by Anne Calder
The 2023 ISU Four Continents took place in Colorado Springs, CO ten days after the US Nationals. The USA skaters went directly from San Jose to train and acclimate to the 6,000’ altitude.
In 1999, Four Continents was started to even the playing field for those athletes not allowed to compete at the 130 year old European Championships. Athletes from the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania participate. These continents make up four of the five Olympic rings. The fifth is Europe.
The event has been held 24 of the last 25 years. It was cancelled in 2021 due to the Covid pandemic.
Small medals are awarded off ice to the top three teams by the Referee after each segment, Event medals are given at the on-ice Award Ceremony where the gold medalists anthem is played.
Madison Chock & Evan Bates skated an international season best 87.67 to David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” (Remix by Ben Liebrand). The twizzles and curve lift earned level 4; the Midline and Pattern Steps were level 3. The Choreo Rhythm Step scored a 6.00 GOE for a total of 8.00 points.
“We were prepared, and we let our training carry us into this week. We know we are right on track to achieve the goal we have set for ourselves,” Chock said.
“It was a quick turnaround from US Nationals, so we came straight to Colorado Springs to adjust. We stayed at the Olympic Training Center and enjoyed using all the facilities. We were fortunate Patch (Patrice Lauzon, who coached them at Nationals) stayed with us for the week. We trained alongside Christina and Anthony, Caroline and Michael and Charlie White. It was a great training environment, and we had a lot of fun.”
Canadian National Champions, Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen scored 86.28, narrowly behind the leaders. The twizzles, stationary lift and her Midline step were level 4; the Pattern and his midline steps were level 3. They also scored 6.00 GOE for the Choreo Rhythm Step. The duo danced Rhumba and Samba to Gloria Estefan selections.
“The cheering crowd gave us so much energy,” Fournier Beaudry said. “We’re really enjoying re-finding that fire and passion that we both share. The goal is to have fun on the ice and enjoy the moment out there.”
Soerensen commented on their free dance on Sunday. “The goal is to win! We have such a strong free dance this year. We believe in ourselves, we love the material, we have such a great time doing every single element out there.”
Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha (CAN) scored 79.04 points for their Cha Cha and Samba. The twizzles and rotational lift earned level 4; the Pattern Step was level 3.
“We’re pretty happy with the performance. It was really fun. The music was low, but the crowd was pretty loud, so it was pretty cool,” Lajoie said.
“After Nationals, we didn’t have to do many changes,” Lagha explained. “We needed to increase our stamina and the training was kind of brutal. After how we skated today, I think we’re all happy how we trained for this competition.”
Christine Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko (USA) scored 76.97 for fourth place. Their twizzles and curve lift were level 4, with a level 3 Pattern and her Midline steps.
“We wanted to nail the rhythm dance this time because of what happened to us at US Nationals, [twizzle error] and I think we did that today,” Ponomarenko said.
Caroline Green & Michael Parsons, (USA) reigning 2022 Four Continents gold medalists scored 69.99. Parsons had an unfortunate fall on the final Midline Step earning all negative GOEs for the element.
“It’s a disappointing skate, with some very good skating in it,” Parsons noted. “I thought we skated the majority of the program really well, and I wish that we had finished it better.
He explained the fall, “I just caught my toe. I turned, and my toe didn’t, and then I was on the ice. It’s disappointing, but that’s on me.”
Misato Komatsubara & Tim Koleto (JPN) were sixth with a 66.72 score. The curve lift and twizzles were level 4.
Chock & Bates were mesmerizing as the spirits of fire and air that messaged impossible survival of one without the other. The music was “Souffrance” by Orange Blossom and “Tectoniques” by Jorane, a Montreal artist. The twizzles, dance spin and two lifts were level 4; the diagonal and one foot step and third lift were level three. The judges scored 72 of the 81 GOE marks +four or +five. The Rhythm Dance (87.67), Free Dance (133.14) and Total ( 220.81) were personal bests.
Several of the athletes had difficulty with the Colorado 6000’ elevation. Bates commented on their preparation before hand.
“We trained a lot to adjust for altitude. We put in a lot of work and knew we needed to be at our best. We also switched some lifts around. Luckily we have a bag of tricks that we can dive into to use.”
“I think we went through some of the most difficult training that we’ve ever done to prepare for altitude,” Chock added. “Doing that gives us great confidence to know that we can perform our programs no matter how we feel, and that is a huge boost in our confidence.”
Chock commented on winning the recent ISU Skating Award for creating their 2021/22 Free Dance costume. “Designing costumes is one of my favorite things. It’s such an incredible honor when you think of all the amazing athletes and beautiful costumes. To be recognized and to win for my designs was an honor with Matthieu Caron.”
Fournier Beaudry & Soerensen danced to Ennio Morricone and Robert Rodriguez selections plus two versions of Malaguena Salerosa. The 2022 NHK gold medalists received personal best scores for the Rhythm Dance (86.28), Free Dance (127.80) and Total (214.08). The twizzles, rotational and straight-line lifts plus dance spin earned level 4; his one foot and both midline steps were level 3. The scores added up to silver medal.
“It’s our first medal at an ISU Championship,” Fournier Beaudry noted. “Our World’s goal will be to maintain the training that we did so far and keep uplifting our game, trust our coaches and trust ourselves mainly.”
“It was really hard preparing for this event,” Soerensen said. “Laurence had a big injury on Friday, so coming here we were just really relieved being able to perform two good programs with best scores. Taking our performance to the next level was really cool. We have high goals for Worlds. We want to be on the podium.”
