2023 Grand Prix Espoo: Ice Dance
USA’s Madison Chock and Evan Bates won their second consecutive Grand Prix gold in Ice Dance in Espoo, Finland, on Saturday. Canada’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen
earned the silver, while Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis of Finland repeated for bronze.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates
Chock and Bates finished first in the rhythm dance with a new season’s best of season’s best 85.61. Their routine to a Queen medley was highlighted by a brilliant level-four twizzles, midline steps and rotational lift. The pattern steps were only graded a level two, but the 2023 World Champions racked up tons of high grades of execution (GOE) in all elements.
“We feel really good today,” said Chock. “It was a joy and a fun time performing here. We’ve been working a lot on both programs.”
“The 80’s theme this year has grown on me over the season,” said Bates. “I think it’s great that the ISU is experimenting with the rule changes, especially at the beginning of an Olympic cycle.”
Their free dance to music by Pink Floyd wasn’t as good as it was at 2023 Skate America, but they still got the job done. All three lifts and the dance spin were graded a level four. Chock had a slight bobble on the twizzles, which were graded a level three and four. The one-foot steps were a level three and two while both ice dancers got a level three on the diagonal steps. Once again, they earned many high GOEs, particularly for the choreographic moves. They placed first in the free dance and overall (123.85/209.46).
“It’s a huge honor to be the winner of a Grand Prix,” said Bates. “Our programs are challenging and were not mistake-free today, but we believe that our risks will pay off.”
“It’s difficult to compare our victories,” said Chock, when asked. “I value the memories from every competition. It feels like a full circle moment to come back here.”
“This is actually the rink where we made our international debut many years go,” Bates pointed out.
Bates also noted that this is only the second event of the season for them.
“We are happy about where we are right now at this point at the season,” he summed up.
Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen
Fournier Beaudry and Soerensen showed great presentation skills in their rhythm dance to the iconic music of Top Gun, picking up a season’s best of 82.62 for second place. The diagonal steps were graded a level four and two, but they both received a level four on the twizzles. The straightline lift was also a level four.
“We are happy how we performed today,” said Soerensen. “It really felt like the best performance of this rhythm dance yet. The public was great. It is always like that here in Finland. This is like our eighth time in this arena, and it really feels like coming home. Still, it’s our first Grand Prix here.”
When asked about the theme for next season, Soerensen said, “2000s! I am so in for that! Spice Girls, NSYNC, that kind of stuff!”
The 2023 Four Continents silver medalists delivered a powerful routine to Notre Dame de Paris which featured difficult level-four lifts and very good level-four twizzles. Both the one-foot and diagonal steps were graded a level three and two, while the dance spin was a level four. They finished second in the free dance and overall (123.70/206.32).
“It was a good performance, it was very fun,” said Fournier Beaudry.
“It’s easy for us to get into the performance part of the program,” offered Soerensen. “We need to work a bit on the refinement and the technique. That will be the task for the next couple of weeks, now that we have qualified for the final.”
The team has high goals and want to medal at the Final.
On competing against their good friends Chock and Bates, Fournier Beaudry said: “As you train with them every day and know all the hard work all of these teams put in, you want them to do well and cheer for them. Of course, you want to beat them, but you want to beat them skating clean. The environment the coaches in Montreal created is just very healthy and beneficial for all of us.”
Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis
Turkkila and Versluis finished third in the rhythm dance with a convincing routine to music by Taylor Dayne. While the midline steps were only graded a level one, the twizzles were a level three and four. The stationary lift was also a level four and the pattern steps a level three. The were rewarded with a new personal best of 77.65.
“It was quite good,” said Turkkila. “We are very happy that we were able to achieve our personal best, but we still know there is quite some room to improve. That motivates us to work even harder.”
“The beginning was really strong today,” added Verslius. “We skated with full energy, like in practice. We think we have room to give more energy towards the end of the performance, but we really enjoyed skating here. The home crowd gave us extra energy and it was a step up from Finlandia Trophy.”
