Four Continents Championships

Dance Event

by Alexandra Stevenson

All photos Copyright 2006 by George S. Rossano



Country CD OD FD
1 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto USA 1 1 1
2 Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin USA 2 2 2
3 Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir CAN 3 3 3
4 Chantal Lefebvre & Arseni Markov CAN 4 4 4
5 Mylene Girard & Bradley Yeager CAN 6 5 5
6 Jamie Silverstein & Ryan O'Meara USA 5 6 7
7 Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang CHN 9 7 6
8 Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto JPN 7 9 8
9 Laura Munana & Luke Munana MEX 10 8 9
10 Xintong Huang & Xun Zheng CHN 12 10 10
11 Olga Akimova & Alexander Shakalov UZB 8 12 11
12 Natalie Buck & Trent Nelson- Bond AUS 11 11 12
13 Alisa Allapach & Peter Kongkasem THA 13 13 13
14 Maria Borounov & Evgeni Borounov AUS 15 14 15
15 Hye Min Kim & Min Woo Kim KOR 14 15 14


Compulsory Dance

Tango Romantica

Starting Order - Compulsory Dance
  1. Xintong Huang & Xun Zheng

  2. Jamie Silverstein & Ryan O'Meara

  3. Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto

  4. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir

  5. Alisa Allapach & Peter Kongkasem

  6. Olga Akimova & Alexander Shakalov

  7. Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang

  8. Maria Borounov & Evgeni Borounov

  9. Natalie Buck & Trent Nelson- Bond

  10. Hye Min Kim & Min Woo Kim

  11. Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin

  12. Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto

  13. Mylene Girard & Bradley Yeager

  14. Chantal Lefebvre & Arseni Markov

  15. Laura Munana & Luke Munana


Compulsory  Dance Placements
Place Couple Country
1 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto USA
2 Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin USA
3 Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir CAN
4 Chantal Lefebvre & Arseni Markov CAN
5 Jamie Silverstein & Ryan O'Meara USA
6 Mylene Girard & Bradley Yeager CAN
7 Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto JPN
8 Olga Akimova & Alexander Shakalov UZB
9 Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang CHN
10 Laura Munana & Luke Munana MEX
11 Natalie Buck & Trent Nelson- Bond AUS
12 Xintong Huang & Xun Zheng CHN
13 Alisa Allapach & Peter Kongkasem THA
14 Hye Min Kim & Min Woo Kim KOR
15 Maria Borounov & Evgeni Borounov AUS

There were 15 couples from 9 countries. The margin between second and fifth was extremely close – only 1.19 setting up for an exciting fight in the original. As is usual for a compulsory, only die hard fans and relatives turned up but the dance is interested. It was invented by the late Ludmila Pakhomova and her husband Alexander Gorshkov who were the holders of the first Olympic gold in ice dance in 1976. They composed it for the then called original set pattern in which dancers created steps for one sequence of the rink and then completely repeated them a second time as you would in a compulsory. "The steps have changed very little since we did them," said Gorshkov earlier this season.

1. Tanith BELBIN & Benjamin AGOSTO, USA, gave a relaxed showing with a sophisticated and well developed start which just exuded confidence to take the lead by a huge 7.06. Each of the two patterns in this compulsory is divided into four sections which means each of the 12 judges give 8 Grades of Execution (GoE). Of the total 96 marks, almost a quarter, 23, were +2’s, reserved for a great performance, 17 were 0, which means each step was done satisfactorily. The rest, 56, were +1 awarded for a superior showing. No other couple received a +2.

For the three time US champions, it was a chance to try out in competition the third of the three compulsories in the draw for the Olympics which will be made on January 31. They are not leaving for Turin until Feb 7 and will arrive in Italy the next day, two days before the opening ceremony. They had already performed the Ravensburger Waltz in Oberstdorf and at Skate America, and the Yankee Polka in the US Nationals.

Re their performance, Belbin, 21, said, "We enjoy this dance. I think it’s complimentary to our height and leg lines. We look forward to having more time now to work on it in preparation for the Olympics in case it’s selected. We felt this is definitely the best performance of this dance. We did it only one time a few years ago. We had just come up to seniors (for the 2001 season when they finished second) and it was really bad. We could barely handle ourselves on the ice."

