by Anne Calder 

The 2017 Grand Prix Series opened with the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, Russia October 20-22. Ten ice dance teams from seven ISU countries competed for medals, prize money and points to qualify for the GP Final in Nagoya, Japan, December 7-10.

Americans, Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani, won gold. The Russian teams, Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev and Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin, received the silver and bronze respectively. The top six teams placed the same in both the short and free dances.

Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (CAN)

Short Dance: For two hours, the walls of the arena vibrated, as skaters danced their rhumba pattern and other elements to the samba, cha cha, salsa, mambo, rhumba Latin rhythms.

Shibutani & Shibutani danced into first place to selections by Perez Prado – the Cuban “King of the Mambo”. They earned four of five level 4’s, which included a spectacular first set of twizzles that were perfectly timed to the music and Latin lyrics! Their side-by-side footwork was a level 3 with all +2 and +3 GOE marks. The score was 77.30.

Bobrova & Soloviev used rhumba and samba music for their four level 4 element marks. The Russians earned the only level 4 Not Touching Step Sequence so far this season, which included six Challenger competitions. The program was a personal best 76.33 and a slim 1.00 out of first place.

Stepanova & Bukin were third with rhumba and samba rhythms for their dance that earned level 4 twizzles and curve lift. Both step sequences and the pattern were level 3. The 71.32 was a person best score.

Canada’s Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier’ twizzles and curve lift were level 4; the step sequences received level 3. Unfortunately, the rhumba pattern’s level 2 cost them base value and GOE points. The fourth place program scored 69.67.

Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri danced the rhumba and samba to a fifth place score of 68.99. The Italians earned level 4 for the twizzles and stationary lift, while the footwork and pattern were level 3.

Only 2.33 points separated the third, fourth, and fifth place teams.

Free Dance: Maia & Alex Shibutani made their Olympic season debut with a gold medal performance to “Paradise” by Coldplay. The program completed the trilogy begun in 2015-16 with “Fix You” also by the British rock band. The judges rewarded their level 4 spin, twizzles, lifts and level 3 step sequences with 14.11 GOE points above their 41.90 base value. The reigning World bronze medalists also earned 9.00 and above PCS marks. The segment scored 111.94 and the total was 189.24.

Bobrova & Soloviev used the somber music of Astor Piazzolla’s “Oblivion” and “Beethoven’s Five Secrets” by the Piano Guys to tell the story of a blind girl, love, and a dream. The twizzles, lifts and circular footwork earned level 4. During the spin, Soloviev put his foot down and the costly error gave it a level 2 with negative GOEs. The dance scored 108.41. The silver medal total was 184.74.

Stepanova & Bukin danced a light and lyrical program to Liebestraum, interspersed with lyrics about endless love and elements accented by tingling piano chords. The twizzles, lifts and spin earned level 4; the step sequences were level 3. The bronze medal performance received 108.03; the total was 179.35. Both were personal best scores.

Gilles & Poirier remained in fourth place with a sultry dance to the theme from Perry Mason, a fifties detective television show. It scored 102.62. Their total was 172.29. The Canadians had previously medaled at each of their six GP events since the 2014-15 season.

Guignard & Fabbri were less than a point behind the Canadians in fifth place with a 171.37 total score. The seamlessly skated dance to Exogenesis Symphony Part III by Muse received 102.38 points. The Italians were the 2017 Lombardia Trophy gold medalists.

Betina Popova & Sergey Mozgov os Russia made their Grand Prix debut with a personal best total 164.02. Siblings Rachel & Michael Parsons of the United States, the 2017 World Junior Champions, finished seventh and scored 148.75 at their first senior Grand Prix.

Skate Canada is the next Grand Prix series event – October 27-29.


  • The Shibutanis won their 14th Grand Prix medal and scored their seventh consecutive free dance over 110 points.

  • Bobrova & Soloviev, who have been partners since 2000, won their 13th Grand Prix medal. They missed 2014-15 due to injury.

  • Stepanova & Bukin won their fourth Grand Prix bronze medal.

  • Due to it being an Olympic season, the scheduled shifted and Rostelecom Cup became the first event.  The last time Skate America did not open the Grand Prix Series was 2010.

  • The glossy bright colored seats Inside the Megasport Arena resembled the happiness of Lego Land.



October 26-29
Minsk-Arena Ice Star
Minsk, Belarus


by Melanie Heaney

The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating heads to Regina, Sask., for its second event this week, Skate Canada International. Skate Canada has been part of the Grand Prix Series since it began, but this is only the third time that the province of Saskatchewan has hosted the event. Saskatoon hosted in 2001 and Regina last hosted in 1986, a decade before the Grand Prix Series was created.

A roster of ten teams representing seven countries will take the ice in Regina. Three of the teams are past qualifiers for the Grand Prix Final and the most likely medal threats. Beyond the top three, five teams have scored between 150 and 155 points at earlier international events this season, so the competition outside of the medals could also be quite exciting. Canadians have dominated this event in recent history—a Canadian dance team has won Skate Canada nearly every year since 2005 (Americans Meryl Davis & Charlie White won in 2008).

Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (CAN)

The competition is headlined by 2010 Olympic champions and reigning world champions Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir. They are aiming to win their seventh Skate Canada title and are the clear favorite in this field. The last time that Virtue & Moir entered Skate Canada but did not win the gold medal was 2006; it was their first-ever senior Grand Prix competition, and they finished second. They have already won their first event of the season—Autumn Classic International—with a score of 195.76. Virtue & Moir were already in great shape at that event last month, but they are trying for level 4 step sequences and only earned level 3s at Autumn Classic. They will certainly be aiming for a cleaner attempt of those elements this weekend.

Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje will join Virtue & Moir on Team Canada, setting up the possibility for Canadians to take the top two spots on the podium. They also competed at Autumn Classic, where they were second and earned 173.56 points. Weaver & Poje will also be trying to earn higher levels than their last outing; four level three elements held their short dance score below 70 points. They will likely need more than that to take one of the top two spots here and set themselves up for a chance at going back to the Grand Prix Final.

Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus round out the home team’s dance roster. This will be their Grand Prix debut in their second season together. They took fifth at the U.S. International Classic in September and then fourth at Finlandia Trophy, where they set a new ISU personal best score of 154.60.

Americans Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue have recently been in close competition with Weaver & Poje. Realistically, these two teams are likely to battle for the silver medal. In dance, placing second or higher in your first event is the best way to make Grand Prix Final qualification possible. Last year, Weaver & Poje missed the event for the first time in three seasons while Hubbell & Donohue went to their second Final. This matchup is crucial to both teams as they set themselves up for the Olympic season. Hubbell & Donohue won the U.S. Classic last month with a score of 178.80 and, like Weaver & Poje, they have an opportunity to upgrade their short dance levels if they want to come out ahead.

Also on Team USA for this event are Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker. They won the silver medal behind Hubbell & Donohue at the U.S. Classic with a score of 153.55. With three level 2s and level 1 twizzles in their 56.65-point short dance at that event, they are capable of scoring well above 160 overall and have a great chance to kick off the Grand Prix with a better outing. Hawayek & Baker medaled on the Grand Prix at 2014 NHK Trophy when they took home bronze; they have finished in the fourth to sixth range at the rest of their five events since their debut on the senior level.

Spain’s Olivia Smart & Adria Diaz scored 155.56 during their fourth-place outing at Autumn Classic last month, almost ten points higher than what they earned at the World Championships last month. It will be interesting to see if that upward trend in scoring continues for them.

Also making their Grand Prix debuts are Russians Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd and the German team of Kavita Lorenz & Joti Polizoakis. Loboda & Drozd have won silver and bronze medals at the last two World Junior Championships. In their senior international debut last month at Lombardia Trophy, they were second and earned 154.40 points. Lorenz & Polizoakis won the bronze medal at Nebelhorn Trophy to kick off their season, scoring 152.50.



The ISU Challenger series continues this week in Minsk, Belarus.  The Minsk-Arena Ice Star has been held annually since 2012 and 2017 is the first year it has been included as part of the Challenger Series. In addition to senior events, the competition also includes novice and junior contests.  Minsk Arena also hosted the Minsk Arena Cup Junior Grand Prix event in September. The roster currently includes 18 teams from 11 countries, but as is the case with all events, rosters are subject to change. 

The medal hunt:  Italy’s Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte are on the list to make their season’s debut in Minsk. The team withdrew from Lombardia Trophy in September when Cappellini sustained a cut on her hand during training and did not compete at Cup of Nice earlier this month, although they were on the roster. 

Alexandra Nazarova & Maksym Nikitin (UKR)

Minsk marks the season debut for Russia’s Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov. During the off season, the team moved to a new training group and are coached by Alexander Zhulin. They are taking a more classical approach to their free dance this season, skating to “Piano Concerto No. 2 Op 18” by Sergei Rachmaninov.

Also from Russia, Tiffani Zahorski & Jonathan Guerreiro are set to compete for the first time this season. Like Sinitsina & Katsalapov, Zahorski & Guerreiro changed coaches and are now working with Guerreiro’s original coaches – Svetlana Alexeeva and Elena Kustarova.

Isabella Tobias & Ilya Tkachenko will compete for the first time this season. The duo changed coaches after the 2016-17 season and are now working with Marina Zoueva’s group in Canton, MI.

Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin have had a successful season so far, winning a bronze at Lombardia Trophy and finishing fifth at Cup of Nice. 

South Korea’s Yura Min & Alexander Gamelin have finished fourth at both of their Challenger Series event this season, including Nebelhorn Trophy, where the team also earned an Olympic spot. 

Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin will compete in their second Challenger Series event after finishing sixth at Finlandia Trophy.

New teams debuting in Minsk: Vlada Solovieva & Yuri Vlasenko (Russia) and Anna Kublikova & Yuri Hulitski (Belarus).

The short dance takes place on Friday, October 27, with the free dance on Saturday, October 28.

Until next time,

Team IDC