by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
The Free Dance at Skate Canada 2019 had a very good level. The top couples showed world class programs, no couple was weak and there were no falls at all.
To the delight of the home crowd and the skaters themselves, Canadians Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier from Scarborough, Ontario, moved up from a close second place after the Rhythm Dance to first place, winning three more points in the free than the Americans and a personal best of 209.01 overall points. When they saw the final result in the Kiss-and-cry-corner, Gilles jumped up and had an outbreak of emotional joy which you seldom see in skating. She hugged her partner and the coach Carol Lane and would have liked to embrace the whole world. After winning eight silver and bronze medals in Grand Prix, they finally took a gold medal.
This medal was well merited and not only due to home advantage. Their program to the romantic song "Both Sides Now“ by Joni Mitchell reveiled very high skating skills, elegant flow and glide from one element to the other. Their levels are high and GOEs of +4 were dominant in the grades of execution. Three elements even had a few +5. Their components had an average of 9.4 with one perfect 10.0 for composition from the Canadian judge. “We’ve worked really hard for this moment“, Gilles explained. “I think we really trusted our training and knew exactly what we needed to do when we came here. We have plenty more to do in the next couple of weeks to keep this streak going.”
World Bronze medalists Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue from the Ice Academy of Montreal dropped from first to second place, winning 206.31 points. Dancing to songs of “A Star Is Born“, all their elements were very good, but GOEs of +3 and not of +4 were in the majority. Therefore they had three technical points less than the Canadians. Their components were around 9.3. With a first place from Skate America and a second in Canada they qualified for their fifth Grand Prix Final in a row. Hubbell said: “I felt there was so much energy in the rink. We skated after Lilah (Fear) and Lewis (Gibson) and the crowd was absolutely crazy. We tried to feed off that and we really enjoyed another successful Skate Canada.”
The just mentioned British team of Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson, who also train in Montreal, moved up a spot, won their first Grand Prix medal and are third with 195.35 points, a peronal best for them. They received a standing ovation for their entertaining Madonna medley with a lot of disco movements to the beat of the music. Their components had an average of 8.8 with several 9.0 and 9.25 for the first time in their lives. Gibson commented: “For us, this is huge, we didn’t expect it. We were really happy that we had two great skates and scored very well.”
The U.S. team of Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker dropped one spot and finished fourth with 194.77 points. Their program to a Flamenco version of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and other music pieces sounds a bit strange and is not the ideal music for them. Their skating skills are excellent but the applause of the public was not strong. Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin from Spain, who train in Moscow, sit on fifth position with 180.64 points. Their levels were mixed, but their components relatively high with an average of 8.4.
Canadian ice dancers Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha, also from the Ice Academy of Montreal, the reigning Junior World Champions, are on sixth place, earning 177.53 points after a free dance to the Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Their levels were better than at their first senior competition which was the Lombardia Trophy in Italy in mid-September. Since then, they have worked a lot on the levels and it was successful. Lagha explained that during the summer they had almost only worked on the approach to senior level movements and steps and only since September they have concentrated on the seniors levels. Caroline Green & Michael Parsons from the Wheaton Academy in Maryland placed seventh with 173.82 points. It is astonishing how quick their progress together is since they have been training together for only half a year. They skated to two pieces of “Woodkid“.
Betina Popova & Sergey Mozgov from Russia are eighth, earning 173.54 points. Their music also was the Bohemian Rhapsody, and they are talented, but they skated a bit sloppy. The second Russian couple of Sofia Evdokimova & Egor Bazin finished on ninth position with 167.39 points. They danced to a new version of Schindler’s list and to “La Terre vue du ciel“ because their idols are Savchenko & Massot who used this second music in their Olympic gold medal program. Haley Sales and Nikolas Wamsteeker from Vancouver in Canada ended up tenth with 164.27 points after a fresh and entertaining, but a bit slow program to “Samson and Delilah
(26 October 2019) The first competition at Skate Canada in Kelowna, British Columbia, was the Rhythm Dance. The level was very good, nobody made any serious mistake and all couples had more than 60 points.
