Ice Dance Observer – September 10, 2018

Welcome to the Observer!  Anne brings us her thoughts on last week’s lone event, Junior Grand Prix Amber Cup in Kaunas, Lithuania, while this week the season really kicks into high gear with FIVE events, including the National Solo Dance Final.  Next week’s Observer promises to be a long one!

We’ve been busy at IDC adding more junior profiles.  If you would like us to update or add your profile to our list, send us your info via our submission form.

Adrienne Koob-Doddy brings us a new Parent Guide post focused on Communication.  

Just a quick reminder that if you are interested in supporting IDC, you can do so via a one-time contribution through our Paypal account ([email protected]) or a recurring monthly donation through our Patreon page. Through your support, we are moving to a new webhost this Fall. 

Whether you are able to contribute or not, we appreciate your continued support and value you all as part of our community.   

Until next time,
Daphne & Team IDC




September 12-15
Junior Grand Prix Canada
Vancouver, British Columbia
Livestream:  ISU JGP Youtube Channel

September 12-16
U.S. International Classic (Challenger Series)
Salt Lake City, UT

September 12-16
Lombardia Trophy (Challenger Series)
Bergamo, Italy

September 13-16
Challenge Cup
Ardmore, PA

September 14-16
National Solo Dance Final
Hyannis, MA


by Anne Calder 

September 11.  Writing this date on the top of a page never gets easy. Seventeen years later, we again stop and remember the terrible tragedy that startled our nation on that beautiful autumn morning.

Meanwhile on a lighter note, today’s story is about the first Junior Grand Prix hosted by Lithuania and the ice dance teams who competed.

JGP Amber Cup Medalists | Photo courtesy of Avonley Nguyen

The host country appropriately called it the Amber Cup named for the national gem and symbol of Lithuania. Margarita Drobiazko & Povilas Vanagas, who put Lithuania on the ice dance map in the early 2000’s, served as ambassadors for the event. They are the only figure skaters to compete at five Olympics.

Representatives from three different countries shared the podium, but Russia took the top spot for the third straight 2018 JGP event. Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov captured gold, Avonley Nguyen & Vadym Kolesnik of the United States won silver, and Ukraine’s Darya Popova & Volodymyr Byelikov took the bronze.

Ushakova & Nekrasov jumped out to a four-point lead with tango and flamenco dances that earned the only +4 GOE scores in the rhythm dances. The Russians widened the gap with a quirky innovative interpretation of the romantic comedy Black Cat, White Cat. The 168.17 is the highest total dance score of the 2018 JGP season – by an eight-point margin.

Nguyen & Kolesnik were one of only two teams to score level 4 in both their pattern dances. Ashlynne Stairs & Elliott Graham (CAN) was the other. Unfortunately, the Americans earned lower GOE scores for their other three elements and  fell behind the Russians.  

Nguyen & Kolesnik’s free dance to “Demons” by Imagine Dragons and “Experience” by Ludovico Einaudi was magical and created a seamless image of Nguyen floating through the air. Their TES was only .04 behind the leaders, but they finished in second place with a 161.84 total score.

Popova & Byelikov were a tad bit ahead of Yana Buga & Georgy Pokhilyuk of Azerbaijan after the rhythm dance. Their fourth place free program to Chopin Nocturne performed by David Garrett and “Run” by Ludovico Einaudi tightened the gap even more. However, the Ukrainians were able to eke out a total 142.29 score that secured the last podium spot by a slim 1.13 margin.

Zagris Arena, the site of the Amber Cup, was the first JGP venue located on a river island. The event had the largest audience of the three JGP’s so far and showed its support for the home team, Mira Isabel Polishook & Deividas Kizala, with signs, cheers and a standing ovation. There were also more ice dance teams at this event than at Bratislava and Linz – 18.

For the third week in a row, siblings participated in the JGP Series. Oona Brown & Gage Brown of the United States and the Czech Republic’s Natalie Taschlerova & Filip Taschler competed.

Forty-two percent (15/36) of the competitors were born in Russia or Ukraine, but only six represented their homeland. The other nine competed for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, or the United States.

The next JGP will be in Richmond, BC  from September 12-15 – the first time for North America since 2015 when it was held in Colorado, Springs, CO.

