Four Continents Championships

Dance Event

All photos Copyright 2004 by George S. Rossano



Country CD OD FD
1 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto USA 2 1 1
2 Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon CAN 1 2 2
3 Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe CAN 3 4 3
4 Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov USA 4 3 4
5 Nozomi Watanabe & Akiyuki Kido JPN 5 5 5

Fang Yang & Chongbo Gao

CHN 6 6 6
7 Josee Pichee & Pascal Denis CAN 7 7 7
8 Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell USA 8 8 8
9 Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto JPN 9 9 9
10 Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang CHN 10 10 10
11 Jia Qi & Xu Sun CHN 11 11 12
12 Natalie Buck & Trent Nelson-Bond AUS 13 12 11
13 Danika Bourne & Alexander Pavlov AUS 12 13 13


Compulsory Dance

Yankee Polka

Starting Order - Original Dance
  1. Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov

  2. Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto

  3. Jia Qi & Xu Sun

  4. Josee Pichee & Pascal Denis

  5. Natalie Buck & Trent Nelson-Bond

  6. Nozomi Watanabe & Akiyuki Kido

  7. Fang Yang & Chongbo Gao

  8. Danika Bourne & Alexander Pavlov

  9. Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang

  10. Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe

  11. Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell

  12. Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon

  13. Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto


Original Dance Placements
Place Couple Country
1 Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon CAN
2 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto USA
3 Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe CAN
4 Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov USA
5 Nozomi Watanabe & Akiyuki Kido JPN

Fang Yang & Chongbo Gao

7 Josee Pichee & Pascal Denis CAN
8 Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell USA
9 Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto JPN
10 Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang CHN
11 Jia Qi & Xu Sun CHN
12 Danika Bourne & Alexander Pavlov AUS
13 Natalie Buck & Trent Nelson-Bond AUS

Belbin & Agosto

Dubreuil & Lauzon

Thirteen couples from only five countries created a pretty meager turnout for a championship that supposedly showcases the best from Four Continents.

Six seasons ago, the inaugural event permitted three couples from each country to take part to help provide exposure for the lesser countries’ competitors. A host of eager ice dancers descended on Halifax. Unfortunately, they showed the audience what was undoubtedly the worst compulsories ever seen in an international event, so maybe it was a blessing that only a baker’s dozen showed up in Hamilton this time.

This is the first time a country has hosted the event for a second time. Thus far, the ice dance winners have come from just two countries -- Canada and the United States -- with Shae Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz claiming the title three times (1999, 2001 and 2003) while Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernychev won the title the two in between years.

That pattern should continue with the Canadian champions, Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon taking the lead in a five to four decision over the new U.S. Champions, Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto, in the Yankee Polka.

This compulsory was invented by Judy Schwomeyer & James Sladky, with their coach, Ron Ludington, for their original set pattern dance for the 1970 season.  The season when they would have been World Champions if British judge Mollie Phillips had not voted against them in a 5-4 decision that gave Ludmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov their first title.

It fitted their physique, Sladky tall and Schwomeyer short. The momentum they created with the whipping turns as she spun around him meant the dance had to be modified when it was accepted as a compulsory.  It is the only compulsory accepted into the ISU schedule of dances that was devised by Americans.

Belbin & Agosto drew to skate last and they brought a freshness to the dance. Their costumes – with Agosto in light tan pants and suspenders and Belbin in an adaption of a dress that could be worn by a peasant girl – was easily the most suitable for this exercise. They sped through the two sequences, each with 52 steps in the set one minute four seconds.

Belbin enthused, "We felt pretty good about how we skated. It’s a brand new dance for us. We’ve never skated it before. We just learned the steps in the summer and then had to come back to it right before this competition. Basically, we’ve been training it for one week."

"It’s been difficult with the new judging system and everything we had to prepare for this season, we never had time to focus too much on this dance. So it’s basically brand new and we felt really good about what we did out there. We’re happy to be in the position that we are. It always feels better to me to be the underdogs. I think we did the best we could today."

