Detroit Freep pre-GPF article

Local skating clubs produce five teams in ISU Grand Prix ice dancing final
A Michigan dance final

It's astounding to think about, even for the competitors.

Of the six ice dance teams that qualified for the ISU Grand Prix Final in Quebec City, only one has no training ties to Michigan: Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Russia.

Of the five that do, three are from the Arctic Figure Skating Club in Canton -- all of whom were part of the first-ever North American podium sweep in ice dance at the world championships: Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White (gold), Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (silver), and U.S. siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani (bronze).

The other two teams train at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills: Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France, and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada.

The final begins today with the junior competition; the seniors start Friday.

"It's pretty incredible to have three teams here at such a high level -- and five teams total in Detroit -- all competing in the final," White said. "All of the teams have their own identity, though. We each have such strong looks and personalities, and tendencies, that as partners and solo skaters, sets us apart. We're all good -- in all of our different ways -- and that's good for ice dance."

Playing to each team's strengths are what sets the couples apart -- especially within the camps at the Arctic FSC and the Detroit SC.

In Canton, there's the athleticism and power of Davis and White; the high-performance quality of Virtue and Moir; and the unique unison of the Shibutanis.

In Bloomfield Hills, there's the innovativeness of Pechalat and Bourzat; the dramatic flair of Weaver and Poje.

Pechalat and Bourzat are the newest Michigan arrivals; the defending European champions relocated here last summer to be coached at the Detroit SC by Pasquale Camerlengo and his wife, Angelika Krylova.

Pechalat and Bourzat, and Weaver and Poje, finished fourth and fifth at worlds last April in Moscow behind the trio of medalists coached in Canton by Igor Shpilband, Marina Zoueva and Johnny Johns.

"Every year we work on unique movements with each team -- tricks, connection steps, sequences, even if we haven't finalized the music yet," Shpilband said.

Zoueva said: "Our three teams are completely different -- different look, different personality, different types of movement, everything different."

Davis and White, 2010 Olympic silver medalists, won the Grand Prix Final last year en route to becoming the first-ever U.S. gold medalists at worlds. They'll be challenged by Olympic champs Virtue and Moir, who were runners-up to Davis and White at worlds last season after winning the title in 2010. Virtue and Moir missed last year's Grand Prix season because Virtue underwent surgery on her legs to correct an overuse condition.

Davis and White, and Virtue and Moir, each won both of their Grand Prix assignments. Poje and Weaver won three silver medals on the Grand Prix circuit; they're the only team among the six in the final to tackle three assignments.

Maia and Alex Shibutani, who were the first U.S. team to win a world medal in their debut senior season, captured gold at the NHK Trophy and silver at Cup of China. Pechalat and Bourzat were second to Davis and White at Skate America, and second to Virtue and Moir in Paris.

"With five (of the six) teams from this area being from very different backgrounds, having different career trajectories and storylines, it will make for a very interesting competition," Alex Shibutani said.


Post a Comment