by Anne Calder | Photos are courtesy Lorenz/Polizoakis and by Robin Ritoss
Kavita Lorenz & Panagiogitis (Joti) Polizoakis (GER) met on the ice in Oberstdorf when they were 11 years old. The tweenagers were both single skaters and students of Michael Huth.
Fast-forward six years to 2012; Lorenz wanted to take her skating in a different direction.
“I loved to skate and move to the music, but jumps just weren’t my thing. Instead I wanted to work on choreography, spins, footwork, and just express my feelings on the ice, so I chose to switch to ice dancing,” she explained.
Lorenz partnered with Ukrainian Evgeni Kholoniuk and won the bronze medal at the 2013 German Nationals. The team split and Lorenz moved to Novi, Michigan, USA to make a fresh start.
“I was born in Berlin, Germany and moved to Oberstdorf in 2006. It was the best area to follow my goals as a singles skater. When I switched to ice dance, I stayed there for a year, but it was no longer the place to train. I always admired Igor Shpilband as a coach and thought he could get the best out of me as an ice dancer,” related Lorenz.
At the time, Polizoakis also considered the move to ice dance. Like Lorenz, he preferred the artistry to the jumps, but people convinced him to stay in singles. So he continued competing at “B” events with relatively minor success. In February 2015, he finished 10th at the Challenge Cup in The Hague.
“The last three years was always “surviving” in competitions due to high components, not really because of my technical scores. I was tired of feeling the pressure to jump,” said Polizoakis
”I thought to myself, If you want to change to ice dance, then now, because later is too late,” revealed Polizoakis. “So I went in April, 2015 to Novi for two weeks to skate with Kavita.”
Unfortunately, Lorenz developed bronchitis and was off the ice for ten days. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Polizoakis. Coach Shpilband used that time to teach him the ice dance basics and rules.
When Lorenz & Polizoakis finally had their try out, they clicked immediately and a new partnership was created.
“I knew after the first steps on the ice, that that’s what I really wanted to do,” admitted Polizoakis. “I just had to learn to skate as an ice dancer.”
The Germans had strong individual skating skills, but they had to learn to move as a team – to skate as one.
“To skate with a partner was a huge challenge for me. I had to learn how to trust him and follow him,” admitted Lorenz. “And I had to get used to skating with someone so close,” added Polizoakis. “It was just a weird feeling at the beginning – very different.”
Both skaters confessed they were surprised it took a good two months until they could do a whole spin.
Lorenz noted, “To spin with someone is not as easy as it seems.”
Polizoakis admitted that in addition to learning the spins, the lifts also proved a challenge. Initially they went well on the floor, but were a bit shaky on the ice. An adjustment to his workout routine has really helped.
As for a fun element – that’s the step sequence.
“I love the speed and the connection with Kavita,” he said enthusiastically. “I also love lifts now!”
In September, Lorenz & Polizoakis returned to their skating roots – Oberstdorf, Germany – for the Nebelhorn Trophy.
“To return to Oberstdorf for our first international competition together was such an amazing experience. We enjoyed every moment of it,” noted Lorenz
“We are having a very special connection to Oberstdorf, and it was just amazing to begin our season in “our” rink,” added Polizoakis.
The German team placed third in the free dance and fourth over all. The following week they traveled to Bratislava, Slovakia and competed at the Ondrej Nepela Trophy, where they finished fifth.
At the end of November Lorenz & Polizoakis compete at the Warsaw Cup and in mid December at German Nationals in Essen. There are two spots for Europeans for which they have already qualified the minimum TES in both the short dance and free program. The German Federation will select the better of those two teams to compete at Worlds.
The reigning five-time German champions, Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi, retired after the 2015 World Championships, so for the first time in six years there will be a new title holder.
Lorenz shared her thoughts on their goals for the 2016 ISU Championship. “We want to win the German Nationals and qualify for Europeans and Worlds this season, but our main goal is just to present us very well this season.”
The team’s coach, Igor Shpilband did not anticipate they would progress at the rate they have done in the short time since April. “I will be honest. I wasn’t expecting them to be any kind of competitors this year because I have experience with other skaters switching from free style to ice dance, and it’s not usually very easy. There is so much to learn.”
Shpilband continued. “They are great skaters. They both have a tremendous feel for the music and a connection with each other. They trained together as single skaters for six years under the same coach. They bring emotion – just true talent”
He shook his head and smiled. “To do on the senior level in six months what they have done is quite amazing. I just didn’t expect it.”
Finally, the coach discussed their training. The team has yet to qualify the minimum TES for Worlds. “We have been working a lot on the technical aspect. Even if you get the level, you have to get good execution to get the score.”
He added, “Their ultimate goal is maybe to go to Worlds, but for me it’s to keep progressing. They can just skate the best they can. If it happens, it’s great!”
The former coach of Olympic medalists, Meryl Davis & Charlie White, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir and Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto, has the credentials to evaluate talent. When he says, “I’ve never seen anyone do it,” ice dance enthusiasts stand up and take note.