Grand Prix Final

Dance Event

By Sandra Stevenson

Place Couple Country OD FD
1 Tatiana Navka & Roman Kostomarov RUS 1 1
2 Albena Denkova & Maxim Staviyski BUL 3 2
3 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto USA 2 4
4 Elena Grushina & Ruslan Goncharov UKR 4 3
5 Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder FRA 5 5
6 Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon CAN 6 6


Original Dance

Starting Order - Original Dance
  1. Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder
  2. Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon
  3. Elena Grushina & Ruslan Goncharov
  4. Albena Denkova & Maxim Staviyski
  5. Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto
  6. Tatiana Navka & Roman Kostomarov


Original Dance Placements
Place Couple Country
1 Tatiana Navka & Roman Kostomarov RUS
2 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto USA
3 Albena Denkova & Maxim Staviyski BUL
4 Elena Grushina & Ruslan Goncharov UKR
5 Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder FRA
6 Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon CAN

Tatiana Navka & Roman Kostomarov

Isabelle Delobel, 25, and Olivier Schoenfelder, 26, of France qualified with 14 points for their bronze medals at Cup of China and Trophťe Lalique. (They also won the bronze in Skate America, their non-scoring event.)

As audiences saw in these three contests, they have a very good, polished original with a blues sandwiched between two boogie-woogies. However, they had lost luggage problems and that affected them.

Delobel said, "Because our luggage was lost we couldnít skate for three days. If something like this happens to you, you have to stay calm. You have to be able to adapt to whatever the situation is. It happened for the first time to us that the luggage was lost so close to the competition."

Delobelís bag with her skates was found fairly quickly but it wasnít until the eve of the competition that Schoenfelderís showed up. That interruption to their practice showed and they had problems with their second lift. That produced a score of 54.14 and fifth place.

Up next were the French Canadians, Marie-France Dubreuil, 29, and Patrice Lauzon, 28, who qualified with 16 points for their third place in Skate Canada and second in Trophťe Lalique.

They do a Swing to Americano which they interrupt with a Blues to Why Donít You Do Right. Dubreuil's unusual dress with gauze sticking out in an uneven pattern from her dress got some raised eyebrowns. Their score of 53.91 put them in sixth place.

"For us this is the end of one part of the season because this is the last event of the new judging system and we now move on to something else."

The Ukrainians, Elena Grushina, 28, and Ruslan Goncharov, 30, qualified with 18 points with second places in Skate America and NHK (and Cup of China which was their non-scoring event). Their Swing is to Sing, Sing, Sing and they punctuate it with a Blues to Summertime from Porgy and Bess.

Their effort was very competent and they flowed well over the ice but they werenít completely pleased. Grushina said, "We didnít feel so comfortable in a few places during the routine. We could have done better. I feel we skated better at the NHK Trophy in Japan." She had fallen badly the previous Monday and hurt her knee. "It is bothering me a bit but luckily it was a lot better today than yesterday."

They scored 58.24 which put them in fourth place by only 0.02 behind third place.

The ice dancers (and pairs) unlike the singles were divided into two warm-up groups. Albena Denkova, 29, and Maxim Staviyski, 26, from Bulgaria, qualified with 21 points with a win at Trophťe Lalique and a second in Skate Canada.

They performed a blues number by James Brown, Itís a Manís Manís World, and a Swing: Big and Bad by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. However, she was quite ill with the flu and though they started well, in the midline step sequence she did not have enough strength. They looked slow and she trailed him.

Denkova said, "We changed our side by side footwork to make it more evident that it has a higher level. We wanted to make it more difficult. I think all our elements are difficult, but we just cleaned them up a bit."

They received 56.26 with lower technical scores than the Ukrainians but higher Total Program Component marks.

Tanith Belbin, 19, and Ben Agosto, 21, the fresh young Americans, qualified with 21 points by winning Skate America and silver in Cup of Russia. They really performed their original well starting with a Jitterbug to Louis Primaís 5 months, 2 weeks, 2 days; a Blues to Give Me Some Money Too; and a Swing to Hey Pachuco.

