Articles, Articles by Barry Mittan

Estonian Dancers Favored for 2007 Junior Worlds

Grethe Grunberg and Kristian Rand

With the top eight dance couples from Junior Worlds expected to leave for seniors, Estonian dancers Grethe Grunberg, 17, and Kristian Rand, who turned 19 in June, hope to reach the podium at the 2007 Junior Worlds in Oberstdorf, Germany. The dancers finished ninth overall in 2006, although they were eighth in each segment. “Our goal was to be in the top ten and we made it,” Grunberg said.

The couple placed third and fourth at their 2005-06 Junior Grand Prix events, the Tallinn Cup and the Sofia Cup. The bronze was the first by an Estonian dance couple at a Junior Grand Prix event. The couple won the gold medal in senior dance in Estonia in 2005 after taking the silver in the previous two seasons.

Both skaters took to the ice when they were five. “My mom was a coach and I stayed with her every day,” Rand said. “I never jumped, just skated. When I was eight, we started skating together.” “My mother liked figure skating and wanted to skate, but she couldn’t,” Grunberg said. “So she took me skating. I started doing dance with Kristian because his mother was also my coach.”

“I’m not opposed to going into figure skating,” she said, “but it’s hard to go the other way. Most people go from figure skating to ice dance. I like dancing because it’s more beautiful. I like skating with Kristian because he’s a good skater and a nice person.” “Grethe’s very nice and smart and pretty,” Rand replied.

The dancers train in Tallinn with Lea Rand, Kristian’s mother and in Michigan with Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva. They train for 4-5 hours a day, five days a week while in the United States but only an hour or two, six days a week in Estonia. They also do ballet and other off ice training.

The dancers first started working with Shpilband in June 2005. “He invited us to come train with him at Junior Worlds last year,” Rand said. “My mother and Igor talked about it and she decided we should go there. Igor is a very good coach. Last year, we were in Michigan from June until September, then we returned to Estonia, but next season we will train mainly in the United States.” “Igor is the best,” Grunberg added. “It’s good for us because there are many good couples there, not like in Estonia.”

Shpilband and Zoueva choreograph the couple’s dances. Their Latin combination original dance included a cha cha to “I Like It Like That” and a rhumba to “Mia”. Their free dance was a Russian folk dance to “Bublitchki”. “Mostly the coaches pick the music,” Rand said. “My mother suggested several different pieces of music for the original dance and Igor found the music for the free dance. I usually like slow and classical music.” “I like music that is very different,” Grunberg said. “It is difficult to find music that is different from the others.” Off ice, they both listen to Estonian music and American radio music.

Grunberg is in tenth grade while Rand is in 12th grade in high school. She likes studying languages and knows English and Russian in addition to Estonian. “I like physical education,” Rand said. “It depends on my mood what other thinks I live, sometimes math, sometimes history.” Both skaters plan to do something in the sports field as a career. He is thinking of either coaching or being a sports psychologist, while she wants to coach.

Off ice, Rand’s passion is soccer. He used to play for his school team, which was first in the city. Now he plays with a club team. “I play forward because I like to score goals,” he said. Grunberg likes to hang out with friends, and watch movies, mainly comedies and scary movies. She also has lots of pets including a dog, a rat and a hamster. She used to have cats and parrots. She also does crafts like sewing, knitting and beading. Other than soccer, Rand also likes to go out with friends and chat on the computer.

In addition to reaching the podium at Junior Worlds, the couple also hopes to be able to compete at Europeans in 2007. They will be competing at least until 2010, maybe 2014. “Every sportsman wants to go to the Olympics,” Rand stated. “If we make it, it will be very nice.”

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