The six competitors with the highest points will participate in the JGP Final. Tiebreakers include scores and placements. After the first three JGP events, the top ten points and scores are:

  1. 15 points – 168.17 – Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov (RUS)
  2. 15 points – 160.24 – Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva & Nikita Nazarov (RUS)
  3. 15 points – 158.70 – Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko (RUS)
  4. 13 points – 161.84 – Avonley Nguyen & Vadym Kolesnik (USA)
  5. 13 points – 153.79 – Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha (CAN)
  6. 13 points – 152.42 – Elizaveta Shanaeva & Devid Naryzhnyy (RUS)
  7. 11 points – 148.51 – Eliana Gropman & Ian Somerville (USA)
  8. 11 points – 142.97 – Eva Kuts & Dmitri Mikhailov (RUS)
  9. 11 points – 142.29 – Darya Popova & Volodymyr Byeikov (UKR)
  10. 9 points – 141.16 – Yana Buga& Georgy Pokhilyuk (AZE)

Again this year, will be highlighting programs for each event. This week’s selections include the rhythm dance by Oona Brown & Gage Brown (USA) and the free dance by Mira Isabel Polishook & Deividas Kizala (LTU)

All JGP events are livestreamed via the ISU’s JGP Channel.



When the ISU released Communication #2161 back on May 15, Junior Grand Prix event #4 was scheduled to take place in Harbin, China from September 19-22.  After China declined to host any international events this season, Richmond, Canada became the destination for the fourth JGP event of the 2018 series.  Canada last hosted a JGP in 2005 when Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir took home the gold in Montreal.  Richmond will host 11 teams from seven countries in the smallest roster of the series thus far.

In the medal hunt:  Canada’s Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha are favorites to add gold to their 2018 medal collection and clinch a spot in their second consecutive JGP Final.  Eliana Gropman & Ian Somerville of the United States could win their second medal of the series, while teammates Emma Gunter & Caleb Wein could also snag a medal.  Russia’s new team of Ksenia Konkina & Alexander Vakhnov each have JGP experience, but with former partners.

The event gets underway on Thursday with the rhythm dance at 3:30 PM (local time) followed by the free dance on Friday at 7:15 PM (local time). Richmond is three hours behind Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), which converts to 6:30 PM for the rhythm dance on Thursday and 10:15 PM for the free dance on Friday. All JGP events are livestreamed via the ISU’s JGP Channel.



The Lombardia Trophy is the second event in the 2018-19 ISU Challenger Series. The competition will be held at the Ice Lab Arena in Bergamo, ITA September 12-16 and includes twelve senior teams from nine countries.

In the medal hunt: Italians Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri are 2016 and 2017 Lombardia Trophy champions and front-runners to win their third straight gold medal.  Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin of Spain were fifth at the 2018 European Championships. Americans Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons already have a silver medal from the first Challenger event of the season – the Asian Open Figure Skating Trophy. Both teams are also strong podium favorites.

The rhythm dance is scheduled for Friday at 10:30 AM (local time). On Saturday, the free dance follows the men’s competition, which begins at 10:00 AM (local time). Previously it has been 3-4 hours later.

Bergamo is six hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), which converts to Friday at 4:30 AM for the rhythm dance and Saturday at 4:00 AM for the men followed by the free dance at approximately 7:00 AM – 8:00 AM.  



The U.S. International Figure Skating Classic takes place this week in Salt Lake City.  This is the seventh year that the U.S. Classic has been contested and the event has been part of the ISU Challenger Series since 2014. Team IDC’s Anne Calder and Robin Ritoss will be on site and sending reports and photos from Salt Lake City, so check back later this week.  As in previous year’s, the U.S. Novice and Junior Challenge Skate will be held at the same location during the same timeframe.

In the medal hunt:  2018 U.S. champions Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue are poised to win their fourth consecutive U.S. Classic title, while the 2018 U.S. junior champions, Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko could also land on the podium.  Haley Sales & Nikolas Wamsteeker of Canada could win their second international medal of the season.

The rhythm dance will take place a 2:30 PM (local time) on Friday, with the free dance at 5:45 PM (local time) on Saturday.  Salt Lake City is two hours behind Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), so the adjusted times are 4:30 PM on Friday for the rhythm dance and 7:45 PM for the free Dance on Saturday.