Belbin & Agosto were the only champions from last year defending their title. She explained, "Lots of teams feel better staying at home and just taking it easy and building up themselves in training. But, for us, it’s definitely better to come here. Particularly because these are the same international judges who will judge us at the Olympics and Worlds. We want their feedback. We want them to see us. We don’t want to stay hiding. We appreciate this opportunity."

Agosto, who turned 24, ten days prior to the start of this event, said, "We always love coming to this competition. It’s a great opportunity for us to get more practice competing. We always say the best practice is competition. Especially this year, we missed our last Grand Prix (due to his injury). It’s good for us to get back out and just continue competing and to practice and get stronger."

She was wearing the dress she has worn this whole season for her FD. "I’ve got a new free dress," Belbin explained. Watch this space for further details. Of his distinguished looking all black outfit which had stripes, a shirt with elbow length sleeves and a waistcoat, he said, "This outfit has history. It was Jerod Swallow’s when he did their Tango routine in their ’98 free dance. He gave it to me. I loaned it to Josh McGrath (another pupil of Igor Shpilband’s who used it in his and his partner, Siobhan Karam’s free dance for the Canadian championships). He had to Fed Ex it back to me."

2. Morgan MATTHEWS & Maxim ZAVOZIN, USA, are subbing for Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov because Petukhov got the flu. They lie a marginal 0.38 ahead of the Canadians Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir. "It went pretty good," said Matthews, who is only 18. She wore a very suitable but unusual red, black, silver and white outfit with a criss-cross neckline and uneven hemline. "We’re just getting back into training after Nationals. We have a lot to prove." Unlike many of the competitors they had previously competed with this compulsory in the Cup of China.

They were, of course, very disappointed in St. Louis when she made mistakes in both the original and FD which cost them third place and a spot on the Olympic team. "Everyone’s been great. Everyone we talk to just keeps saying, ‘You have to get back on the horse.’" On the same topic, Zavozin, 20, said, "Everyone around us has been very supportive. We helped each other and we got through it. It’s over and done with and we’re just happy to be here."

She believed the problem was related to their mental states. "Usually I’m very easy going. We were almost too focused. We were both in different states of mind. Internally they were different but in terms of chemistry, we did that part well at Nationals."

3. Tessa VIRTUE & Scott MOIR, Canada, in their first season as seniors, were delighted to be in third place. "It’s exciting. It’s a big step for us. It’s a learning experience. We’re definitely trying to observe everything and learn from all the skaters," said Virtue who is 16. Her 18 year old partner said, "We practiced this compulsory quite a bit because we did it at Nationals. We really like it. We realize we still have a lot to learn." They finished second to Matthews and Zavozin in the World Junior Championships in Kitchener in 2005.

She wore a very sophisticated bronze and black outfit that was Tango-y without using the obvious color, red. "I design costumes and I tried to create something different."

4. Their teammates, Chantal LEFEBVRE & Arseni MARKOV, who were fourth behind Virtue & Moir in Canadian nationals, were only 0.13 behind them. "I felt pretty good on the ice," said Lefebvre, 28. "We’re glad to do the Tango. It’s our favorite dance. I like the style of the Tango, the power. "It’s the last competition of the season (for us). We’ve been learning throughout the season with all the new rules. We need to get adjusted. In every competition, we learn a lot. Setting a personal best, that’s very good. We’re ending the season with a very good compulsory. We know we can always do better, but we’re happy not to make any mistakes. We’re still kind of a new team. We need more experience together. We’ve got a lot of experience separately, but we need to put that together now."

Both competed internationally with others. Lefebvre was 2nd in this event and 15th in the world championship with Michel Brunet and later skated with Justin Lanning, a former British champion. Markov, 24, skated with Svetlana Kulikova. They were fourth in the Russian championships in 2003. He had to sit out the following two seasons as his papers were processed to change countries. Markov said, "The Tango is difficult, and that’s what we like. All dances like the Austrian Waltz, Golden Waltz, and the Tango, we like. Everything that’s difficult is good."

