2007 Skate Canada
By Lynn Rutherford
Roll Out the Barrels
Rising stars Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir took a 4.05-point lead at Skate Canada with their Yankee Polka, even though the quick-stepping dance is far from their favorite.
"It went well; we’re happy with it," Moir said. "And as always after the compulsories, we’re happy to get on to the next event.
"Every compulsory is different, but for us, (the Polka) is not one of our best. We had to find a way to show we like it and build on that. For sure, we (prefer) the Austrian Waltz and definitely the OD and free dance."
Competing the dance for the first time, the Canadian silver medalists -- who placed sixth in a stunning Worlds debut last season -- skated with speed and precision, although they stumbled a bit on their closing pose when Moir pulled Virtue around too quickly.
"I got a little too excited; I was already thinking about the OD tomorrow," he said, tongue-in-cheek. "Sometimes I have to contain all of the excitement out there and not go too crazy."
Virtue & Moir, who train in Canton, MI under Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva, said they were on track for another strong season after debuting at sixth at their first Worlds last winter.
"Since National Team Camp we’ve been healthy, training well and on course for Skate Canada and the rest of the season," Moir said.
"We know there will be more pressure on us, but we’re ready to compete," Virtue added. "We’re pretty sad Dubreuil & Lauzon are not competing this year. We had a great time traveling with them last season to Worlds. They’re great role models and we’ll miss them a lot."
The couple earned 36.25 points (TES 18.78 + PCS 17.47).
"In the Yankee Polka, you’re trying for consistent speed throughout, but you’ve got to be on top of the timing," 1988 Olympic bronze medalist Tracey Wilson said. "If you ride your edges too long, you won’t be on time for the next thing. You’ve got to be on the beat, and look like you’re skating and driving on your edges, not just stepping."
Italians Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte’s Polka fit Wilson’s description to a tee, with especially good expression. They earned 32.23 points (TES 17.11 + PCS 15.12) for second place.
"It is so much a surprise to be in second place; it is a very interesting result," Lanotte said. "We felt very strong on the ice and skated very well, but not perfect. We worked hard and we are happy with the result.
"We don’t like the dance so much but we understand how to make it very good. With our coach (Roberto Pelizzola), we think we did a very good interpretation."
"(The Polka) is enjoyable to watch, but not to do," Cappellini added. "Especially in the morning when you’re not feeling so bright and happy. Today, we weren’t as fast as usual, but it was okay with no mistakes."
The Italians sported elegant black costumes more fitted to a ballroom than a barnyard.
"We wanted our costumes to be more classic, not so much the Yankee," Lanotte explained.
U.S. silver medalists Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov performed a clean Polka that lacked the vibrancy of the top two couples’. They placed third with 32.03 points (TES 16.82+ PCS 15.21).
"We like the polka a lot; it’s a fun dance with a lot of energy," Gregory said. "We can’t say anything about the marks; we just have to skate and be happy."
The couple, who began training with Priscilla Hill this summer, recently changed rinks from the Pond Ice Arena in Newark, Delaware to the Wilmington Ice Arena, famous as the training site of 1984 Olympic silver medalists Kitty & Peter Carruthers. Hill said new ownership at the Pond decided to reduce the facility’s commitment to figure skating in favor of ice hockey.
"Wilmington is great; they’re very nice to us there," Gregory said. "The management is supportive and it’s a very nice club."
French bronze medalists Pernelle Carron & Mathieu Jost performed an impressive Polka marked by deep edges, especially on the turns. They placed fourth with 28.27 points.
Russians Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov, who finished eighth at the ’07 Russian Nationals, were a surprisingly strong fifth with 26.75 points. Competing in their first senior Grand Prix, World junior champions Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev of Russia stumbled twice, and ended up in sixth place with 25.72 points.
Canadians Allie Hann-McCurdy & Michael Corena sit in seventh place with 25.51 points.
"I like (the Polka); it’s fun and high energy," Corena said. "It’s interesting to do it on a North American rink, because if you run out of room there’s no going back."
