by Anne Calder

The third event in the ISU Challenger Series was held in Salt Lake City, UT USA. Nine teams from seven countries competed in the ice dance discipline. Several athletes had some altitude difficulties due to the elevation being higher than their training sites.

Rhythm Dance

The Finnstep is the senior pattern element: It must be skated to the Quickstep, Swing, or Charleston. Madison Chock & Evan Bates have competed it several times. Bates expressed his thoughts.

“It’s challenging to take the quickstep rhythm from the ballroom and put it on the ice because the ice just glides, and it’s hard to have the bounciness. You have to be quite tight and have a lot of pep in your step – a lot different from the tango skated last season.”

The American teams of Madison Chock & Evan Bates and Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko were first and second, followed by Canadians Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus and Molly Lanaghan & Dmitre Razgulajevs in the third and fourth positions.

Musical selections included two different versions of “Too Darn Hot” from Kiss Me Kate by both the American teams, a Four Seasons medley from Jersey Boys by Soucisse & Firus and songs from the Cabaret soundtrack by Lanaghan & Razgulajevs.

Rhythm Dance comments:

  • Evan Bates: “A good start with definite room for improvement. The program hadn’t seen the competitive environment yet. We were anxious to get the first one under our belts.”
  • Madison Chock: “It was great to set the season off on home soil.”
  • Anthony Ponomarenko: “It felt great for September. It was really clean. There’s still a bunch of things we need to smooth out – some rough stuff, but we’re happy with how today went.”
  • Christina Carreira: “I think we lost some energy; we could have had more.”
  • Carolane Soucisse: “We were super happy with our performance and what we were able to put out there today.”

Free Dance

The rhythm dance leader board remained in the same order after the free dance.

Chock & Bates won their first US Classic gold medal with a very unique Egyptian-themed free dance. Chock was a snake found by Bates’ traveler character – a step outside the box from last season’s Elvis Presley routine. Their 46.21 base values total was the highest to date in the 2019 Challenger Series. Chock’s one-foot step sequence was the only level 3. All the other elements were level 4. The segment was 122.22; the total was 201.40.

“We found the music right after Worlds, and it inspired us both,” Bates said.  “When we brought it to the coaches, they liked it and came up with the story.  We worked hard this summer to create something that was really fresh and a totally different look than we’ve ever done before.”

“We’re really happy with how our first competition of the season went,” Chock added. “This is a great place for us to build off. We’re going to keep working to grow the program and improve for the next competition in Finland.”

Carreira & Ponomarenko did a Flamenco program that earned 111.29 points. The lifts were level 4, while the twizzles earned level 3 and the spin level 2. They had a one-point deduction for the extended rotational lift. Their Rhythm Dance score kept them in the running for their second straight International Classic silver medal. The total score was 188.47.

“The program was good for this time of year. We didn’t get all our levels and have a lot to improve,” explained Carreira. “We lost some energy towards the end, which we’ll make sure won’t happen at other competitions.” “It was much improved from Lake Placid in July,“ added Ponomarenko.

Soucisse & Firus danced to a medley of Tom Jones’ popular songs. The twizzles, spin, stationary and straight-line lifts earned level 4. The total segment score was 110.06, narrowly missing a second place free dance finish. The Montreal-based team won the bronze medal with a total score of 181.39.

“We had a little bobble in the first 20 seconds, but after that we settled down,” Firus said. “Luckily we had a lot of training to fall back on. We have six weeks until the Grand Prix in Grenoble, so we have time to analyze things.”

Lanaghan & Razgulajevs were fourth with the Frank Sinatra ballad, “The Summer Knows”. The three lifts and combination spin earned level 4; both twizzles were level 3. The segment scored 95.87; the total was 154.13.

“The Frank Sinatra program is really good for us,” Razgulajevs said. “We can really breathe in it. It’s a nice and easy warm feeling – like summer. It’s a really fun way for us to just connect to each other.”

Lanaghan added, “It feels like no one else is around – just us.”

Tidbits

  • At the first US Classic in 2012, Madison Chock & Evan Bates won the short dance, but finished fourth.
  • Dmitre’s father, Juris Razgulajevs, coaches Lanaghan & Razgulajevs.
  • Coaches at the boards included:
    • Melissa Gregory< – 2005 Four Continents silver medalist with Denis Petukov (USA)
    • Patrice Lauzon< – 2006, 2007 World silver medalist with Marie-France Dubreuil (CAN)
    • Juris Razgulajevs< – 1991 World Junior Champion with Aliki Stergiadu (Soviet Union)
    • Igor Shpilband< – 1983 World Junior Champion with Tatiana Gladkova (Soviet Union)
    • Alper Ucar< – first Olympic ice dancer from Turkey – with Alisa Agafonova (2014)
    • Marina Zoueva< – Olympic Coach: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (gold, silver); Meryl Davis & Charlie White (silver, gold); Maia and Alex Shibutani (bronze)