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Canadians prove class of Indy Pairs junior field

Trio of U.S. teams finishes third through fifth

Brianna de la Mora and Taylor Wilson, pictured here with coach Val Prusky, were the top American finishers in the junior free skate.
Brianna de la Mora and Taylor Wilson, pictured here with coach Val Prusky, were the top American finishers in the junior free skate. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(08/04/2012) - Kitchener-Waterloo pairs captured first and second place in the junior free skate Saturday at the Indy Pairs Challenge, with Shalena Rau and Phelan Simpson's charming My Fair Lady program taking top honors.

The Canadian youngsters opened with a big triple twist that gained +2 grades of execution (GOEs) from the judging panel, followed by a solid throw triple Salchow. Although Rau fell on one double flip and under-rotated another, they rebounded with two fine lifts and a strong closing combination spin to earn 84.15 points.

"They have, potentially, six years on the Junior Grand Prix circuit -- she is 13 and he just turned 16 -- so the future is bright if they can keep themselves in check," the team's coach, Kris Wirtz, said. "Victory at Indy is awesome, but it's a stepping stone to build on."

Another Wirtz team, Brittany Jones and Ian Beharry, skated with good speed and showed excellent lifts and side-by-side triple toe loops in their free skate, although Jones fell on a throw triple loop. They gained 81.41 points.

"Brittany and Ian have all the qualities to be on the podium at a big event," Wirtz said. "They produce nice lines and have nice chemistry together, just not yet when they compete -- they are in the 'I have to do this, I have to do that' mode. They have only been a team for eight weeks, which is no time at all.

"She is our [Canadian] junior champion from three years ago, and he is the junior champion from last season, so it's not like they are two unproven skaters. They just have to learn how to get into the rhythm when they compete."

Earlier, Jones and Beharry won the short program here with 44.88 points, while Rau and Simpson were sixth with 35.86. Both teams will hit the Junior Grand Prix soon: Rau and Simpson at Lake Placid, and Jones and Beharry in Austria.

A third team from Kitchener-Waterloo, Mary Orr and Anthony Furiano, were ninth with 67.05 points, after placing fourth in the short.

"I like my teams right now. We have a great stable: three junior teams, two senior teams (including Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, and Taylor Steele and Rob Schultz) and some baby teams I've started up," Wirtz said. "We had a great run here and if that is what the season will give me, I'll keep taking it."

Top U.S. finishers were Brianna de la Mora and Taylor Wilson, who placed third with a free skate to Transformers that featured a strong throw triple Salchow and triple twist -- pretty good, when you consider that Wilson had his nose broken on the maneuver just a month ago.

Despite falls on a double Axel-double Axel sequence, the Texas team earned 79.87 points.

"They did much better than at the Liberty Summer Competition -- the skating was faster, the score is a lot higher," their coach, Val Prudsky, said. "They did a nice triple twist; it was very pleasant to see. This was the first competition they did it. We still didn't do the triple Lutz throw, but we hope to see it in the next competition."

About the triple twist, Prudsky said, "It is part of sport, part of pair skating. I had my nose broken three times when I skated."

Both skaters have already moved past the accident, thinking about how they can increase their score on the maneuver.

"It's gotten better and better every time we do it. It is getting there," Wilson said. "Now we want to increase our speed on it."

The team earned 41.74, good for third place in the short program, also an improvement over Liberty.

Christina Zaitsev and Ernie Utah Stevens, who train at the Indiana World Skating Academy under Christina's parents, Elena and Sergei, were fourth with 78.34 points. They hit two solid double throws as well as a triple twist.

"I thought it was a good debut for us in juniors, since we were novice last year and came fourth at nationals," Stevens said. "We were kind of up against the big-league guys, and we just wanted to hold our ground and skate well.

"We went through the triple twist for the first time, and it went pretty well. We're still doing the safety catch and getting it more consistent. The throw triples and double Axels will come in the future. Right now we needed to prove we are ready to compete."

Elena Zaitsev emphasized that more difficult "tricks" will come, after the skaters master their current elements.

"On the lifts, they always used two hands, and now they use one," Elena Zaitsev said. "It's a huge step up for them, to be juniors. We are taking it one step at a time because safety comes first."

"And it's their daughter, too, so I have to take that into account," Stevens said.

Zaitsev and Stevens were seventh in the short, earning 34.97 points.

"We competed at Skate Detroit last week, and the free wasn't great, and here the short wasn't as good, so we're going to work on getting both programs consistent," Stevens said.

Fifth place went to Olivia Oltmanns and Joshua Santillan, who earned 72.27 for their free featuring a fine opening lift, side-by-side single Axels and two clean double throws.

"It was a good run-through. We popped a few things, the Axel and the throws," Santillan said. "We have to remember it is August and we can improve on this. We're looking forward to Lake Placid [Junior Grand Prix], and I think we can get some good training time in between now and then, to make it better."

"We were mostly focusing on our interpretation of the program and our transitions and skating skills," Oltmanns said.

The team's coach, Oltmanns' mother, Trudy, plans to up her skaters' technical ante in Lake Placid.

"We left things out -- everybody has been sick for a few weeks -- so we didn't really have enough gas to run the elements in the program," she said. "They will have double Axels and triple Salchows in the long, and two throw triples in the long.

"We're really excited. It's a big team going to Lake Placid this year."