by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
The ice dance competition at Skate America 2022 had a good, but not extraordinary level. Madison Chock & Evan Bates continue to train in the Montreal ice dance school and hope to become world champions this season after winning a bronze medal last season. In the summer they got engaged and wanted to show their love for each other in their free dance. They won Skate America in a tight competition with 202.80 points. In the Rhythm Dance to a Samba and Rhumba remix of “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie, their twizzles were very fast and had mainly GOEs of +3, but their lift had only level 2. The other elements were excellent and their components around 9.2. Bates commented, “We really liked the Rhythm Dance that we created this summer. We feel it has got loads of potential. This is our first outing and we had a few technical issues, especially in the lift. But it was still a good start and it’s wonderful to be here at Skate America. We don’t take for granted the opportunity to skate in front of a home audience – it doesn't happen too often.”
In their free dance to three music pieces by Quebec musician Jorane, most elements were outstanding. But their step sequences had a relatively low level, he got only a level 1 for his part of the one foot sequence and the Choreographic steps did not get any points. Therefore they had only the second best free dance. Chock said, “Overall we are pleased with how our first competition of the season went. To perform the free dance was a joy. We have a few technical details that need some work - like a missing element – but we’ll put that back in and we’ll be on our way. Overall, it was wonderful. The crowd was amazing and we’re so happy to debut our free dance here in Boston.” At every Skate America since 2009 a U.S. couple won the gold medal, Chock & Bates for the first time since 2015.
Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean Luc Baker, who also train in Montreal, won the silver medal with 202.07 points and were very close to the winners. Dancing to two Sambas and the well-known Rhumba “Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps,” they had five excellent elements which were mainly given level 3. Hawayek commented, “It was such a fun crowd today. It’s really special to be in front of American crowd and we definitely felt the support from everybody else. There were some Japanese fans in the crowd as well. It’s great to see people being able to come and visit competitions again. We checked the protocol and there’s still a lot of room for improvement, so that’s also very optimistic that we can continue to grow the program.”
Their two free program music pieces are the emotional “Requiem” by the Norwegian songwriter Askjell Solstrand and Sofia by a group of Norwegian composers, including Solstrand. Six elements had a level 4 if you count the curve lift combination as two elements. All elements were outstanding and they had a personal best of over 200 personal for the first time internationally. Their components had an average of 8.9. Hawayek explained, “Today we were very aligned, very grounded going into the event. This season we’re stepping into a new place. We’re owning what we’re doing and believing that what we’re doing is good enough to be the best in the world. We were really happy with the response today, not even score-wise, but the atmosphere we were feeling we created when we finished our program. It was a joy to skate here in Norwood.”
Canadian Marie-Jade Lauriault & French Romain Le Gac, who also train in Montreal, competed for France until 2020. They are married with each other, live near Montreal and have competed for Canada since 2021. They won the bronze medal with 178.30 points. Dancing to two Mambos and one Rhumba, their Rhythm Dance had three level 4 elements, but only a level 1 for the midline step sequence. The GOEs were mainly +2. “We were very happy with our performance today and our preparation from our last competition. We did what we do in practice and we enjoyed skating in Boston,” Le Gac said.
Their free dance to the soundtrack of “Pink Panther” had many small, tricky and entertaining elements, which they underlined with their strong facial expression. Their elements had mainly GOEs of +3, but a small lift in their Choreographic steps was judged as a (forbidden) extra element and deducted. Le Gac commented, “It was a life changing experience as we for the first time went into a Grand Prix event with the hope to win a medal. We learned that it’s important to believe.”
Loicia Demougeot & Théo le Mercier from France finished on fourth position with 170.89 points after being seventh in the Rhythm Dance. To move up three spots still is very rare in ice dancing. The students of Karine Arribert danced to Cha Cha, Rhumba and Samba in their Rhythm Dance, but their levels were relatively low. Their free dance however, had better levels except in the step sequences, had a good speed and their presentation was more extraverted. Le Mercier said, “Yesterday’s competition nerves got to us a bit, but it was much better today. We are super happy. This free dance is great for us even though it’s a bit different from everything we skated to before.”
Holly Harris & Jason Chan from Australia, also students of the Ice Academy of Montreal, came as alternates for Reed & Ambrulevicius from Lithuania who could not enter the USA because years ago, Ambrulevicius had stayed in the USA in a summer more than the three months which are allowed as tourists. Therefore he is on a black list of U.S. immigration. The Australians are on fifth place with 170.20 points. They have improved a lot since their 18th place at Worlds in March 2022. Their Rhythm Dance with Samba, Cha Cha and Merengue had good levels and mainly GOEs of +2. In the free dance, the levels were lower and Harris stumbled a bit on the twizzles.
Kana Muramoto & Daisuke Takahashi from Japan are sixth with 169.68 points. Their levels in the Rhythm Dance were relatively low, but the elements very good and the components around 8.0. In the free dance they danced to Webber’s musical “Phantom of the Opera,” with mainly good elements. They got a fall deduction for the Choreo spin movement at the end, although nobody fell, but she just went on her knees for the final pose. When the hurricane came to the area in Florida in which they train with Marina Zueva, their rink in Estero was used as a shelter for hundreds of people and they had to switch to another rink.
Lorraine McNamara & Anton Spiridonov of Alexei Kiliakov’s school in Virginia came seventh with 167.05 points in their first Grand Prix together (excluding Skate America 2020 which was a domestic event due to Covid 19.). Their Rhumba was good, but their lift a bit too long. In their free to “Rain, in Your Black Eyes” they showed good stamina because at the end there was an impressive increase in intensity. Spiridonov said, “We felt the crowd, which was absolutely amazing. It’s electrifying, both yesterday and today, and so knowing that we were able to do two really good skates here, although I think we weren’t looking for these scores – we were hoping to be a little bit higher – but it’s all experience.”
Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus from Scarborough, Ontario, came 8th with 163.65 points. They made no serious mistake and their GOEs were mainly around 1. Jennifer Janse van Rensburg & Benjamin Steffan from Germany finished on ninth place with 160.26 points. In the summer they trained with Igor Shpilband in the USA, like last summer. Their levels were relatively good, but Janse still had some knee pain after an injury she has suffered from after coming back to Germany in the summer. Therefore they did not skate as aggressively as usual. Mariia Holubtsova & Kyryl Bielobrov from the Ukraine ended up tenth with 152.31 points.