The World Junior Figure Skating Championships
in Sofia, Bulgaria, kicked off Tuesday with ice dancing. Earlier this month, ISU council member Tjasa Andrée-Prosec drew the Cha-Cha Congelado, the same dance which had been skated at the Junior Grand Prix Final
in December, for compulsory dance. The best of the 32 couples competing were Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates
from Ann Arbor, Mich. They skated with excellent precision, on beat to the music, with good artistic expression, high speed and self-confidence. They took the lead with 35.11 points.
Bates commented: "It's a fast dance. There are a lot of steps and not a lot of ice to fit them in. You have to be deep, you have to be quick and also maintain speed and be on music. So there's a lot of things to work on. We've worked very hard on this dance. I think here, we did a much stronger performance than at the final, and I'm really happy with the score. We really like it. We work a lot off ice with a ballroom instructor.
Samuelson was happy as well: "The first time we competed the Cha-Cha was at the junior final, and we've worked on it a lot since then. We were really hoping to show our improvement out there today. It's definitely great to be rewarded. Although we had no luck with our Latin free program at last year's junior worlds, I used the same dress for this Cha-Cha -- minus the blood stains [Samuelson was injured during last year's free skate]. We reused it because it fit best the Latin character. When you spend so much money on them, it's nice to reuse them."
Closely behind the winners are Maria Monko and Ilia Tkachenko
from Odintsovo near Moscow. They won the junior final in December and skated with almost the same artistic expertise as the American team. The Americans had received a +2 Grade of Execution, 17 times, while the Russians received +2 GOEs 16 times.
"We skated quite well," said Monko. "We're just happy that this is our last competition of the season and we were able to show off our work we've done this season. This costume is new and was done especially for this competition just a few days ago."
Tkatchenko added: "We felt it was an advantage for us to have skated the Cha-Cha many times in competition this season. We didn't have to go into details of new dances, but we just had to repeat."
The Canadian team of Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier
were third. Technically, they were almost equal with the two top teams, but their expression was a bit less convincing.
"The performance was strong," described Crone. "When we did it earlier in the year, it wasn't as precise, and it wasn't as good as for connections. This was very good for us. We worked very hard, and so it feels very good to get that out."
The second U.S couple, Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell
, are fifth after scoring 30.52 points. The brother-and-sister team had good speed and expression. This was the first international competition for the duo this season.
"I had nerve and muscular damage in the fall," explained Keiffer. "But we did very well at nationals."
Madison added: "We are happy that we are healthy and can skate here. But the pattern is hard especially when going from NHL size to Olympic size."