Lajoie & Lagha danced to “Nureyev” from The White Crow by Ilan Eshkeri, performed by Lisa Batiashvili. The twizzles, lifts and dance spin were level 4; his diagonal and her one foot steps were level 3.The 2023 Canadian silver medalists scored a personal best 120.96 for the Free Dance. The total score was 200.00
“We’re really happy with how we performed today,” Lagha said. “It was really stressful for us because it was our last competition of the year, and we really wanted to finish well. It was difficult mentally. We were able to stay in the moment and not have this mental battle, like mental dialogue in your head while you skate. We didn’t have this today, so it was a lot more fun to skate.”
“It feels amazing because it’s a big Championship, and we now have a podium finish in every competition this season,” added Lajoie.
The 2022 Four Continents champions, Caroline Green & Michael Parsons began the day in fifth place after his Rhythm Dance fall. Their light and airy movements to “Rhapsody in Blue”. scored a fourth place 116.88. The twizzles, lifts and dance spin earned level 4; the diagonal step sequence was level 3. The fifth place total score was 186.88.
The 2017 Junior World Champion with sister Rachel spoke about preparation for his Senior World Championship debut in Saitama, Japan.
“This competition is a great motivating factor for us. We didn’t get the scores we wanted in either dance, but I think we performed very well in both dances. We’re going home and just work our butts off (laughs). We both consider ourselves very strong technical skaters, so there should be no issue with us getting the levels that we missed this week. We’ll focus on that a lot.”
At the recent US Nationals, Green provided IDC with an explanation for her new costume color choice.
“In the beginning we thought about this color, [fuchsia}. but decided “Rhapsody in Blue” should have a blue dress. I don’t know if the ice is so bright, but I felt the [light] blue color we chose faded into the background. We needed something eye catching. Royal blue was in the conversation, but it was a joint team effort, and this is what came out of it.”
Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko danced to Backbone selections “Rainy Streets” and “Public Disquiet” and “Summertime” sung by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald and “Summertime” by 101 Strings Orchestra. The fifth place program scored 112.81. The twizzles, lifts and dance spin were level 4. The diagonal and one foot steps were all level 2. Their total score (189.78) gave them a fourth place finish.
“Overall we did a solid performance at this competition,” Ponomarenko said. “We are really happy with how it went. We didn’t have a good off-season last year because of my surgery. We want to work even harder to accomplish our goals.”
“We will keep training for Worlds (as first alternates) and start brainstorming ideas, trying to figure out what we want to do next season,” Carreira added.
Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain le Gac performed a very animated program to the music of the comedy-mystery series, The Pink Panther. Le Gac perfectly played the inept French inspector Jacques Clouseau. Every beat of the iconic music set the stage for unique movements by the dancers. The twizzles, lifts and dance spin were level 4. The Skate America bronze medalists scored 109.32 for the Free Dance and totaled 171.35 and moved up from eighth to sixth place.
“We started this season with high goals at first and really wanted to enjoy every day of training and the opportunity to go back to international competitions,” Le Gac said. “With The Pink Panther Program, we discovered a part of us that we like, that we feel comfortable with, and that we enjoy so much. Maybe it’s not going to be Pink Panther next season, but we will try to brig back this kinds of character again.”
Lauriault added her thoughts about the program. “We love it. We have had so much fun training it every day. It’s kind of the first program that we are not tired of the music. Even though it’s the end of the year, we still want to keep it. Every time I take off the costume I feel like there is something we have to take from ourselves, but it’s not a goodbye. It’s more something we had discovered we like to play with.”
Madison Chock & Evan Bates are the newest members of the Four Continents Trifecta Gold Medalists Club:
- (CAN) Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz (1999, 2001, 2003)
- (USA) Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto (2004, 2005, 2006)
- (CAN) Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (2008, 2012, 2017)
- (USA) Meryl Davis & Charlie White (2009, 2011, 2013)
- (USA) Madison Chock & Evan Bates (2019, 2022, 2023)
All 24 gold medalist teams have at least one member still active in one of the Four Cs of the Skating Community: Competitor, Coach, Choreographer and/or Commentator
Eight of the twelve teams train at I.AM in Canada.
Team USA has claimed a medal every year that the Four Continents Championships have been held (since 1999)
Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) has medaled in both singles and ice dance.
- Men: 2008 – gold
- Men: 2011 – gold
- Men: 2012 – silver
- Ice Dance: 2022 – silver
Kana Muramoto (JPN) has medaled with two separate partners.
- 2018 – Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed – bronze
- 2022 – Kana Muramoto & Daisuke Takahashi – silver
Evan Bates (USA) has medaled with two separate partners
- 2009 – Evan Bates & Emily Samuelson – bronze
- 2013, 2015, 2019, 2020, 2023 – Evan Bares & Madison Chock
Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (CAN) have won 7 medals – the most in ice dance
Three teams have won gold medals in front of a home audience:
- 1999 (CAN) Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz in Halifax, Nova Scotia
- 2007 (USA) Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto in Colorado Springs, CO
- 2019 (USA) Madison Chock & Evan Bates in Anaheim, CA
- 2023 (USA) Madison Chock & Evan Bates in Colorado Springs, CO
Season Best Scores:
- (JPN) Misato Komatsubara & Tim Koleto – FD – 98.99
- (AUS) Holly Harris & Jason Chan – FD – 101.98
- (AUS) India Nette & Eron Westwood – RD – 45.89 / FD – 71.87 / Total – 117.76
Personal Best Score:
- Holly Harris & Jason Chan – FD – 101.98