Ice Network

Parsons siblings hip hop their way to dance lead

Reigning silver medalists hold slim edge on champs McNamara, Carpenter
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After placing second at this event each of the last two years, Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons made a strong statement Wednesday night: This time, they're here to win. The Junior Grand Prix Final champions outdistanced training mates -- and the two-time defending champions of this event -- Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter by almost two points, 72.42 to 70.44, on their way to finishing first in the segment. -Jay Adeff

Siblings Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons lead longtime rivals and training partners Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter by nearly two points, after both couples performed dynamic hip hop and blues short dances at the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Kansas City, Missouri, on Wednesday.

Skating to a medley of songs from Fergie and Lana Del Rey, the Parsons showed off long, sweeping edges in their blues sequences, and hard-hitting arm and body movements throughout their closing step sequence. All five of their elements gained Level 4 from the technical panel, and they earned 72.42 points.

"We're very happy with it, but we're both perfectionists, and there are things we want to improve on," Rachel said. "We still have one more competition (the World Junior Figure Skating Championships) left this season."

"The coaches have really been pushing us on the interpretation and not letting it down near the end of the program, to just explode and get everything out," Michael said. "This time, it felt really good."

McNamara and Carpenter also gained Level 4 for all of the elements in their short dance, which was set to an eclectic medley of electronic dance music. They attacked their choreography with gusto, hitting impressive twizzles and skating their blues sequences in close hold. Their element Grades of Execution (GOEs) and program component scores, though, were slightly lower than those of the Parsons, and they came away with 70.44 points.

"We're at the point of the season where the program is essentially muscle memory," McNamara said. "We're no longer focusing on doing the steps correctly; it's just more pushing everything we can do as much as possible."

"We really trained to expand every aspect of this program we could," Carpenter said. "It felt good in terms of our performance today."

Baltimore street dancer Esperonto created the teams' hip hop moves on the floor, and the skaters' coaches -- including Alexei Kiliakov and Elena Novak -- moved the choreography to the ice.

The four skaters have trained at Maryland's Wheaton Ice Skating Academy (WISA) since the start of their careers. For the past several seasons, McNamara and Carpenter -- who teamed up in 2005 -- have held the competitive edge, winning the last two U.S. junior crowns and defeating their rivals at the Junior Grand Prix Final and world junior championships. 

This season, though, the Parsons -- who began skating together during the 2010-11 season -- gained the upper hand, taking gold at the JGP Final last month while McNamara and Carpenter had to settle for bronze.

"We don't really focus so much on the title, it's more so our skating," McNamara said of the prospect of a third U.S. junior ice dance title. "We're focused on, 'How much did our skating improve this year?' not, 'What place we get this year?' That's the most important thing for us."

Kiliakov and Novak believe the long rivalry has only made the four athletes stronger skaters and competitors.

"These teams more compete within themselves," Kiliakov said. "They are very friendly with each other, and they understand they help each other. Each couple is taking its own way up to the senior level."

"Each team has its own special qualities," Novak said. "Rachel and Michael probably have the best run of edge in the world, and they are developing very well in terms of interpretation and expression. Lorraine and Quinn, they've always had incredible drive. When they get on to the ice they own it, and that's important."

Two teams from Igor Shpilband's group in Novi, Michigan, had expressive and energetic performances to place third and fourth.

Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko, fourth at the JGP Final, skated a speedy, highly entertaining blues and swing routine to a medley including Jessica Rabbit's "Why Don't You Do Right." Their levels were comparable to those of the top couples, but their GOEs and program components were a bit lower, and they earned 66.77 points.

"We've been working really hard on our blues (sequences) and footwork, and I think that showed here," Carreira said.

"We've really made those things our goals," said Ponomarenko, the son of 1992 Olympic ice dance champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko. "That really showed up, because we got Level 4s on the blues (sequences) and Level 3 on the footwork. The program is improving more and more."

Chloe Rose Lewis and Logan Bye, seventh in this event last year, sit fourth after earning 60.60 points for their program to music from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

"Tonight we were actually able to show what we could do and what we've been training," Lewis said. "It's been a rocky season for us, but tonight we did a good short dance, and we're really happy the training showed through."