2023 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships
USA’s Madison Chock and Evan Bates convincingly won their third Four Continents title on Sunday in Colorado Springs, Colo. Canadians Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen and Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha won silver and bronze, respectively. It was the second appearance at this event for both Canadian teams.
Chock and Bates have changed their Free Dance to “Souffrance” and “Les Tectoniques” again and again throughout the season. Coming into this event, they appeared to have perfected the program. In Colorado Springs, they earned level four on the twizzles, dance spin, and two lifts. The one-foot and diagonal steps were graded a level three, however, all elements were rewarded with very high grades of execution (GOE). The team also earned the highest component score of the night with 57.62.
The two-time World bronze medalists were shocked when they saw their score of 133.14. In fact, it’s just a few points shy of France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron’s record score of 137.09 from 2022 Worlds. Chock and Bates also scored a new total best of 220.81.
“We are extremely happy with how we skated!” said Chock. “Tt was fun and invigorating from start to finish. It’s been incredible to compete in our home country, with so many training mates and wonderful team mates. It’s such an honor to win our third Four Continents medal together. Earning our personal best at this altitude was a pleasant surprise and a testament to our training and mental fortitude!”
“This sets us up well for worlds and our goal of winning worlds,” added Bates. “We loaded up on our training in December and made some changes to the program. This program has been a big learning experience. It’s taken us time to find the niche, but now it’s become something really special. This will give us some confidence heading into worlds.”
Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen showed a passionate free dance to various pieced by Ennio Morricone and Robert Rodriguez. The team showed very good level-four dance spin, twizzles, and stationary lift, but the straight-line lift, in combination with a rotational lift, was graded a level three. The one-foot steps were graded a level two and three, while both ice dancers received a level three on the midline steps. All elements received high GOEs, and like the leaders, they topped their personal best in both the free dance and the total score (127.80/214.08).
“We feel really good!” said Soerensen. “Just really excited that we are keeping it up. It was really hard preparing for this event. Laurence had a big injury on Friday, so coming here, we were just really relieved being able to perform two good programs with new seasons bests. Taking our performance to the next level was really cool.”
Regarding the altitude in Colorado Springs, Fournier Beaudry added: “Before going onto the ice, you really think about it, and wonder if it will affect you. But once you’re on the ice, everything goes back to normal and you forget about it and you know what you have to do.”
Soerensen admitted to feeling the effects more than his partner, but added that “preparation is key for everything.”
“We really want to push ourselves in order to get close to Madison and Evan,” he said.
Looking ahead to the World Championships in Saitama, Japan, Fournier Beaudry commented that it was their biggest goal to gain three spots for Canada in Ice Dance.
“Additionally, we always love to come to Japan,” she said. “It’s my favorite country to go visit and to compete in.”
Team and training mates Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha held on to the bronze-medal position with their expressive “Nureyev” free dance. They collected a new personal best of 120.96 points, for the third-place free dance. Their routine featured good level-four twizzles, lifts and dance spin. The main difference that set them apart from the top two teams were the program component scores. Their total score was 200.00—just 2.40 points shy from what they earned after winning gold in Budapest earlier this season.
“It is the cherry on top of a perfect season, and we could not have given more,” said Lagha. “In each competition, we strived to give our maximum.”
Lagha pointed out that their rotational lift was an element they usually worry about.
“It’s a really difficult lift for us,” he said, “but after that one was done, we could go all out and enjoy ourselves.”
Lajoie was thrilled as this is a “big championship” and the fact that they have medaled in every event they have competed in this season. Looking ahead towards the 2023-24 season, she opined that they would like to continue this style of program as she feels it suits them best.
“It’s also considered a weakness to always do the same,” she noted, “so we will have to discuss.”
It was the first ISU Championship medal for both of the top Canadian teams.
USA’s Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko came in fourth place in the free dance and overall (112.81/189.78). Last year’s Four Continents bronze medalists were only graded a level two on their one-foot steps, however, the diagonal steps were graded a level three. All three lifts and the twizzles received a level four.
“We are happy, it was one of our more solid performances this season,” said Carreira. “There were some places we saved energy, but overall it was good. For next season, we want to tackle our power and speed.”
Teammates Caroline Green and Michael Parsons took fourth place (116.896) in the free dance. Having suffered a fall in the rhythm dance, the defending champions finished fifth overall with 186.88. Highlights of their program were the level-four twizzles and level three diagonal steps.
“We are happy with our free dance,” said Parsons. “We were going into it a little frustrated, but are proud of how we fought and how we skated and worked together. It’s a great motivation going into worlds as we have much more to show. The score doesn’t represent what we are capable of. We will go home and work hard. There is no time machine; it hurts looking back on the fall in the rhythm dance, but it’s in the past. We did a good job today.”
The third Canadian Team, Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac, redeemed themselves after struggling in the rhythm dance. They rose from eighth to sixth place overall with their “Pink Panther” routine (109.32/171.35).
“We really enjoyed the performance,” said Le Gac. “That exactly was our goal, because it was the last time we performed this free dance in competition. We especially enjoyed this program.”
Japan’s Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto placed seventh overall with 165.71 points. Koleto struggled with his twizzles today, admitting the altitude had affected him.
“It’s a little scary, there’s moments where you feel a little dizzy,” he said. “You can miss a twizzle or two, which I did. But in order to keep Misato safe, it’s important to control the feeling of being dizzy. I did that at least, but I am feeling disappointed I didn’t do better with the twizzles and one foot section.”
Muramoto and Takahashi performed beautifully during the first three minutes of their program to music from Phantom of the Opera. Unfortunately, Takahashi ran out of stream during the last minute, falling during the diagonal steps and and again during the final choreographic lift.
“I have no idea what happened,” said Takahashi. “I actually felt good, it wasn’t the altitude. Not my day I guess.”
“I was the one who fell in the rhythm dance,” said Muramoto, “so I know what it feels like to make a mistake. So, I went to him right away to tell that it was okay. We’ve been working really hard towards this Four Continents, and we don’t want this to pull us down. We will of course keep working hard towards Worlds. Being held in Japan, it will of course be a very special competition for us.”
The team doesn’t know yet whether they will stick around for another season, but are looking forward to performing in shows after Worlds.