by Jacquelyn Thayer | Photo by Robin Ritoss
The opening dance event in Saint John, New Brunswick, saw some personal bests and strong reception from an enthusiastic audience. The start of the Grand Prix series for most entrants, however, also brought some strict calls and revealed room for growth on the road to Sochi.
The Grand Prix début of Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir’s Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald-scored short dance was not flawless—they had a pair of bobbles in level 2 twizzles. But the reigning Olympic champions made a statement in their run for a second title, rebounding well after a more tentative performance a few weeks ago at Finlandia Trophy. This was particularly evident in their musically-nuanced no-touch midline step sequence, an element which picked up a rare level 4 for footwork and a maximum GOE of 3.00, for a total of 11.00 points.
“We’ve found in our limited Olympic experience that the Grand Prix series really sets you up well for the Games,” Moir said. “It’s your only opportunity to compete internationally before you get out, especially if you’re North American and can’t do Four Continents. We found that we built on Finlandia, and obviously Finlandia was kind of the skeleton of our program. We really tried to build the characters and connect with each other and kind of bring our flavor to the programs.”
Fellow Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (pictured, right) were an audience hit with a technically-solid performance of their “42nd Street” short dance, in fact, earning the highest TES of the event with level 4s on all elements besides a level 3 midline sequence. Significantly, the team also set a new ISU personal best with a mark of 70.35, blowing past a previous best of 67.54. It was the first time the couple has broken 70 points internationally.
“We’re very happy with the way that we skated today,” Weaver said. “We skated just like we practiced, if not better, and to start our season off like that in the first competition is very important, and I think it provides great building blocks for the rest of the season. And above all, we have fun, and that’s the main point of this program, is to entertain, and that’s what we felt like we did.”
Weaver & Poje’s training mates Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue of the U.S. earned their best-ever Grand Prix placement, as well as a new ISU personal best, with a 60.92-point third-place short dance. The couple had the shortest turnaround of any team in this event, having competed to a fourth-place finish at last week’s Skate America, but their performance also demonstrated their growing comfort with the program on its third international outing. They earned a string of level 4s and level 3s, with the 3s occurring on just the second Finnstep sequence and the no-touch circular step sequence. Unfortunately, Donohue took a fall on a transitional move towards program’s close.
“Today wasn’t the best skate for us. We made a few mistakes,” Hubbell said. “But we do feel strongly that we have a great program in our free and will be able to skate better tomorrow. We’re happy to be in third and be in our first Grand Prix press conference. That’s really exciting. So overall, it’s not our best, but we live to see another day.”
Russia’s Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko landed in fourth place with a score of 59.79 for their Chicago program, picking up an extended lift deduction for a glitch in the dismount of their closing rotational lift. That element also received a neutral GOE and negative marks from two judges. However, the team did earn the third-highest PCS of the segment with a mark of 29.62—.2 higher than Hubbell & Donohue’s—and picked up level 4s for their twizzles, first Finnstep sequence, and that imperfect rotational lift.
Germans Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi’s quirky character-based short dance to Glee’s cover of “Le Jazz Hot” saw the team projecting their characters into the rafters. While their performance was big, their technical elements were weaker; though they achieved a level 4 on their second Finnstep sequence, all other elements were levels 2 or 3, including level 3 twizzles due to an early step-out by Gazsi. The inconsistencies earned the team a fifth-place score of 55.91.
2013 World Junior champions Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin of Russia showed little fear in their first appearance on the senior international stage, a performance that netted them a sixth-place score of 55.63. Despite their confidence, their performance was technically rocky, with the team achieving level 4s on the first Finnstep sequence and their unusual straight-line lift, but level 3 on the twizzles and a level 2 on both their step sequence and second Finnstep.
In their first Skate Canada International performance since 2010’s event—and skating first in this year’s competition—host picks Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam roused the crowd, putting on an engaging performance of their “Crazy for You” short dance. Unfortunately, the skate was also hit particularly hard by pattern dance problems. While other elements were strong, including level 4 twizzles and rotational lift, the team picked up a level 1 on their second sequence of the Finnstep and a GOE of -0.08 on their level 3 first sequence, holding them to a score of 53.74. Last month, they earned a personal best of 59.06 with this dance at Nebelhorn Trophy.
Eighth-place finishers Charlène Guignard & Marco Fabbri of Italy received a PCS of 28.11, sixth among all teams, but they too fell prey to element issues. Their biggest hit came with a 2.00 deduction for an illegal position in their level 1 straight-line lift—Guignard hit an upside-down split, which is only allowed as a transitional position. While they picked up a level 4 for their first Finnstep sequence, the second received a level 2 with negative GOE, ultimately contributing to a total score of 52.03.
The dance event concludes with the free dance tonight.