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2016 World Junior Championships

U.S. Ice Dancers at Junior Worlds Take First, Second and Fourth Place

by Klaus Reinhold Kany
Photos by Robin Ritoss

(21 March 2016)  The high level of U.S ice dancing in general was confirmed at Junior Worlds 2016 in Debrecen, Hungary because the three U.S. dance teams finished first, second and fourth. And the three best dance couples from the ISU Junior Final confirmed their superiority, but not in the same order. Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter from the ice dance academy of Alexei Kiliakov and his wife Elena Novak in Rockville, Maryland had been first in Barcelona. In their fourth World Junior World Championship after being ninth, fourth and second between 2013 and 2015, they were the favorites this time and confirmed their role by winning the gold medal with 163.65 points. They are the eighth ice dance Junior World Champions from the USA since 1998.

In the short dance, the 17-year-old Lorraine and her 20-year-old dance partner interpreted the Waltz “Anitra’s Dance” and the March “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, both by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, with excellent speed and a strong presentation. Three of the five elements had a level 4, the first Starlight Waltz section and the Midline non-touch step sequence had a level 3. GOEs of +2 dominated, but four of the five elements also had a few +3. Their components were around 8.0. With 66.25 points they were nevertheless 1.63 points behind their training mates Parsons/Parsons.

“We both feel that the short dance is unique and stands out”, Carpenter commented. “That’s something we always aspire to do with our skating. Because of that we really, really love this program and of course want to do the best we can and on top of that we just really want to enjoy having fun with it one last time and I think we did that.”

But in the long program, they could win 2.54 more points that Parsons/Parsons and therefore win overall. Their interpretation of Carmen was strong and their speed high again throughout the program. Therefore the components had an average of 8.3 and went up to a few 9.0. Three of the six level elements had a level 4, the three others a 3 and the choreographic dance lift never gets a level anyway. All GOEs were +2 (35 times) or +3 (28 times), there was not a single +1, nor any 0, let alone any minuses.

McNamara commented: “Since the Junior Final, Quinn and I really worked a lot to improve the maturity of our skating, to increase our flow and coverage and speed. We really worked to show the character of the program and the connection. We also worked to show the seamlessness of our skating and transitions. Obviously the jump from junior to senior is the biggest jump that you can take in the sport and that decision takes a lot of thought. It is a long process and a lot of people need to be used in the decision. So we’re going to take in all the factors possible before we make that decision.”

Carpenter also had ideas about possible rules changes: “There was also one motion I heard, about adding a choreographic element to the free dance, so would have two out of the three categories of choreographic lift, spinning or twizzling movement. I think that could add a really interesting artistic dynamic to the free dance.”

The brother and sister team of Rachel Parsons (18) & Michael Parsons (20) won the silver medal with 162.74 points after being 15th, 8th and 4th at their first three Junior Worlds and being third at this season’s Junior Final. Skating to the Waltz “Cinderella’s Departure for the Ball” from the Ballet “Cinderella” by Sergei Prokoviev, they won the short dance. The reason: The technical specialists from Hungary and Russia rewarded their non-touch step sequence with a level 4 and the judges gave more plus points. Both facts brought them 11.11 points for this element instead of 9.30 which McNamara/Carpenter had won. And the other elements had more GOEs of +3 than their rivals. Their components were a bit lower and reached an average of 7.8.

Rachel Parsons commented: “I think Michael and I are really happy with how the short dance went. We went out there and tried to really show how much progress we’ve made over the last year and I think we were able to do that. I think we’re definitely very competitive with our team mates, but never in a malicious and negative way. I think that we’ve all really pushed each other to the limits of what we can do and we continue to push each other to be better.”

In their free dance, they used music pieces from the “Medialuna Tango Project”. All elements were excellent again, four of them had a level 4, and the step sequences the levels 2 and 3. But this time there were a few +1. Their components were around 8.1 and their expression was a bit less strong than McNamara/Carpenter’s.

