by Klaus Reinhold Kany
(12 March 2019)The competition of the 31 ice dance couples at Junior Worlds 2019 in Zagreb had a high level. There was no falls at all in the Rhythm Dance and only one in the free dance. The majority of the best couples are already near a senior level and will compete in seniors next season. The Technical Jury with the controller Ingrid-Charlotte Wolter (Germany) and the Technical Specialists Philipp Rey (USA) and Rock Lemay (Canada) was very strict, especially about the key points in the Tango sections of the Rhythm Dance. Being strict to all skaters, it was fair but only a few had a season’s or personal best.
Gold medal winners with 176.10 points are Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha from Canada who skated their fourth Junior Worlds and train in the world‘s most successful ice dance school in Montreal. They are the first Canadian Junior World gold medalists since Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir in 2006. No question that they are their idols and have trained with them from 2016 to 2018.
At the Junior Final in December Lajoie & Lagha had been fourth, but in the last three months they improved much and had around 12 more points than in Vancouver. Three weeks before Junior Worlds, they won the B level event "Bavarian Open“ in Germany and demonstrated their progress. Lajoie was lucky that her suitcase with the skates which was not transported with her to Zagreb due to a short connection at Frankfurt airport, arrived several hours later in the same evening. Therefore they did not miss any practice.
They took the lead in an excellent Rhythm Dance to the three Tangos “Perro Viejo“, “Otro Puente Alsina“ and “Essa“, all performed by Otros Aires. They gained a level 4 in two elements, six of the eight key points, a level 3 in the midline step sequence and many GOEs of +4, especially in the rotational lift. Their components reached an average level of 8.2.
Lajoie commented, “We feel pretty good and happy with how we skated. For sure it is a stressful competition and we need to deal with the stress and I think we did that well today.” Lagha added, “We were able to do everything what we usually do in practice. As long as our coaches are happy, I am happy. At the Junior Final we had a lot of trouble with our technical part. So this is what we have worked on the most. We have worked on the qualities that will make us a good senior team because junior and senior is very different.”
In the free dance to Richard Addinsell’s “Warsaw Concerto“, they had the best flow of all teams. All elements were excellent, the stationary lift and the rotatonal lift even outstanding. The levels were relatively high, but the one foot step sequence had only a level 2 for her and a level 3 for him. The components were around 8.5 and went up to 9.5.
Lagha said, “It feels really good winning this title. In the past two years we had a lot of disappointing results. We’re really happy that the work finally paid off. Basically, all the top 10 seniors inspire me. They all have incredible qualities and I try to take lesson from all of them. You have to work on those qualities like the softness of the skating, more connection between the pair. Those are the things to work on to move to senior field.” Lajoie added, “Like in the Rhythm Dance we managed to deliver a really good performance. For me everyone on the rink we train inspires me, especially when we train with Tessa [Virtue] and Scott [Moir]. It was amazing to see the hard work, the connection they have together. Tessa and Scott have been an amazing inspiration for us and we hope to follow in their footsteps.”
Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva & Nikita Nazarov from the Moscow school of Denis Samokhin won the silver medal with 171.22 points. In the Rhythm Dance to the “Tango Amore“ by Edvin Marton, two elements had a level 4, the midline step sequence a level 2 and six of the eight key points in the Tango section were confirmed. Khudaiberdieva explained, “We are very happy to be here and now to have won the small silver medal. It was the best performance of our Rhythm Dance. We did our job, we improved our technical part and the most important for us, the spectators have enjoyed our performance. Next season we will move up to the senior level because we will no longer be age eligible for juniors. It is very important to skate clean and with confidence.”
In their contemporary free dance to “Human” and “Nemesis”, all elements were very well executed and GOEs of +3 dominated. The two step sequences had a level 2 and the four other level elements a level 4. Their components were around 8.4. Khudaiberdieva said, “We haven’t realized yet that we are second at our first Junior Worlds. This will push us next season and will give us motivation and confidence. We are a little bit jealous because Marjorie and Zachary can share the ice rink with the very top world teams and they can watch them work every day. We get our inspiration from Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, but also from Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, also from Russian teams like Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, but also by good ice dance in general.” Nazarov added, “I look up to Meryl Davis and Charlie White. But every season you can discover new teams and new programs just to watch and get inspiration.”
Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Eremenko from the Moscow school of Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin, winners of the Junior Final, took the bronze medal earning 170.43 points. In their Rhythm Dance to the Tango “La Cumparsita”, they got five key points, two level 4 and a level 2 on the circular step sequence. “We are very happy to be here”, Shevchenko said. “This is a big and important competition. Our Rhythm Dance was really emotional and I will miss this dance - Tango. We are also moving to seniors.”
In their modern free dance, which was the second best of the competition, they had a level 2 on the two step sequences and otherwise level 4. The components were around 8.3. Shevchenko said, “I cannot really describe the emotions for this free dance. This was an amazing season for us, the best season of our career. From the top couples, I really look up to Tessa and Scott and of courseI support Sasha [Alexandra Stepanova] and Vania [Ivan Bukin].”
Avonley Nguyen & Vadym Kolesnik of Novi, Michigan, students of Igor Shpilband, were the best Americans at their first Junior Worlds, finishing fourth with 167.90 points in only their second season together. 16-year-old Nguyen has an outstanding and a bit exotic presentation and flexibility. 17-year-old Kolesnik, who came from the Ukraine at the age of 15 right to Shpilband and asked him to find an excellent U.S. dance partner for him, was “a little elephant” as a small boy, as he admits, because his great-grandmother gave him too much food. But he has slimmed and is strong, but nevertheless elegant as well.
In the Rhythm Dance, five key points were confirmed, the twizzles and the curve lift excellent and the step sequence had a level 2. In their smooth free dance to “Demons” by Imagine Dragons and “Experience” by Ludovico Einaudi, they could move up from fifth to fourth place with the third best program. Their step sequence had a better level and many elements got higher GOEs than two Russian couples.
Nguyen commented,"It was the last time we were performing this program and it's so special to us. We just wanted to enjoy it and we hope that everyone else did, too. We're really happy that the last time we performed it we've got our season's best." Kolesnik added,"I've never been so nervous and excited at the same time. It's our favourite program, we chose the music. I think we did a great job. It's really sad right now that we're done with it and have to move on."
Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov from Russia finished fifth with 166.48 points after two programs with a lot of choreography, but sometimes they skated a bit sloppy. Maria Kazakova & Georgy Reviya from Georgia, who were born and live in Russia, are on sixth position with 155.40 points. Caroline Green & Gordon Green of Rockville, Maryland, are seventh, earning 153.05 points. They could not prepare for this season and compete in Junior Grand Prix after Caroline had a pneumonia and a lingering infection in the summer. But they won the junior competition at U.S. Nationals. In Zagreb only two of the eight key points in the Tango section of the Rhythm Dance were positive, but the other elements were good. In the free dance, the step sequences had a level 2, four other elements a level 4 and GOEs of +2 dominated.
Loicia Demougeot & Theo Lemercier from France finished eighth with 144.33 points. Alicia Fabbri & Paul Ayer from Canada are ninth, winning 143.04 points and Evgeniia Lopareva & Geoffrey Brissaud from France, who train in Moscow, are tenth with 141.98 points. Eliana Gropman & Ian Somerville from Rockville, Maryland ended up 12th with 139.96 points. They were ninth in the Rhythm Dance in spite of a small slip during the second Tango sequence. But a small fall and two little mistakes in the free dance let them drop some places.