No surprise that Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue from the „Ice Academy of Montreal“ (IAM) the took the lead with 83.21 points. After Skate America they had trained quietly for two days in Vancouver and Donohue cured his bronchitis. Hubbell played again the role of Marilyn Monroe and skated with Donohue to “My Heart Belongs to Daddy“, to “Let‘s Be Bad“ and a quickstep. Their twizzles sequence was good, the midline step sequence excellent (six GOEs of +4) and the Rotational Lift as well. In the Finnstep section they met three of the four key points and therefore this element had a level 3 as well as the Pattern Dance Type Step Sequence. Their components had an average of 9.3.
Hubbell commented: “We were actually pleased to end our Grand Prix (series) for the Rhythm Dance already. We had this experience (of back-to-back Grand Prix events) last season and we kind of knew how to approach it. But, we also were able to stay with friends and really take a couple of days of full mental and physical rest in Vancouver before arriving here. We feel ready and prepared for this competition.”
Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier of Scarborough, Ontario, are on second place with 82.58 points. They skated to a march, a foxtrot and a quickstep from the musical “Mack and Mabel“ from the 1970ies which has almost been forgotten since. Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean had used this music – certainly without vocals – for their free dance of 1982, when they won Worlds for the second time. But since their perfect version, no top couple in the world has ever had the courage to use this music again. All five elements were first class, but their Midline Step Sequence had only a level 2. Their components also were around 9.3.
“The two of us are both very proud of what we did today“, Gilles said. “We’ve trained really hard on the Short Dance (Rhythm Dance) to make a statement. Our first program on the Grand Prix series is usually a tough one, so it was nice to have the home crowd behind us. We felt their energy and we’re excited for tomorrow.“
Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, also from the IAM, sit third, winning 79.52 points. Skating to “Staying Alive“ and “How Deep is Your Love“ by the Bee Gees and another disco song, they began with a good Finnstep Sequence, followed by three good other elements and an excellent twizzle sequence. Their components had an average of 8.7.
Hawayek explained: “Every time we come to Skate Canada, the crowd doesn’t disappoint us and they give us this extra boost of energy. We’re happy with the improvements we’ve made since our senior B events this fall (Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany) and we’re looking forward to continue that in the free dance tomorrow.”
Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson from the Montreal school are currently fourth. They have improved much in the last two years and the 76.67 points were a personal best-ever for them. They skated with high speed to three music pieces of „The Blues Brothers“ and have an entertaining style. The Finnstep Sequence had a level 3, the Midline Step Sequence a level 2, but the twizzle sequence and the lift a level 4. Their components were around 8.4.
Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin from Spain, who train in the Moscow dance school of Alexander Zhulin, are on fifth position, earning 72.77 points. Their Finnstep had a level 2, the Pattern Dance Step Sequence a level 3 for her and a level 2 for him, the twizzle sequence levels 3 and 4, and in the lift they had a level 4, which everybody had.
Betina Popova & Sergey Mozgov from the Russian school of Angelika Krylova are sixth with 71.44 points. They skated to three pieces from “Cabaret“. Twizzles and Finnstep had a level 4, the two step sequences a level 2. Their compoents were around 7.9.
Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha from IAM are the reigning Junior World Champions and moved to seniors this summer, working for three months on their senior approach. Their first senior competition was the Lombardia Trophy in Italy. At Skate Canada International they currently sit on seventh place with 70.50 points. Their levels were higher than in Italy.
Carolina Green & Michael Parsons of Rockville, Maryland, came eighth with 69.00 points. Their Midline Step Sequence was only a level 1, but everything else was good. Sofia Evdokimova & Egor Bazin from Russia placed ninth, earning 67.20 points. The third Canadian dance team of Haley Sales & Nikolas Wamsteeker of Vanvouver ended up tenth with 63.06 points.