Saturday, 20/1/2018 | : : UTC-8
Skate Today

Skaters Battle Through Injury to Claim Top Spots in Compulsory Dance

The World Figure Skating Championships kicked off today at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Approximately, 213 skaters from 52 ISU member countries are on hand to dazzle Californians with their repetoire of artistic and technical skills.

Three countries will be participating in the event for the first time — Montenegro, Ireland and Brazil. This is the first time the event has been held in Los Angeles. It was last held in the United States in 2003 when it was held in the then called MCI Arena in Washington D.C. The last time it was in California was in 1992 when it was held in Oakland.

The dancers were the first to take the ice and opened the competition with the performance of the compulsory dance.

The compulsory dance for this event is the Paso Doble. The Paso Doble was first performed in 1938 by Reginald B, Wilkie and Daphne B. Walls at Westminster Ice Rink in London. The dance is characterized by strong dramatic movements and precise steps.

2008 European Champions Oksana Domnina, 24, and Maxim Shabalin, 27, charged to the top of the leader board in the compulsory dance with a Paso Doble worth 40.77 points – a new personal best.

“It was good. We maintained the pattern throughout all the three sequences, which is very important,” Shabalin explained of the dance. “If you are off a little bit, you can lose points on the technical mark. I liked this dance, since I was young. It is one of my favorites.”

Their performance which exhibited pencil-like patterns and smooth deep edges was rated number one by the technical panel. The Russians showed little signs of the injury that kept the duo from the World Championships last season. Shabalin who had surgery last spring to repair a meniscus tear in his knee suffered an unfortunate fall during the European Championships in January.

“I’m still continuing my recovery,” he added of the aggravation he sustained at the European Championships which forced their withdrawal from that event. “We started almost immediately to train again after the European Championships, but there were a few moments that we were forced to leave out one practice a week because of the problems with my leg. Thank God we went through the process of preparation. We are in the best shape of the season so far.”

American flags were waving for the return of Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin 24, and Benjamin Agosto, 27, as they return competition here at the World Championships. The Americans withdrew from the Grand Prix Final in December when Agosto injured his back during an early morning free dance practice in Korea. The duo was unable to defend their American title in January and missed the Four Continents Championships in February as well.

“I just think that this is a great dance to start off the competition because our mindset is that we are fighting,” Belbin shared. “We had to fight for months to get through Ben’s injury and to get through last season with the disappointing finish (we had) at Worlds. It’s just been a fight for so long, so we felt that the Paso was the perfect dance for this event.”

The Americans delivered a powerful Paso Doble which Agosto states is one of his favorites because it has attitude. He also describes his black on white compulsory costume as his very favorite. The duo maintained good speed and deep edges throughout which earned them a second place standing with 39.65 points.

“It’s a good way to start out the competition, and now it’s an all-out dogfight,” Agosto stated of their performance. “We felt really confident coming in, and we’re really happy. Practices have felt very strong, and it felt really great out there. I’m ready to keep going.”

Crowd favorites Tessa Virtue, 19, and Scott Moir, 21, looked poised and confident as they took to the ice here in Los Angeles. They displayed drama and intensity to place them steadily in third place with a new personal best score of 39.37 points.

“We were pleased with our performance. We had a ton of fun,” Moir told the press. “Our goal here was to dance and really sell it. What else can you ask for?”

Virtue, who is still recovering from the surgery she had last fall, to treat a repetitive stress injury, looked no worse for wear as she stepped on the ice for their Paso Doble. They missed the entire fall season only returning to competition at the Canadian Championships in January — where they handily claimed their second national title.

The World silver medalists maintained strong unison and characterization throughout the dance. Their ice coverage and soft knees were first rate as was their interpretation of the dance.

“I don’t think it’s the right approach for us to go out there and try to beat everyone,” Moir added of their goal here at the World Championships. “We just want to go out there and do our best.”

Training mates of Virtue and Moir, Meryl Davis, 22, and Charlie White, 21, of the United States looked picture perfect in their explosive and sure-footed Paso Doble. They displayed aggression and attacked the dance from start to finish. The Grand Prix bronze medalists exceeded their personal best score with a segment total of 37.73 points and will enter the original dance in fourth place.

“We just wanted to come in and skate beter than we ever have skated before,” Davis said of their expectations. “I think we did that. We really like the Paso Doble. It is an intense dance, and once you get into character it’s a fun dance.”