Her partner added, "I think we feel confident. We’ve been skating really well all season. We’ve been improving our skates throughout the season. So we feel very confident coming here. We’re really looking forward to go on to our Original Dance tomorrow. We love that program. Igor (Shpilband, their coach) did a great job with it. It’s always been a lot of fun to perform."

Belbin & Agosto have won silver medals in this event in 2002 and 2003. Dubreuil & Lauzon also silver in 2000 and were bronze medalists in 2001.

Dubreuil & Lauzon, who finished 10th at the 2003 Worlds to Belbin & Agosto’s 7th, were delighted with their place. She confided, "It was a pretty good dance – first time we’ve performed it in competition. If we skate well (here), it will help us at Worlds. The support of fans and crowds has been great. We’ve been working on the technical side. It’s been a lot of hard work, but we’re seeing the results now."

Lauzon admitted, "We’re always more nervous for the first part of a competition. It’s going well so far. It’s in Canada – we’ve got great support."

About the rivalry between the two neighboring national champions, "They’ve beaten us and we’ve beaten them, so it’s 1 and 1 now."

Their teammates, Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe, who were 12th in the last World Championship, are third, ahead of Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukov.

Gregory said, "It felt really good to skate first. The ice was really great, and the audience (which was fairly sparse as is typical for a compulsory dance competition) was fresh and ready to see the competition. The Polka is a fun dance. There are lots of little steps, high energy. It just gives you a chance to have fun with it and show the audience that you’re having a really good time."

Her husband said, "Now we can watch everyone else. I agree with Melissa. I like the Polka. We performed it very well."

Gregory added, "We’re really confident this time, a lot more confident than we were all season last year. A lot of that is due to our coaching change. We’re really happy with where we are and our skating has improved a lot in the last year. We’re just very happy that everyone has started to notice this.

"We changed (coaches) last year right after Worlds. We’re very happy where we are in Connecticut training with Shae-Lynn (Bourne) and Nikolai (Morozov). It has boosted not only our confidence but our skill level, the way we connect with the audience, the way we connect with each other. Hopefully, it’s just going to keep going up from here."

Bourne and Morozov, who was an international ice dancer not that long ago, are now a couple on and off the ice, and likely to remain coaching together. Their large number of pupils say that their strength is that they are able to partner the skaters on the ice, showing exactly how moves should be performed.

Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell placed eighth in the CD. She said, "It’s an honor (to compete in their first senior ISU championship)." It was her 18th birthday the day before this event began. "The whole team celebrated with me last night at dinner. That was nice. Usually it’s during Nationals."

"The Polka is fun to do. We got to compete it in Japan (at NHK Trophy) so we enjoyed that as well. It was definitely better here, because we had more time to polish it."

Mitchell said, "I think we skated well. It’s very exciting."


Original Dance

Starting Order - Original Dance
  1. Natalie Buck & Trent Nelson-Bond

  2. Danika Bourne & Alexander Pavlov

  3. Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang

  4. Jia Qi & Xu Sun

  5. Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon

  6. Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto

  7. Fang Yang & Chongbo Gao

  8. Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe

  9. Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell

  10. Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto

  11. Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov

  12. Nozomi Watanabe & Akiyuki Kido

  13. Josee Pichee & Pascal Denis



Original Dance Placements
Place Couple Country
1 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto USA
2 Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon CAN
3 Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov USA
4 Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe CAN
5 Nozomi Watanabe & Akiyuki Kido JPN

Fang Yang & Chongbo Gao

7 Josee Pichee & Pascal Denis CAN
8 Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell USA
9 Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto JPN
10 Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang CHN
11 Jia Qi & Xu Sun CHN
12 Natalie Buck & Trent Nelson-Bond AUS
13 Danika Bourne & Alexander Pavlov AUS

Belbin & Agosto

Gregory & Petukhov

Belbin & Agosto took over the lead giving a joyfully energetic showing which would not have looked out of place on the dance floor. They looked less "tight" than they were yesterday in the Polka and really got into their routine, which used Five Months, Two Weeks, Two Days for their opening Jitterbug, Give Me Some Money, Too, for their Blues and Hey Pachuco for their concluding Swing.

