2023 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships
USA’s Madison Chock and Evan Bates danced their way to a new personal best at the 2023 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen of Canada were also in fine form, with only a 1.39-point margin separating them from the leaders. Teammates Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha are currently third in their second appearance at this event.
Chock and Bates, who previously won the Four Continents in 2019 and 2020, earned a 87.67 with their Samba and Rhumba routine to “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie. The team earned a level four on their strong twizzles and curve lift, while the pattern and midline steps were graded a level three. All elements received high grades of execution (GOE), particularly on the midline steps.
“It is so much fun!” stated Chock. “We did a lot of the preparation for this competition before we left for nationals. We let our training carry us into this week. Our season’s best is an amazing feeling going into the World Championships. It feels so good to be skating the way we are training and the way we want to perform, so we know we are right on track to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.”
It was noted that there were falls from four dance teams on Friday. When asked about the ice, Chock said they felt “grounded and comfortable.”
“I didn’t really notice anything,” she said. ” I did notice some crowd reactions, though, when we were backstage. It was quite surprising, because you don’t usually see that (falls) in ice dance. I think the last time this happened was maybe the Torino Olympics (2006). I just hope everybody’s okay. We have a day off, so hopefully everyone will recover and recuperate and have their best skates on Sunday.”
Last week, Chock and Bates won the ISU skating award for the Best Costume for the second time in a row for last’s years free dance.
“Designing costumes is one of my favorite things,” commented Chock. “It is such an incredible honor when you think of all the amazing athletes and beautiful costumes.”
Fournier Beaudry and Soerensen had beaten Chock and Bates previously this season at the 2022 NHK Trophy. In Colorado Springs they came close again in their rhythm dance to various songs by Gloria Estefan. The newly-crowned national champions produced level-four twizzles and stationary lift, while the patters steps were a level three. She earned a level four on the midline steps, while his were a level three, and they picked up a new personal best of 86.28 points. The GOE and higher components scores gave the edge to the Americans.
“The crowd was cheering and it just gave us so much energy,” Fournier Beaudry said. “I think increasing the communication between us and between our coaches was the main key to our success, as well as just really enjoying and re-finding that fire and passion that we both share. The goal is to have fun on the ice and enjoy the moment out there.”
“This year, we’ve really been focusing on changing our approach by having a little bit more fun and trying to combat some of the stress that’s inevitable in competition,” added Soerensen.
He said their goal is to win.
“We have a really strong free dance this year,” Soerensen pointed out. “We really believe in ourselves, we love the material, and we have such a great time doing every single element out there!”
Lajoie and Lagha trains alongside with the two teams ahead of them at the Ice Academy of Montreal. The national silver medalists carried a lot of speed across the ice throughout their performance. They started very strongly, earning a level four on their twizzles, however Lajoie only received a level one on the midline steps and Lagha a level two. The pattern steps were strong with high GOEs, and the young team placed third with 79.04 points.
“There were a few little mistakes in our performance today, but overall it was good,” commented Lagha. “I feel like it was a tough competition because of the stress level, but we handled it well and did our job. We are really happy, because the work that we did all those years is finally starting to pay off. It’s a shame that our season is finishing here, but next year we’ll come back stronger.”
Canada only holds two spots for the upcoming World Championships, and with Grand Prix Final Champions Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier returning, Lajoie and Lagha will miss out on the biggest event of the season.
USA’s Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko took forth place with a new season’s best score of 76.97. Last year’s Four Continents bronze medalists received a level four on their twizzles and curve lift, while the midline steps were graded a level three for Carreira and level two for Ponomarenko.
“We wanted to nail the rhythm dance this time, because we made a big mistake during that program at nationals,” said Ponomarenko. “I think we did that today.”
Carreira wanted to lift the pressure off their shoulders regarding repeating their medal of the previous year. She stated that their goal for tomorrow is just to skate their best.
Defending champions Caroline Green and Michael Parsons skated their best up until the last element when Parsons took a fall during the midline steps. The mistake proved very costly as the medal contenders slipped to fifth place with only 69.99 points, more than ten points behind their personal best.
“The mistake is on me,” admitted Parsons. “My toe stopped turning, then I stopped turning. That’s unfortunate. We still have a good opportunity on Sunday to show what we’ve been working on and to really skate our hearts out!”
Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto earned a respectable score of 66.72 and were very pleased with their performance.
Teammates Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi are in sixth place (64.59) after Muramoto took a surprising fall during the midline steps.
“That was actually a mistake that I have never made, so I am still wondering what have happened to me,” said Muramoto. “But I have to learn from it for sure!”
“It was just an accident so now we just need to forget what happened and focus on the free dance,” added Takahashi. “We have been working hard on not only on elements, but also connections between elements. Especially there are many difficult steps in the second half of the free dance, so we have tried to make them look more attractive and higher quality.”