by Daphne Backman & Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss
The short dance competition at the World Junior Championships took place on Wednesday, March 7. The top 20 teams, from the full roster of 28 couples, advanced to the free dance.
Only three teams earned level 4 on both Cha Cha patterns – Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko and Caroline Green & Gordon Green of the United States and Loicia Demougeot & Theo Le Mercier of France.
Russia’s Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin outscored the field with 66.44, which was higher than the previous personal best score they set in route to winning the 2017 Junior Grand Prix Final. Their technically precise performance included three elements that received level 4, including their curve lift, twizzles and second Cha Cha pattern. The team has a 4-point lead over Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha of Canada who finished second and are already focused on Friday’s free dance.
“We will go into the free dance with a fresh mindset, and we want to show our best result and the best performance of the season,” Aleshin said.
“We don’t have any special expectations,” Skoptcova added. “We just want to show what we’ve trained during the season.”
Skating to “Bla Bla Bla Cha Cha Cha” by Petty Booked and “Tu Picadura” by Gary Tesca, Canadians Lajoie & Lagha presented a fun and flirty performance that had the same base value for their elements as the leaders. The difference in scores came down to grade of execution and program component points. The team also competed at the JGP Final, where they finished sixth, so second place was a bit of a surprise. Like Skoptcova & Aleshin, the team was already focused on the free dance.
“We’re not going to be focused on the result,” Lajoie said. “We’re just going to do what we can do and see what’s going to happen.”
“We just want to have fun and show what we can do and do the same as in practice.,” Lagha added. “There is nothing more to do.”
Finishing third in the short dance was Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov of Russia. Ushakova & Nekrasov have spent two seasons on the JGP and qualified for the 2017 JGP Final where they placed fifth. Competing in their first World Junior Championships, the team’s energetic performance was rewarded with a new personal best score of 61.29.
“We are pleased with our performance,” Ushakova said. “We did what we can do, but it always could be better. We’re happy and our coaches are also happy with it.”
Russia’s Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko, who finished just off the podium at the JGP Final, finished fourth. The couple lost points when their twizzles were downgraded to level 2, but the remainder of the performance helped them score 60.95.
In their World Junior Championships debut, Green & Green finished fifth in the short dance. The siblings posted a new personal best score of 60.86, which was over 5 points higher than the score they received at the Baltic Cup during the 2017 JGP series. The score was .01 higher than that posted by Americans Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko and bumped the 2018 U.S. junior champions from the final free dance group.
Carreira & Ponomarenko were expected to fight for the top spot, but Ponomarenko’s twizzle mistake hurt the team’s technical score and left them in sixth place. A medal is still within reach as just 1.54 separates them from second place.
The free dance competition was held on Friday, March 9, and closed the door for the junior ice dance 2017-18 international competitive season that began in Lake Placid, NY USA in July.
Gold medalists Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin (RUS), silver medalists Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenkeo (USA), and bronze medalists Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov (RUS) claimed the podium spots.
The 2017 Junior Grand Prix Final Champions (JGPF), Skoptcova & Aleshin were one of the early favorites to win gold. With a 2-point lead after the short dance, their coaches told them to just show everything they had trained.
The Moscow-based team listened. They went out and scored a season best 88.71 to “Tango Selection” by Golan Project. The combination spin, lifts and twizzles earned level 4. The total 155.51 was also a season best score. Winning the gold medal is a great incentive for 2018-19.
“This victory means motivation for us to continue to work at the next level,” Aleshin said. “Our plan for next year is to move up to the senior level and to represent our country and ourselves well at international and Russian competitions.”
Carreira & Ponomarenko were very disappointed after his twizzle mishap landed them in sixth place. Ponomarenko did, however, get some love and encouragement from his mother, three-time Olympic medalist Marina Klimova.
“After the short dance, after the mistake of course, she was like, ‘Anthony, it’s okay, I still love you!’ Actually, she really motivated me. She told me, ‘You’ve been a fighter from the beginning, so just give it your all in the free dance.’”
“Igor (Coach Sphilband) told us to go out there and have fun, and that we’re ready,” Carreira added.
The reigning JGPF silver medalists were indeed ready. They vaulted into second place with an ethereal interpretation of selections from the W.E soundtrack. They conquered the ‘dreaded’ twizzles with a level 4 and all +2 and +3 GOE scores. However, their TES placed fourth behind the three Russian teams, but the PCS was the highest, even outscoring the gold medalists. The segment received 86.83 points with a total of 147.68.
Carreira commented on winning the silver medal.
“This season we’ve been working really hard, so it’s an extra reward to get a medal, and we’re very proud of it.”
Carreira turns 18 in April, so the U.S. National Junior Champions have one more year of eligibility remaining on the junior level, but have not made any future plans.
“We haven’t decided if we’re doing (junior) or senior yet. That is something we need to talk with our coaches about.”
Ushakova & Nekrasov claimed the bronze medal in their World Junior Championships debut with a dance to “Be Italian” sung by Grammy winner, Fergie from the film Nine soundtrack. Their spin, lifts and twizzles earned level 4. The program received an 85.59 and the total was 146.88. They were pleased with their performance.
“We are happy to have won this medal,” Ushakova said. “At the beginning of the season, I said in an interview that we have big plans for this year, and we realized them,”
Ushakova also announced at the press conference, “We’re staying in juniors. We’ll try to improve and be higher next year.”
Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha (CAN) began the free dance second, but slipped down to fourth after their program to “Dream” by Imagine Dragons and “Nemesis” by Benjamin Clementine. The spin, lifts and twizzles earned level 4. The two-time Canadian Junior Champions received an 83.83 segment score and totaled 146.22, just .66 off the podium.
Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko (RUS) 145.85, Caroline Green & Gordon Green (USA) 141.83, and Chloe Lewis & Logan Bye (USA) 139.17 placed fifth, sixth and seventh in their World Junior Championships debut. All three earned personal best total scores.
Natacha LaGouge & Corentin Rahier (FRA) 136.75 were eighth. A bad fall prior the short dance at the Zagreb Junior Grand Prix resulted in a double fracture to LaGouge’s hand and a withdrawal from competition. Their SD, FD, and Total scores were personal bests.