The Senior ISU Season Begins at Salt Lake City

For the first time, the United States has been named host to a Senior B ISU-sanctioned competition, a chance for skaters to improve upon their ISU standings and scores as well as to test run their programs before an international panel. The Salt Lake City location is an added boon for many North American and North American-based teams, for whom the added travel expenses of competition in Europe can be daunting. The line-up for the first ever U.S. International Figure Skating Classic is strong – most participants will be competing on the Grand Prix later this fall, while others are seeking an international breakthrough. The race for the podium will be tight in the 2012-13 season’s first major international senior event.

A minimum Technical Elements Score (TES) from Grand Prix and “B” competitions is now required to participate at ISU Championship events. Events like the inaugural U.S. International Classic will not only provide opportunities for skaters to set their officially-recognized TES score, but also will begin the test of whether the new minimum scores set by the ISU are too high. For example, to be eligible to compete at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, senior ice dancers must receive both a short dance TES of at least 29 and a free dance TES of 39. At the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships, however, only eight of the teams scored 29+ in the short dance in Nice, France.

12LPIDC-SrSDB-1117-CB-RR 595The Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships were the first competition of the season for many of this event’s participants, and Americans Madison Chock & Evan Bates (pictured) finished first there among seniors, earning the highest scores overall in both the short and free dances. The team, who moved with Igor Shpilband to Novi, Michigan, have chosen to tackle programs more story-oriented than last year’s more abstract pieces, with a Cirque du Soleil-inspired take on the Yankee Polka short dance and a free dance to Dr. Zhivago. November’s Cup of China will be the team’s only Grand Prix event, so the competition here serves as good warm-up for that event.
For Canada’s Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier, this event marks their international debut as a team. Last season the duo won national bronze and have so far continued to see positive marks at home, winning the free dance at August’s Thornhill COS Summer Skate with their program to Wild Spirits. Now the team will get their first real test against a larger field and an international judging panel, good preparation in advance of their Grand Prix debut at October’s Skate Canada International. This will also mark the competitive debut of their Mary Poppins short dance; the team withdrew from the segment at Thornhill.

While Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam (CAN) had a shaky first outing at Lake Placid, their performances at Thornhill were solid, with the couple finishing first in the short dance and a relatively close second to Gilles & Poirier in the free. Their Edith Piaf short dance and free dance to selections from The Legend of 1900 highlight their strengths, and the goal here will be to erase the memory of last year’s international outings with two clean performances. As the team will not be competing on the Grand Prix, this event, as well as the upcoming Nebelhorn Trophy, will also allow them to gain some needed ISU ranking points and establish a strong minimum technical score.

Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt (USA) also began their season at Lake Placid, with a slightly shaky performance of their Johnny Cash program in the short dance. They rebounded to finish second in their free dance group, however, and third overall in the segment. After that competition, the pair consulted with choreographer Stacey Tookey on modifications to their free dance to Adele’s “Turning Tables” and “Rumour Has It.” In Salt Lake City, the team will have an opportunity to compete both programs once more ahead of their sole Grand Prix outing at Skate America.

Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus put up strong results at Lake Placid, taking first in their short dance group with a Grand Ball-themed program and second in the free dance group with a retro rock and roll piece to “Comanche,” “Please, Mr. Jailer,” and “Jailhouse Rock.” With the team set to make their Grand Prix debut at Skate America in October, the Salt Lake City event will offer a useful chance to compete against an elite field and earn additional feedback.

Australians Danielle O’Brien & Gregory Merriman set new standards for themselves last season, qualifying for the free dance at Worlds for the first time and placing a best-ever twentieth. The team has seen solid progress since making a full-time move to the Detroit Skating Club, and they’ll have an opportunity both here and at next month’s Ondrej Nepela Memorial to build on their ranking.

Carter Jones & Richard Sharpe of Great Britain, who teamed up this past spring, finished in the middle of the pack at Lake Placid with a Sound of Music short dance and blues free dance. With the additional months together, the duo is likely to improve upon their scores at that initial outing.

Ukraine’s Siobhan Heekin-Canedy & Dmitri Dun were slated for but withdrew from the short dance at Lake Placid, thus Salt Lake City will serve as their first event of the season. The team finished a respectable fifteenth at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships in their first season together.

Corenne Bruhns Alonso & Ryan van Natten (MEX) made a training change in the off-season, relocating from the Mariposa School of Skating to work with Evgeni Platov in New Jersey. In their second year together, the team will be hoping to improve upon their results from last season.

New team Justyna Plutowska & Peter Gerber (POL) are among Igor Shpilband’s new slate of teams. Gerber previously skated with Baily Carroll, with whom he finished twelfth at each of their two Junior Grand Prix events in 2011.

Senior ice dancing competition begins Thursday with the short dance and concludes Saturday with the free dance.