"The Yankee Polka is also at (’08 Canadian) Nationals, and we’re also doing the folk dance OD, so our skating this year reflects our personalities," McCurdy added. "I think we’re usually pretty happy and upbeat."
The couple’s coach, Victor Kraatz, who trains them in Vancouver, said Hann-McCurdy & Corena’s fourth-place finish at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf got them the invitation to Skate America.
"We had to go to Oberstdorf and create some positive buzz," Kraatz said. "We got some positive feedback, and we beat the other Canadian team there (Mylene Girard & Liam Dougherty), so we were selected to come."
Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, the World junior bronze medalists who placed third at the ’07 Canadian Nationals, were eighth with 25.07 points.
"We’ve been working on everything," Poje said. "Last year was such a whirlwind; we got together and then it was go, go, go. This summer we finally worked on our basic skills, and on bringing a different look to the ice."
"(The Polka) is definitely a good dance for us," Weaver added. "It’s quick and a bit difficult but we’ve definitely gotten used to it. It’s really fun; we like it a lot."
Reigning German champions Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi, who train in Zhiganshina’s hometown of Moscow, were ninth with 24.44 points. German siblings Carolina & Daniel Hermann, who live and train in Dortmund, were 10th with 22.46.
Canadians Rule with Gypsy OD
Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir ignited their home-country crowd with a spectacular original dance to "Dark Eyes," the romantic Russian gypsy melody.
The program had it all in abundance – entertainment value, difficulty, and smooth execution. Both skaters, particularly Moir, played their characters with gusto.
All of Virtue & Moir’s elements, except the twizzles, gained Level 4; the twizzles were graded Level 3.
"I don’t know why the twizzles (were Level 3)," one of the couple’s coaches, Marina Zoueva, said. "Maybe it was that their arms were not held high enough."
Virtue hit a diagonal split position in the opening combination spin, and a difficult flip-up entrance into an upside-down position in their curve lift. Their step sequences came off without a glitch; there was not a single negative GOE, and their circular steps gained an astounding 9.2 points. The couple closed the program with an exciting rotational lift.
"There are a lot of possibilities for improvement; for example, the rotational lift can be stronger," Zoueva said. "If they can get over 9 points on the circle steps, they can get more points on other elements."
With the retirement of long-time Canadian champions Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon, the couple competed as Canada’s top team for the first time. They debuted in an astounding sixth place at their first Worlds earlier this year.
"Since National Team Camp (in Vancouver) this September we’ve been healthy, training well, and on course for the season," Moir said.
"We know there will be more pressure on us, but we’re ready to compete," Virtue added.
Regarding their OD, Moir said, "I think we really went back to the drawing board. We tried to add more power and be faster on the ice. We’re also doing a little bit harder elements than last year."
Originally, Zoueva and Igor Shpilband, who train Virtue & Moir in Canton, MI, had choreographed the OD with Virtue waving a scarf.
"Since National Team Camp, we’ve been back and forth so many times, with and without the scarf," Virtue said. "We really had to adapt the program."
"The scarf might make a comeback; we might surprise you with it later this year," Moir added.
The Canadian silver medalists earned 61.20 points for the OD (TES 33 + PCS 28.20), outpacing the field by more than six points. They took first place overall with 97.45 points, more than ten points ahead of the second-place couple.
Italian silver medalists Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte, who placed a strong second in the Yankee Polka, took second in the OD with a colorful, fast-paced Serbian folk dance punctuated by the vivacious Cappellini’s flying black hair. Like the Canadians, five of their six elements gained Level 4; their opening spin was Level 3.
The couple had unison trouble on their twizzles (-.40 GOE), but closed their OD with a flourish with their straight-line lift sequing quickly into their rotational lift.
"We can still improve this dance a lot but overall we are pleased, because we had no big mistakes," Cappellini said. "It is really a tricky (dance) and we just need to practice it over and over."
The Italians earned 53.90 points for the segment (TES 29.30 + PCS 24.30). They held second place with 86.13 points.
French bronze medalists Pernelle Carron & Mathieu Jost were crowd favorites with their charming Quebec folk dance to a popular traditional song ("Degeneration"); the audience clapped along from the very first beat.
