Northern Lights #28: Midway Through Sectionals

2013-1108-1It’s a busy time in Canadian skating, with sectionals beginning last week and continuing through this week. Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill won a bronze medal in Germany last week, and Canadian dance is back on the Grand Prix after a week off, with Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier skating their first full competition of the season in Japan.

Bronze for Ralph & Hill
Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill (pictured, right) won the second international bronze medal of their senior-level career at NRW Trophy in Dortmund, Germany. Their first senior international bronze was also won in Germany, at Nebelhorn in 2011. Kharis & Asher scored 130.27 and moved up a spot after being fourth in the free dance. NRW was the second competition in a row for them—they were fourth two weeks ago at Cup of Nice, where they scored 131.91. They earned almost identical levels on their short dance in the two competitions, including only level 1 and level 2 on the Finnstep sequences, so I’m sure they will be working hard on those steps between now and Canadians. They did improve their twizzles from level 3 to level 4 between Nice and NRW, but their PCS were two-and-a-half points lower.

In the free dance, they will need to look at their rotational lift with their coaches, because that element received level 1 at both competitions. Between the two events, Kharis & Asher improved their FD PCS by about a point, so it’s interesting that the effect was the opposite from the short dance.

All in all, they did a nice job pushing through two weeks of competition in Europe, and should have good feedback as they prepare for Canadians. 

Gilles & Poirier Kick Off Season in Japan
Now back in competition after Paul’s recovery from a broken ankle, I am very interested to see how Piper & Paul do at NHK Trophy in Tokyo this weekend. They competed their short dance at Octoberfest a few weeks ago, but this will be the first competitive outing for the free dance. They are up against teams that have already competed this season, some of them several times. I am definitely looking forward to seeing both of their programs.

Belated JGP Wrap-Up
I haven’t had a chance to talk about this year’s JGP series as a whole, due to me not blogging on a regular basis, of course. Better late than never, right?

Last season, Canada earned five bronze medals on the JGP circuit (two from Edwards & Pang, two from Poulin & Servant, and one from Bent & MacKeen). This year, I was hoping for another four to five medals, including some upgrades from all of those bronzes. With Poulin & Servant aging out of juniors, I expected to see Edwards & Pang and Bent & MacKeen lead the Canadian juniors, and I was anxious to see how the new teams and new junior-level teams would do internationally.

2013-1108-2In the end, Canada won three medals (a full set – one each of gold, silver, and bronze). Madeline Edwards & ZhaoKai Pang (pictured, left) came heartbreakingly close to qualifying for the JGP Final. Mistakes in the short dance held them back; at both of their events, they were 2 or 3 points from the gold medal. Although they would have loved to compete at the Final, their schedule has eased up a bit because they aren’t competing—they will have a couple of months to focus on their senior programs for Canadians. Mackenzie Bent & Garrett MacKeen earned the first JGP gold for Canadian ice dance since 2007 (I think), but their short dance failed them in their second assignment, and they ended up buried in a deeper field. Brianna Delmaestro & Timothy Lum and Danielle Wu & Spencer Soo fared even better than I expected, earning solid scores for their fifth-place finishes. I do wish that Wu & Soo had been sent out earlier, so Skate Canada could have given them a second assignment.

Edwards & Pang – silver in Mexico (134.02), bronze in Czech Republic (133.39)
Delmaestro & Lum – 5th in Poland (129.81), 5th in Estonia (122.23)
Bent & MacKeen – gold in Latvia (127.93), 7th in Slovakia (118.65)
Wu & Soo – 5th in Czech Republic (127.78)
Meng & Meng – 8th in Poland (114.96)
Soucisse & Tanguay – 6th in Belarus (113.30)
Collins & Seymour – 12th in Slovakia (102.71)
Desveaux & Razgulajevs – 7th in Estonia (100.91)
Jiang & Miller – 13th in Belarus (89.85)

Overall, plenty of strong results and opportunities for developing teams to get experience. I’m glad that Skate Canada used 12 spots (and attempted to use 13), especially in a year when they were only guaranteed 7. And of course I’m thankful to smaller federations for sharing the wealth!

Moving On to Challenge
About half of the Canadian sections had their sectional championship last weekend, including three sections with dance events. Eastern Ontario only has a few dancers, and all of their teams will move on to Challenge. Juniors Samantha Glavine & Jeff Hough did not have any competition at sectionals, but they should be encouraged by their score of 110.69. If they can match that at Challenge, they have a good shot of qualifying for Canadians again. Western Ontario’s novice event only had one team, who will move on. At the pre-novice level, four of five teams will move on. Their junior-level team will compete as guests at Central Ontario sectionals this weekend. Their senior-level teams are Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir and Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje…I think it’s obvious that they have byes to Canadians!

In Québec, all senior teams will move on, including a few that did not compete at Sectionals. I was really hoping to see Andréanne Poulin & Marc-André Servant, who were originally on the start list, but they ended up withdrawing, along with Mélissande Dumas & Simon Proulx-Senécal. Mariève Cyr & Benjamin Brisebois are the sectional champions this year.

At the junior level in Québec, Carolane Soucisse & Simon Tanguay won the title in a close decision over training mates Melinda Meng & Andrew Meng. Both teams had byes to Challenge due to their JGP assignments, so the 3rd through 10th place teams from Québec will advance.

All novice level dance teams from Québec advance. Valérie Taillefer & Jason Chan won the title easily. At the pre-novice level, the top eight teams advance. Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha beat Cassidy McFarlane & Kyle Cayouette in a close, well-fought battle.

Sectionals This Week
This weekend, Central Ontario and British Columbia/Yukon are the sectional events with big dance programs. Many of BC’s teams have byes from JGP & GP assignments and are opting out of Sectionals, but Madeline Edwards & ZhaoKai Pang are scheduled to make their senior-level début. Central Ontario has plenty of depth in the lower levels, but they will not have a senior-level event, and all junior teams and novice teams will advance to Challenge.