5. Only a marginal 0.68 behind Lefebvre & Markov were Jamie SILVERSTEIN & Ryan O'MEARA, the Americans who teamed up less than a year ago and took the gold medal at nationals. Like Matthews and Zavozin, who got -0.26, they received a very small (-0.17) negative GoE for the first section of their second pattern. They skated early and looked fine.

About the dance, O’Meara, who turned 22 on January 5, said, "It was very good, very smooth. We didn’t have so much time to work on it after Nationals, but it came together pretty nice. They’re completely different. The one we did at Nationals was the Polka, which is a lot more upbeat. But I think we relate better to this dance than to the Polka. I think it’s more our style."

O’Meara won the bronze in this competition last year with his former partner, Lydia Manon. She immediately broke up with him after they returned from Korea to skate with her boyfriend. Silverstein, 22, was the 1999 world junior champion with Justin Pekarek but had eating problems and gave up the sport and went to college. When she decided to return, coach Igor Shpilband thought she was joking but when he heard that of the O’Meara-Manon he set up an immediate tryout.

They competed for the first time in Lake Placid in the summer. Silverstein said, "We had to get a ton of compulsories prepared for Lake Placid because we’re a new team. So this is a dress I bought at a store. This is a party dress with stones added." It was a black knee length outfit with a corseted torso which stressed her gorgeous figure. For contrast, she wore a white adornment in her hair on the side of her bun.

6. Mylene GIRARD & Bradley YAEGER, Canada, had a major problem with the second section of the first pattern. They came around the corner and ran out of ice and hit the barrier. They just kept from falling.

They lie 2.68 behind Silverstein & O’Meara. The 21 year old Girard and Yaeger, who was 21 on January 7, are ranked fifth nationally after being seventh the year before.

7. A further 1.52 points behind lie Nakako TSUZUKI & Kenji MIYAMOTO, who have been the second ranked Japanese for the past three years. They are trained in Lyon by Muriel Zazoui. She is 30; he 27. This is their third appearance in this championship. They were ninth in 2004 and eighth in 2005.

8. Olga AKIMOVA & Alexander SHAKALOV, Uzbekistan, are only a sliver, 0.06, behind Tsuzuki & Miyamoto, who were 13th in this event last year and 27th in worlds. The 22 year old Akimova is from Tashkent. Shakalov, 23, is from Dnepropetrovsk, the birth place of Oksana Baiul. He formerly represented Ukraine in international competition.

9. Just 0.21 behind Akimova & Shakalov, are Xiaoyang YU & Chen WANG, China, who are both 19. They have competed in this event three times finishing 11th in 2003 and 2005 and 10th in 2004. They are from Harbin and train both there and in Beijing with coach Hongyan Xi.

10. Only 0.78 behind Yu & Wand are Laura MUNANA & Luke MUNANA, Mexico, a brother, 26, and sister, 24, who live were born in San Jose and train with Sergei Ponomarenko & Marina Klimova in San Jose. In their first season representing Mexico, they finished 9th in this event and 25th in the world championships.

11. Natalie BUCK, 25, & Trent NELSON-BOND, 26, the five time Australian champions from Sydney, who train in Stamford, CT, with Natalia Dubova, are 0.88 behind the Mexicans.

12. Xintong HUANG, who will turn 19 on the day of the original, & Xun ZHENG, who doesn’t turn 19 until August, are the Chinese third ranked couple although the champions appear to have left the sport after failing to make the Olympic team at the secondary qualifying competition in Vienna. They are 1.01 behind the Australians.

13. Alisa ALLAPACH & Peter KONGKASEM are first generation Americans. Both their parents are Thai and they are very excited that their children are representing Thailand. A decision will be made after this competition as to whether they will be sent to the world championships. They are both from the Los Angeles area and spend many hours a day commuting. The 29 year old Kongkasem won silver at intermediate nationals with Kristin Fraser, who, with Igor Lukanin, currently represents Azebajian. He also competed in singles winning a bronze at novice in ’94. "I competed in nine nationals," Kongkasem said, "but then I left the sport for seven years." The 22 year old Allapach explained, "We got together because we are both trained by the same coach. He is a member of the Glacier FSC. The 5’4" Allapach previously partnered Benjaman Westenberger, representing the All Year FSC. They were 10th in the 2004 US junior championships and 11th in seniors in 2005. They are trained by Darlene Gilbert and Suzanne Semanick-Schuman. They lie 2.23 points behind the Chinese.

