by Alexandra Stevenson
Virtue and Moir Make Short Work of Short Dance
1. SD 73.15 (35.34+37.81) Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir are national treasures in this country. There doesn’t seem to be anyone who doesn’t know them. Of course, winning Olympic gold does that to a victor. It turns a spotlight on that may fade with the years but never goes away. In Saint John, Virtue & Moir are recognized and seen as royalty. Heaven forbid they should ever appear without their smiles and start swearing at everyone. In Virtue & Moir’s case it makes them rather vanilla, - very acceptable and someone you can trust to do their best, but, obviously, looking forward to the days when every step they take is not being analyzed by every Tom, Dick and Jane.
Dressed in black, they performed to Foxtrots sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstong, the classic “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and “I’m in Heaven” with a center section set to a Quickstep to Muskrat Ramble. With two of the five elements being the halves of the Finnstep, devised by Susanna Rakhomo & Petri Kokko for their final 1995 season, when they won the European championship and were runners-up for the world title, these form a critical part of the event.
Virtue & Moir were first entered in this event in 2006, when they placed second. (Readers – do you remember who won that event? Answer at the bottom of this piece.) They won the Skate Canada Grand Prix in 2007, 2009, 2011 and are the defending champions. They were a couple of years they couldn’t enter because of her compartmental shin pain problem. “But,” Moir explained on Friday, “We are, and have been, injury free for a couple of years and have been able to get in solid practice.
“It was very emotional. We talk about this (coming to the end of their competitive careers). It’s about enjoying the journey, the process of going through the seasons. We’re at great moments in our career right now. We’re healthy and strong. We still think we’re young (she’s 24, he’s 26) but we’re not kids anymore. It’s a beautiful sport and we’re really enjoying every moment. This is one of those moments when you’re really enjoying it, where you’re just happy to be where you are. People tell us the future will be different – not necessarily bad – but just very, very different, with other goals and less public attention.”
Virtue & Moir opened the routine in great form, gaining eight out of nine +3s for their first element, the non-touching steps. (One judge gave +2.) The first part of the Finnstep was Level 3 and received just one of the maximum GoEs, +3. The rest of the judges gave +2. The second part was the maximum Level 4, again with every judge but one giving +2, and one +3, who was NOT the same as the official who punched in +3 for the first section. Their nemesis, the Twizzles, were only Level 2 with two -1s, two zeros and three +1s, along with a +2. (There were only eight judges on the panel.) But their spectacular lift was Level 4 with three +3s and the rest +2s.
Moir said, “Tessa and I were very happy with our attack today. In the program, we felt like we carried the character from beginning to end. There were a couple of glitches in there, but we really wanted to come out and skate strongly in our own country and we are looking forward to competing tomorrow.”
Their components ranged from from a low of one 8.75 up to five 9.75.
2. SD 70.35 (35.91+34.44).Kaitlyn Weaver, 24, who was born in Houston, but went to Canada to search, successfully, for a partner in her mid-teens, & Andrew Poje, 26, performed a Quickstep and Foxtrot to lively music from the show, “42nd Street”. They were the only couple to receive Level 4 for both sections of the Finnstep. They ended with a spectacular curve lift which, not only earned the maximum Level 4 from the technical panel, but which gained two +3s, the maximum GoE the judges can give, and the rest of the panel gave +2s. Weaver said, “We skated just like in practice, if not better. To start the season out like that, is very important and provides a building block for the rest of the season. Above all we had fun, and the main point of this program is to entertain.”
3. SD 60.92 (60.92+32.50 -1) Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, USA, who are both 22, opened with both parts of the Finnstep, gaining Level 4 for the first and Level 3 for the second. Their twizzles were Level 4 as was their straight line lift. They concluded with Level 3 non-touching steps. At the very end, Donohue fell. “I have no idea what went wrong. That has never happened to us before.” It was actually quite funny, because he struggled not to go down, and looked exactly like a comic in an ice show pretending to be a beginning skater. “That has NEVER happened to me before,” said a very embarrassed Donohue. They skated to three pieces by the Big Bad Voodoo Daddies, a Quickstep to “Mr. Pinstripe Suit”, a Foxtrot to “The Madest Kind of Love” and a Charleston to “Diga, Diga, Do”.
Hubbell said, “Today wasn’t the best day for us. We made a few mistakes. But we do feel strong and we’ll be able to skate better tomorrow. We’re happy to be in third.” However, they are almost ten points behind second place.
4. SD 59.79 (31.17+29.62 -1) Ekaterina Riazanova, 22, Ilya Tkachenko, who turns 27, on the day after Christmas, are Russians who train partially at the Novi rink and partially in Moscow. They used music from the show “Chicago”, performing a Charleston, Foxtrot and Quickstep, and lie only 1.13 behind the Americans. They lost a point because their lift was not completed in the time allowed.
5. SD 55.91 (26.58+29.33) Nelli Zhiganshina, 26, who was born in Moscow, & Alexander Gazsi, 29, who came into the world in the old Karl Marx Stadt in East Germany (now Chemnitz) got together after he went to Russia looking for a partner in 2005. They teamed up and he stayed in Russia. He eventually decided to bring her to Germany and they now represent that country. Her younger brother is still representing Russia and won the world junior championship in 2012 with Victoria Sinitsina.
6.SD 55.63 (27.66+27.97) Alexandra Stepanova, 18, & Ivan Bukin, 20, are the world junior champions. He is the son of Andrei Bukin who competed for the old Soviet Union, winning world championships and the 1988 Olympic gold medal with Natalia Bestemiamova. They gained Level 4 for their first element, the first part of the Finnstep and for their last element, the straight line lift, but the second part of the Finnstep and their non-touching steps were Level 2. Their twizzles gained Level 3.
7. SD 53.74 (26.17+27.57) Alexandra Paul,22, & Mitchell Islam, 23, who recently won bronze in the German international in Oberstdorf, performed to Gershwin’s “Crazy for You” earning Level 4 for their opening and closing elements, the twizzles and their rotational lift. Their non-touching steps were Level 2. The first part of their Finnstep was Level 3 but the second part was only Level 1.
8. SD 52.03 (25.92+28.11 -2) Charlene Guignard, 24, & Marco Fabbri, 25, who did an enjoyable Charleston to “Money, Money, Money”, a Quickstep to “Cabaret” and a Foxtrot to “Hey, Big Spender, train in both their native country and with Igor Shpilband at the Novi rink. They have been the second ranked ice dance couple in Italy for the past three seasons, and were extremely disappointed to discover that they earned only 2.17 for their lift. Apparently, one of his hands went above his head which made it an illegal element which lost them two full points, plus they were awarded only Level 1 instead of the expected Level 4 for this element. Fabbri said, “We figure we lost at least five points (which would have taken them up at least to fifth).”
U.S. officals serving in this event included Bob Horen, who was the Technical Controller, and Judge Jennifer Mask. The Technical Specialist was Andrzej Dostatni, and Galit Chait-Moracci was his Assistant.
Answer: Marie France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon took gold in the 2006 Skate Canada, which was in Victoria. They won the ice dance silver for Canada at the 2006 & 2007 World championships. Meryl Davis & Charlie White were fourth after being eighth in the initial round!).
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