Ice Network

Sassy free dance lifts Efimova, Zhao to juvenile title

Family support plays key role in success of gold, bronze medalists
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Nastia Efimova and Jonathan Zhao finished first in all three phases of the competition, including Sunday's free dance with their performance of their Latin medley program, on their way to winning the juvenile dance title. -Jay Adeff

Nastia Efimova and Jonathan Zhao extended their lead and won the juvenile ice dance title by nearly five points at the 2017 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Sunday.

Performing a sassy free dance to a Latin medley that included "Mañana De Carnival" by Luis Miguel and "Salsa" by Yuri Buenaventura, the duo earned a Level 4 on four of their five elements, netting 43.39 points for the segment and 88.02 overall. The win marked an impressive improvement over the team's seventh-place showing at last year's event.

"We work hard, we have a good training environment, and great families and coaches that helped us get here," Zhao said. "Overall, we were just really motivated to do better than last year."

Family played a key role in the duo's success. They are coached by Nastia's mother, Natalia Efimova (along with Nathan Truesdell), and train with Efimova's sister, Alina, who will compete with Alexander Petrov in the junior dance event Wednesday.

"I'm very proud of both of them," Natalia said. "With both of them competing here, I'm twice as happy. We're making great memories."

Turning in the third-best free dance of the day, Alice Serbin and Kenan Slevira held onto the second-place standing they brought into the day and took home the silver medal. They earned a Level 4 for their twizzles, straight line lift and dance spin to collect a segment score of 40.04 and an overall mark of 83.15.

Like Efimova and Zhao, the family ties extended to Elliana Peal and Ethan Peal, who moved up from fourth after the pattern dance to grab bronze with 76.25 points. Coached by their father, Robert, the brother-sister duo notched the second-highest free dance score of the day, earning 40.44 points for their performance to music from Mary Poppins.

"Sometimes all of it can be long and exhausting, but when you win a medal in your first trip to nationals, it's all worth it," Ethan said. "It's so exciting, especially since we put in so many hours. It's great to know that it paid off here and we're leaving with a bronze medal."

In third place after the pattern dances, Sarah Dutton and Emmett King survived a free dance that was rated just the fifth best of the day to earn the pewter with 72.50 points.