14. Hye Min KIM & Min Woo KIM have been three time Korean champions and before that were four time runners-up. The 20 year old Hye Min and her 19 year old brother, who are from Seoul but train in Wilmington, Delaware, with Igor Yaroshenko & Irina Romanova, were 15th in this event last year. They are only seven one hundredths of a point behind the Thais.

15. Maria BOROUNOV & Evgeni BOROUNOV are from Perth in the West of Australia, where the 23 year old Maria was born. Her 26 year old husband was born in Moscow and is a former partner of Svetlana Kulikova. They spend their summers in Moscow training with Elena Kustarova and Svetlana Alexeeva. They are the Australian number two couple and are 1.36 behind the Kims.


Original Dance

 Latin Combination

Starting Order - Original Dance
  1. Hye Min Kim & Min Woo Kim

  2. Maria Borounov & Evgeni Borounov

  3. Natalie Buck & Trent Nelson- Bond

  4. Alisa Allapach & Peter Kongkasem

  5. Xintong Huang & Xun Zheng

  6. Chantal Lefebvre & Arseni Markov

  7. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir

  8. Olga Akimova & Alexander Shakalov

  9. Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto

  10. Jamie Silverstein & Ryan O'Meara

  11. Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang

  12. Mylene Girard & Bradley Yeager

  13. Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto

  14. Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin

  15. Laura Munana & Luke Munana


Original Dance Placements
Place Couple Country
1 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto USA
2 Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin USA
3 Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir CAN
4 Chantal Lefebvre & Arseni Markov CAN
5 Mylene Girard & Bradley Yeager CAN
6 Jamie Silverstein & Ryan O'Meara USA
7 Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang CHN
8 Laura Munana & Luke Munana MEX
9 Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto JPN
10 Xintong Huang & Xun Zheng CHN
11 Natalie Buck & Trent Nelson- Bond AUS
12 Olga Akimova & Alexander Shakalov UZB
13 Alisa Allapach & Peter Kongkasem THA
14 Maria Borounov & Evgeni Borounov AUS
15 Hye Min Kim & Min Woo Kim KOR

Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto

Morgan Matthews & Maxim Zavozin

Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir

1. (1, 1) It will come as no surprise to anyone on the planet interested in this sport that Belbin & Agosto that the US’s most successful team in 30 years continued to advance their lead to a practically unbeatable 13.78. Pulsating through Salsa, sizzling through Rhumba and cheekily interpreting Cha Cha, they didn’t put a skate wrong but all was not perfect.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the last six couples were penalized for an extended lift. However, Belbin & Agosto, and Silverstein & O’Meara also were saddled with minus one. Belbin was surprised. "We’ve very careful about counting and our coaches have stopwatches on us all the time. We’ll review the video."

And although they were given 4’s for both parts of the non-touching midline step sequence and the following twizzles, and their curve lift, they were a little puzzled about being given three level three’s. Belbin said, "We were marked up at nationals so we need to week out the problems and hopefully clear everything up so they are all 4’s in the Olympics."

Agosto said, "This original dance is one that we’ve absolutely loved doing all season. I think it is one of my favorite ones we’ve ever done. This afternoon we felt very smooth. We felt calm. We felt together. It was a good performance. I really enjoy the Latin rhythms. They’re so much fun and you can really get into the characters and the passion between the two and I’m Latin, what can I say? I love these rhythms."

2. (2, 2) Matthews & Zavozin chose to do a Cha Cha from the movie, Shall We Dance and the Samba Carapiecho. It is very close with the Canadians breathing down their necks only 0.38 behind. Zavozin said he was delighted to be competing in his first Four Continents. About their most close rivals, he said, "We’ve always been head-to-head in the junior ranks. It’s exciting. It pushes us."

3. (3, 3) Virtue & Moir executed a Rhumba and a mambo and are ahead of their teammates by 3.69. Virtue said, "We love these rhythms. Both Scott and I love to dance off the ice as well, so to be able to incorporate these ballroom rhythms has been a lot of fun for us."

