Ice Network

Yanovskaia, Mozgov lead tight dance field in Tallinn

Less than four points separates top three couples following short dance
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The leaders after the short dance (L-R): Mackenzie Bent and Garrett MacKeen of Canada (second), Anna Yanovskaia and Sergei Mozgov of Russia (first) and Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter of the U.S. (third). -Tanja Flade

After Thursday's short dance, the top four couples are seperated by less than four points at the 2015 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, with Russia's Anna Yanovskaia and Sergej Mozgov scraping out a 1.13-point lead heading into Saturday's free dance.

This season, the junior short dance includes two sections of the Silver Samba pattern dance, coupled with a Latin-style rhythm. Most couples chose the rumba, with a few selecting the cha cha. None of the top six teams made a serious mistake.

Yanovskaia and Mozgov, winners of the Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Final in December, earned 62.22 points for a program that included five excellent elements that drew mainly +2 Grades of Execution (GOEs) from the judges. Their straight line lift, which gained Level 4, was a special standout. The two samba sections, as well as the step sequence, earned Level 3; the twizzles, Level 4. The components reached an average level of 7.6.

"We are very satisfied with today's skate, as it was our final short dance of the season," Yanovskaia said. "In Tallinn, the atmosphere is wonderful; the audience is great and supports us so much. The performance was emotional and technically [strong]."

"This season, we've learned to deal better with stress and we improved our technical and emotional skills," Mozgov said.

Mackenzie Bent and Garret MacKeen, who train with Carol Lane, Jon Lane and Juris Razgulajeus, in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, sit second with 61.09 points.

The Canadians, who were fourth at the JGP Final, had the event's highest technical element score (TES). Four of their five elements gained Level 4, a marked improvement from earlier this season. Their highlight was the non-touching circular step sequence, which gained four +2 GOEs from the judges.

"It was an incredible time in Tallinn. We're really excited to come back after the (Junior) Grand Prix event," Bent said. "About our skate, we couldn't have asked for much more.

"For us, this season was just a bunch of different stepping stones," he continued. "It was our first Junior Grand Prix Final, which was a big learning lesson. [Competing at] senior nationals was a big part of this season. So we took on a lot of different things that we've never done before."

The team placed sixth at the Canadian championships, where they performed a paso doble short dance.

"Our coaches are really good about planning," Bent said. "We went into this season knowing that we have to be focused on the two different programs and two different styles."

U.S. junior champions Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, who train at Wheaton Ice Skating Academy (WISA) in Maryland, placed third with 59.10 points. They gained Level 4 for their straight line lift and twizzles, while their two Samba sections gained Level 3. However, their circular steps rated just Level 2.

Their unusual "Heart of Africa" music, by Nature Lounge Club, included samba and rumba rhythms. Everything was clean; the majority of the elements earned +1 GOEs as well as a smattering of +2's. Their lift, which featured unusual positions, gained two +3 GOEs.  

"We're very happy with the skate we put out today," McNamara said. "It was everything we could have asked for. It was solid. We're looking on to improve on how we did earlier this season and I think we did that."

McNamara and Carpenter, who placed fourth at this event last season, were disappointed not to qualify for the JGP Final. After the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, they worked hard with coaches Alexei Kiliakov, Elena Novak and Dmytri Ilin to improve both their levels and their performance quality.

"We've had a couple of ups and downs and through it all we've learned a lot," McNamara said. "It all culminated up to coming here, and I think we're coming out of the season really strong."

"We really learned that each competition is just about improving yourself and improving on how you did in the previous competition," Carpenter said. "I think we really matured over the course of the season; we learned our strengths and what we had to work on."

WISA students Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons, eighth at junior worlds last season, sit fourth with 58.39 points. Three of their elements gained Level 4, and the circular steps and second samba section earned Level 3.

The siblings used unusual music pieces, including Carlos Vives' "Fruta Fresca," a mix of Latin pop and Columbian folk music, and "Heart of the Wind" by Robert Tree Cody, which is not only rhythm-oriented, but also has a recognizable melody. They skated with good speed, and their components averaged around 6.8.

"This was the best skate we have had this year and we are both very happy about it," Michael said. "The elements were really very good, except for a little mistake on the second samba. Hopefully we can move up in the free dance."

"We have been working a lot on presentation all year, on feeling the music and all other aspects of presentation," Rachel said. 

U.S. junior bronze medalists Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit are 12th with 49.37 points. The team partnered up in June 2014 and is still developing its unison and connection, and looks very promising. They gained Level 4 for their twizzles and straight line lift, and Level 2 for their remaining elements.

"We were glad with how it went, especially emotionally, and we got good components," Benoit said. "It was, however, not our cleanest skate, because we lost a couple of points in technical elements."

The skaters train in Novi, Michigan, in Igor Shpilband's school. Both have enjoyed the atmosphere in Estonia.

"When I split from my former partner, I contacted Igor because I wanted to train with him," Pogrebinsky said. "He brought us together and we have been training together for nine months now. Both of us think that he is the best ice dance coach in the world. This was really a good season to grow. ...Our main goal was to qualify for junior worlds, and we reached this goal."