Russia’s Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov currently lead the dance teams after the Westminster Waltz Compulsory Dance (CD), followed by USA’s Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani and Ekaterina Pushkash and Jonathan Guerreiro of Russia.
The teams which placed second through fifth are separated by less than one point.
Ilinykh and Katsalapov produced a confident dance, scoring a new personal best of 37.52 (20.24/17.28).
This came as a surprise to the team as they placed second to teammates Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin at the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final and Russian Junior Nationals.
“It is a little unexpected for us,” noted Ilinykh. “After all, we are not the top ranked Russian team.”
“We’ve worked very hard since the Final in December,” he continued. “We worked especially on our technique and physical strength, we did many run-throughs of our programs. We are pleased that we were able to improve the technical side of our skating.”
Shibutani and Shibutani delivered a solid waltz and scored 34.27 points (18.48/15.79) for second place.
“We’re very happy with our dance, and we really enjoy skating the Westminster,” said Maia. “It’s very joyful. We just want to put out strong performances. We think this is a great start to the week and we’re just going to focus on the skating.”
“We skated really well and we just had a lot of fun out there,” added her brother Alex. “We were relaxed. The placement is the placement. We still have our goals how we want to skate and we’re going to stick to that.”
Pushkash and Guerreiro turned out a good waltz as well, earning 34.20 (18.38/15.82) points.
“We showed everything as we can do it in practice, and so we are happy and our coach was pleased as well. We like the Waltz,” said Pushkash. “The flow of the waltz suits us probably better than sharp movements in other dances. We skated last and we were a bit nervous, but we actually like to skate last. We won’t relax now as the difference in points between the couples is very small.”
“We are in our first season and we are still gelling as a team,” added Guerreiro, “but the Waltz works well for us as we have matching body lines. A Quickstep probably would have been a little harder for us.”
Monko and Khaliavin placed fourth with 34.17 points, while Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam of Canada are in fifth with 33.32 points. Italy’s Lorenza Alessandrini and Simone Vaturi are currently sixth (32.35 points).