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Gilles and Poirier epic in Espoo

by Paula Slater
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2022 Grand Prix Espoo Ice Dance

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada perform their free dance at 2022 Grand Prix Espoo on November 26, 2022.

2022 Grand Prix Espoo – Ice Dance

Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier laid down epic performances in Espoo to win their fourth grand prix gold medal in Ice Dance. USA’s  Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker won their second consecutive silver medal at this event, while Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis captured Finland’s first grand prix medal—the bronze.

Gilles and Poirier scored new personal bests throughout the event

Overnight leaders (87.80) Gilles and Poirier were articulate in their dramatic routine to music from Evita which featured level-four twizzles, lifts and dance spin. The circular and one-foot steps were graded a level three and the 2021 World bronze medalists racked up many positive grades of execution (GOE) throughout. The team scored a new personal best in the free dance (131.69) and overall (219.49) to win the event with over 17 points to spare.

“Going into our program today, we were a little bit tired,” admitted Gilles. “We’re learning that it’s OK to perform under any circumstances. I think having the opportunity to travel with Stars On Ice we’ve prepared for moments like this. Something we’ve learned over the past couple of years is trusting our training, and don’t skate any more than we have that day. But we’re really proud of our performance. We definitely felt that it was a step up from Skate Canada. It felt a little more comfortable today.”

With their second win, the Canadian Champions have qualified for the Grand Prix Final along with teammates Laurence Fournier-Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen.

“We don’t have a lot of time before the Final as this is the last Grand Prix,” noted Poirier. “So, the next two weeks will really be about managing our energy and making sure that we’re not too tired as we head into the Grand Prix Final so that we can have strong performances there.”

Hawayek and Baker proud of their performance

Hawayek and Baker, who stood in second (80.93) after the rhythm dance, delivered a moving routine to “Requiem” and “Sofia.” Their free dance included level-four twizzles and two level-four lifts. The straightline lift was graded a level three and she received a level three on the one-foot steps, while his were a level four. The diagonal steps were graded a level two for her and three for him, while the dance spin was a level three. All elements received high GOEs, and the 2018 Four Continents Champions scored 121.53 points for a second-place finish in the free dance overall (202.46).

“For us, it was a very good performance,” said Hawayek. “There’s moments when you skate where things feel effortless and things feel almost like you’re in a trance, in a magical moment, and then there’s other days where it feels like constant micro refocuses and work. Today was one of those where we felt like there were many moments where we had to really zone in on each other and focus our energy and be really intentional with each other. Both produce really good performances. They don’t necessarily have the same emotional reaction at the end when we finish, but it was one of those programs where we felt really proud of just being able to stand out there, execute and continue to show the improvement that we’ve made this season.”

“We are also really excited to have qualified for our second Grand Prix Final,” she added. “We are headed back to Italy and it’s been a few years since we’ve been there, so we are very excited to compete there again.”

Turkkila and Versluis make history on home ice

Turkkila and Versluis were in fourth place with a new personal best (75.06) going into the free dance. The 2022 Finlandia Trophy bronze medalists delivered three level-four lifts and dance spin in their nostalgic routine to “4 Impromptus” and “Piano Sonata No. 20” by Franz Schubert. The twizzles and one-foot steps were both graded a level three and the team scored a new personal best of  116.73 for third place. With a total new personal best score of 191.79, the Finnish champions moved up one spot to third overall to claim their first grand prix medal.

“It felt like a long day today and we felt a bit tired, but the home crowd gave us a lot of energy to skate through the free program,” said Versluis. “We felt very ‘in the moment’ and tried to enjoy every second of the skate today.”

Turkkila said that the historic medal for their country gives them confidence moving forward.

“We know what we are capable of and we want to achieve more,” she said. “This I just the beginning.”

USA’s Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko slipped to fourth overall (188.80). The 2022 Four Continents bronze medalists put out a good performance to music from the Backbone which was highlighted by level-four twizzles and dance spin, however, they received a one-point deduction for an extended lift.

Natalie Taschlerova and Filip Taschler of the Czech Repulic finished in fifth place overall (186.39) ahead of Canada’s Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus (175.63) and Finland’s Yuka Orihara and Juho Pirinen (173.17).

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