Dancing in Lake Placid

By Lynn Rutherford

The stakes are high at this year’s Lake Placid Ice Dance Competition, taking place August 2-6 at Lake Placid’s Olympic Center.

Senior teams who impress U.S. Skating officials may gain an international assignment -- maybe even a spot at Skate America this October – as well as a leg up in what promises to be intense competition for one of the three U.S. ice dance slots at the 2006 Olympics. For junior couples, several Grand Prix assignments are up for grabs. And, since all of the junior and senior events (as well as the novice free dance) will be scored under the new ISU judging system ("NJS"), competitors and coaches will have the opportunity to test programs before their next event.

With nearly 380 mostly American participants, an increase of more than 45 over last year, the competition is testament to the growing strength of U.S. ice dance. One notable European couple expected to compete, former World bronze medallists Margarita Drobiazko & Povilas Vanagas of Lithuania, withdrew just days before their scheduled free dance. The returning husband-and-wife team now must compete at October’s Karl Schafer Memorial in Vienna without the benefit of any NJS experience. (The Vienna competition will determine which countries gain the five unassigned ice-dance berths for the upcoming Olympics.)

Notable Seniors

Even without the Lithuanians, there is an exceptionally deep senior field. Many are expected to challenge for the podium at the 2006 U.S. Championships in St. Louis next January.

Loren Galler-Rabinowitz & David Mitchell: Lake Placid marks the return to competition for the 2004 U.S. National bronze medallists, who were forced to withdraw from last year’s U.S. Nationals due to Mitchell’s shoulder injury. The couple, who are coached by Natalya Dubova in Stamford, Connecticut and Lake Placid, worked with 2002 Olympic champion Marina Anissina in Spain this summer to choreograph their original dance.

Kendra Goodwin & Chris Obzansky: This couple skated together from 2000-2003, placing eighth at the 2003 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships, their first and only showing on the senior level. Shortly after, Obzansky departed for a two-year Mormon mission to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. (In Obzansky’s absence, Goodwin teamed with Brent Bommentre, placing fourth at the 2004 U.S. Championships and sixth at the 2005 U.S. Championships.) When Obzansky returned to the U.S. this April, he and Goodwin decided to give their partnership another try. The couple now train at the Sport-O-Rama complex in Monsey, N.Y under Inese Bucevica, a four-time Latvian ice dancing champion. Five-time U.S. ice dance champ Peter Tchernyshev choreographed their original dance.

Caitlan Mallory & Brent Holdburg: Coached by 1992 Olympic champions Marina Klimova & Sergei Ponomarenko in California, this couple took second place at U.S. Juniors earlier this year. They made an impressive debut in the junior category of this competition last summer. Mallory’s flowing red locks have earned her the moniker of "little Marina."

Lydia Manon & Brandon Forsyth: Manon & Forsyth joined forces unexpectedly this spring, after Manon won the 2005 U.S. bronze medal as well as the 2005 Four Continents bronze with former partner Ryan O’Meara. Forsyth won a U.S. junior silver with former partner Emily Nussear. One of several senior and junior teams coached in Canton, Michigan by Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva.

Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre: Prior to joining forces with Bommentre this spring, Navarro competed with Robert Shmalo from 1998-2003; their highest finish at U.S. Nationals was sixth in 2001. Since then, she has earned a BA from Columbia University and has performed extensively with the Ice Theatre of New York. Bommentre spent the last two years competing with Kendra Goodwin. Navarro & Bommentre train in the Philadelphia area under veteran coach Robbie Kaine.

Trina Pratt & Todd Gilles: Last season, Pratt & Gilles won the U.S. junior dance title and debuted at World Juniors with an eighth-place finish. They have announced that they will compete nationally at the senior level while continuing to pursue the junior circuit internationally. The couple trains in Colorado Springs, Colorado under Patti Gottwein and 1984 Olympic champion Christopher Dean. This fall, they are scheduled to compete at JGP Bratislava and JGP Croatia.

