by Anne Calder | Photo by Liz Chastney
The first competition of the ISU JGP series held in Bratislava, Slovakia, August 19-23 welcomed ice dancers from 11 countries to compete for medals, points, and prize money.
The 2015-16 junior short dance requirements include two sections of the Starlight Waltz skated one after the other (Section 1 followed by Section 2). The rhythms can include the waltz plus any number of the following: foxtrot, march, or polka.
Leading after the short dance, Russia’s Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd (60.48) were the only team to receive Level 4 on both sections of their Starlight Waltz. They held a 1.46-point lead over American siblings Rachel & Michael Parsons (59.02). Each of the top five teams received Level 4 for their twizzles and short lifts. Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko (RUS) scored 58.04, Ho Jung Lee & Richard Kang In Kam (KOR) scored 53.12, and Julia Biechler & Damian Dodge (USA) scored 51.52 to round out the top five.
Suspense was the order of the day. It was not until the final score was tabulated that Parsons & Parsons (pictured, right) knew that they had held off Loboda & Drozd to win their first JGP gold medal.
The Maryland siblings skated to music by the Medialuna Tango Project. Their strong skating skills and effortless entries into the elements earned four Level 4 and two Level 3 marks. The technical score was five points higher than their closest competitors.
The reigning U.S. junior silver medalists agreed it was their best international success so far. “We really wanted it!” Rachel told ISU reporter, Ted Barton, in their post-victory interview. “We wanted it for the past few seasons…so close…we were going to fight for it.”
Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd slipped to second place, but earned the highest component score with their interpretation of “Io Ti Penso Amore” and Paganini 5.
Both their music selections had a Paganini theme, but the two tempos were in sharp contrast.
The vocal section was a new classical song by violinist David Garrett and Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger to debut in “The Devil’s Violinist,” a film in which Garrett plays Paganini. The second section was the familiar wild and frenetic Edvin Marton violin solo.
In the opening, Loboda, dressed in her ballerina tutu-like costume, was swept across the ice with grace and elegance. The fast pace of the buzzing violin suddenly interrupted the tone and changed the dance to a more dramatic presentation. The reigning JGP Final silver medalists showed speed and confidence as they transitioned from one tempo to the other.
Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko used “The Pink Panther” soundtrack to show off their ice dancing skills and earn a bronze medal in their JGP debut. The team chose the nontraditional sit position twizzle, which their training partners, Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin, used last season. Their twizzles, spin, and lifts earned Level 4.
South Koreans Ho Jung Lee & Richard Kang In Kam edged out the second American team by .28 points and held on to fourth place. The former singles skaters chose a tango selection for their program. Their twizzles, spin, and lifts earned Level 4. The team trains in Vancouver, Canada with Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe.
In a post-event interview with ISU reporter, Ted Barton, the skaters voiced their hopes for making the 2018 Olympic team in their home country.
“We have to continue to work hard and move together as one. We get more confidence with every competition,” Kam said. “Our coaches make us work hard every day. There’s no fooling around.”
Julia Biechler and Damian Dodge placed fourth in the free dance, but fifth overall. Their beautiful interpretation of “Nocturne” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Lucia Micarelli earned Level 4 for their twizzles, spin, and lifts. The Level 1 for both step sequences was the difference in their placement.
The next JGP event will be held in Riga, Latvia, August 26-30.