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Gamelins win sibling face-off in intermediate dance

Phams take silver, roughly four-and-a-half points out of first

Danielle Gamelin and Alexander Gamelin, twins from Long Island, showed off their medals.
Danielle Gamelin and Alexander Gamelin, twins from Long Island, showed off their medals. (Jo Ann Schneider-Farris)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(12/13/2008) - Sometimes, good old-fashioned sibling rivalry produces amazing things.

Take Danielle Gamelin, for instance. The 15-year-old skater was always a bit envious of her twin brother Alexander's lovely spread eagle, but she could never quite manage one herself. Finally, she took things into her own hands -- or in this case, her own feet.

"Alexander was doing a spread eagle one day, and I was just standing there, with my toes [pointing] in," she remembered. "I just went for it. I guess I have very flexible hips."

"She walked like that when she was a baby; she was pigeon-toed," Alexander laughed.

The result is the "Gamelin eagle," a move where Danielle leans on her brother and shows off an inward-pointing, spread eagle-type maneuver. The Long Island siblings showed the eagle, as well as difficult, well-synchronized twizzles and a complex diagonal footwork sequence in their dramatic free dance to music from King Arthur.

They won that segment with 52.16 points, some eight points higher than their previous personal best. Added to their wins in the two compulsory dances, they ended the event with 98.03 points and the gold medal.

"We were a little nervous," Alexander said, "but we tried not to think about the other competitors."

The win is even more remarkable, given that Danielle broke her pelvis just two weeks before the Eastern Sectional Championships, which were held in Boston in mid-November.

"We only found out it was actually broken two weeks before coming to Lake Placid," she said. "We thought it was an inflamed muscle, but the pain didn't go away, so we had an X-ray."

The Gamelins still managed second place at Easterns, but they placed third in the free dance there when two of their lifts failed to achieve the highest levels. That experience actually helped in the long run.

"We went home and did a lot of work on the lifts," Alexander explained. "We changed the rotational to a curve lift. I also think we came into Lake Placid with a lot of confidence, and that made a big difference."

The Gamelins are coached by Alexander Esman, a former Ukrainian ice dance champion, and his wife Marina Koulbitskaya, who competed for the Soviet Union. Two-time Olympic ice dance champion Evgeni Platov, a long-time friend of Esman's, does their choreography.

"We'll be moving up to novice next season, and that's exciting, but it's also a big jump," Alexander said. "The juvenile and intermediate [free dances] are similar length; there's only 10 seconds difference. In novice, there's a 12-second lift, and if we qualify at sectionals, we'll get to go to senior nationals."

The silver went to another brother-and-sister team, Danvi Pham and Vu Pham, who train under the husband-and-wife coaching team of Alexei Kiliakov and Elena Novak at Maryland's Wheaton Ice Skating Academy. The Phams actually won the first showdown with the Gamelins when they took the Eastern sectionals title to qualify for U.S. Juniors.

The Phams -- who are just 9 and 11 years old, respectively -- were second in both the Rocker Foxtrot and European Waltz compulsories. Their smooth, sophisticated free dance to Borodin's "Stranger in Paradise" also took second place, and they finished with 93.66 points.

"They skated very well; there is a little age difference between them and [the Gamelins], but they did as well as they could do at this moment," Kiliakov said.

"We have a lot of fun at the Academy. Altogether, we have about 20 kids, and they are all very good friends," Novak said. (Another one of the Wheaton teams, Rachel Parsons and Kyle MacMillan, won the juvenile dance title.)

"They have all of their birthday parties together. There is always a little stress at competitions, and because they are all friends, they are there for each other."

Laura Perry and Joshua Leggett of Detroit grabbed the bronze medal, moving up from fourth place after the compulsories with a clean, elegant free dance that earned 47.29 points, giving them 89.66 overall.

"It felt pretty good; it could have been better, but it was strong," the 13-year-old Leggett said.

The youngsters have skated together for five years, and Leggett thinks that longevity helped lift him and his 12-year-old partner to the podium.

"We've had our bad stuff, but we've stayed together," he said. "We'd like to move up to novice next season, but we're not sure yet."

Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter finished third in the free dance to move up to fourth place overall.