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Senior pairs rise to occasion in Skate Detroit short

Canadians hit new high; Zhang, Bartholomay ride Carousel to second

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch topped the field in the short program.
Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch topped the field in the short program. (Jacque Tiegs)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/26/2013) - Sometimes it's wise to stick with an old friend, as Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch found out this summer.

The Canadian silver medalists skated two superb programs at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, placing fourth. Their short, a quirky take on Raphael Beau's Mötley Crüe choreographed by Mark Pillay, served them so well coach Kris Wirtz wanted to keep it for the Olympic season.

"I didn't want a new one built," said Wirtz, who trains the team in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. "Kirsten wanted the opportunity to create a new program, and I understood that."

"We had a meeting with some [Skate Canada] officials, and a lot of judges recommended we keep our short," Moore-Towers, 21, said. "I am not a fan of keeping programs, so I was adamant."

So, Pillay created a routine set to Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing."

"It was wonderful, but it didn't quite have that Kirsten-Dylan chemistry," Wirtz said. "So we went back. We also realized a lot of ice dancers would use the music (for this season's Finnstep)."

"We also created two free skates, and training a new short as well was a little overwhelming," Moore-Towers said. "There are a lot of changes. We changed the lift, the death spiral is different and, of course, there is a pair spin."

After notching a 70.76 score -- their highest ever -- and winning Skate Detroit's short program Thursday, the Canadians must feel confident with the decision. Everything worked, from the opening triple twist right through a closing Level 4 pairs spin. They landed side-by-side triple toes and a solid throw triple loop, while their intricate steps gained +2's and a rare +3 from the judging panel.

"They've built so much confidence since worlds, where they were really in the mix for the podium," Wirtz said. "They had confidence before, but it's grown. They train exactly the same way they compete."

In the coming weeks, Wirtz plans to bring his team to Sheffield, England, to help him conduct a pairs seminar. From there, he'd like to enter the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, where they would be defending champions.

"We're happy we came out and skated well here," Moscovitch, 28, said. "We're on the same track this season as we were last. We're building, hopefully, for Olympics and worlds."

On Saturday, Moore-Towers and Moscovitch will perform a new free, choreographed by Pillay to music from La Strada.

The Canadians led a 16-team field that included many top U.S. contenders. The level of skating was high, with the top six teams and several others performing clean shorts.

U.S. bronze medalists Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay had a fine skate to Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel Waltz," choreographed by their coach, Jim Peterson. The program earned an impressive 64.41 points.

After opening with a Level 3 triple twist, they hit triple toes and a throw triple flip, and gained Level 3 and 4 on all of their remaining elements, including a solid closing pairs spin. Even more important than the elements, they said, was the growth in their on-ice chemistry and performance quality.

"My character (Billy Bigelow, the carnival barker) is kind of a jerk, so I'm trying to be arrogant out there," Bartholomay, 22, said. "Felicia (Julie Jordan) hasn't got a care in the world; she's springtime. That's what we're pushing toward."

"It felt very calm," Zhang, 20, said. "Even though this is a big competition for pairs, we tried to treat it as another training day."

The team executed a reverse lasso lift, a move another of their coaches, Amanda Evora, did with great success with partner Mark Ladwig.

"The lift has been a good challenge. We've really worked on it and are progressing every day." Bartholomay said. "Felicia is so strong. I think that's what has been driving our new lifts."

Gretchen Donlan and Andrew Speroff, sixth at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, put their sleek lines and elegant positions on display in a sparkling short to Massenet's "Meditation" from the opera Thais.

The Boston-based team landed opening triple toes, followed by a solid triple twist. Their triple throw, a Salchow, was the best of the event, notching 6.43 points. Overall, they gained 62.06 points.

DeeDee Leng and Timothy LeDuc celebrated one year of skating together with a strong performance to Peter Gabriel's "The Feeling Begins," landing all of their big elements -- including a Level 3 double twist, side-by-side triple toes and a throw triple Salchow -- with authority. They are fourth with 61.57 points.

"They are not at full strength yet. We will be adding more [difficult] elements," said Serguei Zaitsev, who coaches the team at the World Skating Academy in Indianapolis, as well as nearby Carmel.

"We are taking our time," Zaitsev continued. "It was most important here to stay nice and clean, and they did a good job. We want to make all of the elements top level, and so far we've been pretty successful. We will pick things up."

Zhang and Bartholomay's training partners in Ellenton, Fla., Tarah Kayne and Danny O'Shea, performed a high-energy James Bond short choreographed by Peterson to music from Skyfall.

The highlights were triple Salchows landed in perfect unison, as well as a throw triple loop and entertaining steps. They earned 61.25 points.

"We're happy with it. Of course, there are definitely little things we can improve," O'Shea, 22, said. "The triple Salchows are a solid element for us. The triple twist catch worked OK today, and we're working to improve it; we can hit it a lot better. We're aiming to get the height the Russian teams get."

"The program is fun and sassy, and fits our personalities well," Kayne, 20, said. "I'm definitely playing a Bond girl out there."

Kayne and O'Shea, along with Zhang and Bartholomay, are scheduled to compete at the senior B event in Salt Lake City.

New pair Lindsay Davis and Rockne Brubaker, who train in nearby Canton under Johnny Johns and Marina Zoueva, impressed in their short, with sophisticated choreography by Zoueva to a medley of "Petite Fleur" and Louis Armstrong.

They opened with triple Salchows, followed by a Level 2 double twist and throw triple Salchow. Their pair combination spin and steps notched Level 4's, and they closed with a strong lift, earning 58.80 points, good for sixth place.

"We've skated together for four months, and we've only had this program about half of that time," said Brubaker, 27, a U.S. champion and U.S. silver medalist with previous partners. "We don't want to overwhelm ourselves, trying triple twist and all Level 4 lifts, so we deliberately did a double twist and Level 3 lift here.

"It's a good feeling to earn 58 points, knowing there are at least a handful of points we left on the table, that we could potentially easily get."

Liu, Perini lead the way in juniors

Chelsea Liu and Devin Perini, who train in California under Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, won the junior pairs short with a program including double Axels and a throw triple toe. The 2012 U.S. novice champions were fourth in juniors last season, and the team will debut on the Junior Grand Prix this fall.

"I'm very happy I did the double Axel here," Liu, 14, said. "He has had double Axel for a while, and doing the more difficult elements is boosting my confidence."