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2005 Junior Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada

Free Dance

by Alexandra Stevenson


Virtue & Moir exploded from the starting pose of their free dance on Sunday and never slowed down through the entire three minutes. Their winning score of 80.21 was 17.01 points ahead of that for Bobrova & Soloviev, who were again second throughout the contest.

Overall the Canadians scored 169.06 to the Russiansí 137.51. Though there is still room for improvement, Virtue & Moir gave a senior level performance in all but length. They must add a whole minute for next January when they try to advance their fourth place in the Canadian senior nationals. But that is something the youngsters are not even thinking about at this stage. Moir is emphatic, "Our whole focus now is on the trying to win the Junior Grand Prix Final and the world junior championship. We havenít even thought about the extra minute."

Their earlier victory in the Andorra JGP and their commanding gold medal here have guaranteed them one of the eight places in the Final.

Some supporters were so carried away by the performance they are already predicting Virtue & Moir could cause an upset in the national championships and win one of the two Canadian Olympic berths. Virtue & Moir smiled and laughed at that suggestion. "We havenít heard that. We are aiming for the Olympics but in 2010. Weíre young and theyíll be in our own country then." The Games will be in Vancouver.

Their free is a polished and difficult showing to a new version of Malaguena. Before they even move a blade, their costuming establishes this will be a Spanish presentation. Virtue is dressed in a cream lace dress with ruffles at the knee and long sleeves. Her bare back and V-necked front expose parts of a blood red multi-sequined bra. There is a red rose in her hair and on her left hip. Moir is all in black.

With most couples, it is easy to spot their elements. They seem to have a break between each of their seven moves and then spring to attention Ė almost waving a flag - to indicate when a specific footwork sequence is about to start. Virtue and Moirís elements are so woven into the framework with many interesting transitions, this writer kept forgetting to count number of rotations and time lifts, and it was far more enjoyable that way.

The opening move was a Level 4 combination spin. One judge gave a +2 GOE and seven others a +1, but one saw, or possibly hallucinated, something the others did not.

Virtue & Moir also received a Level 4 for their forward starting twizzles and for their two short lifts. However, there is a possibility of getting even higher marks since both step sequences were "only" Level 3ís and, though the first part of the long lift was a Level 4, the second part, which was rotational, was Level 2.

Looking at the printout sheet which listed all their levels and GOEís, Moir said, "The levels were dead on. Itís great to have that feedback. We know what we have to do to improve. We only got the Level 3ís because some of the steps werenít as clear as they should be. The Level 2 was because I didnít hold the position long enough."

Also part of the problem with the Level 2, according to Virtue, is that she is not naturally as flexible as some of the others. A higher level is given for positions in which a skate touches the head. She said, "I have to work on Biellmanns."

Bobrova & Soloviev, who skated ninth immediately following Virtue & Moir which made them look slow by comparison, used Carmina Burana. They wore black with cream chiffon dangling from one shoulder to a hip and, for him, down the leg. Flowing chiffon gives the illusion of speed but it can also look messy. When they did their forward starting Level 3 twizzles, their form morphed from human into barber shop vertical poles spinning out pieces of material. All nine judges gave them a GOE of -1.

None of their elements were Level 4. They began with a Level 3 combination spin followed by their long lift which consisted of a Level 3 curve for the first part and a rotational Level 2 for the second part. Their first short lift, executed on a curve, was only Level 1 and their ending lift, a short rotational, was Level 2. Their closed serpentine step sequence was Level 3 and their closed circular step sequence a Level 2. Their total element score was only 29.97 which was seventh best!!!

However, the Russiansí component scores, though well inferior to Virtue & Moir, were 3.0 points ahead of the next best score in this category which were given to Miosi & Ponomarev.

Lamoureux & Mee had been disappointed after their third ranked original failed to advance them out of sixth place, but they were smiling after the free. The very tall, handsome blond couple, had to skate in the first set of five couples and drew second. It was immediately apparent they were "characters". She wore a black sleeveless outfit with black net gloves half way to her elbows and sexy sheer black tights. He had a net cape coming from one should. The music was Van Helsingís Dracula. She is the vampire; heís the vampire killer.

They played the idea to the hilt and it worked. Their third place in the free ensured bronze medals were placed around their necks. Actually, all the medals were lovely large engraved flat circular crystals, similar to the Lalique awards used for the Albertville Olympics in 1992.

They received an element score which was only second to Virtue & Moir. Their spin, the short curve lift, the short straight line lift and the first part of their long lift were all Level 4ís. Their starting element, the closed circular step sequence was a Level 3 as was their midline step sequence. However, the second part of the long lift, which was rotational, was only Level 2.

