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Just add ice: Ajoutez juste la glace

Quebec Summer Challenge a big hit with young skaters

Kendall Wyckoff hangs with world silver medalist Joannie Rochette.
Kendall Wyckoff hangs with world silver medalist Joannie Rochette. (courtesy of Kendall Wyckoff)

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By Kendall Wyckoff, special to icenetwork.com
(08/13/2009) - Seven hundred fifteen competitors gathered Aug. 6-9 to assert their skills at the 40th Anniversaire Championnats Quebecois D'Ete in Pierrefonds, Quebec. Skaters from the United States, Canada, Spain, and Japan took to the ice in singles, pairs, and dance events, from pre-juvenile through senior, at the Sportplexe 4 Glaces facility.

For the U.S. Developmental International Team, the competition was an awe-inspiring and all-together unique experience. The international environment and the presence of world silver medalist, Joannie Rochette made the event tres magnifique. Other notable Canadian competitors included Shawn Sawyer, Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison, Cynthia Phaneuf, and Amélie Lacoste. Spain was represented by Sonia Lafuente and Javier Raya, while the Japanese team consisted of junior pair Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran.

The United States team certainly left its mark across the results.

In senior ladies, 15-year-old Christina Gao skated to victory in the free skate over world-competitor Phaneuf, scoring 98.55 points. Gao's program featured six triples, including confident triple flips and triple Lutzes. Gao finished fourth in the short, with teammate Samantha Cesario, finishing seventh, succeeding over world competitor Lafuente by almost two points.

In junior ladies, the U.S. skaters captured the top two spots (Kendall Wyckoff, Christine Mozer) in the short program, or programme court, in what was the single largest event of the competition with 42 skaters. In the free skate, or programme libre, the U.S. team swept the top four places (Dunne, Marley, Mozer, Wyckoff), with Haley Dunne of Washington earning a definitive win with 81.53 points.

Novice ladies competitors Katerina Kulgeyko and Courtney Hicks won their respective groups in both short program and free skate events. Kulgeyko earned the highest short program score of any novice group with 41.27, while Hicks earned the highest free skate score, 65.48, followed closely by Kulgeyko with 63.52.

Also topping the results were brother and sister dance team, Danvi and Vu Pham, who won the novice free dance event with 54.56 points. Novice men's competitor Timothy Dolensky and junior men's competitor Allen Gaghinjian both placed second in their short programs.

In novice pairs, the field was small and the scores close. Meredith Pipkin and Brett Dunie-Neustadt edged out short program gold medalists Kaitlin Budd and Matthew Blackmer by one point in the free skate. Marissa Spector and Christopher Nolan placed third.

The purpose of the developmental international program is to prepare skaters for international competition by transitioning them to the realities of foreign travel and the complexities of competing in unfamiliar, even distracting, surroundings, sometimes without the comforts of home.

At the crux of the developmental international experience is the team atmosphere. Skaters room with other teammates, not with their families or coaches. In Montreal, team building began the first night when team leader Ben Miller gathered skaters at the hotel restaurant and handed out team jackets. The camaraderie continued throughout the event.

During free time, skaters ventured off to pursue their individual interests. For junior pairs team Olivia Gibbons and Tyler Harris, Montreal sightseeing was in order, with their coach as tour guide. Other skaters squeezed in shopping on Sainte-Catherine Street or enjoyed a gourmet excursion. Christine Mozer planned to visit colleges on the way home from the competition. But all would agree, the ultimate thrill of the trip was the competing. Mary Beth Marley best exemplified this shared feeling. She was so eager to compete she couldn't sleep; she had the excitement of a child on Christmas morning.

The Quebec Summer Challenge was a fabulous event. Personally, I'm looking forward to returning next year as a senior lady.