He was outfitted in the popular baggy pants of the swing era with a high waist and suspenders. The routine has been finely honed through three Grand Prix events and the final in which they became the first Americans to win a medal (the bronze).

Their marks ranged from two 5.4s for the first set and two 5.6s for the second set up to one 5.9.

Belbin said, "We skated this great at Nationals and it feels good to lay down a strong second performance today. We did the midline well at Nationals and we did it well here. It is our first 5.9."

She was referring to their midline sequence which was their side by side sequence when they sped down the center of the ice from one end to the other in a flurry of twizzles. The other elements the couples were required to perform are two original lifts, an original spin, and a diagonal step sequence in dance hold from corner to corner.

Their lead at this stage meant they received small gold medals which are given out in ISU competition for the combination of compulsory and original (and for the "short" in the other disciplines). They have lost track of how many they have won. "About five or six," Belbin said. "We got a full set, one of each color in our three times at Junior Worlds. But we’re hoping, tomorrow (after the free dance), we get a big gold."

The bottom four from the compulsory drew in their warm-up group and the top nine drew amongst themselves for the other two groups either side of the resurface.

Dubreuil & Lauzon drew to skate immediately after the first group which meant 44 minutes separated their performance from that of their nearest rivals, Belbin & Agosto, making it harder for the judges to compare the two.

However, Dubreuil & Lauzon, who had been in the lead, sealed their fate when, less ten seconds from the end of their snazzy routine, to the upbeat Americano with Why Don’t You Do Right inserted in the middle, he tripped, fell and brought her down.

Though their outfits have received much criticism (particularly hers for its irregular stick out skirt with lots of gauze), their routine, seen in Skate Canada, Trophée Lalique and the Grand Prix final has been praised for its difficulty, no doubt a factor in his trip. It was an ugly sprawl with both ending up flat on the ice.

Their marks reflected the deduction, ranging from one 4.9 up to three 5.3s for the composition and required elements marks and from three 5.3s to two 5.7s for the second set, for presentation.

He shook his head afterwards, "I don’t know what happened. I felt the edge wasn’t right and I was on the wrong edge. We have never fallen in the Original Dance."

She said, "Only a few seconds left – it was a surprise to fall. There was nothing I could do and I had to fall over him. I felt the performance was good and we did all the elements. It is all right. We will move forward."

Gregory & Petukhov overtook Wing & Lowe to advance a place to third despite her momentarily, having to put her foot down on a twizzle. Gregory said, "It was our first ISU medal, so we were pleased.

"We really want to perform well, not only for ourselves, but for our country. I talked about it to other skaters and everybody said the same thing. It’s very nerve wracking at Nationals. Once we go out to other competitions that’s much easier and more relaxed. We can perform with lots of energy," Gregory explained.

Her husband said, "I thought it was better than Nationals. Nationals was a difficult competition for us. I don’t know why. But it feels good now."

They performed to well recognized and loved music, a rock’n’roll to Rock Around the Clock, a blues to Harlem Nocturne and back to rock’n’roll to Great Balls of Fire.

Wing & Lowe dropped to fourth. They performed right before the ice resurfacing and grasped fourth place. They compared their performance here to their showings in their Grand Prix events and Canadians. "We worked on speed since Edmonton," said Wing, "so we had a little more here. Also I made a small error at Canadians. I’m glad I didn’t do that today."

Lowe said, "It felt great this time, even stronger (than at Canadian Nationals). Two good days in a row after such a quick turn around from the competition is good so far. We're very pleased (about taking two ordinals from Dubreuil & Lauzon)."

