by Alexandra Stevenson
US Champions Go From Strength to Strength
1.75.70 (37.43+38.27) Meryl Davis & Charlie White, USA, who skated last of the eight couples, by virtue of their international standing, opened their “My Fair Lady” Short Dance with a Foxtrot to a rather shrill vocal of “I Could Have Danced all Night”, followed by a Quickstep to “Get Me to the Church on Time” and back to a Foxtrot. She wore a pink and silver knee-length dress with her hair in a sophisticated bun. He was very handsome in full black tails outfit.
They opened with Level 3 Midline Non-Touching steps which earned three +3s and six +2s from the judging panel. There were three more of the maximum +3 GoE (two from different judges) for their Level 4 twizzles and, again, the rest of the panel punched in +2. Then came the two sequences of the Finnstep. Both received Level 4 but, while the first sequence received unanimous +2s, the second sequence gained a slightly higher GoE because two judges had punched in +3. Their rotational lift was Level 4 with seven +3s and two +2s. Their components ranged from two 10s down to two 9.0s
A smiling White, who will turn 26 on the 24th of this month, explained, “We worked really hard to show off that ballroom feel, and I think we accomplished that. Technically, again, we improved from our last competition, particularly in the Finnstep, which is really important (since it forms two of the required five elements) because it’s a great place to get a lot of points. Overall, I think the program is headed in the right direction.
“We’re really pleased with how we skated today. We put out a good performance but it wasn’t perfect. You know, we feel like we have a lot of room to grow. But, at this point in the season, we feel it’s definitely one of our most solid programs.”
His partner, who was 26 on New Year’s Day, added, “It’s really exciting performing in front of a home crowd. We really haven’t gotten to perform in front of an actual home crowd before. Performing at national championships and Skate America, the crowd is always really nice and supportive, which is so special for us. But this actually being our home crowd is amazing and we can definitely feel the love from the fans. Thank you everybody for coming out.”
They were asked about their studies and laughed. In an Olympic year, expecially in this extremely competitive era when one slight flaw can mean the difference between getting a medal or not, they must keep the main goal in focus. They, and the Shibutanis, laughed at the situation in which it is difficult enough to get enough time for their studies even in a non-Olympic year. (Alex Shibutani revealed he had been turned down for a class, and given the reason, that “in-classroom participation was part of the course, and therefore absence was a reason for failing.” At the time he and his sister were representing the United States in three different contests in successive weeks.
2.69.88 (36.50+33.38) Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte, Italy, train with Igor Shpilband at the Novi rink which is only about thirty miles from this arena. They are the twice Italian champions. They began and finished with Quickstep sections set to “42nd Street” with a central Foxtrot portion to “Lullaby of Broadway”. It was an energetic rendition with her complete with a period hairdo, and a white satin blouse and muted blue, knee-length skirt with white trim which was picked from a very old design. He wore grey pants and a jacket to match her skirt, with a red bow tie. They began with their Synchronized Twizzles, and the two parts of the Finnstep. Then came the Non-Touching Circular Steps and rotational lift, and received the maximum Level 4 for all five items.
She said, “We were happy with the way we skated today. It’s our first competition (of the season) so it’s not always super easy. We were able to stay with each other, and then throughout the whole program, take one thing at a time. We were very happy with the way we skated. Oftentimes you walk out of a competition and are pleasantly surprised. We’ve been working well. We have been working a lot on our technique daily, at least one hour a day reviewing every element. In the Novi rink, we have a lot technical specialists coming to the ice rink and helping us. Today, that showed. It really made a difference in the score. Every point you get is super valuable. You walk out and don’t expect it to be a good score and it’s a pleasant surprise.”
He added, “For our theme this year we really wanted to bring something Italian to the Olympics. We’ve really taken the opportunity to do something lighthearted and fun, make the audience smile. Something from our own culture and we are going to feel very proud. It is the Barber of Seville. We’ve really taken the opportunity to do something lighthearted and fun, make the audience smile, something from our own culture that we are going to feel very proud and we look forward to the Olympics.In the future we want to be more focused on improvement of performance because tonight was definitely not 100 percent just the beginning. But we’re very, very pleased with the scores.”
3.61.26 (30.30+30.96) Maia and her brother, Alex Shibutani, USA, who have competed in three world championships, placing third, eighth and eighth, began with their Level 4 Twizzles to a Foxtrot, “The Best is Yet to Come”, and then executed both parts of the Finnstep, which were both Level 2, to a Quickstep to “For Once in My Life”. Then they went back to a Foxtrot to “Get on That Floor and Dance” for their Midline Non-Touching Steps which were Level 3 and closed with their Level 4 rotational lift. She wore a purple knee length dress with glitter, with a split on the side. It would also have looking stunning on the ballroom floor. He was in a white top with buttons down the front. Their performance was incredible smooth and seemingly effortless even in the very difficult lift.
