Dance Qualifying Round

by Alexandra Stevenson

Seventeen ice dance couples executed their Free Dance, hoping for a top ten placing which would allow them to continue to the competition "proper", which begins with the Short Dance on Friday evening. The lucky ones will face the 15 "Direct" entries, who were allocated their privileged position on the basis of their countryís showing in this event last year and their own ISU standing.

Winning the qualifying round by the substantial margin of 3.55 points, earned primarily by their component score, were the Canadians, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who performed to music from Moulin Rouge. They have competed in their nationals five times winning two silvers and three bronzes. Weaver was born in Houston but moved to Kithchener/Waterloo to team up with her current partner in August 2006. She became a Canadian citizen in 2009. They were the 2010 Four Continents Champions.

Although they competed in Worlds in 2007 & 2008, finishing 20th and 17th, they were only first reserves for the past two years and for the Olympics. Weaver, who turned 22 earlier this month, said, "We're actually very thankful that we are able to do this preliminary round just so we can get this free dance out. I think we had a strong start. We did the twizzles well which can sometimes be our nemesis in practice." She did have an uncertain moment when her hand failed to grasp her foot in a rotational lift.

Nevertheless, they earned their seasonís best of 87.22. They even received the maximum +3 from one judge for their Curve lift. A Grade of Execution is punched into the machine by each of the nine judges for each of the eight elements. Apart from the +3 and four zeros which are given for "satisfactory, all the other 67 awards were +1s and +2.

Weaver explained, "We havenít competed in Russia before but we are surrounded by Russian culture back home." They have trained since 2010 at the Detroit FSC with Russian former world champion Angelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo. Their choreography was set by Shae-Lynn Bourne. When they sat in the Kiss & Cry Area, Weaver held up a sign supporting efforts to help Japan.

Poje, who is 24, added, "It's great to have a simulation of the event at the event. Competing in the actual arena actually prepares us better for the competition. You can't simulate everything back at home."

Germans, Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi, were second. Her mother is from Kazakhstan of German heritage. Zhiganshina was born in Moscow. She said, "We used to train in Moscow and know the city well and we skated a Grand Prix here. But I donít think that really gives us a home advantage."

She fell but not on an element. She explained, "There was a wobble. I jumped and landed not evenly, and it was a one point deduction right away. But Alex was strong and had a lot of power. This season is so long, it must be a record."

Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas of Lithuania, who train in Canton, were 6.04 points behind them in third, although one judge gave them a +3 for their opening move, the twizzles and another also gave +3 for their final element, a curve lift. She said, "It was a little shaky, but overall we felt very comfortable. We are now very confident for the Short Dance. We are so happy that we have qualified! Our goal is to reach whatever bracket needed so that we don't have to qualify next year. I think we are capable of reaching the top 15 and it wold be a nice validation for the hard work we did."

Xintong Huang and Xun Zheng of China were fourth. The Ukrainian champions, Siobhan Heekin-Canedy and Alexander Shakalov, who train with Natalia Dubova in Stamford, CT, and are competing in their first Worlds, were fifth with 75.00, only 0.45 behind the Chinese. Alison Reed and Otar Japaridze, who represent Georgia and were 21st in last yearís Worlds, were sixth with 70.90.

David Islam, the noted Canadian coach, who was with the new Mexican couple, Corenne Bruhns, who has US and Mexican citizen, and Benjamin Westenberger, who is American, said, "Weíve had qualifying rounds before but then everybody had to go through them. Now you have to get a certain number of points in an approved ISU event. I believe itís 27 points for the Free and 17 for the Short Program so that eliminates quite a few couples." They finished 15th and did not make the cut of the top ten.

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