SKATE CANADA RECAP: THE PODIUM VIEW FROM THE CANADIAN PRAIRIE
by Anne Calder
Regina, Saskatchewan, hosted Skate Canada, the second event of the 2017 Grand Prix Series, from October 27-29. Ten ice dance teams from seven ISU countries competed for placement, prize money, and points to qualify for the GP Final in Nagoya, Japan, December 7-10.
The 2017 Skate Canada podium was a North American sweep: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (CAN), Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (CAN), and Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA) took home the medals.
Short Dance: Canadians Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir dominated the segment with five level 4 elements and a record-breaking score of 82.68. Their music choices broke from the more familiar and traditional Latin sounds as they used a rock-infused samba, rhumba, and cha cha.
“It was a bit of a challenge to rise to the level of that music, and one that we were eager to attempt,” Virtue said. “It was important that we put a twist and showcase the Latin rhythms and movements in a different way.”
The program opened with intricate not-touching footwork to The Rolling Stones’ samba rock, “Sympathy for the Devil.” Moir’s open shirt, hand movements, and crisp edges channelled a perfect Jagger swagger. The Rhumba pattern and partial step sequence used an instrumental selection from The Eagles’ “Hotel California” as a rhumba bridge to Carlos Santana’s cha cha, “Oye Como Va,” and the twizzles and rotational lift.
Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje gave Canada a one-two short dance placement with a personal best 77.47 score. The 2015 Four Continents champions earned level 4 for the twizzles, lifts, pattern, and partial step sequence. The judges gave their level 3 side-by-side footwork a 2.67 GOE.
The couple danced to “Tango” by Dianne Reeves and “Do You Only Want to Dance” by the Julio Daviel Big Band.
Weaver explained their music choices. “With Latin rhythms, it’s easy to get chopped up into different pieces. We wanted it to be a very cohesive feeling, so we chose [the] Cuban genre. We start with the bolero and end with the mambo.”
Americans Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue earned the same levels as the second-place Canadians, but had a time violation deduction of one point, because their program went just over three minutes.
The U.S. national bronze medalists were third with a sultry dance to musical selections that included “Le Serpent” by Guem et Zaka, “Cuando Calienta el Sol” by Talya Ferro, and “Sambando” by Los Ritmos Calientes. The program earned a season best score of 76.08, five points higher than they scored at the U.S. Classic.
A slim margin of 1.74 points separated the fourth, fifth, and sixth place teams, who were around 12-13 points beyond the fight for the podium.
Representing Spain, Olivia Smart & Adria Diaz earned a personal best score of 64.34 in their Grand Prix debut. Americans Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker followed with 63.10. The 2017 world junior silver medalists, Russians Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd, scored 62.60 in their Grand Prix debut.
Free Dance: Virtue & Moir struck gold and won their seventh Skate Canada title. The reigning world champions earned level 4 for their fast-moving twizzles, spin, and three spectacular lifts that maxed out the GOEs with all +3 marks. Their program components scores had 14 individual marks of 10.00 for a total of 58.70 out of a possible 60 points.
Virtue wore a new, sleek burgundy dress and Moir wore charcoal as they passionately portrayed their Moulin Rouge characters throughout the dramatic performance that scored 117.18. Their final score of 199.86 was the highest ever ice dance total. With level 3 step sequences, though, they still have room for that score to grow.
After the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, Virtue & Moir left competitive skating. Last season, the couple returned and won every national and ISU international event that they entered.
Previously at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, the team won gold. In Sochi, they won silver. They are now aiming for their third Olympics. So what is different in this run for the Games?
“There is a strange sense of calm in our training,” Virtue said. “We’ve created the training environment and the team that we want. We’ve been executing our plan pretty perfectly for where we want to be physically and mentally. So what feels different right now is that kind of serenity and an understanding of the process in a deeper and more meaningful way.”
Weaver & Poje arrived in Regina with new music, choreography, and costumes. After skating their “Spartacus” program in Montreal at the Autumn Classic International, they felt something was missing. Their coach, Nikolai Morozov, suggested that they dust off their 2011-12 favorite, “Je Suis Malade.”
Six seasons had passed since they placed fourth at the 2012 World Championships in Nice with the French ballad. There were new rules, additional elements – choreographic lift and spin – and an old costume, which needed to be replaced.
The 2014 World silver medalists made the adjustment smoothly. The twizzles, spin, lifts, and diagonal step sequence earned level 4; the circular footwork was level 3. Just as the Americans had a -1.00 deduction in the SD that cost them a placement, Weaver & Poje were hit with a similar penalty for an extended lift in the free dance, for the rotational lift that had an awkward setup and, thus, traveled slowly. It was déjà vu, and they placed third in the segment. The total of 190.01 was enough for them to claim the silver medal by a .58-point margin.