Julia Rey & Philipp Rey: The German-born brother-and-sister team, who are now both U.S. citizens, train under 1980 Olympic champions Natalia Linichuk and Gennadiy Kapanasov in Wilmington, Delaware. They were eighth at the 2005 U.S. Nationals.

Jamie Silverstein & Ryan O'Meara: Silverstein, once thought one of the most promising ice dancers in the U.S., won 1999 Junior Worlds and placed 12th at the 2000 Worlds with previous partner Justin Pekarek. O’Meara placed third at the 2005 U.S. Nationals with previous partner Lydia Manon. Teamed together by Shpilband and Zoueva this spring.

Kate Slattery & Chuen Gun Lee: Coached by former international competitors Igor Yaroshenko and Irina Romanova in Wilmington, Delaware, this couple finished seventh at the 2005 U.S. Nationals. Lee skated internationally for Korea with partner Tae-Hwa Lee from 1996- 2002; the couple competed in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and placed 24th. (Slattery & Lee are ineligible for Turin because the Korean-born Lee is not a U.S. citizen.)

Tiffany Stiegler & Sergei Magerovskiy: Yet another Shpilband/Zoueva team, this elegant couple surprised many with a fourth-place finish at 2005 Nationals. Stiegler – who only passed her gold-level dance tests last fall – previously had a long pairs’ career with her brother Johnny. The Moscow-born Magerovskiy formerly skated with wife Rebecca, with whom he placed ninth at the 2004 U.S. Championships. (Magerovkiy is in the process of obtaining U.S. citizenship.)

Jennifer Wester & Daniil Barantsev: The Russian-born Barantsev, who won the 2000 and 2001 World juniors with former partner Natalia Romaniuta, has skated with his fiancé, Wester, under Nikolai Morozov and Shae-Lyn Bourne in Newington, Connecticut for more than two years. They passed their senior free dance tests this June and are now officially recognized by U.S. Skating. Although they have performed with the Ice Theatre of New York, this is their first competition. (Barantsev is not a U.S. citizen.)

Notable Juniors

While not as deep in talent as the senior category, this year’s junior competition features many new partnerships as well as several successful former novice couples’ first forays into the junior ranks.

Katherine Copely & Patrick Connelly: This team paired up in the summer of 2004 and are coached by Robbie Kaine. They train at the Philadelphia Figure Skating Club and Humane Society in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, as well as the University of Delaware. They placed eighth in juniors at the 2005 U.S. Nationals.

Meryl Davis & Charlie White: Davis & White have recently moved to Canton to train under Shpilband and Zoueva. They won two bronze medals on the Junior Grand Prix circuit last fall, but were forced to withdraw from the 2005 U.S. Nationals due to injury. (In 2004, they captured the U.S. junior silver medal and placed 13th at the 2004 World Juniors.) White also competes in the junior men’s category, recently winning Skate Detroit. The couple is scheduled to compete at JGP Andorra this fall.

Kimmerly Lauten & Augie Hill: This couple, who placed third at the 2005 U.S. Juniors, train under Warren Maxwell, Olivia Maxwell, and Katy Hill in Plano, Texas. Their choreography is by current World bronze medallists Ruslan Goncharov & Elena Grushina of Ukraine. Assigned to this fall’s JGP Canada.

Blade Rosenthal & Calvin Taylor: The 2005 U.S. novice bronze medallists train in Wilmington under Andrew Newbury.

Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates: After skating together for five years, this couple won the 2005 U.S. Novice Championship. They train in Ann Arbor, Michigan under Iouri Tchesnitchenko and Iaroslava Netchaeva. This fall, they are scheduled to compete at JGP Bratislava.

Jane Summersett & Elliott Pennington: After announcing a split early this summer, this couple decided to re-team just two weeks later. They took fifth place at the 2005 U.S. Juniors. Summersett & Pennington train in Marlborough, Massachusetts under Iveta Ice and Dimitri Boundokin.

Kaitlyn Weaver & Charles Clavey: Their competitive highlight is a second-place finish at the 2005 U.S. Novice Championship. They train in Newington under Mathew Gates, Eve Chalom and Elena Grushina. Scheduled for the JGP Andorra this fall.

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