In ice dance, Bulgaria’s Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski won the gold in their first appearance at a Skate America event. USA’s Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov won their first Skate America medal, a silver, at their third appearance (they placed fifth in 2002 and 2003). France’s Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat won the bronze, their first senior Grand Prix medal.
Compulsory Dance (CD)
The Compulsory Dance chosen for Skate America was the Westminster Waltz. The dance was invented by Eric van der Weyden and his wife Eva Keats. It was first performed in London at the Westminster Ice Rink in 1938.
Denkova and Staviski placed first in the CD with a score of 39.19 points, giving credit to their coaches. “They prepared us so well that we weren’t nervous at all,” said Staviski.
His partner Denkova added: “We started our preparations rather late, because we decided only end of June that we’re going to compete for another year. But we feel better prepared than in previous years, because our programs really suit us this season. Maybe we’re approaching our practices differently, we’re truly enjoying everything what we’re doing.”
Gregory and Petukhov were second with 35.02 points. Petukhov commented that it was fun to train with new ideas. “We’re excited about changing our image and getting our skating to another level,” he said, adding that their coach, Gennadi Karponosov, is very particlur with every step, edge, and beat. Gregory, his wife and partner, added that they have been working very hard to perfect their technique as well as their edges and quality.
“So it’s been quite different for us,” Gregory offered, “because we ‘ve never had this kind of attention before. We really like it and have kind of thrived on it. The Westminster Waltz is a nice dance, very soft and flowing. It’s not quite as complicated step-wise as the Golden [Waltz], but if you really get into each step and the timing of the dance, it can be quite difficult, too.”
Pechalat and Bourzat of France placed third with 32.38 points – a new personal best. “We’re very happy,” said Pechalat, “because it’s the first time that we’re in the top three [at a Grand Prix event], which is quite impressive for us. We skated very well. It was a high level competition and hopefully we continue like this. We had practice this morning, we felt the ice well and could adapt to the different size of the ice rink.”
Sinead Kerr and John Kerr of Great Britain, stood in fourth with 30.98 points, followed by USA’s Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin who picked up 29.95 points.
Original Dance (OD)
The event continued with the OD in which the dance for the 2006-2007 season is the “Tango”. Couples can choose one to three tango rhythms. If two rhythms are used, one can be repeated. Vocals are permitted.
Overnight leaders Denkova and Staviski delivered a solid routine to Piazzolla’s Libertango which included two very good level four midline step sequences, an excellent straightline lift which had a unique entry, and a very good rotational lift. The world champs scored 62.27 points to place first in the OD, maintaining their first place position with a total of 101.46 points.
“We’re very pleased that we got a level four for all our elements except for the step sequence [diagonal] that was a level three,” said Denkova, who is now the new president for the Bulgarian Skating Federation. “That is very good for the beginning of the season.”
Gregory and Petukhov displayed difficult level three and four step sequences in their dance to La Cumparasita and Tanguera. The three-time US National silver medalists also executed two very good lifts and a dance spin, earning a score of 55.61 to place second in the OD and overall with a 90.63 points.
“We know we can do better,” admitted Gregory. “It’s a huge step up for us, and it’s a big improvement, but inside we feel like we have more.” During the warm-up, Petukhov crashed into the boards and it took him a few laps to calm down. “I was shocked,” he explained, “but I’m pleased that I pulled myself together in the program.”
Performing to Mi Buenos Aires Querido and Escualo, Pechalat and Bourzat began their tango with a nice dance spin followed by a midline step sequence with twizzles. The French team also produced two good level four lifts to receive a score of 52.88 (personal best), placing third in the OD and holding onto third overall (85.26).
“Our Original Dance was very good,” said Bourzat. “We finally reached a podium position in a Grand Prix event.” He admitted that they still have a lot of things to improve.”We tried to keep the spirit of the Argentine Tango,” he added. “Ballroom [dancing] is straighter while the Argentine dancing is softer and closer.”
Sinead Kerr and John Kerr finished fifth in the OD with 50.06 points, but managed to maintain fourth place overall with a score of 81.04.
Matthews and Zavozin finished fourth with 51.05 points in the OD, and while they were in fifth place overall, were only .04 points behind the Kerrs.
Free Dance (FD)
Performing to Mozart’s Requiem and selections from soundtrack of Romeo and Juliet, Denkova and Staviski opened with a strong level four twizzle sequence and curve lift. The two-time Olympians also executed a good circular and midline step sequence, an excellent serpentine and straightline lift, and a good straightline-rotational combination lift. The judges awarded them a score of 100.12 points for a first place finish in the FD and overall (201.58 points) to win the gold.
The Bulgarians were pleased overall with their marks and levels that were awarded their elements. “We have just a few things to improve and we hope to talk to the specialists, the judges, and to some of the coaches after the competition to see what their opinion is of the program and how we can improve,” offered Denkova.
Gregory and Petukhov delivered a good routine to Yoav Goren’s Preliator and Sarabande, opening with a level four dance spin and serpentine lift. They went on to perform a good twizzle sequence, circular step sequence, a curve lift, a level four diagonal step sequence, and difficult lifts. With a segment score of 90.35 points, the husband-and-wife team finished second in the FD and overall with a total score of 180.98.
“It was very challenging for us just starting the season and fighting for higher placements,” admitted Petukhov. “We found [out] for ourselves [that] it’s a lot more difficult to pull yourself together when you’re actually going for a bigger result.
Performing to music by Maskim Mrvica, a Croatian classical pianist, Matthews and Zavozin executed difficult lifts – all of which were given a level four. The 2006 Four Continents silver medalists also produced good level three and four footwork sequences, finishing third in the FD (83.94 points) and subsequently moving up from fifth to fourth place overall (164.94 points).
Pechalat and Bourzat also delivered a good routine which contained level four lifts and footwork except for a dance spin and the circular step sequence, which were given a three. However, their curve lift was considered an illegal element because Bourzat supported his partner with his hand higher than his head. Despite the mistake, the two-time French National silver medalists scored 82.02 points for a fourth place finish in the FD and maintained their third position overall with 167.28 points.
“We skated very clean and our elements were good, but we were a bit afraid when we saw that the lift didn’t count,” said Pechalat. “We were relieved then to see the result.” Pechalat said when they saw the roster, they thought a placement in the top four would be good for them. “When we placed third in the compulsory dance, it was a nice surprise for us. This result gives us confidence for the season,” she added.
The Kerrs slipped from fourth to fifth overall (160.09) after placing fifth (79.05) in the FD. They put out a good performance, however, Sinead stumbled during their diagonal step sequence.
Denkova and Staviski (15 points) will compete at the Trophee Bompard event in three weeks, while Gregory and Petukhov (13 points) will next month at the NHK Trophy. Pechalat and Bourzat (11 points) will also at the upcoming Trophee Eric Bompard where they finished fifth last year.