Bell and Sylvester lead junior pairs at Canadian Nationals

Hayleigh Bell and Alistair Sylvester perform their Short Program at the 2013 Canadian National Figure Skating Championships.

Hayleigh Bell and Alistair Sylvester perform their Short Program at the 2013 Canadian National Figure Skating Championships.

Hayleigh Bell and Alistair Sylvester (CO) currently have a near a five-point cushion over the rest of the field in the Junior Pairs event at the 2013 Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships. Natasha Purich and Sebastian Arcieri (QC) are second, followed by Western Ontario’s Shalena Rau and Phelan Simpson and Mary Orr and Anthony Furiano.

Bell and Sylvester, who are the 2012 novice and 2011 pre-novice Canadian champions, are on track to make it three titles in three years if they can hang on. Their quick rise to the ranks is thanks, in part, to their high degree of technical difficulty, as well as their excellent performance quality.

The team put out a Charleston-themed short program that was full of energy and fun details, right down to Bell’s fingertips in the end pose.

Their program looked clean at first sight, but the technical panel found a small fault that Bell, 16, and Sylvester, 18, will want to correct before the free skate. Their death spiral received only the base value, as well as net negative Grades of Execution (GOE).

They otherwise showed a good double twist and throw triple Salchow, finishing first with 47.73 (26.73/21.00) points.

The newly-paired team of Purich, 17,  and Arcieri, 18, were thrilled with their efforts at the end of their skate, but their faces in the kiss and cry easily revealed disappointment at their score of 42.53 (22.64 /19.89) points.

Their side-by-side double Axels were solid, as was their double twist, however, they did not receive any credit for their death spiral—it looked as if Purich’s head did not drop low enough.

While the rest of the elements were done, the short length of their partnership was revealed in their spins, which lost unison several times, and their lift, which had a bit of a rough dismount. Still, the feisty spirit that they both showed will certainly help them in the free skate.

Like Bell and Sylvester, Rau 15,  and Simpson, 16,  have already won multiple Canadian titles. In fact, Rau and Simpson won three consecutive titles at the juvenile, pre-novice, and novice levels in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

The youngsters have started growing a bit more quickly this year, and it seemed like they had to fight a little harder for their elements.

The team has also upgraded their difficulty this year, including side-by-side double Axels (called as under-rotated) and a throw triple Salchow in their short program to an orchestral version of Hey Jude.

They are third with 41.79 points.

Training partners, Orr (17) and Furiano (22), are right on their heels (41.72) heading into the free skate. The team won the national junior bronze medal ahead of Rau and Simpson last year, partly on the strength of their technical difficulty. This time, the tables have turned, but anything can happen in Wednesday’s free skate.

Three teams in the field of eight chose to do side-by-side double flips instead of Axels, and Orr and Furiano are the highest-ranked of those three teams.

Dylan Conway and Dustin Sherriff-Clayton of Central Ontarion are fifth (39.76).

Quite a few of the pairs opted for sassy, upbeat numbers in the short program, and it looks like the free skate will veer towards more traditional themes.

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