Looking at the junior ice dancers’ podium in Barcelona one could say he’s been witnessing a Russian national competition and not an international event. With Anna Yanovskaya and Sergey Mozgov taking the gold, Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd, the silver, and Betina Popova and Yuri Vlasenko, the bronze, the atmosphere during the medals’ ceremony was thoroughly enjoyable, with smiles, laughter and jokes, and the skaters taking themselves the famous winners’ selfie. It was, indeed, a Russian sweep in the ice dancing event at the Junior Grand Prix Final – but this was not at all an isolated case: the same thing happened in 2010 and again in 2011. And, winning the title in Barcelona, Anna and Sergey repeated as Junior Grand Prix Final champions, exactly as it happened in 2009 and 2010 with Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin. From where I stand, the Russian ice dancers are all a force to be reckoned with and the latest edition of the Grand Prix Final did nothing but prove it. Here you are: a recap of the entire event, with loads of photos to enjoy.
by Florentina Tone
“Españoles!”, a voice shouted at the beginning of Daria Morozova and Mikhail Zhirnov’s short dance, as a part of their chosen music – and I could see no better way to start the junior ice dancing event in Barcelona, to Samba/Rhumba rhythms. The audience in CCIB arena enthusiastically cheered for all the six couples qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final (four from Russia, two from Canada), turning this particular segment of the competition into a joyful party, with drums and trumpets, with smiles and gorgeous costumes.
The 2014 Junior World silver medalists Anna Yanovskaya and Sergey Mozgov won the short dance, being awarded for this segment of the competition 59.12 points. Though impeccable when it came to posture and overall attitude on the ice – they do look wonderful together, one of the most beautiful young couples out there – their performance lacked some of the fire needed for a Samba routine and the Russians themselves were not that happy with their short dance. Anna’s sudden fall in the 6 minutes warm-up might have had something to do with their cautiousness during the actual program. She stated in the mixed zone, minutes after their performance: “It is always a little more difficult when you are the leader than chasing others. But what we didn’t do today, we’ll do tomorrow. The free dance is our favorite program”. Sergey nodded: “The free dance is our dance. I wouldn’t say that the Samba suits us so well”.
Lying in second place after the short dance, Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd truly sparkled while skating their program to “Samabando”. The speed across the ice, the innovative movements were definitely some of their aces, and they both seemed to thoroughly enjoy the dance, punctuating all the nuances of the music. Alla and Pavel received 53.72 points for their SD and looked more than pleased with the way they started the competition in Barcelona. Pavel stated: “It’s our first time here, so we were very pleased to have the support of the crowd, it really helped us to hear them clapping. There were a few small flaws, but we are pretty happy overall”. As for their second place entering the free dance, “I am speechless with happiness. This was an amazing unexpected success for us. It’s been an ambition from the start to keep pushing forward and we’ve managed that today. Tomorrow we want to go out and get as much pleasure from our skate as we did today”.
During the 6 minutes warm-up you just couldn’t take your eyes off Betina Popova’s dress; a jewel, literally. And, minutes later, during the actual performance to Cha Cha and Samba, she and Yuri Vlasenko were both on fire, living the music through every pore of their bodies. A costly mistake on their twizzles left them on the third place after the short dance (50.52 points) – and, at the end of the day, they were clearly disappointed. Yuri stated: “Today our technical scores were not as good, but the scores are the scores and we have to work harder. Of course we would like to medal, but we try not to think about that and focus on the technical elements instead”.
On the fourth place after the short dance, the Canadians Mackenzie Bent and Garrett MacKeen scored 49.28 points for their performance, while their team mates, Madeline Edwards and Zhao Kai Pang, received 47.60 points. Zhao in particular seemed keen to take as much as possible out of the Grand Prix Final experience: “It feels great to be competing with this level of competitors and we’re going to be able to see the senior tomorrow, who’re the best skaters in the world, which is fantastic”. 0.61 of a point behind Edwards and Pang, the Russians Daria Morozova and Mikhail Zhirnov, who scored 46.99 points for their short dance. Mikhail tried to explain what went wrong during their routine: “We started pretty well, but in the end we got tired, because it’s different from Russia, where it is very cold. Here we were hot, and it was difficult to breathe, and we didn’t have enough strength. Of course we are disappointed with the scores, but those are our results”.
Anna and Sergey, in a class of their own
No changes occurred in the rankings after the free dance – but the programs of the medalists were all exquisite. Starting with the winners’ free dance, I’ll say just that: Anna Yanovskaya and Sergey Mozgov’s argentine tango was a beauty, breathing power and confidence and suiting them like a glove. “The free dance is our dance”, Sergey Mozgov had stated a day earlier – and he was definitely right. During the press conference after the free skate, their enthusiasm was almost palpable. Anna stated with a smile: “We are very pleased with that skate, I think it was probably our best this season; not in terms of the scores perhaps, but in terms of the way we skated it”. Sergey added: “Is is definitely harder to defend a title than to win it for the first time. We felt a strong responsibility to show our best here and show we deserved the title, and I think we managed that”. And, given their expressiveness, their maturity on the ice, Anna and Sergey can successfully switch to seniors next season; they are already in a class of their own.
Skating to music from the ballet “Giselle”, Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd retained the silver medal in Barcelona – and this is quite a performance, given the fact this is only their third season together; they teamed up in 2012. All in all, their free dance was the wonderful surprise of the event, with them trying to tell the story of the peasant girl Giselle and the count betraying her love and trust. “It is very difficult to put a two hour ballet into three minutes. To bring the programs to such a dramatic conclusion is very hard, but I hope we succeeded in doing this”, stated Pavel during the press conference, while Alla herself tried to describe the program: “The first part of the story is very happy and positive, when I am crazy in love with the count. When I realize I have been tricked I go mad and that is more difficult to show, but it was interesting to try to do this too”. All in all, they felt really well welcomed in Barcelona, as the 16-year-old Alla recounted: “You can skate with complete happiness when you are performing in such a warm and happy atmosphere as we were today. It is simply a pleasure”. And, from where I stand, this particular ice dance couple has a wonderful future ahead; their grace and musicality are more than obvious.
The winners of the bronze medal, Betina Popova and Yuri Vlasenko, were too telling a story in Barcelona: the famous story of “One Thousand and One Nights“. Wearing their precious suits and skating to oriental music, Betina and Yuri performed an intriguing program, with tons of innovations and tons of enthusiasm. Have you seen her smile? It is purely contagious. And she kept it during the press conference too: „I love performing. I am madly in love with dancing. I even dance on my own when no one can see. I really enjoy it a lot. A competition is like a little party for me“. Yuri added: „We took a lot of happiness from the audience today and we did everything we wanted to do“.
Skating to music from “Once Upon a Time” soundtrack and “Zombie Fight”, Mackenzie Bent and Garrett MacKeen finished the event on the fourth place.
On the fifth place in Barcelona, Madeline Edwards and Zhao Kai Pang performed a wonderful free dance, to music by Nicola Piovani (“Beautiful that way”, “Il tema della tata”) and act 3 from “Hobson’s Choice” by
The dancers will meet again in Tallinn, at the Junior Worlds, at the beginning of March.