Quebec Summer Championships biggest event of the week; news comes out of the Russian test skates.
We are now two weeks out from the opening of the Junior Grand Prix. Another week meant another JGP roster, now for the third event in Latvia. Although they become less reliable now, since the bigger countries will often make changes to their entries at later events. Russia’s started changing entries already, rotating Sofia Shevhcenko & Igor Efremenko out of Austria and onto this roster. They and teammates Anastasia Shpilevaya & Grigory Smirnov head the ice dance field. Roman Savosin heads the men’s field for now, however, while Alisa Fedichkina will try to rebound from last year, but ladies favorite is currently Rika Kihara. This will be the first pairs event, and the field includes the reign World junior gold and silver medalists, Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya & Harley Windsor and Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitrii Kovlovskii.
For those events going on this week, there was a bit of a focus on pairs and dance, especially since the biggest happened in an area of the world where they’re a stronger presence than singles.
Championnats Québécois D’Ete
The first of the Canada’s Summer Series three biggest events, the Championnats Québécois D’Ete, or Quebec Summer Championships, took place this week in Montreal. That city is the location of the world’s current top ice dancing school, with elite pairs also training in the area, and it showed on the rosters.
There were three skaters in the senior men’s field contending for the second Olympic berth, including Elladj Balde, who started his season here. As we’d hoped, by the time Balde was wrapping up his new free program, he had indeed entertained us. But he did make some mistakes, and came in second to Nicolas Nadeau, who bounced back from his Minto disaster. Nadeau’s short was clean, he rocked his old Elvis free, which wasn’t too far off, and he landed three quadruple jumps total, including a quad-triple jump combination. Liam Firus, sadly, followed up a bad debut at Minto with another bad competition, skating a free with four falls. He came in third mostly because no one else in the field was capable of beating him.
For the third week in a row, one senior women dominated the field, as Alaine Chartrand made her second series appearance. This time, she rotated her difficult triple-triple combinations in both programs, which she hadn’t when she’d debuted at Minto. She had a fall and underrotations on some of her free’s other jumps, but it was still a step upward.
The biggest names to participate in the event only skated their short program. Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford came to debut that, and if their elements weren’t smooth, their emotional expression in this program was:
Their withdrawal left Kirsten Moore-Towers & Micheal Marinaro to come from behind against Tae Ok Ryom & Ju Sik Kim, winning with a strong performance of last year’s free. The North Korean team nailed last year’s short, and also still have their costumes from last year’s free. But despite their errors, their new long allowed them to show how their time in Canada has improved them. Neither of those teams could compare to the artistry of Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran. But, as is all too usual for them, the American team’s skating was riddled with errors, which left them a distant third.
The world’s top two ice dance teams may both train in Montreal, but neither was ready to debut. Instead, after a couple of disappointing withdrawals, Spain’s Olivia Smart & Adria Diaz kind of ended up being the top ice dance team left standing. At least their short dance is one is one that works very well, even effortlessly using the required changes of rhythm and mood. Their free dance is even more well done, which is aggravating when it’s such an exercise in sexism.
View full results here.
Perhaps the dance field in Montreal wasn’t what it could’ve been, but down south, there was also the Dance-Pairs Chicago Championships, now in its second year. Information is limited, though ice-dance.com posted a number of scores to Facebook. From them, we learn there were only two senior pairs, but Paige Connors & Evgeni Krasnopolski continue to establish themselves as a team to watch at Nebelhorn.
But there were ice dance teams aplenty here, and ones representing countries worldwide. The only Americans in the senior field were the event’s top stars. Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker started their season here winning both segments and debuting their new short dance, although perhaps their rumbaing to Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” wasn’t the best idea. Not the weirdest thing that day, though, with Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin Latinizing the Pink Panther! Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed’s second place short dance may not be as well skated, but is the better program, and the best of the debuted ones we have footage for:
In the free, of course, Hawayek & Baker had their old program, which is as beautiful as ever. Although Muramoto & Reed didn’t skate that segment, Nazarova & Nikitin provided another second-place program that looks good with its choreography, even if they don’t have their costumes yet. And while one would normally caution ice dance teams against using “Je Suis Malade” to avoid coming off as poor imitations of Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Pojé, third place Angelique Abachkina & Louis Thauron, as well as combining it with a new piece, also bring in her hard-to-match dramaticism.
Over in Japan, another small competition brought news of a program change. Kaori Sakamoto had previously debuted a short to Danse Macabre. But this week she showed up to the Genkai Summer Cup with a new one to Moonlight Sonata. Japanese news has a clip, as well as a report that the debut didn’t go very well.
Canada also provided a number of sneak peeks early in the week, including looks at both the men’s giants who train in Toronto. Yuzuru Hanyu had a full-blown pair of media days. Japanese media took lots of clips and wrote lots of articles, which skating fan gladi produced English coverage of.
The big news is, in a season where so many skaters are going back to old programs, Hanyu’s full-out returning to 2016. We already knew he was reviving his Chopin short from that season, but now he’s going back to the soundtrack of Onmoyji, to skate once again a program about Abe no Semei. He’ll be using a new cut from that soundtrack, though, as well as upping the technical content. He allowed them to film him skating to the music, and there’s plenty of bits of it.
Spanish media, meanwhile, provided final confirmation that Javier Fernandez is indeed skating to Man of La Mancha:
Also using “The Impossible Dream,” which everyone who skates to this music uses. That’s a little more poetic than usual from him.
We got peeks at both of Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue’s programs as well. First one of their choreographers, Samule Chouinard, posted a clip of their short dance to Instagram. Than Donohue followed it up with one of their free dance:
Both programs make good use of their chemistry, the short dance especially.
