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Chan, Vallecilla blow away the competition

Gibson, Botero take juvenile pairs silver, eight points back

Juvenile pair J. Daniel Vallecilla and Emily Chan, here with coach Nicole Sciarrotta, won the gold in their third trip to U.S. Juniors.
Juvenile pair J. Daniel Vallecilla and Emily Chan, here with coach Nicole Sciarrotta, won the gold in their third trip to U.S. Juniors. (Jo Ann Schneider-Farris)

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By Kathleen Hurley, special to icenetwork.com
(12/13/2008) - For Emily Chan (FSC of Texas) and J. Daniel Vallecilla (Houston FSC), the third time truly is the charm.

In their third trip to the U.S. Junior Championships, the pair of 11-year-olds improved on last year's third-place finish and achieved a personal-best score of 44.53 in Saturday's juvenile pairs competition.

Pretty good for a team who claims only to compete in pairs for fun.

"We do pairs for entertainment," said Chan. "It's more calming than singles."

Eight points behind the leaders, Maggie Gibson and David Botero (SC of North Carolina) took home the silver. Anya Cockerell (FSC of the Quad-Cities) and Mark Krutzfield (Eastern Iowa FSC) earned third with a score of 34.62, and Devynn Sharpe (All Year FSC) and Devin Perini (Los Angeles FSC) finished fourth with a score of 34.10.

Chan and Vallecilla skated to music from the Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon, completing side-by-side double Lutzes and a throw Axel on their way to gold. Despite their high score, they still think they can find room for improvement with their performance, which will be tough to do considering their practice schedule. The duo practices together only two-to-three hours a week.

However, perhaps even more exciting than winning was stepping off the ice and, while waiting for their scores, taking photos with two-time Olympic pairs gold medalists Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov. Perhaps a little bit of luck rubbed off; several ice sweepers asked Chan and Vallecilla to sign autographs after the event was over.

For silver medalists Gibson and Botero, completing a side-by-side double Salchow-single Axel sequence and a brand new throw Axel was nothing compared to adjusting to the Lake Placid weather. Coming from North Carolina meant a drop of over 50 degrees. Botero was fighting off an illness that he blamed on the change, which made things that much more difficult for the former ice dancer.

"By the time we got to the double flip, my legs were a little wobbly," said Botero. "We just went for it on the last spins, and they were great."

Bronze medalists Cockerell and Krutzfield, skating to music from Oklahoma struggled on their side-by-side jumps but successfully executed all of their pairs elements, including a throw Axel, a Level 3 combination spin and a Level 2 lift.

Despite the mixed feelings about their performance, the pair enjoyed their first time at the U.S. Junior Championships, particularly Cockerell, who said she used to watch the competition every year.

Now she's the one people are watching.