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2013 Four Continents Championships

Canada’s Virtue & Moir Lead in the Short Dance

by Doris Spicer Pulaski

Since the 2009 - 2010 season, whenever Canadians Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir and Americans Meryl Davis & Charlie White, compete, the point spread between the two teams, both coached by Marina Zoueva, is always close, and both are far ahead of the rest of the competition. At their last meeting, the 2012 - 2013 Grand Prix Final, Davis & White won the Short Dance portion of the event. At the 2013 Four Continents Ice Dance Competition, Virtue & Moir prevailed.

After the 2013 Grand Prix Final, Virtue & Moir reworked their Short Dance extensively, simplifying the storyline they were portraying, while burnishing the quality of their technical elements. When the 2012 World Champions debuted their revised choreography at the 2013 Canadian National Championships, they earned level fourfor every element, and the gold medal. At the Four Continents Championships, Virtue & Moir skated a smooth and deceptively effortless dance The Waltz Goes On," by the actor Anthony Hopkins, and a polka arrangement, earning an appreciative standing ovation from the crowd in Osaka, and a season's best score of 75.12. However, because the five-time Canadian Champions failed to receive credit for the first key point of the second Yankee Polka sequence, the distance between their score that of Davis & white is a tiny margin of 0.44 points. All their other elements were level four, with very positive grades of execution.

Davis & White, five-time U.S. Champions, are currently in second place with a season's best score of 74.68. The 2011 World Champions performed a speedy and joyous waltz, polka, and march, to the score of the ballet, "Giselle" by Adolphe Adam. White made an error in the one-foot turn section near the end of their circular step sequence, missing a bracket turn, which caused the step sequence to receive only a level three, and a loss of about half a point in GOE. However, the 2012-2013 Grand Prix Final Champions regrouped to skate the finest pair of Yankee Polka sequences of the event, earning level four for both, the only team in the event to do so. Their routine, choreographed by Marina Zoueva and Oleg Epstein, was also a favorite with the crowd which enthusiastically clapped through both sequences of the Yankee Polka and gave the University of Michigan students a standing ovation.

Third place in the Short Dance went to the newly-crowned U.S. 2013 Silver Medalists, Madison Chock & Evan Bates, skating in their first ever ISU championship. The duo earned 65.44 points, a new personal best by over six points, besting their U.S. teammates, Alex Shibutani & Maia Shibutani, who scored only 63.26 points.

Chock & Bates performed their routine to "Quidam" by Cirque du Soleil, with a great deal of expression and technical accuracy in their Four Continents Championships debut. The students of Igor Shpilband told their story of a tightrope walker's romance with a fan of the circus very clearly, while garnering a level four on five of the six elements. Their single level three element was the second Yankee Polka sequence, where they did not receive credit for the first key point. The particular highlight of their routine was a very tidy set of level four sequential twizzles, done in three sets.

Alex Shibutani & Maia Shibutani, the current U.S. National Bronze Medalists, finished in fourth place in the Short Dance, even though they did not receive any penalty for an extended lift, as they did at the 2013 U.S. National Championships. The Shibutanis, who are coached by Marina Zoueva and Oleg Epstein, received lower TES and lower PCS scores than those of Chock & Bates. The young team skated to three songs by the Andean group, Incantations: "Ojos Azul,” "Dolencias,” and "Sikureada." Certainly, one problem with the University of Michigan students' program was that this routine, choreographed by Marina Zoueva, Maurizio Margaglio, and Oleg Epstein, does not really lend itself to polka. The twenty-one-year-old Alex and the eighteen-year-old Maia Shibutani have struggled with injuries over the past year. They seemed to be skating with their old finesse, but made costly errors. Alex Shibutani had a rough entry into the sequential twizzles, which kept their GOE low for that element, and the team only earned level two for the second Yankee Polka sequence.

Paul Poirier & Piper Gilles, the 2013 Canadian Silver Medalists, finished in fifth place in the Short Dance. Performing to a medley from the "Mary Poppins" soundtrack, choreographed by Carol Lane, Juris Razguliaevs, and Christopher Dean, their dance started strong with level four sequential twizzles. However, the students of Carol and Jon Lane earned a three on the second Yankee Polka sequence, and a series of trips and lost steps by Gilles during their not-touching midline sequence left them with only a level two in that element, with 0.00 GOE. Their final score was 60.20.

Cathy Reed & Chris Reed, who were born in Kalamazoo, MI, but represent the host country of Japan, scored a season's best 53.97 to place sixth. The Reeds, who were the 2006 U.S. Novice Dance Champions, have Japanese citizenship, and hope to represent Japan in the Olympics in 2014. Their TES score of 28.79 misses the minimum criterion for the 2013 World Championships, set by the ISU; however, the students of Galit Chait Moracci, who train in Hackensack, NJ, earned the required minimum scores earlier this season at the 2012 NRW Trophy, where they placed second. Their choreographers, Igor Shpilband and Alexei Gorshkov, have created a barn- dance waltz and polka routine to music from the "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" soundtrack. The Reeds performed their routine with a fine exuberance and Yankee Polka character. Although the Chris Reed had his usual problems with the twizzles, the team persevered and earned a level four for the element, and a level three for their not-touching circular step, a definite improvement in technical strength for the team.

Seventh place went to the Canadian team of Nicole Orford & Thomas Williams, who made their debut in senior competition this year. Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe, their coaches and choreographers, gave the team a Country-Western themed dance to "Sold" by John Michael Montgomery and "The Tennessee Waltz" by Anne Murray. The 2013 Canadian Senior Ice Dance Bronze Medalists scored 53.70, also a season's best. The program suits the team, whose roots are in Calgary, AB, famed for its rodeo, The Calgary Stampede. They experienced some timing problems with the Yankee Polka, and could only manage a level two for the not-touching midline sequence, and only a level three for the sequential twizzles.

Eighth place went to the five-time Australian National Champions, Danielle O'Brien & Gregory Merriman, with a score of 48.81. Although O'Brien & Merriman achieved a season's best score, they still do not have the minimum TES score that would qualify them to compete at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships. Their major failure was in the not-touching midline step sequence, where they could only manage a level 2, with a negative GOE of -1.14. Merriman nearly fell in the sequence, although he said to the team's coach, Pasquale Camerlengo, as they left the ice, "I don't think I missed any of the steps."

The Japanese team of Emi Hirai & Marien De La Asuncion finished in ninth, with a score of 44.72. Neither they, nor their teammates Bryna Oi & Taiyo Mizutani who are currently in twelfth place, with a score of 33.90, achieved the minimum TES needed to compete at the 2013 Worlds Championships.

Anna Nagornyuk & Victor Kovalenko of Uzbekistan, in tenth place, scored 43.42. The team, who earned their TES minimum score in junior competition on the 2012 Junior Grand Prix, plan to compete at the 2013 World Championships, and took the opportunity the 2013 Four Continents Championships gave to gain experience with a Yankee- Polka-based short dance.

The five time Chinese national champions, Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang, finished in eleventh place. They scored 43.17 points, but did not receive credit for a single Yankee Polka key point. The team's TES does not qualify them to compete at 2013 World Championships. At this time, no Chinese ice dance team has earned the qualifying score.

The thirteenth and last place went to Pilar Maekawa Moreno & Leonard Maekawa Moreno, who live and train in Canada, but compete for Mexico. They scored 33.37 points.

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