Galler-Rabinowitz & Mitchell put a good face on things but were obviously very disappointed since they stayed eighth behind three couples they had beaten on the Grand Prix Circuit. In Skate Canada they placed ahead of Piche & Denis, who are currently in seventh place. In the NHK Trophy they beat both Watanabe & Kido of Japan, who lie fifth, and Yang & Gao of China, who are sixth.

Since Skate Canada and the NHK Trophy were marked under the new Code of Points system, their coach, Barett Brown, says she feels that seems geared to reward their difficulty. "This interim system is the pits," she said. "It is really bad because of the anonymous nature hides the judges."

The interim system is being used here in which the judging panel consists of 12 judges. The computer randomly draws nine whose marks will count. The marks of all twelve judges are shown on the electronic scoreboard in numerical order, but the marks of the three officials which the computer does not pick are discarded.


Free Dance

Starting Order - Free Dance
  1. Jia Qi & Xu Sun

  2. Danika Bourne & Alexander Pavlov

  3. Natalie Buck & Trent Nelson-Bond

  4. Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang

  5. Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell

  6. Josee Pichee & Pascal Denis

  7. Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto

  8. Fang Yang & Chongbo Gao

  9. Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon

  10. Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov

  11. Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto

  12. Nozomi Watanabe & Akiyuki Kido

  13. Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe


Free Dance Placements
Place Couple Country
1 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto USA
2 Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon CAN
3 Megan Wing & Aaron Lowe CAN
4 Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov USA
5 Nozomi Watanabe & Akiyuki Kido JPN

Fang Yang & Chongbo Gao

7 Josee Pichee & Pascal Denis CAN
8 Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell USA
9 Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto JPN
10 Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang CHN
11 Natalie Buck & Trent Nelson-Bond AUS
12 Jia Qi & Xu Sun CHN
13 Danika Bourne & Alexander Pavlov AUS

Belbin & Agosto

Dubreuil & Lauzon

Wing & Lowe

Wing & Lowe overtaking Gregory & Petukhov for the bronze was the only change in positions from the standings after the Original.

Belbin & Agosto, who drew to skate their West Side Story routine 11th, won by six judges to three over Dubreuil & Lauzon, who performed to Tango music first after the ice resurface. Neither couple was perfect.

Agosto’s weight was not properly over his left foot on the inside turn in the second twizzle in the required sequence. The mistake resulted in an obvious titter-totter of his weight and could be noticed by even a novice spectator.

Belbin said, "Obviously it wasn’t our strongest performance out there, not focusing only on the bobble, but emotionally, maybe performance-wise we felt like we’ve done better than that. We certainly know what we need to work on. We look forward to going home and working on the speed, and the performance and everything we need for Worlds. We’re happy to have yet another title. Now we have Junior Worlds, Nationals and Four Continents."

Her partner’s normal outgoing, happy manner was more subdued than usual. He said, "It wasn’t my best skate, obviously. It’s something I’ve been trying to work on. Maybe I just go nervous. The twizzle – I think we’re going to try to rework the entrance into that twizzle, maybe have a little bit more speed. I did it well at the National Championships, but I’ve got to do it every time."

By comparison, Lauzon’s error would not have been noticeable to someone who was not familiar with their program. An outsider would have thought it was just an interesting development in his position – going into a traveling kneel in a lift about two thirds into the four minutes. It certainly could not be considered a fall – nothing like their splatter in this routine at Skate Canada.

However, interest in Canada in this sport is so universal, and the routine had been televised several times in this country including Skate Canada and nationals. So everyone knew this was not an intended variation.

Dubreuil said, "Patrice is not used to falling. It’s usually me. So it was harder for him. Better to have a mistake here than at Worlds. But, the skating went well and our confidence is gaining. For me, personally, I enjoyed this skate better than Nationals even though it wasn’t our best."

He said, "It was a pretty good performance, not as good as Nationals. It’s hard to be in the moment when you’re performing, especially both at the same time. Maybe the mistake cost us the title. I don’t know. Probably we’ll never know because we won’t have the exact details."