Mee explained, "Everything was just as we hoped the levels would be but except the last lift. We planned for both parts to be Level 4 but that was a really difficult lift to do right at the end." His partner added, "It was hard to get into the Biellmann position. Iíve had back problems."

Miosi & Ponomarev skated last and therefore knew immediately when the marks came up that they had finished fourth in the free and fourth overall. They and their coach, Elena Garonina, were delighted. Garonina said, "I think fourth place is very good for their first Junior Grand Prix."

The team, dressed in shades of deep blue for the free, had started the contest in fourth place and held onto it despite a sixth in the original. Ponomarev wasnít pleased with the draw. "To skate last is terrible," he said with a smile. "The seconds go so slowly. It seems like you are waiting your whole life. First after the warm-up is not good either. Second or third is the best. But to finish fourth is incredible for our first international competition."

Their first move was a short curve lift that was Level 4 because she was in an upside down position and he on one foot. It is not only difficult but frightening because, should the lift go wrong, her head is so close to the ice. She would have no time to use her hands to save herself. However, Miosi said Ponomarev had never dropped her. Miosi also said having past pairs experience also helped her.

Their second move, forward starting twizzles, was also Level 4. Further into the routine, the beginning of their long lift was a Level 4. Everything else was Level 2. Ponomarev explained, "Elena is working with us everyday single day trying to make the elements as hard as possible and you can tell that by the result on the ice."

They used a very unusual rendition of Phantom of the Opera which was created for a touring ice show in Britain with which Val Spiridonov was associated. Spiridonov co-coaches with Garanina.

Lauten & Hill, who were fifth throughout the event, also used Phantom of the Opera, but the traditional vocal version, which was choreographed by current World bronze medalists Ruslan Goncharov & Elena Grushina of Ukraine who have lived in the United States for many years. Their outfits, too, were classic with her in a graceful peach outfit with knee length net skirt and he in black with the bodice metallic black and gold.

Skating seventh, they began with an impressive forward starting twizzle sequence of four, then four-and-a half turns deemed Level 4. That was followed by a Level 3 straight line lift. The beginning part of their long lift, a curve, was also Level 3 but all their other moves were Level 2 including a graceful leg over shoulder rotational lift. Their circular step sequence fitted their music perfectly.

Mask of Zorro, which the Germans used for their free, turned into a mask of sorrow for Kolbe & Boll, who were third going into the final section. Skating immediately after the second warm-up in black with red, they began their free well, gaining positive GOEís for their long lift that had a low position (which ups the Level and got them a 4) for the first part and a Level 3 rotational upside down for the second section. They followed that with a Level 3 straight line lift.

However, on their fourth move, a twizzle sequence, he crashed to the ice early on. Not only did the fall incur a 1.0 deduction, that element was downgraded to a Level 1 with a base value of only 3.0 and they received significant minus GOEís.

That obviously affected them and their next two moves, a Level 2 spin and a Level 1 diagonal step sequence, were given minus GOEs. They pulled themselves together for the final curve lift which was a Level 4 but the damage had been done. They were only eighth in the free which pulled them down to sixth overall.

Rouzet & Rumi, who were third to skate, wore blue and black outfits. They executed their free to a vocal medley by Michael Berger, Luc Plamondon and Tim Rice which included No Love Anymore (The World is Stone) and Live and Let Die from one of the James Bond movies. They gained Level 4 for their first move, the forward starting twizzles, and for the first part of their long lift. The second part of their long lift and one of their short lifts, the rotational, were Level 3ís. However, their final move, a closed circular step sequence was only Level 1. The French duo was seventh in all three sections and overall.

Graham, in a blood red, & Poje, in black, drew to skate their very technically demanding Dance Macabre free fifth and got the third highest element score, but it didnít help them much. They were sixth in the free but stayed eighth where they had been in the previous two sections. Both parts of their long lift were Level 4 and they also got Level 4 for their first move, a short curve lift and the forward starting twizzles.

Vyhodtseva & Shumski, who drew to skate first in red and black, presented three Level 4 moves in their Carmen routine which included The Toreadorís Song. Vyhodtseva got herself into pretzel positions with her skate held to her head when she was upside down, right way up, sideways and diagonal. But the Ukrainians still ended up ninth as they had been in the previous sections.

Skating fourth, Lalatka & Balint, dressed in outfits of burnt orange with her hair in pigtails, presented their free to Nikola Parovís Sun Legend which was choreographed by Muriel Boucher Zazoui. The Hungariansí offering to the Skate Gods contained two Level 4 moves. The first was their initial move, the backward starting twizzles, and the other their last, the straight line lift. They were given a 1.0 deduction for going over the time limit in one of their lifts and they stayed tenth and last.