Moir said, "We’re trying to gain as much experience as we can before going to Junior Worlds." They are hoping to win the title in Ljubliana and are looking forward to it with great anticipation although they haven’t been to that city before. "We’ve heard it’s very pretty," said Moir. The compulsory dance was picked at this event. "It’s the Austrian Waltz. We like it," said Virtue, although she agrees it is a challenging exercise.

4. (4, 4) Lefebvre & Markov used the same Samba to open and close, Senorita Sexy by Los Torrerros and a Rhumba You’re My Everything. They now lie a significant 3.69 ahead of Silverstein & O’Meara. Lefebvre explained, "It felt pretty good. I felt it was the best performance of the season, today. So we’re really glad to skate good for the end of the season. We’ve been struggling with this program almost every competition so that was good that there were no bobbles today. We’re skating everything clean and feel more comfortable and play with each other more. (On their plans for the FD) We just want to skate clean and not make any mistakes and go through all the elements and skate with more emotion."

Markov said, "Today was the first day that I really started to realize the altitude. My legs started to ‘phew!’ For me it was the first time to be here and I heard all these rumors like, ‘Oh, it’s so hard.’ Or ‘You’ll need the oxygen masks.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, come on!’ Until today’s warm up, then I was like gasping, but it was fine.’"

5. (5, 6) Silverstein & O’Meara would have been more than 2.51 in front of Girard & Yaeger but her fall on their fourth element, at the beginning of their non touching midline step sequence which goes into their twizzles. Together that is the most important element in this section, and the mistake cost them dearly. She was doing a three turn by herself, went from back to forward with her other foot and weight out to the side. Her toe rake went in to the ice at the side and she fell flat forward. The first part of the move naturally was then downgraded to a Level 1 but they recovered to get a Level 4 on their twizzles. However their GoE was -2.14 and then were given a -1.0 deduction for the fall.

Silverstein said, "When I fall I don’t do it halfway. It was quite the bellyflop. You don’t get points for that though. We’ll go home and train some more and crack the whip, go over the levels and work out what we’ve got to do. We’ll be great in Italy." She didn’t remember the last time she fell in competition, thinking it was probably back when she was skating with Justin Pekarek. "It’s not something I keep a record on. I think it was at a Four Continents."

She is beginning to miss school. "According to my friends classes just started up three days ago. I miss the studies and my friends, but I’m glad I had the courage to come back and test this out. But I’m looking forward to taking just a couple of classes next year.

Her partner put a good slant of the fall. "It felt good up to that point. It happened on the straight line so it’s easier to pick up than if it happened on the diagonal." They interpreted a Salsa Round The World, a Rhumba, Sweet the Sting and a Cha Cha.

6. (6, 5) Girard & Yaeger are 4.18 in front of the Chinese. The swayed through their Rhumba set to the well known Histoire de un Amor by Nina Mouskouri and emoted to a Merengue by Mujer Latina.

7. (9, 7) Xu & Wang, executing a Cha Cha, Rhumba and Samba, advanced up two places overtaking the Ukbeks, who plummeted to 11th and the Japanese, who now lie only a marginal 0.04 behind them.

8. (7, 9) Tsuzuki & Miyamoto’s choice was a samba, Rhumba and Mambo.

9. (10, 8) The Munanas did a fiery Samba to Suenos en Realidad by Ozomatli, a sultry Rhumba to No Sera by Ozomatli, and an energetic Samba to De Una Vez by the Gozando Sonora Carruseles to climb a place and are only 1.00 behind the Japanese, "This music is our heritage," said Luke. "We love to go to the clubs and dance." When asked does she have to stay with her brother in the clubs, his sister smiled and added, "Hey, No! I dance with everyone!"

10. (12, 10) Huang & Zheng used a Cha Cha, Rhumba and Samba to advance. They are now 10th

11. (8, 12) Akimova & Shakalov had a major problem in their Cha Cha, Rhumba and Samba routine on their first move, Non-touching Midline Step Sequence Level 2 and Synchronized Twizzles Level 1. They lost enough marks to allow the Chinese and Mexicans to pull over them.