They finished third (118.15) with their artistic and modern free dance to “Mass (Re-Imagined)” and “Loss” by Phoria. Their routine was highlighted by level-four lifts and twizzles, and the 2023 Nebelhorn bronze medalists placed third overall (195.80).
“In the Kiss & Cry we weren’t really sure if it was going to be enough as we thought it was not our best,” admitted Turkkila. “We were a bit tense.”
“But we kept the focus on the technical part which was good,” added Versluis.
“We will take it as a learning experience today,” said Turkkila. “Skating here feels so comfortable, we have so good memories. We love skating here!”
The three-time Finnish champions will compete again next week at NHK Trophy.
“Next week in Japan we want to improve from this competition despite not having much time to train,” said Versluis. “We are leaving Monday evening. We aren’t sure how it will work for us competing at two back-to-back Grand Prixes. We will see!”
Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko
USA’s Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko showed good ice coverage in their rhythm dance to music by Stevie Nicks. The 2022 Four Continents bronze medalists were the only team to receive a level four on the pattern steps. They also earned a level four on the twizzles and curve lift, while the midline steps were graded a level three and two. They scored a new season’s best of 74.58 four fourth place going into the free dance.
“We feel really good about our skate today,” said Carreira. “We think it was a step up from France.”
“We only had five days of intense training back home, but we used that well,” added Ponomarenko.
The national bronze medalists finished fourth in the free dance with their dark and suspenseful routine to music from Perfume. The twizzles, lifts, and dance spin were all graded a level four, and they placed fourth overall (188.76).
“We are so happy with both of our performances this weekend,” said Carreira. “We wanted to come in and attack both of our performances. We feel like it was a great step up from since France.”
“It felt very solid today, the skate we needed to have,” Ponomarenko added.
They will now prepare for nationals, working on little nuances.
“We feel there is so much to still get out of the characters of this program,” said Ponomarenko.
When asked about the highly competitive field of ice dance in the U.S., Carreira said, “I think it’s very beneficial. We are pushing each other, nothing is given to you!”
“It is very motivating,” added her partner. “The other teams are pushing us. I am so grateful to have such an amazing partner as Christina by my side.”
Emilea Zingas and Vadym Kolesnik
USA’s Emilea Zingas and Vadym Kolesnik finished fifth in the rhythm dance (72.13). Their routine was highlighted by a level-four stationary lift. The midline steps were graded a level three and two, while the twizzles were a three and four.
The 2022 Golden Spin bronze medalists showed complex transitions in their majestic free dance to The Beauty and The Beast. They finished fifth in the free dance and overall (111.65/183.78).
“It felt like an improvement from Skate Canada,” said Zingas. “We put in a lot of work to develop these programs and that showed today.”
“It’s an honor to compete against these strong athletes,” said Kolesnik. “I am trying to become the best possible version of myself. It was a lot of pressure to skate in the second group. We are maybe not all the way there yet, but in general, I am approaching each competition thinking that I have a shot at winning it.”
Their goal this season is to medal at nationals and to make the Four Continents and World team.
Rounding out the top 10
This was a solo event for Finland’s Yuka Orihara and Juho Pirinen who finished sixth overall with a new season’s best of 176.73.
“We are improving bit by bit,” said Orihara. “I felt so grateful to the Finish audience!”
“I agree in Yuka,” said Pirinen. “I think we hit the nuances really well today and the audience helped a lot.”
They will go to Rome in December for a week to work on the choreography with Massimo Scali. Then they will skate at nationals and then Europeans.
Katerina Mrazkova and Daniel Mrazek of the Czech Republic finished seventh (172.58). They plan to take a week off to rest before preparing for the Four National Championships and Europeans.
This was a solo event fo Canada’s Nadiia Bashynska and Peter Beaumont who finished eighth (167.87).