Natasha Purich and Raymond Schultz win junior gold
Despite being brand-new to pairs, Natasha Purich is now a Canadian champion. Together with partner Raymond Schultz, an experienced pairs skater, they won the junior title at the 2011 BMO Skate Canada Junior Nationals.
Purich and Schultz’s St. Louis Blues free skate was sassy and character-driven, a mode that seems to work well for them. Although they had to fight for some landings, their technical content was solid, with two triple throws (Salchow and toe loop), as well as side-by-side triple toes.
With 82.71 points, Purich and Schultz (AB/NT/NU) were the class of the field in the free, and they put on a great show, too. Their total score of 127.86 edged them past Tara Hancherow and Sébastien Wolfe for the title.
Hancherow and Wolfe (QC), the leaders after the short program, skated an elegant program to music from Spartacus, however, they were not quite as into their music as Purich and Schultz were, and seemed a bit tentative.
Two falls kept Hancherow and Wolfe from staying in the lead, one on underrotated double Axels, and one on the throw triple loop. Their lifts were excellent, though, and they did win the program components mark. With a free skate score of 78.05, their total of 126.27 won them the silver medal. They also won silver in this event last year, however, their score improved by more than ten points this year.
Moving up from fourth place to take the bronze medal were Katherine Bobak and Matthew Penasse (WO). Their West Side Story routine had some great moments, including a gorgeous opening triple twist, which earned +1 Grades of Execution (GOE) from every judge. Their lifts also scored well, but they struggled with their throw triple Salchow and only did a throw double toe loop.
The team also had a couple of bizarre falls toward the end of the program. Bobak lost her footing between elements and later, Penasse’s toe pick lost its grip and he sent his partner sprawling. Still, the pair scored 75.36 in the free as they did so many elements well, and ended up matching last year’s bronze medal with a total of 118.57.
Taylor Steele and Rob Schultz (WO) also matched their placement from last year. Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, they just missed out on the podium. Their program to Lucia Micarelli’s rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody was well-choreographed, however, the jumps were not there for them. In addition to falls on the side-by-side double Axels and the throw triple toe loop, they also struggled with their throw triple Salchow and the three-jump combination. Their lifts were quite good, however, their score of 72.61 was ranked fifth in the free and they dropped to fourth overall with 116.11 points.
Last year’s novice champions, Krystel Desjardins and Charlie Bilodeau (QC), finished fifth overall after a fourth-place free skate. The youngsters, just 13 and 17-years-old respectively, do not yet have the technical content of the top teams, however, they put out a nearly clean program and were thrilled with their effort. Their side-by-side double Lutzes were dinged with an edge call and they had some tight landings on their three-jump combination, however, their lifts were wonderful and they were committed to their tango-themed program all the way through. They earned 73.67 points in the free and scored 112.76 overall.