Their mid-line steps were a bit slow (-.40 GOE), but their remaining elements flowed well and the dance, a unique mixture of Scottish, Irish and French jigs, had a charm all its own.
"At first we listened to our national (French) music, but we didn’t find such good orchestrations that gave us the same energy (as "Degeneration")," Carron said.
"We want to fight with Pechalat & Bourzat for France’s (second spot) on the World team, and they medaled at Skate America last week, so we must medal here."
The couple, who train in Lyon in Muriel Boucher-Zazoui’s school, worked with World silver medalists Dubreiul & Lauzon on their costumes and to help perfect their steps.
The French couple scored 52.43 points for their OD, and have 80.70 points total.
Russians Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev climbed from sixth place in the Yankee Polka to fourth in the OD with a speedy, exuberant rendition of the traditional Russian Kalinka.
They opened with a Level 4 combination spin in excellent close, low positions (+.60 GOE). They had a misstep on their Level 4 mid-line steps but ended with strong Level 4 twizzles (+.20 GOE). Their straight-line lift was also done in low positions, and they ended with a rotational lift with Bobrova wrapped tightly around one of Soloviev’s arms.
The Russians gained 49.53 points for their OD and sit fifth with 75.25.
U.S. silver medalists Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov placed a disappointing fifth with their Irish jig to music from "Lord of the Dance." The couple, who train under Priscilla Hill at the Wilmington Ice Arena, had small missteps in their step sequences, and although the choreography was polished and punctuated with fast-stepping highlights in killian-type holds, they lacked the speed of the top-placing couples here. In addition, only three of their six elements gained Level 4.
Gregory & Petukhov earned 47.80 points, and are fourth overall with 79.83 points.
Canadians Allie Hann-McCurdy & Michael Coreno, who train in Vancouver under Victor Kraatz and Maikki Uotila Kraatz, were sixth in the OD with their light-hearted OD to "Log Driver’s Waltz" and a Newfoundland jig.
The first half of the program was especially effective, with the rotational lift springing right up out of the opening circular steps. Their straight-line lift nicely punctuated the "jig" portion of the program.
"We can get so caught up in the performance, but you still need the technical elements," Coreno said. "We’re so glad those (TES) scores are higher."
"It’s very encouraging," Hann-McCurdy added. "This was the best OD we’ve ever done. This Skate Canada is a great step for us."
Hann-McCurdy & Coreno earned 47.75 points for their OD, climbing to sixth overall with 73.26.
In an afternoon highlighted by the superb choreography of the final three free dances, young Canadians Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir again served notice that they have come of age.
Performing a sensitive, evocative program to the lilting "Umbrellas of Cherbourg," the ’06 World junior champions mesmerized their Québec City audience. Simply attired, with Virtue in a lovely shade of sky blue, the skaters’ program was similarly uncluttered. Each step and movement melted into the next, carried along by the music.
The couple opened with superb twizzles, followed by a combination curve + rotational lift with an inventive entrance and smooth exit. The step sequences were clean and fast, and Virtue changed positions quickly in an effective rotational lift.
The Canadians earned Level 4’s for all eight elements, and their GOE’s ranged from +.50 for the closing serpentine lift to +1.60 for the diagonal steps. Not a single judge gave them a negative GOE.
Their total segment score, 99.62 (TES 53.30 + PCS 46.32), was more than 12 points ahead of second place. Their overall score, 197.07, outdistanced the field by more than 25 points. More importantly, it compared favorably with the 97.68 points earned by World bronze medalists Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto at Skate America last week.
Virtue & Moir won Skate Canada, their first senior Grand Prix title, with 197.07 points, more than five points higher than Belbin & Agosto’s winning Skate America total.
"This is no surprise to me," Marina Zoueva, who coaches the couple with Igor Shpilband in Canton, Mi., said.
"Last season, they were just behind the Bulgarians (World champions Albena Denkova & Maxim Staviski) in the technical marks. This season, they added more power and now have great lifts. Everything in (both the OD and free) is better quality."
