When German ice dancers Darya Grimm, 15, and Michail Savitskiy, 18, came to the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, last April, they were just happy to be there and had no expectations. In the end, they came in fifth in their debut at this event—the best result for a German junior ice dance couple since 2003 when Christian and William Beier ranked fifth as well.
“We came here with the correct goal,” said Savitskiy. “Obviously we had the top ten in the back of our mind, but in general, we came here to enjoy and just to show what we have learned as our coach had told us.” His partner agreed: “We were like, ‘ if we make the top ten, fine. If we don’t, never mind. We just show what we can do.'”
In Tallinn, the young team met all key points in their first Blues Patter steps in the Rhythm Dance which was graded a level four. The rotational lift and his twizzles also received a level four. They did well in the Free Dance, but the grades of execution weren’t as high as the more experienced skaters, and the scores reflected that. They placed fourth in the Rhythm Dance, seventh in the Free Dance, and fifth overall.
“I don’t think many people expected that and it was a surprise for us as well, but of course we are very happy,” Savitskiy noted.
The dancers set new personal best scores for themselves in the Rhythm Dance and Free Dance and improved their total score from their first ISU Junior Grand Prix in Courchevel, France, by 20 points.
“This competition (Junior Worlds) was at a higher level than the Junior Grand Prix,” Savitskiy pointed out. “Placing fourth in the Rhythm Dance and fifth overall was a pleasant surprise. Obviously, the Russians were not there, but the others were really top teams and it was great to compete with them.”
The result was even more surprising as the preparation for Junior Worlds did not go as smoothly as the skaters had hoped. Grimm contracted COVID-19 after a national competition in mid-March.
“I got my booster on Monday and on Tuesday I tested positive. That was not so great,” she explained, adding that she lost a few training days, but wasn’t overall severely affected.
The German Junior Champions teamed up in September 2019 without previous ice dance experience. Both had come to Oberstdorf and trained in singles before deciding to switch to ice dance.
“It happened more or less by accident,” Savitskiy shared. “At the time, we both switched from singles to ice dance and had a try out and now we are an ice dance couple.”
“I didn’t really have the feeling for singles anymore and girls started doing quads,” recalled Grimm. “I said right away, ‘I’m not doing this’ and a lot of people told me I should do ice dance.” “Jump-wise I was doing okay, but lost the interest in single skating,” Savitskiy added. “I basically wanted to retire, but then I had the opportunity to switch to ice dance and I thought, ‘why shouldn’t I try it?'”
The young skaters quickly fell in love with the ice dance discipline. They not only turned out to be a very good match, but progressed fast. The team trains in Oberstdorf under Rostislav Sinicyn and his wife, Natalja Karamysheva, who competed in ice dance representing the Soviet Union.
“I think we took the right approach from the beginning,” Sinicyn said. “They skated at the novice level and we worked a lot on the basics. Natalja in particular worked a lot with them on the pattern dances. In a sense, even the pandemic helped us. We didn’t push them into juniors too soon.”
“It is more fun, because ice dance is something more than single skating,” Savitskiy noted. “Singles is just technique and you don’t have the same level of artistry and skating with emotions. This is something that speaks to me.”
“I like the feeling in competition, because there is someone next to you and you are sharing the moment with him,” Grimm pointed out. “You interact with each other and it is simply that there is someone next to you that feels the same you do.”
Grimm and Savitskiy will remain at the junior level for the upcoming 2022-23 figure skating season.
“This was just our first international junior season and now we are starting to build a name so that the judges get to know us,” Savitskiy explained.
The team feels very motivated after their success in the past season and they are now hungry for more. One of their goals for next season is to qualify for the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final.
“This result (at Junior Worlds) showed us that we can be among the top teams and now obviously it is our goal to close the gap to the podium and to achieve the same or even a better result next season,” said Savitskiy. “It would be nice to get a medal at the Junior Grand Prix,” Grimm added.
As Junior Worlds was moved from March to April, the season was longer than usual. The Germans took part in the ISU ice dance development seminar in May in their hometown and have started to work on their new Rhythm Dance that includes the Argentine Tango as the Pattern Dance. It was their first time at the seminar as it was cancelled due to the pandemic for the past two years. The program included skating skills classes, partner, and group exercises.
“We really liked it, because it covered many different aspects,” Savitskiy shared. “The main focus of the seminar is the preparation for next season, and therefore, the Rhythm Dance for next season was an important part. We started to work on the Tango and to build our new program with our choreographer, Maria Tumanovska. It is not yet completely ready and the music cut is not finalized either, but we have a foundation. So far we like the Tango style, even though we haven’t done it yet for a long time.”
“It is completely different compared to the Blues, but I think it is characteristic for ice dance that we don’t have the same program every year,” Grimm agreed. “But everyone has to do something different.”
The German Junior Champions appreciate the work with Tumanvoska—who is from Ukraine, but meanwhile has moved to Oberstdorf, as well.
“The goal of our choreography is to do as few cross overs as possible, but to have a good flow and less standard elements,” Savitskiy pointed out. “We are working a lot on deep edges, soft knees and to make everything look a bit softer.”
The team has not yet selected a music or theme for the Free Dance.
“I have an idea for the Free Dance, but we need to discuss it with Tumanovska,” said Sinicyn. “I’d like to try something new and different with them. You need to try different things, that is good for the development of the couple.”