12. (11, 11) Buck & Nelson-Bond started with a Samba Choo Choo Samba by Ray Davies; progressed to a Rhumba to Melodie Inf by Werner Trauber, and back into another samba, Tengo in Amour by Roy Davies.

13. (13, 13) Allapach & Kongkasem performed a Samba to Techno Cumbia by Selena; a rhumba to Whatever Happens by Michael Jackson and a Cha Cha to Let’s Get Loud by Michael Jackson.

14. (15, 14) The Borounovs performed a rhumba, Beautiful Maria of My Soul by Robert Kraft and Arne Glimcher in the middle sandwiched between Salsa to Sway by Norman Gimbel and Pablo Beltran Ruiz.

15. (14, 15) The Kims are in a very developmental stage of their career. The 12 judges each give a GoE for the five elements required for the original but the straight line lift in the Kim’s Cha Cha, Rhumba and Samba routine was deemed illegal because they had an upside down split position. That meant they were given no marks for it and were penalized minus 2. Their other lift, the rotational, received a deduction because it ran longer than the permitted six seconds. That saddled them with a total -3.0 off their score. Of the sixty GoE’s the judges give collectively for an original, the Kims got only eight non-negative awards. Five of those were for their rotational lift which was a Level 4. This was obviously the only spark of light in their performance but who knows. From such acorns, an oak tree might grow.



Free Dance

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

  2. Olga Akimova & Alexander Shakalov

  3. Alisa Allapach & Peter Kongkasem

  4. Maria Borounov & Evgeni Borounov

  5. Hye Min Kim & Min Woo Kim

  6. Laura Munana & Luke Munana

  7. Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto

  8. Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang

  9. Mylene Girard & Bradley Yeager

  10. Xintong Huang & Xun Zheng

  11. Chantal Lefebvre & Arseni Markov

  12. Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin

  13. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir

  14. Jamie Silverstein & Ryan O'Meara

  15. Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto


Free Dance Placements
Place Couple Country
1 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto USA
2 Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin USA
3 Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir CAN
4 Chantal Lefebvre & Arseni Markov CAN
5 Mylene Girard & Bradley Yeager CAN
6 Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang CHN
7 Jamie Silverstein & Ryan O'Meara USA
8 Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto JPN
9 Laura Munana & Luke Munana MEX
10 Xintong Huang & Xun Zheng CHN
11 Olga Akimova & Alexander Shakalov UZB
12 Natalie Buck & Trent Nelson- Bond AUS
13 Alisa Allapach & Peter Kongkasem THA
14 Hye Min Kim & Min Woo Kim KOR
15 Maria Borounov & Evgeni Borounov AUS

Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto

Morgan Matthews & Maxim Zavozin

Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir

1. (1, 1, 1) Belbin unveiled her new free dress (see photo) created by her mother, Michele. "My mother knows my body so well and she makes such great outfits, that it’s right that I should wear one of hers for the Olympics." It’s a basic red Spanish design reflecting the Flamenco nature of the routine with black including a black fan effect on her right shoulder. It has sleeves but the left shoulder is bare. It’s a V-shaped neck with black on one side going diagonally down to the hem and pink ruffles on the other side. The skirt is knee length but open in the front. Belbin revealed that the creation process for this masterpiece hadn’t entirely been without drama. Initially, Mrs. Belbin used some eye-catching feathers on the shoulder. It was a great idea until the feathers started molting!

Belbin critiqued their routine. "We had mostly level four and a few (two) level threes, but we did eliminate the level twos that we saw earlier in the season. We obviously still have a couple of things to work on, but we’ve definitely upgraded our levels. That’s what we wanted to see here, so we’re very pleased with ourselves. We’ve competed here several times. It seems pretty consistent when the altitude hits us. It always seems to be right in the middle of our free dance! We were happy with the way we kept it together. I think it’s just a good test for us to know under many different circumstances how we’ll react."

The Level 3s were for their fourth move, the combination spin, and for the eighth of their nine moves, the clockwise circular step sequence. Their highest GoE was a +1.29 for their clockwise serpentine steps.

