Ice Network

Weaver, Poje lead Chock, Bates after short dance

Top couples perplexed by one-point choreography deductions
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Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje hold a lead of almost three points over Madison Chock and Evan Bates after the short dance. -Getty Images

As expected, the top Canadian and American couples stand first and second after the short dance at the Nebelhorn Trophy, with world silver medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje edging U.S. silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates by less than three points.

The Canadians performed their short dance to the paso doble rhythms of "La virgen de la Macarena," with a bit of flamenco added for spice. The Detroit-based students of Anjelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo, who also work with Shae-Lynn Bourne in Toronto, skated with character and expression, earning program components that ranged up to 9.25.

All five of their elements were well above average, with a string of +2 Grades of Execution (GOEs). The twizzle sequence gained Level 4, and they amassed 65.59 points.

"We are very happy to compete here. We have always wanted to do this competition, and, finally, we are doing it," Weaver, 25, said. "There are so many officials here; therefore, we will get good feedback, which helps us to prepare for our first Grand Prix event (Skate Canada)."

Poje added that competing in Oberstdorf brings back good memories.

"About seven and a half years ago, we qualified in our first year together for junior worlds (held in Oberstdorf) and even won a medal in this rink, which was a huge surprise for us," he said.   

Chock and Bates, fifth in the world last season, skated a flawless short dance to three selections from Léon Minkus' Don Quixote. Their opening element, the lift, was excellent, gaining two +3 GOEs. 

"It is a great experience to compete here in this beautiful city," Chock, 22, said. "We did a really good program today, but there is certainly still room for improvement."

"The flamenco is very special, and the difference between flamenco and paso doble is big," Bates, 25, said. "Therefore, we had to find a way to express both dances."

Germans Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi, 11th in the world last season, sit third with 58.67 points. Skating to "Ameksa" by Taalbi Brothers and "La Maza" by Silvio Rodriguez, he played a macho man in a white sleeveless shirt, and she his girlfriend. They had the same base value for their elements as the top two teams, but their GOEs were not as high, and they earned 58.67 points.

"For us, it is very strange to compete in this rink because it is the rink where we practice every day," Gazsi said. "A few days before the event, everything in the rink is changed; flowers and publicity advertising are brought in, and it looks different."

U.S. world junior champions Kaitlin Hawayek, 17, and Jean-Luc Baker, 19, are fourth with 53.11 points. Performing to "Malagueña," they started with an excellent curve lift, but Hawayek fell on a linking step after their twizzle sequence, which was a bit out of sync. Since the fall did not happen during an element, it cost them only a one-point deduction, although it likely impacted their program components score as well.

"The ice is very fast here, and we ran out of room at the end of our twizzle sequence and came too close to the border, and then it just happened," Hawayek said.

"To compete here was fun and a new experience for us to skate in seniors, and with big names," Baker said. "It is a big adjustment to move up to seniors, but we will cope with it."

Eight of the 11 couples received a one-point deduction for "violation of choreography restrictions." When asked about it, none of the top teams could explain why the deduction was taken. Evidently, they had violated Rule 709 and performed an incorrect pattern, separation or stop, or touched the ice with a hand. The event's technical controller, Michela Cesaro, a former Italian ice dance competitor, will give an explanation for this deduction after the free dance.