Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov of Russia won their second consecutive World gold medal, while USA’s Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto picked up the silver – their first World medal. Ukraine’s Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov also captured their first World medal – the bronze.
The Compulsory Dance (CD) drawn for the World Championships was the Midnight Blues, the newest of the Compulsory Dances. It was invented by Roy Bradshaw, Sue Bradshaw, Mark Bradshaw, and Julie MacDonald and first performed in 2001 in Vancouver, Canada. The Midnight Blues were also used last year at this event.
Navka and Kostomarov took the lead (45.97) followed by Belbin and Agosto (42.18) and Grushina and Goncharov (41.30).
We’re very happy with the way we skated today,” said Navka, adding that she felt the crowd was large for the compulsories. “Of course, it’s a lot of pressure to skate at home, but it’s very nice kind of pressure, because the public expects the best from us and they’re supporting us.”
Belbin was glad that they were able to perform the Midnight Blues again. “it feels great to be able to show all the work that we’ve put into the dance [since last year] and hopefully proving the improvements that we’ve worked on. We feel very excited for the rest of the competition.” Belbin also stated that they feel confident about moving up this year in the ranks. “To be in second feels actually quite comfortable and it really motivates us to go on to the rest of the event.”
Agosto agreed: “We’re very happy with the blues that we just performed. It’s been a good dance for us. To be able to come to Moscow and to perform as well as we did felt wonderful. We feel we’re like on a roll. We’re very lucky. We just feel we kind of caught a wave and we’re just going to ride it as far as we can. I think that’s a very rare thing to catch in this sport.”
Grushina was also satisfied with their performance, but felt they could do better. “Unfortunately, the ice felt a bit different today, harder than usual,” she said. Grushina also noted though they would like to win their first medal at this event, they realize the competition is tough this year.
Bulgaria’s Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski, who were fourth (40.81), acknowledged that the blues are one of their favorite dances. The team had to withdraw from the European Championships last month when Denkova came down with bronchitis.
“Overall, I was sick for 40 days,” said Denkova. “After Europeans, we stayed in Bulgaria for 10 days and I was on antibiotics. Then we came back to Russia and started to train slowly. I lost 15 days of practice after Europeans. When we started, my muscles felt weak like after the summer break. We changed some of our elements, upgraded our step sequences in both the OD and free dance and hope finally to get a level three. Luckily, we’re now in a very good shape for these championships and we’ll see what the judges will do.”
Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon of Canada and France’s Isabelle Delobel and Oliver Schoenfelder both scored 40.51, but the Canadians broke the tie for fifth place with a higher technical score of 19.04, while the French received 18.54.
Israel’s Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski were seventh (39.13).
The event continued with the Original Dance (OD) with the “Rhythm Combination,,” which is being used for the 2004-2005 season. Couples can choose any two or three of the following rhythms: Slow Foxtrot, Quickstep, and/or Charleston.
Navka and Kostomarov produced a fast diagonal footwork sequence with lots of turns, as well as a level three midline step sequence that had good unison. The team also executed a level four curve-rotational combination lift with changes of positions for both dancers, a level three dance spin, and a level four rotational lift in the remainder of their Quickstep/Slow Foxtrot routine to Sing, Sing, Sing and Fever. The two-time and reigning European champions placed first in the OD with a score of 68.67 (personal best) and overall (114.64).
“We had a lot of fun skating today,” said Kostomarov. “Thank God we did everything that we were required to do. The audience helped us a lot. It is very nice when you get out and the spectators help so much. It was the best performance of the season. Now the most important thing [the free dance] is still ahead of us and we can’t relax yet. We hope the tribunes will be full tomorrow. It’s strange that the rink isn’t filled to capacity although it was said that the tickets are sold out.”
Belbin and Agosto delivered a solid routine which included a level four midline step sequence with twizzles in both directions, a level four combination curve-rotational lift, a level three diagonal step sequence, a nice level four rotational lift, and a level three dance spin. The 2004-05 Grand Prix Final silver medalists earned 67.54 points (personal best) for their Cabaret/New York, New York dance, placing second in the OD and overall (109.72)
Belbin expressed sorrow in saying ‘good-bye’ to this program because they had so much fun with it. “It’s really a style which we feel suits our personality and the chemistry that Ben and I have. We’re so pleased that we’ve been able to skate it so well today.”
Agosto added: “We’re looking at each competition we do. We enjoy working together and competing so much. There’s a lot of good energy in our team now. It is very exciting of having the option of sending three American teams to the Olympic games) even if we are not one of it. [This is] something the US has not been able to do in a long time.”
Maintaining a true character in their Cabaret routine, Grushina and Goncharov produced a level three midline step sequence in which the first half was performed on one foot with quick turns and in good unison. The two-time Olympians also executed a level four combination curve-rotational lift, a good level three dance spin, a level two diagonal step sequence, and a level four rotational lift. The 2005 European silver medalists earned 63.17 points, placing third in the OD and overall (104.47).