Wing & Lowe, who were last to skate their free to the bittersweet music from Fellini’s movie, "La Strada", were over the moon with their third place. "We had a really good skate yesterday and today was great," Wing said. "It’s just awesome to have two good performances. We had to fight through all the way. We’re not the bridesmaids this year."

Lowe added, "Megan was probably more on that me. We made a change since Nationals and it really paid off. (They changed the last 30 seconds, which had been criticized as slowing down.) Finally we had out moment in the Kiss & Cry. We visualized and capitalized on it. It’s so good to get out of fourth place."

They overtook Gregory & Petukhov in a five to four split with one of the judge’s giving them a second place.

Gregory & Petukhov performed their flowing free to Bach’s Toccata and Fugue and an Air with great speed, immediately following Dubreuil & Lauzon. She confessed, "It felt good tonight. We were really strong. We had a slight misstep, but otherwise we were very happy with tonight. We were really confident going into it tonight. We’ve both been sick all week, but we’ve just tried to push through it, and we managed."

Watanabe & Kido skated immediately after Belbin & Agosto and suffered by comparison. They interpreted a beat, modern version of Tchaikovsky’s music for the Nutcraker ballet including a section to "The Sugar Plum Fairy" which did not translate well into ice dance. They finished fifth.

In complete contrast to the over dramatic Nakano Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto, who skated immediately before them, Fang Yang & Chongbo Gao, the twice Chinese champions who are receiving polish from Natalia Dubova, provided a refreshingly light touch, to retain their sixth place.

They began with a fun Charleston to the overture from the Broadway show, Chicago, which progressed into All That Jazz, followed by another song from the show, and then went back to All That Jazz. They had an amusing moment when he played the piano substituting her leg in a spiral for the instrument. At the end she playfully punched him in the face.

Josee Piche & Pascal Denis used Rodriguez’s Angel and Devil, which was used so successfully by the French pair, Sarah Abitbol & Stephane Bernadis. However, it was not the same standard. His costume had a circle of flames around his hips which looked too much like a skirt. They stayed seventh.

Denis explained, "It was a different cut and we worked with a theatre teacher. It’s something different playing, playing different roles. In Cup of China we finished fifth beating the couple who are ranked 15th in the world. Today was pretty close to our skate in China. It was definitely better than Nationals where we felt a lot of pressure."

Remaining eighth were Galler-Rabinowitz & Mitchell whose Temptation Tango, with her in a backless vibrant red creation, gained marks for the first set which ranged from two 4.0s up to one 4.5. For the second set they went from 4.2 up to 4.8.

Galler-Rabinowitz said the piece, "speaks a lot to my personality which is very passionate and fiery, so we thought it was a good choice for our first season in seniors to show how much we love to do ice dance."

Mitchell explained, "I felt strong from the beginning to the end. Our goal was to go out, attack the whole thing, and I think we accomplished that). Our focus this year was continually to improve our expression and try to do a little more acting as we skated. The Tango really suits us. We thought it would be a good development to improve this aspect of our skating."

Nakano Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto, in blue, gold and black extremely abbreviated costumes using much flesh colored mesh, chose very intense music from the soundtrack of the movie, "Prince of Egypt" and stayed ninth.

Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang, who were second in this season’s Chinese championships, skated to Push the Limits by Enigma, took tenth place.

Jia Qi & Xu Sun, who are from Changchun but train in Beijing, were dressed in light and dark blue, appropriate for their music The Life Like a Sea. Judging by her action immediately after leaving the ice, taking her boots off and pacing in the kiss and cry area while the marks were read, she has some injury problem. They were tenth in this event in 2002 and 11th this year.

Two Russian coaches who teach in the United States, Natalia Linichuk and Natalia Dubova, faced off with their Australian pupils, respectively Danika Bourne (no relation to Shae-Lynn) & Alexander Pavlov, who have been second in their nationals for the past two years, and Natalia Buck & Trent Nelson-Bond, who have been the champions for the past three years. They finished 12th while Bourne & Pavlov were 13th.


2004 Four Continents Dance Medalists


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