Maia said, “We were really happy with how we performed today. We thought it was a great start to our season. It’s great to be here in Detroit. We have some technical things we can work on but it was a great performance to start off our year.”
Her brother added, “I think we brought a lot of energy to the ice tonight and this is really our biggest goal when you’re showing off a new program. We feel it’s really important to give people a good feel, especially the judges. We want people to really enjoy themselves, it’s so much fun to skate to. We hope the audience enjoyed it as much as we did.
“I think we really enjoyed it. We felt really comfortable. It can be a little bit stressful but like Luca said, it’s our first competition of the season, so you really want to put out a strong first performance. It’s the first impression. I think knowing that our parents were in the audience - we haven’t lived here our entire lives, we’ve lived here six years so it’s definitely our adopted home, -- so being able to skate here in front of so many friends and people that we’ve grown really close to, makes this very special.”
4.60.71 (30.79+29.92) Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, USA, performed third-up, to music by Big Bad Voodoo Daddies, opening with a Quickstep to “Mr. Pinstripe Suit” in which they executing the two parts of their Finnstep. The first was Level 4 and the second Level 3 and they received the same GoE for both, +0.36.They continued with their synchronized twizzles (Level 4) and a Foxtrot to “The Maddest Kind of Love” in which they did a very difficult straight line lift, which also gained Level 4. They finished with a Charleston to “Diga Diga Do”, during which they ended with their Level 2 Non-Touching Circular Steps. They train at the Detroit SC. She wore a navy blue dress and he a matching waistcoat. In a nice touch, he kissed her hand at the conclusion of the routine.
Hubbell, said, “We are very pleased. It’s early in the season and we put out a strong performance. We showed improvement from Nebelhorn only a few weeks ago. We did make a little mistake in the circle that cost us a few levels but we’re happy to know we get off [the ice] knowing why we didn’t get the level. It’s something easy to fix, just be stronger at the end of the program so we can improve upon our score at Skate Canada.”
5. 54.53 (26.43+28.10) Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov, who represent Azerbaijan, train at the Novi rink. They opened with their Level 2 Midline Non-Touching Steps using a foxtrot to Henri Mancini’s version of the “Pink Panther”. Zlobina was, of course, in a pink dress, with silver, with one bare shoulder and split on both sides of her dress. Sitnikov was in a grey jacket and black pants with a moustache. Then came their Level 3 Twizzles (which received a very slight, -0.07 negative GoE) and the two parts of the Finnstep, set to Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing”. The first part was Level 3 and the second Level 2. They closed with their Rotational Lift, which earned their only Level 4.
6. 54.28 (28.85+25.43) Cathy & her brother, Chris Reed, Japan, train with Galit Chait Moracci in Hackensack, NJ. Their routines were choreographed by Igor Shpilband. She was dressed in a bright red outfit with silver and he was in a silver waistcoat. They opened the ice dance event, beginning and ending with a Quickstep to “Putting on the Ritz”, to which they set their synchronized twizzles (Level 4) and two parts of the Finnstep (both Level 3 but both with negatives, the initial part had -0.36 and the second part -0.21 removed. Then they returned briefly to “Putting on the Ritz” for their Level 4 rotational lift.
7. 54.10 (26.36+27.74) Pernelle Carron & Lloyd Jones represent France although he is Welsh. However, he explained he has had a communication that states that he should get his actual passport in December, well ahead of the Games. They now train with 2001 world champion Barbara Fusar Poli in Milan and with Igor Shpilband at the Novi rink. They skated to two pieces by Cole Porter, a Foxtrot to “De-Lovely” and a Quickstep to “Anything Goes”. They won the French title back in the 2010 season and have been second nationally in the three years since then.
They started with their Non-Touching Circular Steps, for which they received Level 3, and their Level 4 Curve lift. Their Twizzles were Level 3, but both parts of the Finnstep were Level 2. She was dressed in red, he had on blue over a white, elbow length skirt.
8. 53.17 (25.85+27.32) Representing Lithuania, Isabelle Tobias, dressed in a sexy white dress, with blonde hair, played Marilyn Monroe & Deividas Stagniunas, attired in a white tie and tails, her handsome escort, Lithuania, who are trained by Igor Shpilband, presented a Foxtrot and a Quickstep set to Marilyn Monroe singing “A Fine Romance” and “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” They skated second of eight couples, opening with their Level 3 Twizzles followed by both sections of the Finnstep. The first was deemed worthy of the maximum Level 4 but the second was only Level 1. They came Level 2 Midline Non-Touching Steps and they finished on a high note, with their Level 4 rotational lift, with him twirling her in the splits.
It was interesting that no one received a timing deduction. Usually at the beginning of the season, many couples have trouble fitting the necessary requirements into the specified timing. But, with this being the Olympic season, everyone seems to have got past that stage already.
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