Dubreuil and Lauzon take 4CC title

Marie-France Dubreuil (32) and Patrice Lauzon (31) performs to At Last by Etta James.

The third day of the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships continued with the Free Dance and Men’s Long program.

UPDATE: Canadian pairs skater Jessica Dubé, who suffered a facial laceration during the pairs long program Thursday, was discharged from Memorial Hospital yesterday afternoon.

Davison’s blade sliced the left side of Dubé’s cheek and nose during their side-by-side flying camel spins. The 19-year-old was seen by a maxiofacial trauma surgeon and underwent surgery for exploration of the wound and repair. Her eye was not affected and nothing was broken.

“The surgery went very well,” said ISU medical advisor Dr. Moran. “Jessica is doing great.”

In a statement issued Thursday, Davison said: “We both realize the risks involved in pairs skating. Jess is handling it extremely well. She is tough and calm. We are both looking forward to getting home and back on the ice, and it is our hope to finish our season at the World Championships in Tokyo. We would like to thank our family, friends and fans for their support. The support from the Canadian Team on site has been awesome. We also send our thanks to the medical staff at the hospital and, in particular, Dr. Jane Moran.”

The team will remain in Colorado Springs until the end of the event so that they may cheer on their Canadian teammates.

“I want to thank everyone for their concern and support,” said Dubé on Friday afternoon. “I’m doing well and I’m looking forward to seeing my family and friends back home. I’m also looking forward to getting back on the ice with Bryce in the next little while.”

Canadian champions Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon skated away with the gold medal after winning the free dance yesterday afternoon, narrowly edging out U.S. Champions Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto to win the title.

It was the first time the Canadian team has competed at this event since 2004 when they won silver.

“It is very exciting for us to win this title,” said Dubreuil. “To come back and enjoy this competition that was very rich with talented young skaters and Tanith and Ben was amazing.”

Skating a romantic and light-hearted program to At Last by Etta James, the 2006-07 Grand Prix Final silver medalists performed a technically demanding program that was highlighted by blazing speed and gravity-defying lifts to score a total of 198.59 points in the competition.

The first element in the program was a jaw-dropping lift in which Lauzon skated backward on one foot with Dubreuil’s entire body parallel to ice at chest level. The duo completed each element with surefootedness and an almost nonchalant flare while effectively portraying the story of two young lovers celebrating their vows with a wedding party. Or in this case, the audience, which rewarded them with a partial standing ovation.

“It was challenging in Colorado Springs, but I think it will give us confidence for [Worlds] to know that we can perform that well with the altitude,” commented Dubreuil.

Dubreuil and Lauzon worked with choreographer David Wilson to create this program that represents their long-awaited wedding party that was to happen upon their retirement from eligible competition last spring. Encouraged, however, by a successful result at last year’s World Championships, the on and off-ice couple decided to delay their real nuptials until after they complete their Olympic-eligible careers.

“I’ve been waiting ten years,” teased Dubreuil about taking the plunge. “When we end our amateur career and really have time to do a nice reception with our family, and take time to enjoy it, we will do it.”

Overnight leaders Belbin and Agosto skated a technically much-improved, but emotionally devoid program to music from the Amélie soundtrack. Though each technical element was completed with sound positions and a tight foot pattern, the current World bronze medalists fell flat in the “in-betweens” that the Canadians were able to sell to the audience.

“The program is still new,” explained Belbin. “It wasn’t really our goal here to finish a certain place. I think by the World Championships it (the program) will be much more competitive. It was definitely an improvement over Nationals.

Agosto agreed, adding that it’s always a risk to make changes. ” But it was something we really felt strongly we needed to do, and when the opportunity rose, we had to jump at it.”

The team debuted a new opening lift in which Belbin is almost in a headstand position with Agosto gripping his partner around the back of the neck while in a spread eagle position. The program was slower than usual for the defending champions, and has plenty of room to grow before the World Championships in March.

“Every time we compete, it is a great learning experience for us,” relayed Agosto. “We always want to try to maximize the points that we can get, and try to build it (our programs) to be as strong as possible. We’re really just going to have to go home and reevaluate some of our footwork and some of our lifts and see.”

Known as a very perky skater, Belbin finds this lyrical program to be challenging from an emotional standpoint.

“After so many years of being told to ‘smile, smile, smile’ at any given moment, it’s a challenge for me to achieve a more somber and more mature look in programs,” confessed a giggling Belbin. But I’m working on it.”

Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir finished third in what was a very close battle with USA’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Both teams train in Detroit, Mich. under the tutelage of Igor Shpilband and Marina Zueva.

The duo skated a willowy waltz to Sibelius’ Valse Triste, Virtue (17) and Moir (19) displayed mature presentation for their tender ages while producing a good level four circular step sequence, difficult lifts, and a good dance spin. The 2006 World Junior Champions, which earned a new personal best of 93.99, was rewarded with technical marks that almost eclipsed that of the top two teams, proving that that they are the ones to watch for 2010 and beyond. Their competition total of 184.89 would have placed them fourth at the recent European Championships.

“It (the competition) is a good confidence boost for us,” explained Virtue. “We had three good skates, some solid performances, and it is definitely nice to get the mileage on the programs. We are looking forward to Tokyo, but we have a lot of work to do when we get home.”

Davis and White skated an emotional program to Polovetsian Dances by Borodin that highlighted the couple’s ability to twizzle like tops in both directions, as well as White’s dramatic leaps that drew kudos from the audience.

At just 5’2″ tall, Davis shows natural emotion on the ice that compliments White’s (5’9″) technical hunger. The crowd favorites exhibited an abundance of speed and attack in their extremely close footwork, which at many times, were interwoven. The current U.S. National bronze medalists also received a level four for seven out of their eight elements, earning a new personal best of 91.35 points for a respectable fourth place finish in the free dance and overall.

“We tried to incorporate lots of athleticism in this program,” said a very happy White. “It couldn’t have gone any better than it did. Everything fell into place naturally in today’s competition.”

In fifth place were USA’s Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre who came to the event as alternates for U.S. silver medalists Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov.

The duo skated a fun program to a medley of Beatles tunes that showed a playful side to the skaters. Highlighted by their “scissor” lift in which Navarro scissors her legs around Bommentre’s thigh, and is balanced only by his hand to her boot, the team earned a personal best in the free skate to finish with a competition personal best of 157.82 points.

Lauren Senft and Leif Gislason of Canada were sixth, followed by Japan’s Cathy Reed and Chris Reed.

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