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2014 Skate Canada: Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje Win First Grand Prix Title

by Tanjana Flade





Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje are World silver medalists and Four Continents Champions (2010) and won multiple medals at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating, but never the gold. Now their turn had come at Skate Canada, their home event. In Canada, the dancers are now the heirs of Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, the most successful ice dancers the country ever had. Their teammates Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier made it one-two for Canadian ice dance at the event when they moved up from fourth place to take the silver medal. The bronze went to Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA).

Weaver & Poje were the clear favourites in the event and took the lead in the Short Dance as expected. Their fierce Paso Doble “La virgin de la Macarena” included excellent twizzles and a strong Paso Doble pattern. They Paso Doble partial step sequence and the twizzles garnered a level four while the side by side footwork, the Paso Doble sequence and the rotational lift were a level three. The World silver medalists scored 68.61 points. “Andrew and I were very excited to debut on the Grand Prix circuit our Paso Doble today. We were a little bit nervous, however, we were able to draw so much energy from the amazing crowd here in Kelowna and we felt right at home”, Weaver said.

The couple has been known for their passionate programs that focus on the relationship between man and woman. This time they chose a different theme with the “Four Seasons” in a modern arrangement by Max Richter. Weaver & Poje delivered a strong performance, but not all elements merited the highest level yet. Two lifts and the spin were graded a level four, the step sequences and twizzles were a level three. The Canadians scored 102.49 points which added up to 171.10 overall. “We skated both programs very well, no perfection yet, but it is still very early in the season. We’re proud of the way we handled the pressure of coming into this competition as the top ranked team”, Weaver said. “We changed a lot since Nebelhorn Trophy, the spin, a lift, transitions, a bunch of nuances in the program that we felt better showcased our strengths”, Poje added.

„Our free dance is called Four Seasons with a twist“, Kaitlyn explained. “The program is very different for us. It’s classical music, it’s beautiful and difficult. I think this program highlights many of our strengths that we haven’t shown previously. We don’t want to be in any way limited. We’re known for our passion and expression. We have to find ourselves in each program. We have to feel there is a little bit of Kaitlyn and Andrew that we bring across and I think we have that in this program”, she pointed out.

Gilles & Poirier started well into their Short Dance with the Paso Doble that was graded a level four and three, but the side by side footwork was graded a level two and then Poirier lost control over the twizzles and put his foot down. The twizzles got only a level one and the Canadians sat in fourth place at 57.35 points. The Four Continents silver medalists fought back in the free dance set to “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and other tunes. They showed innovative lifts and fast paced footwork. The lifts, twizzles and spin were graded a level four and the reigning Four Continents silver medalists picked up a seasons best of 95.25 points. They moved up to second with 152.60 points overall. “Paul and I are really happy with our silver medal. We had a bit of a low in the short, but we came up and ended on a high note. We’re proud of ourselves of being able to accomplish that goal and show our hard work”, Gilles said.

Hubbell & Donohue danced to “Fiesta Flamenca” and “Espana Cani” in the short dance and produced level-four twizzles and a level-three lift and footwork. This program was awarded 59.29 points. Madison was handicapped by injury in the past season and underwent surgery after the Four Continents Championships to repair a torn labrum in her left hip. She suffered a setback during the summer and so the couple lost some training time. “Zach and I were just were excited to skate in competition again. It was a very challenging off season for us. We’ve been doing our best to get prepared. It wasn’t necessarily the performance we were hoping for, but we managed to skate well enough to still be in contention for the podium”, she commented after the Short Dance.

In their free dance set to music from “The Great Gatsby” soundtrack, Hubbell & Donohue showed difficult lifts and twizzles that merited a level four. The footwork was smooth and rated a level three for the circular and a level two for the diagonal step sequence. However, in their final choregraphic move, Donohue lost his balance and fell. “My first thought was that my coach is going to kill me”, he said later with a laugh. Luckily the unnecessary fall did not make a difference in the end and the Four Continents Champions remained in third place with 88.94 points for the free dance and 148.23 points overall. “We did our best today. It was still shaky, things are just coming together for us, for both programs. We’re happy with being on the podium this early in the season. Just getting it done is a huge confidence boost for France (Trophee Bompard)”, Madison said.

Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin of Russia surprisingly finished second in the short dance. Skating to two Flamenco pieces and the classical “Espana Cani” Paso Doble, the 2011 World Junior Champions earned a level four for the rotational lift and a level three for the other elements to score 59.62 points. However, they were not able to hold on that placement in the free dance. The Muscovites did not make any major errors in their “Sarabande” program, but low levels cost them many points: the diagonal footwork was a level one, the circular footwork and the combination spin were a level two. Monko wobbled on the twizzles that were rated a level three. So they slipped to fourth at 143.48 points.

Germany’s Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi were deeply disappointed after the short dance. With what they felt was a seasons best performance they were ranked sixth, mostly because the Technical Panel rated their twizzles a level one. Their free dance to “Swan Lake Reloaded” was well received by the audience and the twizzles (shakier now than in the short dance) garnered a level two. The Germans were ranked fourth in the free dance and moved up to fifth with 140.95 points.

Four Continents bronze medalists Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton looked a little slow especially in their “Gone With the Wind” free dance and finished sixth with 137.37 points.