"We took it one element at a time and really enjoyed the performance," Moir said.
Asked how they chose the music, the skater replied, "Marina came to us with it halfway through last season. The program is based right off the movie, which is about very young love. He has to leave to go into the military, and that’s it in a nutshell. It’s a romantic piece and I hope we show the connection and power of the music."
("Umbrellas of Cherbourg," starring Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo, was made in 1964. It was directed by Jacques Demy; the music is by Michel Legrand.)
French bronze medalists Pernelle Carron & Mathieu Jost skated a powerfully romantic yet delicate program to Chopin’s "Nocturne," choreographed by World silver medalists Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon.
Carron & Jost showed gentle, well-crafted Level 4 lifts that flowed evenly across the ice, while still offering unique positions. In the combination lift (straight line + rotational), Jost held Carron on his knees, with Carron in a sideways split. The mid-line steps and spin were judged less difficult, gaining Level 3.
The team placed second in the free with 87.13 points (TES 47.90 + PCS 39.23) and third overall with 171.57.
The "Nocturne" free dance is miles apart from the avant-garde program offered by Carron & Jost’s home country rivals, Natalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat, at Skate America last week. Pechalat & Bourzat’s free skate earned 90.33 points, helping them to the silver medal. The two couples, who both train under Muriel Boucher-Zazoui in Lyon, expect to compete at Europeans this January for their country’s second ice dance spot (behind Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder) at the ’08 Worlds.
"In all my teams I want different styles for their different personalities," Boucher-Zazoui said. "I work in this way. All of (the teams) are very good together; there are no (personality) problems in my school."
"We enjoyed this week a lot," Jost said. "We expected a medal and got it, and are especially happy about being second in the free dance. We started with fourth (in the Yankee Polka) then third (in the OD) and went up. We expect our next competition, Trophée Eric Bompard, to be good as well."
Italian silver medalists Anna Capellini & Luca Lanotte interpreted Guiseppe Verdi’s passionate "La Traviata" with a fire all their own.
After opening with a Level 3 spin including Capellini’s lovely layback, the couple did their Level 4 circular steps as a flowing waltz, looking as if they were on a dance floor. A Level 4 straight-line to rotational lift had Capellini in a unique, upright position, and their Level 3 midline steps had good speed. The program, choreographed by Ludmila Vlasova, ends as the opera does, with Violetta (Capellini) dying in Alfredo’s (Lanotte’s) arms.
The performance suffered in the serpentine lift when Capellini, balancing in a handstand on her partner’s knees, tried to change position but fell out awkwardly. The element dropped the lift to Level 2 and earned a -.80 GOE. Still, the Italian silver medalists placed third in the free with 85.44 points (TES 44.70 + PCS 40.74) and second overall with 171.57.
"The silver medal is a big surprise," Capellini said. "We didn’t come here expecting a medal. After the Yankee Polka, we began to think it possible. The judges turned out to like our programs and they were keen for us."
About the serpentine lift, the vivacious Capellini – who speaks near-perfect English -- said, "This morning in practice our coach (Roberto Pelizzola) said the lift would probably be called (a lower level) because my legs were not at the right angle. We tried to fix it but it turned out worse than before. Sometimes it’s better not to do any last-minute tweaking."
Canadians Allie Hann-McCurdy & Michael Coreno completed their impressive showing here with a classically elegant free dance to Gershwin’s "Rhapsody in Blue."
The couple, coached by Victor & Maikki Uotila Kraatz in Vancouver, showed how far they have come since their Grand Prix debut at ’06 Skate America. Their opening Level 4 rotational lift (+.60 GOE) flowed well, as did their Level 4 twizzle sequence. They had good speed in their Level 3 mid-line steps and closed with well-executed Level 4 spin.
The Canadians earned 78.90 in the free dance, putting them fourth in that segment. They finished fourth overall with 152.16 points.
"Our placement here is a nice surprise," Corena said. "After what happened at (’06 Canadian) Nationals (they placed eighth), we discussed our strengths and weaknesses. We focused on (improving) speed, power and edges. That’s what brought up our technical marks."
