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Marigold IceUnity rises up to win world synchro title

Team Surprise earns silver in front of home crowd; Paradise drops to third
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Finland's Marigold IceUnity entered the day in third place, but after dazzling throughout their aquatic-themed free skate, the 2017 world silver medalists climbed up the standings to capture their fifth world title, ending the competition with 209.02 points, including 136.41 for their free skate. -Getty Images

The 2018 World Synchronized Skating Championships concluded Saturday evening in Stockholm, Sweden, with Finland's Marigold IceUnity rising in the standings to earn the top prize. After just missing out on gold at last season's world championships, the five-time champions catapulted themselves to the top of the podium on the strength of a strong free skate.

Marigold entered the night in third place, but after earning 136.41 points in the segment, skated off with the gold medal and a final competition total of 209.02.

Performing to "Splash," an aquatic-based program based on Sea World's water-themed shows, they earned full technical credit for each of their elements, with the exception of the point of intersection. The team was also awarded multiple perfect component marks by the judging panel.

Team Surprise, the hometown Swedish team, earned 135.16 points for their "Mother Nature" free to remain in second place with a total of 207.99 points, hitting every technical mark while also earning positive Grades of Execution.

Overnight leader Paradise entered the final day of competition with a 3.22-point lead, but the Russian squad turned in just the fourth-best free skate of the event, and the 124.92 points they earned for their "Age of Heroes" program dropped them to third in the final standings.

Despite suffering through an issue with their second group lift, Paradise was still able to earn the fourth world medal for Russia in as many years.

The U.S. champion Haydenettes fell from fourth after the short program to seventh place overall as their "Underground Nightlife" free skate didn't receive the marks they hoped for.

"Tonight, we really left it all out there. We missed a few technical calls which really put us behind in our technical score compared to what we were hoping for," Tessa Hedges said. "As far as emotion and performance, we were really proud of what we put out there tonight and how far we've come throughout the year."

The 26-time U.S. champions and five-time world bronze medalists made one major mistake in their group lift element, and due to a tightly-contested competition, received a lower technical score than they would have liked. The Americans finished the segment with 119.97 and an overall total of 191.19.

Said coach Saga Krantz, "Tonight's skate was very strong. It was fearless. I saw a lot of power and good attack. The performance itself was great."

The Skyliners, the second team from the United States in the field, finished their worlds debut in ninth place with 172.00 points. Their Cleopatra free skate started strong with a group 4 lift, which earned them 7.57 points, while their only negative GOE's came from the pairs element. Despite suffering two falls on the exit, they still earned the full technical value.

"Our main goal was to make it to the world championships," Lilly Bestchart said. "As soon as we got here, we wanted to enjoy the experience and do our best."

"It was a great eye opener," coach Josh Babb said of their worlds experience and top 10 finish. "I was very happy with how the team handled themselves. Moving forward, we realize how much work we have to do."

The synchronized skating community now has it's eyes on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) vote this summer, which will determine whether or not synchronized skating will be included in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

"Even more unison, power and technique, but we are close," said Krantz, when asked what the discipline of synchronized skating needs in order to get into the Winter Olympic Games.

"The sport is ready for the Olympics" Babb added. "The sport itself is there, we just need more media exposure and to figure out exactly what the IOC wants to see."