Chock and Zuerlein win dance at JGP Final

Hubbells surge back to take silver

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
(12/13/2008) - The performances at the free dance at the SBS ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final could best be described as competent, but not overly exciting. Although none of the dancers fell, an accumulation of small mistakes in each program kept all of the couples from scoring a season best.

Although all the dancers showed their inventiveness in a variety of lifts and carries, the torpid crowd yawned throughout the afternoon and the dancers did not exhibit the energy that comes from good audience response.

Winners of the free dance and the gold medal were U. S. dancers Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein. The couple, who also won the original dance, skated a smooth and lovely dance to Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera."

Chock and Zuerlein scored 79.31 points in their free dance and 131.15 points overall.

"Everything just felt good today," Chock said. "It's absolutely incredible. I don't think words can describe it. It just has been such a great experience this year and last year."

Teammates Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell, who were the surprise winners of the Junior Grand Prix Final back in 2006, almost pulled off another gold medal-winning performance, finishing second in the free dance and winning the silver medal.

The siblings came back from a sub-par performance in the original dance, where they placed sixth, to earn 76.70 points in the free dance. Their program to "Sognami" by Alessandro Safina featured some difficult lift and spin positions. The Hubbells had a total of 124.68 points.

"The whole performance wasn't necessarily our best, but it was good coming back from the original dance," Keiffer said. "It was great coming back to the Junior Grand Prix circuit this year."

"Everybody skated very well and it's an honor to pull up," Madison said of their jump from sixth to second. "It's a testimony to the new system and what their goal was -- to make it more fair."

Ekaterina Riazanova and Jonathan Guerriero, who were in second place after the original dance, scored 73.45 points with their James Bond program to finish fourth in the free dance. Their 124.30 total points earned the bronze medal, just .38 behind the Hubbells.

A one point deduction for an extended lift, the only deduction in the entire event, made the difference between silver and bronze.

"Our coaches teach us that if the score isn't as high as you expect it, it was for a reason and you need to make sure there is no such reason," Guerreiro stated. I regret a little that we didn't beat our personal best, but it was a very successful competition for us."

Only a half point separated the fourth to sixth place teams.

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who danced to selections from Ennio Morricone's Cinema Paradiso soundtrack, were seventh in the original dance. They placed third in the free dance with 73.55 points, finishing fourth overall with 120.60 points.

Russia's Ekaterina Pushkash and Dmitri Kiselev's "Sheherazade" free dance earned them a score of 71.76 points, placing them fifth in the segment. They finished fifth overall with 120.35 points after placing fifth in the original dance.

Canada's Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill, fourth after the original dance, earned 71.37 points for their program to "And Then There Was Blues" to place sixth in the free dance. Their 120.09 point total was sixth overall.

Skating to the soundtrack of a Ukrainian movie, Alisa Agafonova and Dmitri Dun placed seventh in the free dance with 69.93 points. Combined with their points from a third place in the original dance, their total of 119.38 points put them in seventh place overall.

Marina Antipova and Artem Kudashev, who were last in the original dance, scored 67.69 points in their free dance to music from Goran Bregovic soundtracks. They placed eighth in the free dance and overall with 111.43 total points.