Hann-McCurdy & Corena got their free program, created by their coaches, just two weeks before the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, where they placed fourth.
"We’ve had a successful five or six weeks with the new free," Corena said. "(‘Rhapsody in Blue’) was an idea we had before, but never had the chance to skate to. We decided to get a new free after we got home from the Lake Placid (Ice Dance Competition), where we got some feedback our old free (to electronic new age music from Nortec Collective) didn’t suit us."
"I think my wife (Maikki) and I try to push the envelope to create (programs) that look new and different, and maybe their last free dance was too avant-garde," Kraatz admitted. "We wanted to give them the best chance possible with the judges."
Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, disappointing in the OD, had a far better outing with their free dance to "Blues for Klook," familiar music that offered a good showcase for their long, lean lines.
The World junior bronze medalists had good speed and flow through their Level 2 circular steps, although Poje came out of a twizzle section too soon. Their Level 4 combination straight-line/rotational lift had strength and speed, as did their Level 4 spin. Although they meandered a bit on their Level 4 twizzles, their Level 3 mid-line steps were done with good unison and flair.
The couple earned 77.96 points for the segment, gaining fifth place, but finished sixth overall with 148.77. (They were eighth in both the Yankee Polka and the OD.)
"Their step sequences didn’t get rewarded in the way I would have liked," Paul MacIntosh, Weaver & Poje’s coach, said. "I have to study it and find out what edges they may have missed."
Asked about the differing performance quality of the OD and the free, McIntosh responded, "They feel (the free dance) a little bit better than the OD. It was a little more natural for them and had fewer changes made over time than the OD. It’s their first full season on the senior circuit and it’s a big step for them. Both programs will grow nicely."
World Junior champions Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev performed to a modern arrangement of Bach's "Suite in D" and "Toccata and Fugue."
The elegant Bobrova’s sinuous movements and supple back are this couple’s greatest strengths. In the opening Level 4 combination spin, she gained excellent Biellmann and sideways-camel positions, and quickly hit flexible positions in the Level 4 rotational + curve lift as well. Their Level 4 twizzles were a bit off, and missteps in their diagonal step sequence dropped the element to Level 2.
The Russians placed sixth in the free with 76.72 points (TES 42.40 + PCS 34.32) but were fifth overall with 151.97 total.
German siblings Carolina & Daniel Herrmann, elegantly clad in black, skated to a medley of James Bond songs, including Shirley Bassey’s "Diamonds are Forever" and Paul McCartney’s "Live and Let Die." The program had several effective highlights, but they still look quite young on the ice and need time to develop stronger, more secure lifts. They were seventh in the free with 70.65 points and finished the competition in eighth place with 136.11.
German champions Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi performed to a Latin-tinged selection from Aznavour’s "La Boheme."
The Moscow-born Zhiganshina -- like Bobrova a tall, balletic skater in the classic Russian ice dance tradition – was a bit stronger than her partner, especially in the twizzles and step sequences. The couple tripped in their circular steps, losing speed and timing, but closed with a nice rotational lift. They were eighth in the free dance with 69.62 points and seventh overall with 140.64.
Russians Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov, who had a disastrous OD (Sitnikov sat down during the straight-line lift, bringing his partner down with him), were relatively clean in their free dance to "Pirates of the Caribbean," although Sitnikov had trouble with one of the twizzle sequences. They earned 68.91 points for 132.05 total and 12th place.
U.S. ice dance silver medalists Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov, fourth going in to the free dance, were forced to withdraw after a frightening accident in the final minute of the free dance warm-up. Practicing a rotational lift, the couple’s grips slipped and both skaters were flung on to the ice. Petukhov slid into the boards and got up shakily; Gregory lay prone.
Emergency personnel quickly stabilized Gregory’s neck and back. She was put on to a board and carried off the ice into a waiting ambulance. Petukhov, her husband and partner, accompanied her to nearby L'Enfant-Jésus Hospital, as did the couple’s coach, Priscilla Hill, and several U.S. Skating officials. Gregory was tested, treated and released later that day.
2007 Skate Canada Dance Medalists
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