Virtue and Moir polka to the lead

Canada's Tessa Virtue, 18, and Scott Moir, 20, currently lead the field after the Compulsory Dance (Yankee Polka).

The 2008 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships are being held Feb. 13-17 in Goyang City, Republic of Korea at the Seongsa Ice Rink. It is the third time since 2002 that the Republic of Korea has hosted this event. Approximately 99 skaters from 16 different countries are competing in Goyang City.

The ISU will be awarding prize money totaling $350,000 to skaters and couples that place first through 12th. In addition, the top three skaters and couples per discipline having earned the most World Standing points during the 2007-08 season, will be awarded with a World Standings Bonus.

Following a decision of the 51st Ordinary Congress of the ISU in June 2006, no Qualifying Rounds will be held. All skaters/couples will compete in the Short Program, and the top 24 will advance to the Free Skate.

The competition kicked off on Feb. 13 with the Compulsory Dance and the Pairs and Men’s Short Program.

The Compulsory Dance (CD) of the event was the Yankee Polka, which consists of two sequences and was created by James Sladky, Judy Schwomeyer and Ron Ludington. It was first performed in 1969.

Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are the leaders after the CD, followed by USA’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre. All three teams earned a seasonal best in this dance.

Virtue (18) and Moir (20) showed very good edges and excellent character in their dance, earning 38.22 points (20.07/18.15) points.

The team says coming in as the “favorites” at this event, was a different feeling compared to that at Nationals.

“I suppose we had that a little bit at Nationals,” admitted Virtue. “There is always pressure, the teams are amazing, and we know that we have to skate well and have to lay down three solid performances. It’s certainly not a comfortable position, and we are well aware who is coming up behind us. We’re just trying to do our best and skate like we’ve been training.”

The Canadian champions were spotted having an intense discussion with coach Marina Zueva in the “Kiss and Cry” area after their skate, but it had nothing to do with the CD itself.

“Marina is always continuing to teach us and we’re always learning,” explained Moir. “We’re such a young team, so we’re trying to get as much experience as possible in the next couple of years. We’re taking each moment to learn as much as possible. I think the Yankee Polka went well today. We’re very happy with it. We’re learning how to compete with pressure and against of some of the best teams of the world, and we’re trying to break that barrier into the top three.”

Davis (21) and White (20), who skated with good speed, are less than a point behind with 37.36 (19.48/17.88) points.

“We definitely like the Polka,” said White, “and we didn’t get a chance to compete it at either of our Grand Prixs. I think we performed well and I’m glad we got a new season’s best.”

“I don’t think it was actually our season’s best,” countered Davis. “I think we could do a better Polka, but it felt pretty good. [We can improve] our unison and being much more together and I think that we can make it much more powerful. We want to get as much experience as we can in the season going into Worlds. Four Continents is a great place to get out there one last time before you compete at Worlds.”

Teammates Navarro (26) and Bommentre (23), who have been working on the Polka with one of its creators, Ron Ludington, earned 34.36 (18.31/16.05) points.

“We’re really happy,” said Bommentre. “That was a season’s best for us. It was really solid.”

“This being the last Polka of the year, we wanted to do the best Polka ever,” added Navarro. “It was a lot better than it was two weeks ago [at Nationals]. It will be sad not to do it again this year. This is the first dance we competed at Nationals together a couple of seasons ago, so it’s fun to do it again as we have some history with it.”

USA’s Jennifer Wester and Daniil Barantsev are currently in fourth with 30.95 points. “I’m happy with how we performed,” said Wester. “Nationals was rough, so here we were both happy after the first sequence when there were no uncharacteristic errors (like at Nationals). This is my first big international (competition). It was a lot of fun. I was more nervous, but it was a nice change of pace.”

Barantsev used to represent Russia six years ago with former partner Natalia Romaniuta. Together, they took the World Junior title in 2001. “It’s nice to come back and to see all the people I know,” he said, adding that he’s never competed at Four Continents before. “A lot of people remember me from when I was skating for Russia. It’s just a lot of fun to be at the big championships and I forgot how much fun it was.”

Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are in a close fifth with 30.94 points. The team admitted to working a great deal on their unison, edges, technical aspects, and showmanship. “We’re proud of how far we’ve come this year,” said Weaver.”

“We’ve been working a lot on this compulsory dance just trying to make it more mature and get new feeling on it,” added Poje. “I think we improved it a lot. It was more of a challenge for us, but we kind of overcame that by working a lot.”

Teammates Allie Hann-McCurdy and Michael Coreno are in sixth place with 29.73 points, have experience with this CD as they skated it at Skate Canada and Canadian Nationals.

“[This is] the best we’ve skated,” said Coreno, “so the marks kind of reflect that. We’ve never been to Four Continents. This is our first year on the Four Continents team and our first year on the World team.”

“It’s always good when the marks go up with the improvement of the performance,” added Hann-McCurdy. “I think that’s a good start of the week for us.”

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