Agosto said they have found, as have most skaters, that they need the input of several competitions to tweak their programs as they do not always get the levels they expect. Different specialists seem to view elements with stricter eyes, or the skaters aren’t emphasizing the steps enough or the positions are being held a fraction of a second too short or too long. It’s a definite learning process for everyone and thrashing out these points in competition essential.

"This was a wonderful opportunity for us to see again what levels we get. It’s a kind of preview of what we might expect at the Olympic Games. Now we will work and try to get even more points."

2. (2, 2, 2) Matthews & Zavozin gave a polished, outgoing showing to music from the soundtrack of the movie Moulin Rouge to finish 3.03 points ahead of Virtue & Moir but a chasm, 18.04, behind Belbin & Agosto. All but the straight line lift and their final move, clockwise circular steps, were Level 4. The lift was a Level 3 and the steps Level 2. All their GoEs were positive with 11 of the 109 GoEs +2.

Matthews said, "We gained a lot of confidence in ourselves. We had a hard time at nationals, but we were really excited to come here because we really didn’t expect to. We found out on Friday we were coming. (They were first substitutes.) It was a change for us just to get back into the swing of things and it was a really good feeling on the ice to finish three clean events." Her always upbeat partner said, "The big thing is we wanted to prove ourselves that Nationals was nothing."

Zavozin was talking about their unfortunate slips in St. Louis that put them fourth, losing the Olympic place to Silverstein & O’Meara. Zavozin was born in Russia but has lived in the United States since he was a pre-teenager. The same rule change that helped Belbin get her US citizenship also applied to Zavozin, who had been about to get his citizenship shortly after the Games. With his US passport in hand, he was eligible to go to Turin and they were named first alternates.

3. (3, 3, 3) Virtue had a slight but noticeable trip towards the beginning while Moir seemed out of place catching her at another. They had a near fall coming out of their final move a rotational Level 3 lift which received -0.50 GoE. Virtue explained, "I think we just weren’t together at that moment. It’s a short of fluke thing. There’s nothing we can do about it now, but it’s something we’ll definitely work on." They still finished 7.69 ahead of Lefebvre & Markov.

Moir said, "We thought it was an average free skate. Obviously, it wasn’t as good as we have been training it. We’re trying to use it as a stepping stone for Junior Worlds. Hopefully we can build on it, learn a couple of things and work hard and this will make us stronger."

They train alongside Belbin & Agosto. Both of them say they are wide-eyed and that the US champions are like a spur in their sides edging them on. Moir said, "We’re trying to soak up what Tanith & Ben and the other good skaters do in competition. We’re learning from the best in the world. It’s great to compete against these guys who are going to the Olympics."

4. (4, 4, 4) Lefebvre & Markov gained 82.37, a personal best, although they said they sagged a bit towards the end because of the altitude. Lefebvre said, "It was really hard to run through it today, plus the elastic on my costume popped off in the middle of the program. But we did almost everything really clean, just at the end we were a little bit tired to go through the footwork. Usually we do double run throughs so usually stamina is not a problem for us. We’ve been skating clean. We’re two wild skaters (which certainly was true of their chaotic, curly hair styles), so it’s hard to keep control of everything, but we’re learning through each competition. We’ve been struggling all season. (They have been around for many years, with other partners, and this long experience has made it, "hard for us to adapt to the new system."

5. (6, 5, 5) Girard & Yaeger, who had to skate in the group prior to the top five, used Janice Joplin’s version of Gershwin’s Summertime. Both parts of their long lift, curve to rotational were Level 4 and five of their other moves also received Level 4. The remaining three were Level 3 including clockwise serpentine steps which received their only negative (-0.29) GoE. They received a 1.0 for an extended lift and finished 9.68 behind Lefebvre

Asked about the problem, Yaeger just smiled and shrugged. He is a very easy going competitor as befits someone who survived a life threatening experience in 2004. He passed out at home and hit his head on the corner of a kitchen counter. He said, in the hospital, "I flat lined for about 13 seconds before they got my heart started again. It puts things in a different perspective. Athletes feel invincible but we’re as vulnerable as anyone else."

