Ice Network

Beckers Bee Gee their way to novice dance title

Gropman, Somerville snag silver; Feng, Ponomarenko surge into third
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With their high-energy 'Saturday Night Fever' program, Gigi Becker and Luca Becker finished second in the free dance and easily came away with the gold. -Jay Adeff

Gigi Becker and Luca Becker were the first champions crowned as they won the novice ice dance title Monday at the 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston. They were joined on the podium by training mates Eliana Gropman and Ian Somerville, who took the silver.

Becker and Becker, who were fourth in this event last year, bettered their free dance score from the 2014 Eastern Sectional Championships by more than six points to extend their short dance lead and become titlists by more than eight points.

The disco-inspired free dance set to music of the Bee Gees earned a total score of 71.14 points and featured such elements as Level 4 twizzles, lifts and spins.

"We improved. A lot," Gigi explained. "Our sectionals score was 64, so this is much better."

Her brother added, "Part of the reason we did so well is because, with our coaches, we have been working on our edges in the footwork, and I think that put us up a few points."

Having been champions two years ago at the intermediate level, the sister-brother team was eager to get back atop the podium and have that feeling again.

"It means so much to be champion," Gigi said. "Two years ago, we got first in intermediate. I was so happy. That feeling is amazing." 

Gropman and Somerville took the ice just before the Beckers, recording their highest free dance score of the season at 64.97 points.

"That specific run-through was the best of the season," Somerville said.

They credit their quick success in their first year at the novice level to the stiff competition, both at the rink and at the level overall.

"This year has been the hardest competition because most of the teams in our warm-up group have been in novice for two years already," Somerville said. "It feels really good to have this result."

They won their medal in front of a crowd that included many Grompan family and friends, as her parents hail from the Boston area.

"It's really nice to have my family supporting me at competitions and that they can actually watch, not just see it on the Internet," Gropman said.

Like the champions, Sarah Feng and Anthony Ponomarenko drastically improved on their results from a year ago in Omaha, Neb. The Bay Area-based duo -- which has also trained about six weeks this season in Novi, Mich., with its secondary coach Igor Shpilband -- was eighth in 2013.

The team's free dance to the music of Yello was the best of the day, earning them a score of 71.46 points. Four points off the bronze medal pace after the pattern dance, Feng and Ponomarenko knew they could improve on their standing with a solid free dance.

"We thought that if we skated our best, we could get a good score," Ponomarenko said.

The medal is their first since winning juvenile bronze at the U.S. junior championships in 2011.

The team said it has learned to train harder in the elite atmosphere fostered at the rink in Novi.

"We have learned how to train properly and to work hard," Ponomarenko said. "Seeing they are a higher level of skating, it makes us improve in our own skating and motivates us."

In third after the pattern dances, Danielle Thomas and Alexander Martin had a tough free dance and settled for fourth.