“We’re also very satisfied with what we did today,” said Goncharov, “and also with the reception by the crowd. For us as well, it was also the best performance of the season. We felt more confident than at the Cup of Russia here in Moscow. This music is very expressive and soft, and we felt it suits our style very well.”
Grushina agreed about how they had skated, adding that the ice conditions were good and they had a good feeling in general. “But level two for the diagonal step sequence is terrible. We have changed it but we still get only level two.”
Denkova and Staviski displayed good unison and difficulty in their side-by-side footwork during the level three midline step sequence. The 2004-05 Grand Prix Final bronze medalists also produced a good level four combination curve-rotational lift, a level three dance spin, a level three diagonal step sequence, and a level four rotation lift. The Bulgarian champs earned 62.79 points (personal best) for a fourth place finish in the OD and overall (103.60).
“We changed our step sequence before each competition and now finally at worlds we got a level three!” exclaimed a happy Denkova. “We came here relaxed. We know it is difficult to win or to medal. We just want to show good dances. We’re already looking forward to the next, Olympic season.” “The most important for us is the reaction of the audience,” added her partner Staviski.
Chait and Sakhnovski opened their Sing, Sing, Sing and Smile routine with an energetic level three midline step sequence, displaying good unison in the side-by-side footwork. The two-time Olympians also produce level four lifts, a level two diagonal step sequence, and a level three dance spin, earning 61.19 points for a fifth place finish in the OD and sixth overall (100.32).
“Today we tried to skate our best and I think we succeeded,” said Chait. “I think we did all the elements clean and the rest is up to the judges.”
Delobel and Schoenfelder delivered an OD that exhibited a good level two diagonal step sequence as well as level four lifts, but Delobel fell off a bit on the last twizzle during the midline step sequence. The French team placed sixth in the OD (60.25) and fifth overall (100.76).
“We are disappointed about our element scores,” said Schoenfelder. “We changed our diagonal step sequence after the beginning of the season to get level three but now we got only level two again. I don’t know if it’s fair. It’s an odd diagonal, I know because I skate it.” The 27-year-old went on to say: “Our performance was quite ‘OK’, but sometimes we skate better than this. There were little mistakes in there.”
Dubreuil and Lauzon, who were fifth after the CD, placed eighth (58.30) in the OD and seventh overall (98.81). Dubreuil had a slip 1/3 of way through a level two midline step sequence.
“Today we made a mistake during the side-by-side step sequence,” acknowledged Dubreuil. “I do not know why, because the whole week we had no problems with it. It was a silly mistake, minor loss of focus. Unfortunately on this element it is very costly. I made the mistake first and when Patrice was so shocked to see me stumble he also lost focus and it took us a while to get back in sync. But overall I think it was a good dance.”
“Now we have to forget about today and concentrate on skating our best tomorrow,” added Lauzon.
Russia’s Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin placed seventh in the OD (58.86) and were eighth overall (95.12).
Performing to Tosca by Puccini, Navka and Kostomarov opened with a good level four twizzle sequence followed by a a level three dance spin, and three good level four lifts. The defending World champions also produced a level two circular and diagonal step sequence, another level four twizzle sequence, and two level four lifts, earning a score of 113.17 for a first place finish in the FD and overall (227.81).
“It was a very good skate for us but it was not easy,” confessed Navka. “Now we can just wait [for the final results]. We hate to wait. In the last couple of years, we always skated last but now we have to wait.”
Navka felt the experience of skating in front of the home crowd was a one they would never forget. The 29-year-old admitted it also wasn’t easy for them to win the gold – last year or this year. “Last time it wasn’t easy, because we didn’t know what to expect, and this time we had a lot of responsibility to defend the title. We were at home [Russia] and wanted to win for our audience.”
When asked why they felt they hadn’t received a standing ovation, Navka replied: “It’s because of the rules, for sure. We have a music that gives you the goose bumps, but then there are the rules. The lifts start to look alike – all do the upside down split lift. A level four [lift] is needed, there it is. It’s not so easy to show a nice picture with the music. With some music, it’s ok, but with ours, it turned out to be very difficult. It’s hard to combine the rules and our music.”
“When we skated our first competition in Japan [NHK Trophy], it was terrible,” Navka continued, regarding mistakes and technical difficulty. “We didn’t skate well. When we put our program together, we didn’t think about the technique so much, but about creating a picture of a man and woman that we wanted to transport. It turned out to be difficult to combine the picture we wanted to create with the elements. After Japan, we changed a lot of our elements. We understood our mistakes and we’ll construct our programs differently next year. We’ll probably put together the elements first so it will be comfortable and then we’ll adjust the music to them.”
“Everybody has some ideas for next year,” said Kostomarov, regarding music for next season. “But they’re still secret, of course. I don’t think anyone wants to speak about it.”
