Evora, Thornton seize 'Battle of the Blades' crownPrecedent-setting technical moves help propel duo to title
Competition for the Season Four title of Battle of the Blades was intense. The three finalists -- Marie-France Dubreuil and Mathieu Dandenault, Violetta Afanasieva and Jason Strudwick, and Amanda Evora and Scott Thornton -- all laid down strong programs. The winners were announced Sunday, Nov. 17, with Evora and Thornton taking home the trophy and securing a $100,000 donation to their charity, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
"I've got a bit of an insight into the sport now, which has been great," said Thornton, 42, who played 18 seasons in the NHL. "I've had an opportunity to test my limits. I've become a fan of the sport and look forward to watching the Olympics next year and seeing how the real 'pros' do it."
After signing on to do the show and prior to coming to boot camp -- an intensive three-day period where the skaters worked out and the producers decided on the partnerships -- Thornton donned figure skates and did some practicing at a rink at home in Collingwood, Ontario. He tried the basics, like crossovers, and he admitted he was terrified after having watched the high standards on previous seasons of the show. That fear was quickly allayed.
"The show's coaches are so good at finding the best in us," he said. "Everything they do is giving us a really good opportunity to be successful."
The petite Evora paired with 6-foot-3 Thornton made big tricks possible, and the duo's choreographer/coach, Michael Seibert, and coach, Paul Martini, cultivated those skills.
"Michael's approach was perfect for my personality," Thornton said. "He's tough. He doesn't take it easy on us by any means, but never did he ever make me feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or awkward."
Dubreuil and Afanasieva had both appeared on previous seasons of Battle of the Blades. Not only had Evora, 29, not done the show before, but she had virtually no experience with show skating.
"We definitely felt like underdogs, like we had to earn our right every week to stay in the competition and keep fighting," Thornton said.
They showed their merit with routines like kodo drums, Bonnie and Clyde and "Bolero," in which they performed a triple twist, which forever ups the technical standard on the series. "Bolero" proved to be the duo's favorite program, allowing them to give their take on Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's iconic 1984 Olympic routine.
"I was so happy to have Michael Seibert as my coach; he's been on the show all four seasons," Evora said. "I looked at him a lot for direction. He pressed me a lot before the show. I always did my homework. If he told me to do something, I made sure I got it done. He truly, honestly helped me be able to be there for Scott.
"That Olympic week was incredible," she added. "Torvill and Dean had straight 6.0s. It was the first time I've ever gotten straight 6.0s. It was a dream come true that I didn't even think of dreaming about."
Both said the experience of doing the show was a journey.
"I don't want to be so dramatic and say it's life changing, but it's the perfect stage in my life personally, where I needed to be challenged and extend myself in a way that I haven't maybe in the past [few years]. It was great," Thornton said. "It's been very rewarding."
Evora had 35 family members in the audience for the finale. Thornton's family was also present to see them crowned Season Four champions.
Dubreuil and Dandenault finished third, splitting $30,000 for their respective charities, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation. Afanasieva and Strudwick were second, splitting $35,000 for the Humane Society of Kawartha Lakes and Edmonton Inner City Children's Program. To date, Battle of the Blades has donated more than $1 million to Canadian charities.
"The charity component was a big reason why I did this. Everybody had a story that's close to their heart," Thornton said. "All the fun that I've had and personal growth that I've had are a bonus."