A win at the Four Continents Championships may give them the added fire to fight for a medal in their third try at the World Championships.

“It’s just a matter of training,” White said of the getting into character. “Just like any element, you practice it. You can do the dance when you practice it. You just practice it every day. We’re shooting for a top three placement, although we generally stay away from thinking about placement. We know that if we do the best we can — the competition (results) will just happen.”

Jana Khokhlova , 23, and Sergei Novitski, 27, were the first of the top contenders to perform today’s Paso Doble. They lit up ice with a dramatic presentation of the dance. They exhibited well-matched lines and maintained good intensity. They ended the compulsory dance in fifth place with 37.34 points.

“We have mixed feelings,” Khokhlova said after the Paso Doble. “We were very focused, maybe too much. We were watching the practices of the others, and we know it won’t be easy. Being European Champions is an additional responsibility. Everyone is looking at us in a different way,” Khokhlova added. And now we need to think of some more interesting moves and elements even in the compulsory dance like we did in the beginning and at the end of the dance.”

2009 European silver medalists Federica Faiella, 24, and Massimo Scali, 29, exhibited a crowd pleasing performance that featured great expression and nice edge quality. They managed a sixth place finish with a season’s best score of 36.30 points.

“We felt great coming into this competition. We had a great month after Europeans of practice to change a few things and improve,” Scali explained. “I think today we did a really good job. It was powerful and concise. “

Skating last Nathalie Pechalat, 25, and Fabian Bourzat, 28, looked flamboyant in their interpretation of the Paso Doble which garnered a new personal best score of 36.54 points. The French National Champions currently sit in seventh place.

“I think it was a good performance over Skate Canada (earlier in the season.) This Paso was well done, very dynamic,” Pechalat summed up of their performance. “We chose more of the Spanish style, and we worked with the same choreographer who did our Flamenco (original dance last season.) We were looking for a more sensual Paso Doble that suits our style of skating — a softer style with more upper body movement. ”

Brother and sister team Sinead Kerr, 30, and John Kerr, 28, broke the top ten at the World Championships last season when they placed eighth last season in Gothenburg. Now the Brits have loftier goals and are hoping to move up this season as well. They have been steadily moving up the standings since their debut back in 2004. They are currently in eighth place with a personal best score in the compulsory dance of 35.30 points.

“I don’t think I’ll ever feel the nerves that I felt during the free dance at Europeans,” Sinead said of their bronze medal performance at the European Championships in January. “So coming into this event I don’t think I’ll be that nervous. I don’t think we’re quite yet within the medal zone so we can relax a bit.”

Two-time French silver medalists Pernelle Carron, 22, and Matthieu Jost, 26, makes their World Championshipship debut and are in ninth place after showing a expressive Paso Doble that earned the duo a new personal best score of 34.39 points.

“We felt good out there in the Paso Doble,” Carron told the media. “We’ve been practicing in a North American sized rink, which really helped us.”

Jost added: “We’ve prepared very well the past ten days, and we refined our expression and everything else. Our technical score was excellent and the component score was quite good as well. We are very disappointed our training mates (and World Champions) Isabelle (Delobel) and Olivier (Schoenfelder) are missing this event. It will be very hard to qualify three spots for the Olympics, but together with Nathalie (Pechalat) and Fabian (Bourzat) we’ll try our best to do it.”

Vanessa Crone, 18, and Paul Poirier,17, Canada’s second ranked team proved once again that they are a team to watch for the future when they rounded out the top ten in the compulsories with 33.33 points.

“The dance is a ton of fun. It suits our personalities,” Crone said of the Paso Doble. “We worked really hard on our expression, because in our Grand Prix, our marks were higher for technical than for presentation, and today it was the opposite. That helped us feel better about what we have done over the past couple of weeks. “

2008 World Junior Champions Emily Samuelson, 18, and Evan Bates, 20, currently are in thirteenth spot with a compulsory score of 32.51 points. The Americans were not disappointed as their strong suits are clearly the original and free dance segments of an event.

“This is only the second time we competed the Paso,” Samuelson said after their performance. “We just performed it like we did in practice. That’s the most important thing, to learn how to compete. We are mainly here for the experience. We want people to enjoy our skating “

The dance event continues on Wednesday with the Original Dance.

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