by Anne Calder
The caravan carrying ice dancers on their journey to earn points to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final made its second stop August 26-30 at Riga, Latvia.
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.
Russians Betina Popova & Yuri Vlasenko, in their third season on the Junior Grand Prix series, took the lead after the short dance (59.82). The team received 2.20 GOE on their step sequence which helped distance them from Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko of the United States, who finished second. The young Americans set a new personal best (57.23) in the short dance and were one of three teams to receive a Level 4 on one Section of their Starlight Waltz. Angelique Abachkina & Louis Thauron (FRA) scored 56.18, Sofia Evdokimova & Egor Bazin (RUS) scored 54.29 and Melinda Meng & Andrew Meng scored 51.50 to round out the top 5.
Experience surpassed youth in the free dance and final standings.
Two-time GPF competitors, Popova & Vlasenko, won the free dance and the gold medal with an angst-filled interpretation of “Crazy In Love” by Beyonce. Dressed in black, the Russians opened with a spectacular spin that earned a 7.23 Grade Of Execution score and set the tone for their passionate performance. The free dance score was 86.53; the total score was 146.35.
Abachkina & Thauron won the silver medal with a second place seamless performance to “Spartacus” by Aram Khachaturian. Their twizzles and lifts earned level 4. Abachkina was born in Siberia, Russia. At the age of 12, she teamed up with her French partner and they trained for one year in Lyon. In 2014, the team joined Igor Sphilband and Fabian Bourzat in Novi, Michigan. They are representing France on the JGP series for the third consecutive year. Their free dance (82.87) and total score (139.05) were personal bests.
After the top two teams, only two points separated the next three, and a deduction for a fall, a missed element, and extended lifts made the difference.
In their fifth year of JGP competition, Evdokimova & Bazin, had two fourth place finishes, but won the bronze medal after a shuffle in the standings. Their musical selection was from the 1996 Romeo + Juliet film soundtrack. The reigning Russian junior bronze medalists received a one-point deduction for an extended lift, but earned 78.28 points. Their 132.57 total was a personal best.
Carreira & Ponomarenko were fifth in the free dance and fourth in the final standings after losing points for an unfortunate fall in the diagonal step sequence and then missing the choreographed twizzle. The youngsters, 15 and 14, train in Novi, Michigan with Igor Shpilband who choreographed their program to the gypsy rhythms of Goren Bregovich. Their free dance earned a 74.02. The total score (131.25) was a personal best.
The Mengs placed third in the free dance with a lyrical presentation of “Nocturne from Bohemian Rhapsody” played by American violinist, Lucia Micarelli. The reigning Canadian junior bronze medalists, competing for the fourth straight year in the JGP, remained in fifth place. The siblings received a one-point deduction for an extended lift. Their free dance (79.01) and total score (130.51) were personal bests.