U.S. ice dancers travel to Zagreb

Two teams spin their way to Croatia

Charlotte Maxwell and Nick Traxler finished eighth at the 2007 U.S. Championships.
Charlotte Maxwell and Nick Traxler finished eighth at the 2007 U.S. Championships. (Paul Harvath)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(11/07/2007) - Two ice dance teams, Charlotte Maxwell and Nick Traxler and Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles, will represent the U.S. at the Golden Spin of Zagreb, to be held in Zagreb, Croatia, on November 8 - 11.

It is the first international event for each couple.

"Charlotte and Nick are well prepared for this; they're very committed to their programs," Pierre Panayi, who coaches the team with Liz Coates in Plano, Texas, said.

Panayi explained that his skaters, who were eighth at the 2007 U.S. Championships, won the assignment with impressive debuts of their original and free dances at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Competition this August.

"This season, they've stepped out of their comfort zone with a classical free dance (to Sarah Brightman's "Time to Say Goodbye"). They've really taken the ball and run with it," he said.

"After getting feedback at Lake Placid, we re-vamped a few of the lifts, and they've worked with [1980 Olympic ice dance champion] Natalia Linichuk again to refine the choreography and steps."

Maxwell is half Native American (her tribe is Seminole Creek), and she and her father traveled to Oklahoma to watch powwows to help prepare their folk/country original dance.

"They've really embraced the Native American characters," Panayi said. "It will be interesting to see how they score internationally with the program."

Summersett and Gilles made their competitive debut at Lake Placid, winning all four events they entered, including the senior free and original dance events. The couple, who train at Colorado Springs' World Arena under Patti Gottwein-Britton, had their programs choreographed by Tom Dickson and 1984 Olympic ice dance champion Christopher Dean.

Gilles placed eighth at the 2006 U.S. Championships with former partner Trina Pratt, while Summersett was third at the 2006 U.S. Junior Championships with her previous partner, Eliott Pennington.

The American couples will face off against a large international field scheduled to include two-time German champions Christina and William Beier, who were 13th in the world in 2006 but were unable to compete last season due to Christina Beier's foot injury; and current German champions Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi, who placed seventh at the 2007 2007 HomeSense Skate Canada Internationalnal in Québec City last week.

"I think the Beiers are clearly the team to beat, but this year, 21 couples are entered," Panayi said. "In the past, it would be seven or eight. The European championships are in Zagreb this season, so some countries are sending teams as a warm-up."

Golden Spin, a senior ISU competition, began in 1967 and has been held annually ever since, with the exception of 1991, when it was canceled due to hostilities in the Croatian War of Independence.

The event has a rich history: in 1983, U.S. champions Scott Hamilton and Rosalynn Sumners competed there to help prepare for the 1984 Olympics, which were held in the same arena, the Olympic Hall Zetra. Hamilton went on to win the Olympic gold; Sumners took home the silver medal. 1992 Olympic champion Viktor Petrenko won the event in 1986. Current U.S. skaters who gained early international exposure in Zagreb include U.S. men's silver medalist Ryan Bradley, who won the event in 2000, and the pairs team Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, winners in 2003.

Men and ladies will also compete in Zagreb, but the U.S. did not enter any single skaters.

The men's event is expected to include defending champion Gregor Urbas of Slovenia and Czech skater Michal Brezina, who upset his countryman, European silver medalist Tomas Verner, at the Nebelhorn Trophy in September.

The ladies field includes defending champion Nella Simaova of the Czech Republic; long-time Croatian champion Idora Hegel; and four-time German champion Annette Dyrt, who returns to singles competition this season after trying pairs last year. They will face off against European bronze medalist Kiira Korpi of Finland, a late entrant to the event.

The athletes will compete for both prize money and ISU ranking points.