by Anne Calder | Photos by Robin Ritoss
Figure skating’s oldest competition, the European Championships was first competed in 1891. Dick Button won gold in 1948 – the only non European to win the event. Coincidentally that was the final year it was not open to athletes from other continents. It took another 51 years for the ISU to establish a comparable Championship for skaters from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania.
In 1999, Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada hosted the first ISU Four Continents Championships. Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz (CAN), Chantel Lefebvre & Michael Brunet (CAN) and Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernyshev (USA) stood on the podium in that order.
Since the event has debuted, Canada and the USA have won all the medals except for the two awarded to Japan. Kano Muramoto partnered in both – 2018 with Chris Reed (bronze) and again in 2022 with Daisuke Takahashi (silver), who has also won two gold, a silver and bronze in singles.
Canadians Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir won seven medals: three gold and two each in silver and bronze. American Evan Bates also won seven medals, but with different partners: bronze with Emily Samuelson and two gold, two silver and two bronze with Madison Chock.
Tianjin, China was originally scheduled to host the 2022 Four Continents as an Olympic trial event, but canceled in September 2021.
“Unfortunately, considering the complicated epidemic situation involving travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, safety concerns and logistical challenges, the organization of the event was extremely challenging,” read the press release.
In November, ISU announced Tallinn, Estonia would host the 2022 Four Continents Championships at the Tondiraba Ice Rink the week after they held the European Championships. The city with its walled, cobblestoned Old Town has also had several Junior Grand Prix events and the 2015 Junior World Championships.
Ice Dance opened the second ISU event on January 20 to a very sparse audience. Ten teams from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and United States of America were divided into two warm-up groups and introduced at center ice prior to the Rhythm Dance.
Small medals were awarded at the Press Conference to the top three Rhythm Dance teams: Caroline Green & Michael Parsons (USA), Kana Muramoto & Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) and Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko (USA).
Green & Parsons skated a Janet Jackson themed program that scored a season best 80.62. The Midnight Blues Pattern, twizzles and lift earned level 4; the midline and pattern step sequences were level 3.
“This is the best we’ve finished the Rhythm Dance this year; everything went smooth,” Parsons said. “It was very powerful; we felt great. It was good to do a strong program after three days of traveling and missing our bags.”
Muramoto & Takahashi (pictured, right) used Japanese music, both traditional, Sōran Bushi (ソーラン節) by Maia Barouh, and hip hop, Koto by CloZee, to score 72.43 points. The Midnight Blues Pattern, lift and Muramoto’s twizzle were level 4.
The other elements were all level 3.
“We made a big mistake at the beginning, but we are happy how we performed afterward,” Muramoto noted. “You have to keep going. The music keeps going. No one is going to stop you. We had to keep a clear mind and focus on what is coming next. We had good eye contact.”
“It had been nine years since the last time I was at Four Continents,” Takahashi said. “I felt very nostalgic. It’s my first time as an ice dancer, so it’s fresh and new. Nine years ago, I would never have thought of coming back competing as an ice dancer.”
Carreira & Ponomarenko skated to “Batdance” by Prince and earned 69.35 points. The twizzles and rotational lift earned level 4. A year ago, the two-time World Junior medalists moved to Canada to train.
“It was a pretty difficult season for us. We changed coaches and changed our skating techniques so it was a lot of adjustments,” Carreira said. “Most of the time we train in London (Ontario) with Scott (Moir). Maybe once a month we go to Montreal (the main I.AM Training Center). I’d say 75% in London and 25% in Montreal.”
In fourth, fifth and sixth position: Canadians Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus (SB 69.15) and Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac (68.66) and Americans Emily Bratti & Ian Somerville (67.72). Canadians Haley Sales & Nikolas Wamsteeker were seventh with a (SB 62.95) score.
The Free Dance was held the next day. The top three were the same Rhythm Dance winners: Caroline Green & Michael Parsons (SB 200.59), Kana Muramoto & Daisuke Takahashi (181.91) and Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko (SB 175.67).
The 2021 Lake Placid Ice Dance International gold medalists, Green & Parsons earned a SB 119.97 score for their performance to “Eso Concerto” and “Clouds, The Mind on the (Re)Wind ”by Ezio Bosso. Their innovative hand movements throughout the program highlighted their modern dance interpretation and artistry.
“I think that no other sport has a perfect mix of both artistry and athleticism like ice dance,” Parsons said. “Because of that, there’s a huge opportunity to create art on the ice. It’s not just strength and not just power, but the image you put out there, the concept you create with your partner. This program we put on the ice felt more like art than sport. I think that’s exclusive to ice dance.”
Muramoto & Takahashi chose selections from La Bayadère and earned 109.48 points. The balletic moves and costumes showed off their interpretation of the selection.
Takahashi spoke about next season. “After Worlds we will take time and think what we are going to do. If we continue, it’s a major commitment, and we have to make sure we are on the same page and looking at the same goals. We’ve been like silver collectors all this season, and we have the motivation to have gold. I can’t guarantee anything, but small motivations are kind of developing inside.”
Carreira & Ponomarenko scored a 106.32 for their performance to “Wicked Games” by Chris Isaak.
“As for future plans, we want to continue learning the Ice Academy of Montreal’s style since we haven’t had that much time with them yet,” Carreira explained. “Our goal really is the 2026 Olympics, so we just want to keep growing and improving until then.”
Canadians Soucisse & Firus remained in fourth place with “La Boheme” that scored a SB 103.30. USA’s Bratti & Somerville skated to an Elton John medley for 101.82 points and a move up to fifth. Lauriault & Le Gac slipped to sixth with songs from the album Some Nights by Fun and scored 98.23. Sales & Wamsteeker had a second SB score (98.04) for seventh place.
The Awards Ceremony included the presentation of large medals and the playing of the USA national anthem. Caroline Green could be seen enthusiastically singing along behind her mask.
Prior to the Press Conference that followed the Awards Ceremony, small Free Dance medals were presented to the teams with the top three scores.
- Kana Muramoto & Daisuke Takahashi made history for Japanese Ice Dance by winning the first ISU Championship silver medal.
- Daisuke Takahashi is also the first Olympic and World medalist in single skating to win an ISU Championship medal in Ice Dance.
- Emily Bratti & Ian Somerville partnered in July 2021 and moved to Canton, Michigan to train with Greg Zuerlein and Tanith and Charlie White at what has now become known as the Michigan Ice Dance Academy.
- Haley Sales & Nikolas Wamsteeker moved across Canada from British Columbia and now train with Scott Moir in London, Ontario.
- Carolane Souicisse & Shane Firus currently train with Carol & John Lane in Toronto, Ontario Canada.
- Richard Kang in Kam left skating for several years before returning last season to train in Montreal.
- Teams making their senior ISU Championships debut: Emily Bratti & Ian Somerville (USA), Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko (USA), Charlotte Lafond-Fournier & Richard Kang In Kam (NZL), Caroline Green & Michael Parsons (USA), Kana Muramoto & Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) and India Nette & Eron Westwood (AUS).
Several teams competed in Tallinn prior to this event.
- Christina Carreira’s first international ice dance competition was in the Tallinn Tondiraba Rink at a 2014 Junior Grand Prix.
- Kana Muramoto made her ice dance debut with her partner Hiroichi Noguchi at the 2014 Tallinn Trophy.
- Richard Kang In Kam was born in New Zealand, skated for South Korea and trained in Canada. He competed at the the 2015 World Junior Championships with partner Lee Ho-jung.
- Michael Parsons was fourth at the same 2015 World Junior Championship with his sister, Rachel.