Golden Skate

2006-07 Grand Prix Final: Ice Dance Highlights

The 2006-07 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating concluded with the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final after six weeks of competitions in which the top six skaters/couples in each discipline proceeded to the Final. The event was held December 15-17, 2006 at the Ice Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.

By competing in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final the athletes earned points towards the World Standings as well. The top three skaters/couples per discipline that earned the most World Standing points during the 2006-2007 season were also awarded with a World Standing Bonus ranging from $18,000 to $67,000 US Dollars.

Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria were the gold medal winners, while Canada’s Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon and Russia’s Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin won the silver and bronze, respectively.

USA’s Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto withdrew earlier this week due to injury. Agosto experienced a thoracic and lumbar strain in his back while practicing a lift with his partner. The team plans to compete in the upcoming US National Figure Skating Championships in January.

Original Dance (OD)

The event continued with the OD in which the dance for the 2006-2007 season is the “Tango”. Couples can choose one to three tango rhythms. If two rhythms are used, one can be repeated. Vocals are permitted.

Dubreuil and Lauzon produced an intense and difficult routine to Payadora by Julián Plaza, opening with a level three midline step sequence with twizzles, followed by an excellent level three midline step sequence, and an innovative level four straight line lift. The 2006 World silver medalists also produced an excellent level four dance spin, a good level three diagonal step sequence, and an excellent level four rotational lift, placing first with 60.44 points.

“This is a new program for us,” said Lauzon, adding that they have had the routine for three weeks. “We had some problems with the unison, but that’s top secret!” she said jokingly. “Overall, we skated really well. We’re really fond of this program.”

Denkova and Staviski were proficient and expressive in their complex routine to Piazzolla’s Libertango. The current World Champions produced a good level four midline step sequence with twizzles, followed by an excellent level four midline step sequence and level three straight line lift. The team was only given a level one on the dance spin and Denkova had a slight trip during a level four diagonal step sequence, however, they concluded with a very good level four rotational lift. With a score of 60.12 points, the Bulgarians placed second behind the Canadians by less than .30 points.

“We had a mistake in the diagonal footwork,” said Denkova, adding that they were a little farther apart than usual. “But it’s not a big deal. Mistakes can happen, and the main thing is that we felt comfortable on the ice and good in the dance. We just have to skate clean tomorrow in the free dance.”

Domnina and Shabalin displayed good flow and power in their tango which received the highest technical scores of all the teams. The Russians produced a level four midline step sequence with twizzles, followed by a very good level four midline step sequence, serpentine lift, and dance spin. The two-time and reigning Russian National silver medalists also delivered an excellent level three diagonal step sequence and level four rotational lift, earning a new personal best of 59.97 points for a third place finish.

“We are happy with our performance,” said Domnina, “I was nervous before our performance because of the fall [at the Cup of Russia]. Although it wasn’t my mistake, I was very worried.” “We changed a lot of things in our footwork,” added Shabalin.

France’s Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder appeared intent and sophisticated in their routine to Tango Volver by Maxime Rodriguez, producing two good level three midline step sequences, a level three dance spin and serpentine lift, and a very good level four diagonal step sequence and curve lift. The French National Champions placed a close fourth behind the Russians with 57.28 points.

Jana Khokhlova and and Sergei Novitski of Russia delivered an unusual and modern routine to Jacob Gade’s Tango Jalousie which featured a very good level four dance spin, a level four midline step sequence with twizzles, a very good level three midline step sequence, and two very good level four lifts. The two-time and reigning Russian National bronze medalists earned 53.31 points for a fifth place finish.

USA’s Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov had unison problems during their midline step sequence with twizzles, but otherwise produced a level four dance spin and serpentine lift, a level three midline and diagonal step sequence, and a very good level three rotational lift in their dance to La Cumparasita and Tanguera. The three-time and reigning US National silver medalists were sixth with 52.84 points.

Free Dance (FD)

Performing their dramatic and etherealSeven Deadly Sins routine, Denkova and Staviski opened with a strong level four twizzle sequence and curve lift. The Bulgarian Champions also executed an excellent level two circular step sequence and level four lift, followed by a very good level four dance spin, an excellent level three midline step sequence, an excellent level four straight line-rotational combination lift, and an excellent straight line lift. The team was awarded 101.12 points for a first place finish in the FD and overall (161.24 points).

“We were very confident today,” said Denkova. “Yesterday we just had a slight mistake. We also know that the audience enjoys our program, and that helps. It’s easier to skate second than last in the group, too.” When asked about how it feels to have made history again as the first Bulgarian skaters to have won the Grand Prix Final, Staviski laughingly answered: “It means that we have to win Europeans now to continue making history.”

Domnina and Shabalin opened their powerful routine to Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances with a very good level four dance spin, followed by a solid level three diagonal step sequence, a very good level four straight line lift, and an excellent straight line-rotational combination lift. The 2006 Cup of China Champions also produced good synchronized twizzles, a very good level three serpentine lift, a good level three circular step sequence, and an excellent level four rotational lift to earn 96.17 points for a second place finish in the FD. With a total score of 156.14 points, the Olympians, who were fifth last year at this event, placed third overall.

“That was the best performance of the season, which makes us very happy,” said Domnina. “This season, we’ve made a big step forward and coming in third here means a lot to us.”

Performing their romantic and smooth dance to Etta James’ At Last, Dubreuil and Lauzon opened with an excellent level four straight line lift and reverse rotational lift, followed by a good dance spin and circular step sequence. Although Dubreuil stepped out of the second twizzle during their side-by-side twizzle sequence, the current Grand Prix Final bronze medalists quickly recovered to produce a level four midline step sequence, and an excellent level four lift. However, although they received good marks for their final lift – a level four straight line-curve combination lift, they also received a deduction because it was extended. The four-time and reigning Canadian Champions received a score of 95.90 points, placing third in the FD and second overall with a total of 156.34 points – a mere .20 point difference from the Russians.

“I guess it was lack of focus,” said Dubreuil, regarding error on the twizzle sequence. “The mistake affected the rest of the performance. I was more cautious and holding back a little. We also had to change our signature lift at the end, so this lift was new for us and also a little cautious. All this together may have made the difference today. But overall we are still pleased. Even with the little mistake today, we performed very well this week. We’re looking forward to a rematch with Albena and Maxim at the World Championships in March. Our goal is to win Worlds.”

Delobel and Schoenfelder experienced problems during their side-by-side twizzle sequence when Delobel put her foot down, and their dance spin traveled a bit. Despite the mistakes, the two-time Olympians produced five very good level four lifts (one in combination) and a level two circular and midline step sequence. The team earned a score of 91.72 points for their original and intense routine to The Untouchables, placing fourth in the FD and overall (149.00 points).

Khokhlova and Novitski’s non-traditional dance featured good level four synchronized twizzles, as well as four very good level four lifts (one in combination) and a good level two diagonal and circular step sequence. The 2006 NHK Trophy silver medalists earned 88.03 points for their routine to Aranjuez Mon Amour by Joaquín Rodrigo, placing fifth in the FD and overall (141.34 points).

Gregory and Petukhov delivered a dramatic routine to Yoav Goren’s Preliator and Sarabande, opening with a level four dance spin and serpentine lift, however Gregory missed a twizzle during their level four side-by-by twizzle sequence. The team also delivered a level two circular step sequence and diagonal step sequence, and three more level four lifts. With a segment score of 83.10 points, the husband-and-wife team finished sixth in the FD and overall with a total score of 135.94 points.

In accordance with Rule 639, the Golden Waltz was drawn on December 16th as the Compulsory Dance for the upcoming ISU European Figure Skating Championships and Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

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