It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by since I started this blog. I originally planned weekly updates (and did pretty well with that last fall), but now it’s been a year, and this is only post #16. This is how my blogging projects usually go, unfortunately. But now that the juniors are heading back to the Junior Grand Prix this week, I’m hoping for the motivation to keep up with weekly posts again.

Of course, it should be easy to keep up when I’m motivated by such great material. I was at Lake Placid and Minto again this summer, and it was great to see most of Canada’s junior and senior teams at one or both of the events. I had a chance to check in with quite a few of them, so be on the lookout for some upcoming articles. Overall, I was so pleased to hear all of the positive summer training reports and to see everyone excited about the start of the season.

2012-0823-1Juniors Head to Courchevel

Although Canada originally only earned one dance spot per JGP event this year, they have picked up an extra spot at five of the seven events, including at the first stop of the series in Courchevel, France. Courchevel is a familiar host; this is the sixth time in the past decade that they have had the initial event of the JGP season. With an idyllic setting similar to Lake Placid, the competitors all love the resort…but not the altitude! Courchevel has an altitude similar to Colorado Springs, but fortunately, both Canadian teams told me that they’ve been training for it and should be prepared.

Madeline Edwards & ZhaoKai Pang (pictured, right), the 2012 Canadian junior silver medalists, are one of the teams in Courchevel this week. They have competed twice this summer, at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships and last weekend at BC SummerSkate, where they only competed in the short dance. That SD won the event and scored 52.51, up five points from its debut in Lake Placid. Their free dance, a lovely program set to music from The Artist, earned 70.19 points, which was not only the winning score in their group, but also the highest score in the junior event. Their performance in Lake Placid really impressed a lot of people who weren’t familiar with them before, and that was only its début—the program has the potential to really grow this year. The French movie score should go over well in Courchevel, and if Madeline & ZhaoKai have a strong short dance and deliver the free like they did in Lake Placid, I think they’re looking at a podium finish.

Last season, Madeline & ZhaoKai skated once on the JGP, finishing fifth in Innsbruck, Austria, with a score of 122.90. They train in Burnaby, B.C., with coaches Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe in a hotbed of junior talent, and over the years, the three-time national champions have been known for their consistency and precision. In Lake Placid this year, I thought that they looked just as polished as ever, but even more mature, and I can’t wait to see how they fare on the international scene.

2012-0823-2Victoria Hasegawa & Connor Hasegawa (pictured, left) are also in Courchevel this week. The 2011 Canadian junior bronze medalists are skating in their third season on the Junior Grand Prix. In 2010, they finished 10th in Japan, and last year, they picked up a pair of fifth-place finishes. Their ISU personal best is 118.45, a mark that they hit in both of their assignments last year. Victoria & Connor have been working hard on their expression this year, something that really stood out to me during their short dance in Lake Placid. They scored 43.10 there, but then improved that mark by over ten points, to 53.65 at the Québec Summer Championships in Pierrefonds, QC. Superficially, I thought that the new red dress on Victoria and the vest on Connor (instead of a pinstripe jacket) made the program look a little sharper. If they can skate the short as well as they did in Pierrefonds, they will be off to a great start this week.

Their free dance only earned 56.77 points in Lake Placid, but they resolved some issues in the two weeks that followed and brought their score up to 70.90 in Pierrefonds. The score was a marked improvement and a solid mark, but it was only third best that day. The program, set to music from Memoirs of a Geisha, reflects their Japanese heritage and gives them a chance to refine a more dramatic look. They are coached by Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon in Montréal.

The Canadians will face a couple of strong teams from Russia and France, along with two young American teams in their JGP débuts. Overall, I think that both Canadian teams are top-five material, and outstanding performances will make them medal threats.

Summer Competition Round-Up

Dance teams this season have been busy already, competing at Lake Placid (Senior, Junior, Novice), Minto, Pierrefonds, Summer Sizzle, Thornhill, and BC SummerSkate. Like last year, Lake Placid was the lowest-scoring competition overall, and the Canadian competitions generally seemed a little higher. Last year, quite a few teams posted high scores in Pierrefonds and did not reach those marks again during the season, so we’ll have to see if that’s the case this year as well.

Juniors have the most on the line at summer events, as they are vying for JGP assignments. Edwards & Pang, the Hasegawas, Andréanne Poulin & Marc-André Servant, Noa Bruser & Timothy Lum, and Mackenzie Bent & Garrett MacKeen were all given initial assignments based on last year’s results. I expect to see Caelen Dalmer & Shane Firus on a JGP roster as well, but the new juniors may not receive assignments this year if the current teams do well on the series and earn second assignments. I was at both Lake Placid and Minto and was pleased to see so many of the juniors in great shape already, including the first-year juniors. Canada certainly has an embarrassment of riches at the junior level right now.

On the senior level, most of the teams have competed at least one dance, except for the top two teams. Nicole Orford & Thomas Williams and Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam have both done two complete summer competitions in advance of their fall internationals. Orford & Williams scored a total of 129.34 at Lake Placid, where they won their free dance group, and increased their score to 139.01 at BC SummerSkate. Their free dance gives them a chance to showcase the work that they’re doing on improving their elegance, but several weeks later, it’s their short dance that I’m itching to see again, especially since I can’t get the video from SummerSkate to play. Set mainly to “Sold” by John Michael Montgomery, it’s a toe-tapping good time that gives Thomas a chance to shine.

2012-0823-3Paul & Islam (pictured, right) had a rough outing in the free dance at Lake Placid, contributing to a total score of 113.22. Things went much more smoothly at Thornhill, where a 90+ free dance helped them score 150.73. Elegance is not something that Alex & Mitch have ever been short on, so an Edith Piaf short dance is a great choice for them. The free dance, which uses music from The Legend of 1900, wasn’t quite what I expected from them, but I like it. It’s a little hard to describe, so just have a look. Alex & Mitch spent the summer at the Detroit Skating Club and recently decided to stay there to continue training with coaches Pasquale Camerlengo, Anjelika Krylova, and the rest of the winning team (at least according to a recent article).

Scarboro FSC training mates Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier and Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill both competed one dance at Thornhill, but not against each other. Gilles & Poirier won the free dance, earning 96.57 points, with a program that has kind of a jungle-esque vibe and Ralph & Hill’s second-place short dance to music from Gigi earned 57.67 points. 

At the novice level, two teams from BC topped 80 points at BC SummerSkate. Danielle Wu & Spencer Soo were last year’s bronze medalists at the pre-novice level and so far, they have the highest novice score this year, with 83.96 points. Their training mates, the new team of Brianna Delmaestro & Graeme Gordon, earned 81.10 points. Both teams improved their scores from Lake Placid significantly, although it’s difficult to compare novice-level scores between U.S. and Canadian competitions, since the American novices only have one footwork sequence. A trio of teams have topped the 70-point mark as well: Jaimie Clarke & Matthew Webb scored 73.89 at Thornhill, Christina Carreira & Simon-Pierre Malette-Paquette scored 73.71 in Pierrefonds, and Ekaterina Fedyushchenko & Jean-Luc Jackson scored 70.82 at Thornhill.

On the pre-novice level, Hannah Whitley & Elliott Graham are leading the Canadian scores thus far, after earning 67.73 points at Thornhill.

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