Julianne Seguin & Charlie Bilodeau were supposed to debut their programs at the Summer Skate, but ended up withdrawing. For now we’ll have to settle for a preview of their short posted earlier in the week, also by Chouinard:
Given how good this looks, one wonders why no top skaters thought to use this music before now.
We also got news from people’s IceNetwork profiles, which was how we first heard what seemed like the craziest music news of the summer, from Adam Rippon’s. He’s another person keeping his free skate, but nobody minds that. After all, it’s one of his best ever programs, and he got too few chances to skate it last season. And now, for his short program, too, he’s using a song he already skating a show program to: “Diamonds” as made famous by Rihanna. But it won’t be her voice accompanying him on competitive ice, or even that of Josef Salvat, who sang the version used in his show program. Instead, it’ll be Adam himself singing!
Everyone wondered, naturally, if that was at all a good idea. But then on Saturday, we got a sample of it:
His voice really isn’t all that bad, and surprisingly lowkey. If the judges view this as a stunt, it could still hurt him, but if his singing works for the program, perhaps everyone should just let it.
We’re getting one less La La Land than we expected. Madison Chock & Evan Bates had previously said they were skating to it, but it seems that didn’t work out, because now their free dance is to John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Which, quite frankly, I don’t think they have the ability to do justice to; La La Land might have been less painful. At least a Marc Antony short dance is much more harmless.
They weren’t the only skaters this year to reject their first free skate. Mariah Bell was previously known to be skating hers to Beauty and the Beast. But now she is instead skating to West Side Story. Her short is to “Across the Universe,” which sounds more like the Julie Taymor movie than that one Beatles song.
It seems we’re not getting program footage from the Russian junior test skates. But the interviews are coming, and plenty of word has come out to the world of what various people are skating too. Some of them, too, have it up in their ISU profiles.
We’ve already seen Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitrii Kozlovskii’s Handel short, but now we also know their free is to The Nutcracker. They don’t specify which parts, though, so we don’t know exactly how overdone that will be.
At least it’s not as popular as Swan Lake this year. And Elizaveta Nugumanova, who was already confirmed as keep her free skate to that one, is skating her short to La La Land. Which means she’s not the only one on the Russian junior scene using either of her selections, because Alisa Fedichkina is skating to her long to that! At least she could potentially outperform Ye-Lim Kim, if they end up facing off, though whether she’ll skate well then is another matter. Her short is to a Mozart “Piano Fantasy” but we haven’t really heard which.
Stanislava Konstantinova’s long is a more established movie score: Anna Karenina. Her short combines a lesser-known French movie, Le Chef, with Carlos Santana’s “Corazon Espinado.” At least that’s the highest-profile Anna Karenina we’ve seen so far. Nobody truly high-profile so far is using Hava Nagila either, so that’s a good choice for Sofia Samodurova to try to get closer to the top of the Russian junior ladies scene with. But while she’s got that for her short, her free long is to the already overused Libertango, and though mostly that’s short program music, she may not have the ability to make a long program to that worth it.
New to the JGP circuit is Aleksandra Trusova, who has already attracted notice within Russia for landing the quad salchow. She’s assigned to Australia, and said this week she’s going to go for it there. She’ll be doing so with two contrasting programs of common music choices: “Big Spender” and “Jumping Jack” for a big band short and Four Seasons for a classical free. Joining her in Australia will be fellow JGP debutante Anastasia Guliakova. She’s skating her short to Angels and Demons, which became a standard as soon as the movie was released, and her free to Ghost, which took longer, but now is achieving that status.
An interview the newly formed team of Anastasia Pulianova & Dmitri Sopot revealed not only their music, but the fates of their former partners, or at least hers. They’ve chosen some interesting music for their programs. Their short program music, “Gabriel’s Realm” by cellist Nathalie Manser, is unique, and a piece worth hearing. Their free is a Metallica medley: “Unforgiven” and “Nothing Else Matters,” which is good contrast. Pulianova’s former partner Maksim Selkin, with whom she has a fourth-place JGP finish to her name, has a new partner: Tatiana Lyirova, whose results have been much weaker than his. That was already rumored, and now confirmed by reports too, which place them at the test skate. They also claim Sopot’s partner Ekaterina Borisova, with whom he won the JGP Finale, is retiring.
One ex-Russian skater, too, did an interview this week. Moris Kvitelashvili, now set to represent Georgia at the Olympics, only revealed his short program music: Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, most of which would suit his showman style. He talks mainly about his switch of countries, and the still-Russian skaters, one of whom he had to deny having an affair with!
With us having recently heard from most of the top U.S. pairs, this week we heard from one of the top U.S. pairs coaches, with GoldenSkate posting their interview with Delilah Sappenfield. Ted Flatt went with her through the entire decade she’s now spent as a known pairs coaching giant, and they talked at great length about her current top pair, about Alexa Scimeca Knierim’s illness and recovery, and her and Chris Knierim’s plans for this season. Toward the end of the universe she also gave some insightful words in fighting the unfortunate mentality of America skaters when it comes to doing pairs. But the thing that really got people paying attention was when he brought up the breakup of Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin, and his subsequent partnership with Caydee Denney.
Longtime accounts have claimed both actions were her doing; she, Coughlin, and Denney have even been accused of having a tryout behind Yankowskas’ back. But when Flatt brought up none of this, letting her tell the story, Sappenfield instead went on about how she hadn’t wanted the team to split up, and was heartbroken when they did. On the other hand, she also describes the breakup of Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker as happening simply because she’d grown too big for him, a claim all accounts from the time and McLaughlin’s own poetry posted to Twitter flew in the face of. So she doesn’t come across as credible at all here. It just looks all the more likely she did things back in 2011 she doesn’t want to admit to.
Things will remain active in Canada the final week of the off season, with the other two big Summer Series events happening.