Ice Network

Parsons cap U.S. junior career with coveted gold

Carreira, Ponomarenko finish second; McNamara, Carpenter fall to third
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The fact that Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons won the junior dance title wasn't shocking -- but their margin of victory was. The brother-and-sister team that trains at the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy (WISA) in Maryland beat their closest competitors by more than 11 points on their way earning the gold medal. -Jay Adeff

After three consecutive podium finishes, including silver medals the last two seasons, Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons capped their U.S. junior career with a gold medal at the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Friday.

Skating to Sophia Sin's "Singing in the Rain," the siblings moved eloquently from one element to another, their lines and positions as clear cut and fluid as their simple blue (Rachel) and gray (Michael) costumes. The Junior Grand Prix Final champions executed six Level 4 elements with power and seeming ease, earning 103.91 points. Their total (176.33) outstripped the field by more than 11 points.

"I think our footwork (sequences) were better this skate than they've been all year so far," Michael said. "We're going to keep building on that and keep making them more consistent."

"Throughout the season, we've really come into our own, performance wise," Rachel said. "There is always room to improve there, but I think we're getting everything consistent so that we can compete at the level we know we can."

The team's coaches liked what they saw in Kansas City but think their skaters can be even stronger at the 2017 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Chinese Taipei in March. They won world junior silver last season.

"We will continue to work on more connections, on bigger movements, on power, on projection," Alexei Kiliakov, the team's primary coach, said.

"They had a pretty strong skate," Elena Novak, their choreographer, said. "We worked a lot I think since the (JGP) Final, and we had certain goals to achieve here, and they did a pretty good job. I think we are moving in the right direction."

The Parsons, who teamed up in 2010 after skating with different partners, began training at the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy as young children. They practice side by side with longtime rivals Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, the reigning world junior champions and two-time (2015-16) U.S. junior titlists, and generally placed behind their training mates until this season's JGP Final, where McNamara and Carpenter won bronze.

That scenario was repeated in Kansas City. McNamara and Carpenter skated a dynamic program to a dramatic rock medley, full of diverse emotions, holds and interesting lines, including a broken leg position from McNamara in the spin. But Carpenter fell during the team's diagonal step sequence, dropping the element to a Level 1 and costing the duo a one-point deduction. Second after the short dance, they finished third overall with 163.63 points.

"If you're always careful, you won't know how far you can push it and how much is too far," McNamara said. "Our goal is to really push it as far as possible, see what happens, see how expressive we can make it."

"[The fall] has never happened before, but I think they did their best skate of the year," their coach, Kiliakov, said. "Maybe with the emotions and excitement, that [caused the fall] a little bit. They feel good, they feel they achieved what we were working on, so hopefully they will do much better at junior worlds."

Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko, who train in Igor Shpilband's group in Novi, Michigan, took full advantage of the mistake, grabbing the silver medal with an elegant program to "Exogenesis: Symphony Part 3" by Muse that built in character and intensity. The couple, fourth at the JGP Final, gained Level 4's for all of their elements, earning 98.29 points for the free dance and finishing with 165.06 points.

"Our coach (Shpilband) really told us we needed to hit the musical accents, that it would help us look more mature, since senior teams always hit their accents," Ponomarenko said.

"Igor always tells us we really need to feel the music and skate to the music," Carreira said.

Ponomarenko, the son of 1992 Olympic ice dance champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, doesn't let his parents' legacy intimidate him.

"I feel like this is my career, and I can try my best to get to their level someday," he said.

Another Shpilband team, Chloe Rose Lewis and Logan Bye, who were seventh in this event last year, performed a highly entertaining and musical program to a Gershwin medley. They placed fourth with 148.43 points.