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Americans lead in original dance at JGP Final

Twizzles doom leading contenders

Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein are the top junior ice dance team.
Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein are the top junior ice dance team. (Michelle Harvath)

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By J. Barry Mittan, special to icenetwork.com
(12/11/2008) - The 2008 SBS ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating (JGP) Final opened in Goyang City, Republic of Korea, on Thursday with the original dance competition, using music from the 1920s to 1940s. Compulsory dances are no longer part of the competition at the Final.

The U.S. came into the Final with the three top-ranked teams in the competition. One of those teams did take the lead after the OD, but it was not the favorite. The other two American teams could not get through their dances without major errors.

U.S. dancers Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein, the second-ranked team who skated to "Minnie the Moocher" as well as a quickstep to "The Dancing Fool," were the surprise leaders with 51.84 points. The team finished fifth at last year's Final.

"We are a little more experienced this year, which always helps," Chock said. "We're more comfortable, but we could have done better."

A fall on the mid-line, non-touching step sequence by Keiffer Hubbell, ranked first with his sister, Madison Hubbell, coming into the Final, dropped the U.S. team down to sixth after the original dance. Also skating to "Minnie the Moocher," the 2006 JGP Final winners scored only 47.98 points, well below their season best.

"Stuff happens," Keiffer Hubbell stated. "I felt pretty good, but I went a bit shallow into our Choctaw and counter in the mid-line, then I was kind of off my feet a bit."

A second pair of U.S. siblings, third-ranked Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, were only seventh in the segment after Maia stumbled and almost fell during their synchronized twizzles. The couple, who were using 1940s swing music from "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day," placed just below the Hubbells at 47.05 points.

The top Russian couple was Ekaterina Riazanova and Jonathan Guerreiro, who were second with 50.85 points, less than a point behind Chock and Zuerlein. They danced a foxtrot to Louis Armstrong's "Cest Si Bon" and swing to "Sing, Sing, Sing."

The Ukraine's Alisa Agafonova and Dmitri Dun, who used a quickstep and a foxtrot to "Baby, It's Cold Outside," were in third with 49.45 points.

Canada's Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill, dancing a foxtrot to Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away from Me," earned 48.72 points for fourth place.

They barely edged Ekaterina Pushkash and Dmitri Kiselev, whose 48.59-point dance placed fifth. The Russians danced their Charleston and ragtime program to "Tiger Rag."

Teammates Marina Antipova and Artem Kudashev earned 43.64 points to finish eighth.