by Anne Calder | Photo by Julia Komarova

The fifth Grand Prix series event was hosted by Moscow, Russia from November 16-18. Nine couples from seven countries competed for prize money and points toward the Grand Prix Final which will take place in Vancouver from December 6-9.

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin orf Russia blew away the competition by 25 points and won their second Grand Prix gold medal in two weeks. Spain’s Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin and Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko of the United States won silver and bronze – their first Grand Prix medals. It was also Spain’s first ice dance Grand Prix medal.

Rhythm Dance

At the end of the Rhythm Dance, Stepanova & Bukin had a five-point lead over Carreira & Ponomarenko, followed by Hurtado & Khaliavin.

Stepanova & Bukin opened with Paso Doble dance steps to “Malaguena” before slipping into their level 4 Tango twizzles and level 2 Midline footwork that earned +3 and +4 GOEs. Together the two elements scored 19.30 points – more than half their 37.30 segment TES. A wobble in the first Tango Romanica by Stepanova drew 0 and -1 GOEs, but they powered through the second pattern and received +2s and +3s. The team was disappointed by the twizzle error, especially since it was at home in Moscow. The segment scored 74.49.

Carreira & Ponomarenko danced to a virtual TES tie with the Russian leaders, but lost considerable ground (5 points) with their program component score. The Americans hit three of eight key points, but earned level 4 for the crisp twizzles that produced good ice coverage. The diagonal step sequence to the up beat “Yo Soy Maria” received a 1.94 GOE. The score was 69.01.

Hurtado & Khaliavin represent Spain, but train in Moscow, so it was like a home field advantage. The dancers began their “I’ve Seen That Face Before” and “Libertango” program with patterns that tallied four of eight key points for the highest GOE score of the event (14.45). Unfortunately, Hurtado had a balance issue with the twizzles and the team registered all negative GOEs. Their program component score was also five points behind the leaders, but the 66.40 score was a new personal best.

Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev of Poland were fourth and scored 66.30 followed by Lithuania’s Allison Reed & Saulius Ambrulevicius  who scored 64.54 and had the highest base value and second highest pattern score (13.69). Sofia Evdokimova & Egor Bazin of Russia hip hopped into sixth 64.05 points. All three scores were personal bests.

Free Dance

Stepanova & Bukin waited a long time while the judges tallied the scores for the Polish team who preceded them. The audience clapped and cheered, encouraging their hometown heroes during the delay.

When their names were finally announced, the crowd roared and were quickly mesmerized by the blues dance to “Am I the One” by Beth Hart and scored 124.94 – the highest 2018 Grand Prix free dance total. The judges awarded the elements all +3, +4, and +5 GOEs and the program components all 9.25+. Their base value (44.33) included level 4 lifts and combination spin and level 3 footwork. Their unique Choreographic Movements – Spin, Step Sequence, and “Shoot the Duck” Twizzles totaled 12.54. The team was happy with the outcome.

They spoke at the press conference about the delay, their performance, and making the GP Final.

“We had a really long delay, and we want to thank the audience for their support during this time. When we finally stepped on the ice, we were really anxious to begin skating. Overall, we were pleased with the way we managed to do it. I think we did a really good job!”

“Regarding the Final, we are overwhelmed. We are absolutely happy about the two first places in the Grand Prix.”

Hurtado & Khaliavin outscored the Americans with a personal best 108.02 and won the silver medal by a slim .21 margin. Their music included “Great Gig in the Sky”, “Vladimir’s Blues”, and “Sign of the Times”. Two lifts, the spin and twizzles earned level 4, while the serpentine step sequence and straight-line lift were level 3. The personal best total score was 174.42.The team made their Grand Prix debut in Helsinki, Finland, where they finished fourth.

“For us it is very important that we improve our programs with every competition,” Hurtado said. “We are proving to every skater in Spain that if you work for it, you can be here, too. It was the first time a Spanish ice dance team medalled at the Grand Prix. It will help the next generation.”

Khaliavin added, “We are happy with the way we skated today – better than yesterday. (Today) there were some minor glitches. The first part was pretty intense, but we relaxed in the second part, then skated element by element.”

Carreira & Ponomarenko dropped a spot but won the bronze medal with their Tokio Myers selections to “Bloodstream” and “Angel”. The many tempo changes challenged the young team, but they were up to it. The lifts earned level 4, the spin level 3, and the footwork level 2. The segment score was 105.20, five points higher than their fifth place finish in Helsinki. Unfortunately, the base values were lower. The total score was 174.21.

“We didn’t get all the levels, so we will go back and work on that. For our first year, we are pretty happy with our second Grand Prix,” Carreira said.

Sofia Evdokimova & Egor Bazin (RUS) vaulted from sixth to fourth with personal best segment (100.61) and total (164.66) scores. In fifth place, Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodyriev totaled 161.62. Allison Reed & Saulius Ambrulevicius were sixth with personal best segment (93.49) and total (158.03) scores.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Stepanova & Bukin compete at the Grand Prix Final. (Vancouver, BC Canada, Dec. 6-9).

“We need to be prepared for Spanish Nationals,” Khaliavin said. “We will stay here in Moscow and train. We will probably make some changes in the programs.”

“We are excited about doing a third Challenger Series event this year,” Ponomarenko said. “We are going to the Tallinn Trophy in a week. We are staying here in Russia and training.”

ICE CHATTER

  • The Moscow Megasports Arena reminds us of Lego Land or a box of Crayola Crayons with all the red, yellow and blue brightly colored seats.
  • The unofficial creator of the “Besti Squat” Natalia Bestemianova was shown on the jumbotron enjoying the Moscow competition.
  • Christina Carriera & Anthony Ponomarenko live and train in the USA. In Moscow, they danced before his two Russian grandmothers, one of whom travelled 26 hours by train from Ekaterinburg to watch him perform.
  • In 1988, Andrei Bukin & Natalia Bestemianova and Marina Klimova & Sergei Ponomarenko stood on the Olympic and World podiums together for the final time. Thirty years later, at the 2018 Rostelecom Cup, Ivan Bukin and Anthony Ponomarenko stood on the podium together for the first time. The torch has been passed to a new generation of ice dancers.