov are certainly on the rise; by earning this host spot at Rostelecom, they have already rebounded from missing the National Championships last year.

Reigning world bronze medalists Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani lead Team USA in Moscow and should challenge for the top spot on the podium. Unlike the rest of the competitors, the Shibutanis opted not to do an early season Senior B or Challenger Series event, so they are coming into Rostelecom as a bit of an unknown. They are generally reliable competitors that skate well, but with the exception of a few American judges and officials, their programs are a mystery. The Shibutanis are currently America’s top-ranked team and probably the frontrunners in the close race for the Olympic podium (aside from the top two teams), but if they want to remain in that coveted top spot, they probably need to win this event.

New seniors and reigning world junior champions Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons will join the Shibutanis on Team USA in Russia. Last month, they won a silver medal on the Challenger Series at Ondrej Nepela Trophy, finishing just ahead of Popova & Mozgov overall, but behind them in the free dance. It should be an exciting rematch to see these teams battle again.

Canadians Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier are the third top-ten team to face off in Russia and should challenge for the podium. A silver or gold medal would set them up well to reappear in the Grand Prix Final; they qualified three seasons ago. In the last two seasons, though, they won a bronze medal three out of four times on the Grand Prix and just missed the Final. Their retro Latin short dance and film noir free dance made positive impressions at the Autumn Classic last month, where they finished third. Gilles & Poirier have finished eighth at three of the last four World Championships; their highest finish of sixth occurred in 2015.

Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri of Italy won a gold medal on the Challenger Series last month, at Lombardia Trophy. This is their third consecutive Rostelecom Cup; they were fourth in both 2015 and 2016. Guignard & Fabbri were 11th at the 2017 World Championships and tenth in 2016.


Until next time,

Team IDC