Belbin and Agosto performed their Shadritsa Gypsy Dance routine, opening with a dance spin followed by a level four twizzle sequence, a level four lift, and a level three circular step sequence, and a level three combination spin. The two-time and reigning Four Continents champions also produced five more level four lifts, another level four twizzle sequence, and a level two diagonal step sequence, earning a score of 111.54 (personal best) for a second place finish in the FD and overall (221.26).
“We came to be on the podium and to beat our personal best – and that’s what we did,” said Belbin, adding that it was their favorite FD of their career. “We’re very pleased with out performance tonight, we couldn’t have asked for more.” “It’s been such a long time for the United States, and we’ve grown up and started or worked with our career with so many amazing ice dance teams that we felt never got the recognition that they deserved,” Agosto added. “So it feels very good for us to be up here and to be able to give them a little nod for all their hard work that made it possible to be here.”
“Not only would we like to congratulate those with us on the podium,” continued Belbin, “but also our teammates Melissa [Gregory] and Denis [Petukhov], who together helped us to achieve three spots for the Olympics for the US next in ice dance. So we’re also very excited about that.”
Belbin went on to admit that this was the most pressure they had ever felt in a competition. “We’re so happy that we were able to skate so well and still enjoy the performance. Following the champions [Navka and Kostomarov] and having been able to skate so well was a personal achievement for us – mentally and physically.”
The US champions also felt supported by the crowd. “The Russian audience has been so warm and friendly to us, and supported us through all our programs,” said Agosto. “We are so happy to be here and to have skated so well. It’s our personal best ever.”
“We are going to work very hard in the next months, especially on our creativity; and we are trying to find a program even more suitable for us next year,” said Belbin.
Agosto is looking forward to the “Salsa” rhythm which was chosen for next season’s OD. “Salsa, the dance, is a lot like salsa, the food. It’s hot, spicy, it’s going to be a lot of fun, it’s going to be sexy, and everybody is going to really enjoy it. It’s going to be a fun rhythm.”
Delobel and Schoenfelder produced a technically difficult performance to music from the Frida soundtrack, featuring six level four lifts, two level four twizzle sequences, and a level three midline and circular step sequence. The reigning European bronze medalists earned a score of 110.39 (personal best) for a third place finish in the FD and moved up to fourth overall (211.15).
“It was an awesome program,” said Delobel. “We did everything we could do. It went so easy. It was a nice finish of the season. There was an enormous pressure. We skated last, and everyone skating well.”
Grushina and Goncharov produced six good lifts, as well as two level four twizzle sequences in their routine to Four Seasons and Air by Bach. The Ukrainian champs also delivered a good diagonal and circular step sequence, earning a score of 109.48 (personal best) for a fourth place finish in the FD. With a total score of 213.95, the husband-and-wife team maintained their third place position to win the bronze.
“We came here to put a good fight for a medal and I think we did it,” said Grushina. “We are happy, we had a good skate today.”
“It was a very tough competition,” Goncharov added, “there are so many great ice dancers now. It think the whole top ten is very strong. The fight is not over though, there are the Olympic Games next year and that is very important. But I feel confident, I am sure we will skate strong.”
Although the team was happy to win the bronze, they were hoping for more. “This was a hard won medal for us,” admitted Goncharov. “There have been seasons before where we could have been on the podium, and it was a long wait for us, and this makes the medal three times as valuable to us.”
Denkova and Staviski also put out a good routine to Bach to Africa which featured difficult level four lifts and a level three circular step sequence. The two-time European silver medalists earned 104.86 points for a fifth place finish in the FD and overall (208.46).
Denkova was happy with their performance. “We skated well in all three dances here and we are already looking forward to next year.” “We are happy that we got a level three for our circular step sequence,” added Staviski, “but we hoped to get a level three on the midline as well. Frankly, I still do not understand what those marks mean. Next year the battle will begin anew and I am sure we will be back fighting.”
Chait and Sakhnovski delivered a dramatic routine to Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, placing sixth (103.99) in the FD and overall (204.31).
“Today was a great skate,” said Chait. “The public really supported us and we are very grateful for them for this support. It was the last competition of the season and it was a good one. It was a pleasure to skate in Moscow.”
Dubreuil and Lauzon placed seventh in the FD and overall (198.98).
“We didn’t do any mistakes,” said Dubreuil, “so no deductions, that’s better. The 30-year-old added that it was a bit hard to come come back today after yesterday’s disappointment. “I had to dig deep and find my inner file to be able to come on the ice and put a good program together. Our OD was one of the best and if we had skated it perfectly, we could have been in the top three tonight and the results would have been different. But that’s in the past now. We had a very physical program with a lot of difficult lifts. So after this World’s it’s a good time now to take care of my body and cure all the little injuries until next season.”
Domnina and Shabalin placed eighth in the FD (95.08) and overall (190.20). They were 10th last year.