Hubbell & Donohue were second in the free dance and third overall. Their blues program to the instrumental “Across the Sky” by Rag N’ Bone Man, and “Caught Out in the Rain” by Beth Hart brought steamy, sensual vibes to the arena.
The judges gave the 2014 Four Continents champions all +2 and +3 GOEs; the spectacular in-sync twizzles earned a +3 from eight of nine judges. Their overall TES was only one point lower than Virtue & Moir. The program received 113.35; Hubbell & Donohue’s total was 189.43. Both marks were personal best scores.
A 25-point gap separated the podium from fourth place.
The free dance resulted in a final placement shuffle for the fourth, fifth, and sixth teams.
Hawayek & Baker moved up a spot after a fourth-place dance to Liszt’s “Liebestraum” (165.20), now in its second season. Loboda & Drozd also stepped up a notch with their fifth-place Chicago program (155.72). Smart & Diaz slipped down to sixth after a twizzle error in their seventh-place dance to “It’s a Man’s World” and “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” (154.81).
Cup of China is the next Grand Prix Series event and will take place November 3-5.
- Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir broke two ice dance records at 2017 Skate Canada.
- Jean-Luc Baker’s mother, Sharon Jones Baker, represented Great Britain in ice dance at 1986 Skate Canada, the last time it was held in Regina. She was back in Regina again to cheer on her son.
CAPPELLINI & LANOTTE CLAIM GOLD AT MINSK-ARENA ICE STAR
Thirteen teams from nine countries took the ice at Minsk-Arena Ice Star in Minsk, Belarus. Held annually since 2012, this season was the first time the event was included as part of the ISU Challenger Series. The top three teams were competing in their first competition of the 2017-18 season.
After withdrawing from two previous events due to a hand injury, Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte had their long-awaited debut in Minsk. The Italians accumulated 183.49 points and bested Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro of Russia, who won the silver medal, by 13.68 points.
Russia’s Victoria Sinitsina & NIkita Katsalapov won the bronze medal, scoring 165.30. The team bounced back in the free dance after a fall on the rotational lift at the end of their short dance left them chasing the top two.
Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin of Ukraine, who won 2016 Ice Star, finished fourth.
TEAMS HEAD TO BEIJING FOR AUDI CUP OF CHINA
The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series continues this week with the third of six events, Audi Cup of China. Since joining the series in 2003, Cup of China has been contested 15 times, with Beijing serving as host 11 times, including this year.
The roster includes former World and international medalists with representation from from four countries – China, France, Russia and the United States. Three of the teams have qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the past and could be in contention this year. Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev are the only team on the roster who have already competed at a Grand Prix this season. Three more teams will make their Grand Prix debuts.
2016 World Champions Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron of France headline Cup of China. Papadakis & Cizeron debuted their programs in late September at the annual French competition, Masters de Patinage. Their free dance to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” was especially well-received by judges and they finished the event with 203.54 points. A fall in footwork at their first international event of the season, Finlandia Trophy, held them back a bit. They won the event, but only scored 188.25. With their primary rivals, Virtue & Moir, earning close to 200 points at Skate Canada last weekend, Papadakis & Cizeron will also be looking to keep pace and earn a big score.
Americans Madison Chock & Evan Bates scrapped an earlier free dance to music from the La La Land soundtrack in favor of “Imagine” by John Lennon. Mistakes plagued the team last season, resulting in a sixth-place finish at the Grand Prix Final. After winning two World Championships medals in 2015 and 2016, errors knocked the duo back to seventh in 2017, their lowest finish since they debuted at Worlds in 2013. Chock & Bates did not compete internationally this autumn, instead focusing on developing their programs and preparing for the season.
Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev won a silver medal at Rostelecom Cup and will need at least another top-three finish if they hope to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. After several seasons of uncertainty, the Russians appear to be back on track.
Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro finished fifth in their Grand Prix debut, Rostelecom Cup, in 2016. The team is competing in back-to-back events after winning silver at Minsk-Arena Ice Star, an ISU Challenger Series event, last weekend.
Elliana Pogrebinsky & Alex Benoit shocked everyone last season when they decided to forego their final year of junior eligibility and moved up to the senior level. The Americans capped their 2016-17 season with a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Championships and look to build on their sixth- and seventh-place finishes on the Grand Prix series last season.
Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu of China have stepped up this season, winning the silver medal at International Cup of Nice a few weeks ago. They are joined by Hong Chen & Yan Zhao, who finished 10th at the 2017 Four Continents Championships.
Three teams are making their Grand Prix debuts. They include 2016 world junior champions Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter of the United States and Angelique Abachkina & Louis Thauron of France, both new to senior international competition this season. Earlier this month, China’s Xiaotong Wang & Kaige Zhao replaced Linshu Song & Zhuoming Sun. Wang & Zhao have competed internationally only once, finishing 13th at the 2017 Winter Universiade.
Until next time,