Rachel Parsons said: “For Michael and I, in our free dance we’ve really gone through and picked through all the tiny details that really can make a program stand out. I think we’ve worked a lot more on the personality that we put into it.” Michael added: “Since the Final we’ve been working in cleaning our transitions, dancing more, telling more of a story in our program, just improving every little thing that we could leading up to Worlds. Moving to senior is obviously a very big decision. It’s a decision we’re going to make with coaches, officials, with each other.”

They also talked about possible rule changes. Michael: “I think there is a proposition about expanding the range of the GOEs. I think that could be a very interesting idea.” Rachel: “I heard that there is a proposition for next season when the short dance will be Blues and possibly Hip Hop that the girls could wear shorts or trousers. I think that would be a very interesting change.”

Alla Loboda (17) & Pavel Drozd (20) from the Moscow dance school of Ksenia Rumantsieva had been second at the Junior Final this season, but never been at Junior Worlds before. But the Russian team could not defend their rank as second best junior team because Loboda fell near the end of their non-touch step sequence in the short dance. This was the only fall of the whole competition and cost them around eight points because of a lower level, a fall deduction and GOEs of -2 instead of perhaps +2. Therefore they were only sixth in the short dance and had to skate their free dance in the second best group, which is another disadvantage. The four other elements got level 4 and mainly GOEs of +2 and the components were around 7.7. Their free dance to love songs was excellent with four level 4 and two level 3 elements, GOEs of mainly +2 and components of 8.0. They clearly had the third best program and could move up from sixth to third place, winning 151.19 points.

Drozd said: “In the three months since the Final we worked on different sides of our skating, of course the technical side and the emotional side, because it is very important for us. Of course, we didn’t have such a good short dance and it was very important today to show a good free program and I think we did it. Today we were like one team. We’re so excited and very happy and so proud to be on the podium, because this is a very serious and important event, the most important for us this season for us. Maybe in the rules the emotional and choreographic part of the program needs to become more important, because now the emphasis is more technical.”

Loboda: added: “We did a lot of run-throughs in the last few weeks and we were very well prepared. Our plan for next season is to stay junior, to show everything we can do and not to fall on the footwork.”

The five couples between the fourth and the eighth place were very close. Elliana Pogrebinsky & Alex Benoit from the Shpilband school in Novi/Michigan finished fourth with 146.83 points after being only 13th last year. In the short dance, they interpreted the Russian Waltz “My sweet and Tender Beast” with ease and a lot of elegance. Three elements had a level 4, the step sequence level 3, but in the first waltz sequence they did not meet any of the three key points. In their Romeo and Juliette free dance, the levels were better. They took profit from their long lines, but the speed could have been a bit higher. They were very happy with their long program.

The second Russian couple of Anastasia Shpilevaya & Grigory Smirnov is from the Moscow school of Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin. They placed fifth with146.55 points after performing two good but not outstanding programs. The twizzle sequence in the free dance was their highlight. Betina Popova and Yuri Vlasenko, also pupils of Ksenia Rumantsieva, ended up sixth with 146.21points. Their twizzle sequence in the free dance was a bit shaky.

France has two excellent junior couples who both train in North America like the World champion Papadakis & Cizeron. Contrary to French Junior Nationals, in Debrecen Angelique Abachkina & Louis Thauron were ahead and finished seventh with 145.25 points. They train with Igor Shpilband and Fabian Bourzat in Novi, Michigan and excelled especially in the Spartacus free dance.

Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac, who are mainly coached by Romain Haguenauer in Montreal, had been fifth at the Junior Final and were third in the short dance in Debrecen. But in the long, Lauriault made a serious mistake on the twizzle sequence which cost them at least five points and let them drop from third to eighth place. Last December they had married each other and Lauriault commented: “The marriage doesn’t really affect our performance, because we try to separate our private life and our life on the ice. When I’m coming home, I have my husband, but on the ice he is my partner.”

Le Gac added: “Since we’ve been skating together we’ve been basically a couple off the ice. The marriage is a way for us to show our commitment to each other, but it also allows Marie-Jade, who is Canadian, to obtain French citizenship easier. But it is not a marriage on paper, it is sincere.”

Mackenzie Bent & Dmitre Razguliaevs from the school of Carol Lane in Scarborough in the Toronto area were the best of the three Canadian teams, finishing ninth with 138.61 points.