6. (5, 6, 7) Silverstein & O’Meara had a problem skate. Performing right before Belbin & Agosto, skating to Nu Tango, he made a mistake on their third element, the forward starting twizzles. They were given Level 3 but with a negative GoE (-0.36). Then, on their fifth move, the backward starting Level 4 twizzles, they got out of synch and received an even greater negative (-0.50). Worse was to come. On the eighth of their nine elements, the clockwise serpentine steps, he fell. The move was given only Level 2 with a -2.14 GoE, plus they got a deduction for the fall of -1.0. That dropped them to sixth overall, 1.61 behind Girard & Yaeger

Silverstein said, "We were thrilled to make the Olympic team and we’re disappointed with how we skated today. But we skated best when it counted and we were under pressure. I can’t wait to go to Italy, pick up some language and meet some really awesome athletes."

O’Meara blamed their sub par showing on the coming down from such a high in St. Louis. "It’s so close after Nationals. We didn’t really plan after Nationals on coming here, so we really only had four days to recuperate and get ready for this competition. I know we can do what we set out to do in Turin. We did it in St. Louis. We did it in Skate America. Everyone has rough performances. Today was ours."

7. (9, 7, 6) Xu & Wang used music from the soundtrack of the movie House of the Flying Daggers by S. Umebayashi, the same as Tsuzuki & Miyamoto who skated right before them. They received 2.0 in deductions for extended lifts. The curve part of their long lift, which was their final element, was a Level 4 and they had six other Level 4s. Their only negative was a -0.43 for their Level 4 forward starting twizzles. Their only non Level 4s were their clockwise serpentine steps and their clockwise circular steps which both received Level 2. (Going clockwise gets a higher base value.) They finished a substantial 6.64 behind Silverstein & O’Meara.

8. (7, 9, 8) Tsuzuki & Miyamoto were given three negative GoE’s - for their Level 4 forward starting twizzles, and for their last two elements, backward starting twizzles level 3, and clockwise circular steps Level 1. They were 5.04 behind Xu & Wang. (The catch phrase of the event was "You rang?" said with an accent.)

9. (10, 8, 9) The Munanas, who were first on after the second warm up, presented an enjoyable Tango Electronica. They had a problem with their clockwise serpentine step sequence which received only a Level 1 and a -0.29 GoE but they got through the other moves. Their highlight was their long lift, a curve to rotational which received Level 4 for both parts and a +0.50 GoE. They also were awarded Level 4 for their forward starting twizzles which got the base value and their spin which was given a slight positive, +0.07. They finished only 1.61 behind the Japanese.

10. (12, 10, 10) Huang & Zheng chose Carmena Burana. Only one element was less than base value and five were Level 4. They were a substantial 7.06 ahead of the Uzbekis but also quite a gap, 5.32, behind the Mexicans.

11. (8, 12, 11) Akimova & Shakalov choose the popular Libertango by A. Piazzolla. Although they received base value or better for four of their moves, they also were deducted 2.0 for going over time on two lifts.

12. (11, 11, 12) Buck & Nelson-Bond, who skated first, used well known classical music including an aria from Madame Butterfly, and a passage from Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet, a very ambitious undertaking. With many couples fading as their four minutes progressed because of the altitude, Buck & Nelson-Bond appeared to grow stronger. Three of their elements received base value or better, the second – a Level 3 curve lift, and their last two. They received their only Level 4 for the last move, a rotational lift which was awarded +0.21 GoE.

13. (13, 13, 13) Allapach & Kongkasem were 3.35 behind Buck & Nelson-Bond but an enormous 17.98 ahead of the Borounovs. The presented an Arabian Nights routine. Their first two elements, a Level 3 stationary lift and a Level 4 Curve lift were good but the remaining seven elements received negative GoEs.

14. (15, 14, 15) The Borounovs used four pieces from the soundtrack of Plunkett and MacLeane by Craig Armstrong, Ball, Business, Hanging & Escape. That sounds exciting but maybe a little too challenging for their skills to interprete. They didn’t fall but all their GoE’s except the Level 3 straight line lift were negative. Their back starting twizzles were Level 4.

15. (14, 15, 14) The Kims used Life Begins Again, Shadowman. There was only 1.29 difference between the Kims and Borounovs.



2006 Four Continents Dance Medalists


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