If Agosto looked particularly at home in his baggy trousers Zoot suit, itís because he loves Swing. He and his girlfriend are members of a Swing group and they dance to this exuberant music weekly when they can.

Agosto made mistake on a transition and on twizzles on the straight line footwork sequence. "I was determined not to put my free foot down," he explained. "But that meant I went really down in my knee."

They were second 1.55 points ahead of the Bulgarians.

Tatiana Navka, 28, and Roman Kostomarov, 26, qualifed as the top ranked couple with 24 points for wins in Cup of China and Cup of Russia (and in their non-scoring event Skate Canada).

The Russians who live in New Jersey began with a sophisticated, smoothly performed blues to "Ainít No Sunshine When Sheís Gone" which led into the classic Rock Around the Clock.

Navkaís yellow practically backless one-sleeve fringed outfit with not much covering in front was stunning. A fellow ice dancer noted how the coupleís skates run very quietly over the ice, the sign of a good knee action. Navka ended up in a picture worthy split position.

They finished in the lead by a pretty significant 5.37 points.

Navka said, "We expected we will have difficulty (because of the altitude) but it was pretty easy." There were some boos for their high components marks. "We wish the audience will be better tomorrow. We know we are not at home."

Kostomarov, "I thought it was hard. I thought I canít do it, but the music was pushing us. We are very well prepared and in full force, so we skated well. However, we did the last step sequence, the diagonal, really with the last strength we had left. We didnít really change anything in our routine since the Cup of Russia, just the entry into our spin so that itís on one foot."


Free Dance

Starting Order - Free Dance
  1. Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon
  2. Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder
  3. Elena Grushina & Ruslan Goncharov
  4. Albena Denkova & Maxim Staviyski
  5. Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto
  6. Tatiana Navka & Roman Kostomarov


Free Dance Placements
Place Couple Country
1 Tatiana Navka & Roman Kostomarov RUS
2 Albena Denkova & Maxim Staviyski BUL
3 Elena Grushina & Ruslan Goncharov UKR
4 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto USA
5 Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder FRA
6 Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon CAN

All the competitors looked tired. Obviously the 6,200 foot altitude was a problem but it was no doubt exacerbated by the schedule which had them competing well past 11pm for both original and free.

Dubreuil & Lauzon, who were tenth in the 2000, 2002 and 2003 world championships (and eleventh in 2001), are from Montreal but now train in Lyon with Muriel Boucher Zazoui, the guiding factor in Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizeratís Olympic success.

They presented their Tango routine gaining a Total Element score of 36.70 plus a Total Program Component score of 5.64 which gave them a Total Segment score of 92.34 which, added to the score for their original, meant they earned 146.25.

Lauzon said, "It was a pretty good skate except for the last 30 seconds where I felt the altitude and I was pretty tired."

They train alongside the French champions Delobel & Schoenfelder whose best placement in their six appearances in worlds was ninth in 2003. Delobel & Schoenfelder appeared in rather distracting costumes for their "Magic" free which used the music Merlin by Maxime Rodriguez. She had too much bulk in her white knee length skirt and he had too much chiffon in his blouse which kept blowing over his face.

Initially their score for their free Total Elements flashed on the jumbotron scoreboard, which shows a great deal of information, as 32.00 which meant they dropped from fifth to sixth behind the Canadians.

This alerted the technical team that something was wrong. [The team comprised Event Referee Halina Gordon Poltorak, a very experienced international judge from Poland; Technical Controller Ann Shaw, a Canadian who was the principal developer of the ice dance CoP system; Technical Specialist Andrzej Dostatni (a Polish former Olympic and world competitor who now lives in Sun Valley and who is a skating coach) and the Assistant Technical Specialist Sergei Ponomarenko (who with his wife Marina Klimova won the 1992 Olympic ice dance gold and the 1989, í90 and í92 world championships (they now live with their two children "almost six and almost three" in Morgan Hill, CA.)]

