by Klaus Reinhold Kany
(19 March 2017) Ice dance teams from the USA are quite successful at Junior Worlds. Therefore it was no surprise that at this competition 2017 in Taipei another ice dance couple from this country won the gold medal. Last year, Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter won gold, this year their training mates Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons from the Wheaton Academy are the ninth U.S. team in 20 years to win this title, this time with 164.82 points in a close decision, like at the ISU Junior Final in December. In the short dance, the student of Alexei Kiliakov were second, only 0.30 points behind Loboda & Drozd. The Americans gave a speedy and strong performance to the Hip Hop "A Little Party Killed Nobody” and the Blues "Born To Die”. Four of the five elements had a level 4, only the side by side step sequence gained a level 3. The GOEs were mainly +2.
Rachel Parsons commented: "This has been a pretty good season for us so far. There has been a lot of improvement and in the short dance we’ve been able to show the improvement we’ve made this season. It is just a very good way to end the junior short dance competition. I think one of Michael’s strongest points is how we match each other on the ice. We have similar minds. We really improved our power and our focus as we are envisioning to skating senior."
Michael Parsons added: "It is a very tight and very close competition and I hope everybody skates really well. We all live our programs. We really enjoy to skate. We also really focus on consistency, the consistency of the elements, making sure that every time we do it, it is good and we get our levels. It will be really interesting to see next season how we compare to the senior teams."
In their free dance, the brother-and-sister team interpreted a modern version of "Singing in the Rain”. Five elements had a level 4, only the diagonal step sequence a level 3. Their rotational lift was a bit shaky, but all other elements had mainly GOEs of +2 and several +3. They won 0.76 points more in the free dance than their main rivals from Russia, which was enough to win overall. Rachel Parsons said: "It feels incredible for us. Michael and I had a really good season so far and this is just the perfect way to cap off our junior career. We couldn’t be more happy. I think we’ve grown a lot this season, both as skaters and as people. I think looking to skating at the senior level it is a really important transition time for us. We kind of proved to ourselves that we can compete at the senior level."
Michael Parsons added: "I think everybody has really improved since last year. I think Pavel and Alla skated amazingly, it was really fun watching them and competing with them. It felt amazing to cap it off with a win at Junior Worlds, but I think the more important thing is all the work that we’ve put into this season and how we feel on the ice every day. This is what we love to do. I really can’t wait to move up to seniors. It will be a whole new environment, a whole new set of competitors. I think we have so much to learn."
The mentioned Alla Loboda & Pavel Drozd won the silver medal, earning 164.37 points, just .46 less than the winners. They had taken a narrow lead in the short dance, interpreting the "St. Louis Blues" and a Swing. They had the same levels as the Americans, but their components were a bit higher. Drozd said: "Today we are so happy because we worked a lot after the Grand Prix Final, after our National Championships and today we were able to show our work and we really enjoyed our program. Today we lived in our music and I think this is a positive thing. I think for all ice dancers the important thing is to enjoy how you skate, to feel the music. Of course we have technical moments that we need to keep in mind and we all work on that. I think our strongest point is the emotion and we give our passion to figure skating and share it with everyone."
Their free dance was more dramatic and powerful because they skated to the well-known "Malaguena". Again they had exactly the same levels and overall very simlar GOEs as the winners, but this time their components were sightly lower. Maybe some judges thought that Malaguena has been used too often in skating or the Western dominated jury perferred the Americans. Loboda explained: "I have mixed feelings right now, joy, relief, most of all joy, because today we really skated well today and I hope our coaches also enjoyed how we skated. This was not an easy season, but it was interesting. We have learned a lot and we will work towards new goals. It will be interesting to move up to seniors and we are waiting impatiently for new emotions and feelings. We had the opportunity to train with Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov and I can’t say that there was such a huge difference."
Drozd added: "Today we really enjoyed our skating. We lived the music, and this is the most important thing. We felt each other from the first second of the program until the end. We are so grateful to our specialists from our federation and to our coaches. We’ve grown as a couple and I think this is very positive moment. We really appreciate that during the whole season we have grown and got support from many people. There are many teams in seniors, it will be quite funny and it will be quite hard."
Americans Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko from the school of Igor Shpilband in the Detroit area won a surprising bronze medal with 154.68 points. In the short dance, they had been only sixth after their twizzle sequence only got a level 2. But in the free dance to the "Exogenesis Symphony Number 3” by Muse they had level 4 on four elements and level 3 in their two step sequences. Carreira commented: "We are really excited to be here at our first Junior Worlds and we are very happy with the result. We achieved our goals and to top it off with the bronze medal was great. We’re planning on staying junior next year." This is reasonable because both dancers are only 16 years old.
Ponomarenko added: "We came in, just wanted to skate two clean programs and we’re very happy it ended this way. My parents (Marina Klimova &Sergei Ponomarenko, Olympic champions 1992) really helped me throughout my career and they pushed me forward every day. I feel like it is not an advantage, but it is very helpful what they say to me and how they help me."
Anastasia Shpilevaya & Grigory Smirnov from Russia finished on fourth place with 152.66 points. They danced to a Blues and a Swing from the Club des Belugas in the short dance and a Tarantella from Naples in Italy in the free dance. In both parts of the competition, they had the same levels as the top teams, but lower GOEs. The third Russian couple Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin are fifth, winning 152.53 points. The young Canadian couple of Majorie Lajie & Zachary Lagha, only 16 and 17 years old, is from the school of Dubreuil/Lauzon/Haguenauer in Montreal and finished sixth, earning 148.26 points. The U.S. team Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter, gold medalists last year, ended up on a disappointig seventh place with 148.11 points. In their short dance, four elements had a level 4, but they made mistakes on the parallel non touch step sequence, which got only a level 1 and GOEs with an average of -1. In their free dance Carpenter‘s twizzle sequence was not clean.