"They were puzzled because they knew the couple had seven Level 3 moves and 32.00 Total Element score was too low," Ted Barton explained. (Barton is the man who made the CoP concept an actuality.) It was quickly discovered that the problem was their circular step sequence. A Level 3 had never been awarded in a free dance before. The computer software somehow had been written with a "4" in the program for this move which meant the computer threw out the Level 3 assessment and gave the couple zero points for this move.

That meant they were 6.8 points short. When added to the rest of their scores Delobel & Schoenfelder earned 149.12 which was 2.87 above the Canadians.

The competitors were alerted to the switch a few minutes after the event. Delobel said, "We fought through it and pushed until the end. We didnít skate like this in practice, but overall it was good. I put my foot down on the twizzle, because it was very difficult to keep the balance. To keep it you have to be at your best. We really progressed with our levels. We changed our elements, the spin for example, to achieve a higher level. Itís still a bit fresh."

Grushina & Goncharov, who married in 1995, are the 1999 and 2002 Ukrainian champions who finished fifth in the 2003 Worlds in Washington D.C. They now train with Nikolai Morozov in Newington, CT.

In their free to "Hanging Escape" by Alexander Golshtain, he plays a war weary soldier in Iraq with a uniform that is supposed to be torn and dirty. She is the dove of peace, dressed in white with a skirt that flows below the knee on one side and is made to look like feathers.

She said, "We skated well, without any mistakes, but, of course, we felt that weíre in the mountains. We tried, but we lost speed at the end. My skating boots felt like stones. Overall we felt good about our program. We received good marks and high levels for our elements."

They were third in the free but stayed fourth overall.

Denkova & Staviyski, the first Bulgarians to medal at a World championship (bronze last March) train in Russia at Odintsova, which is outside Moscow. Denkova looked far better than she had in the original. They performed to Handelís Suite No. 4 in D Minor and had difficult moves though some of their lifts were not particularly graceful.

Straviyski, who nearly fell on their ninth move, optional twizzles, said, "I didnít expect the mistake on the twizzle. I had trouble with the first one and then I probably lost my focus. It was a stupid mistake. Usually these twizzles arenít a problem for me. At this point in the program, I didnít feel my legs and arms anymore. The beginning was good. The technique and presentation was right on, but these were difficult conditions."

They were second in the free and rose to second overall.

Belbin & Agosto, the Canadian-US team who hope to depose the five times US champions Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernyshev in January, did not perform their lively West Side Story free to their best ability. However, the duo, who placed seventh in their third world championship last March, won the bronze, the first ice dancers from the US to win a medal in the Grand Prix final.

Belbin said, "It was an honor to win a medal especially with the competition being in the U.S. for the first time and having the crowd really support us."

Agosto said, "The performance was a little rough tonight. It was just one of those programs where things didnít work the way I wanted them to. I think overall we did a really good free dance."

In their Level 2 circular step sequence they slowed down almost to a stop. Agosto said, "The circle has been a problem we have been having over the season losing a lot of speed at the beginning. We have tried to put in so many difficult steps and we have to keep the speed at the beginning and carry it through."

He also made a mistake on their final optional lift. The couple, who train in Michigan with Igor Shpilband, a Russian who is a former world junior ice dance champion and now is an American citizen, was fourth in the free and dropped to third overall only 0.08 points ahead of the Ukrainians and 2.05 behind the Bulgarians.

Navka & Kostomarov, who train in New Jersey, were the clear winners. Their Pink Panther four minute free was smooth, sophisticated and enjoyable and earned 5.69 points ahead of the Bulgarians.

They are the 2003 world bronze medalists and are coached by Navkaís husband Alexander Zhulin. (They have a daughter, born in May 2000.)

Navka said, "We heard our teammates shouting and their support helped us. I didnít think about that we had a comfortable lead going into the free. Iím just competing against myself and not thinking about the marks to be honest. We could skate much better but here are different conditions. Iím happy because I was afraid it would be even harder. It was very hard in practice. Of course this win gives us confidence. Itís always nice to be first and win with a big lead."


2003 Grand Prix Final Dance Medalists


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