Ice Network

Victorious narrative continues on for Davis, White

Weaver, Poje far off pace with silver; Orford, Williams hold on for bronze
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Five-time reigning U.S. dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White showed why they are the defending world champions. -Jay Adeff

In One Thousand and One Nights, the Princess Scheherazade spins such mesmerizing tales of magic and mystery that she leaves her king waiting impatiently for the next part of the story to be told.

All who saw the debut of Meryl Davis and Charlie White's free dance to Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade at the 2013 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic likely feel much the same: They can't wait for the next installment.

By turns soft and romantic, then fiery and passionate, the world champions commanded attention with dazzling lifts, fluid steps and captivating storytelling. They gained Level 4's for all of their lifts, as well as their spin, and Level 3's for their two step sequences. Although their segment score of 110.02 points included a one-point deduction for a too-long lift, it was not far off their all-time high of 112.68.

They won the event with 183.69 points overall.

There's good reason for the early-season polish. The skaters and their coach, Marina Zoueva, have been planning the routine for about one thousand and one nights.

"We've been crafting this program for a couple of years," Davis said. "It's incredibly challenging. We're a little on the tired side at the end, but we think that's good. We think it's going to be a great vehicle for us."

"I just think the amount of potential it still has is staggering," White said. "Obviously, we're really thrilled with how we were able to put it out there tonight. We worked hard to get it to the point where it is now, but we feel strongly it will grow immeasurably. That's part of what is so exciting about the program, knowing how far we can take it."

Zoueva wasn't restrained in her praise of her pupils.

"It was a brilliant performance, especially for this time of the year," she said. "It was their first performance of a new program they have to perform at the Olympics. There was lots of pressure, and they did a great job."

About the opening curve lift, which featured a swift "pull and flip" entry, she said, "We worked on it for three years. It takes off with a counter movement; that's why it looks very effective."

Despite all of the work that has already gone into Scheherazade, both the skaters and their coach think it will only get better.

"Training it to the point where we can showcase our skating skills without worrying through every element and not reminding ourselves what to think about, that's the first thing we're going to go back and work on," Davis said.

Zoueva had a more specific critique.

"The ending lift will be a little bit higher, a little bit more emotional when they are in better shape later in the season," she said. "I want it to be a little bit stronger and passionate. It has to be an exclamation point."

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje debuted their free dance to Astor Piazzolla's masterwork, Maria de Buenos Aires, choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne and their coach, Pasquale Camerlengo.

Clad all in black, the Canadians showed free-flowing steps and impressive lifts, including a fast one-arm rotational lift and a sweeping curve lift in a low position. Nothing looked forced or awkward, and the ending was right in time with the music. They earned 98.38 points, and took second with 161.99 points overall.

"It's a tango in the sense it has the tango feeling, but we didn't want it to be the typical tango," Poje said.

Weaver added, "It's a tango with a lot of soul.

"It's essentially about finding your ray of hope, and that one person who is by your side by all walks of life," Weaver continued. "We can relate to that; we've been through a lot as a team, especially with the injury."

Weaver suffered a broken ankle in training last December, requiring surgery and screws. Extensive physical therapy enabled her to get back to training in time for the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, where she and Poje placed fifth. After that event, she underwent a second surgery to remove the screws.

"Pretty much, we delayed the start of preparation for a month," Camerlengo said. "It's good to see we are ready right now and everything went well here. We are waiting for feedback, but I am very happy with the way they performed today; it's a good start."

Canadian bronze medalists Nicole Orford and Thomas Williams overcame an awkward miscue on their opening curve lift to place third with an expressive, well-paced program to selections from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies that earned a segment score of 82.96 points. The ended with 137.60 points for the event.

"Overall, we're happy," Williams said. "We have a lot of things to work on, but for this point in the season, we're quite happy with how we performed.

"Of course, we want to get to the point where we are not having to focus and worry so much about the levels and can be 100 percent into the performance. That's one thing that always needs work, for sure."

Skating to Spartacus -- a program choreographed by their coach, Igor Shpilband -- Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt rose from sixth after the short dance to fourth overall, despite losing two points for extended lifts. As usual, their lifts were their highlights, with all gaining Level 4. Their straight-line lift, done with Giulietti-Schmitt in a shoot-the-duck position, was a special highlight.

"Our programs are a lot freer this year; we feel like we have the ability to move across the ice a lot better," Giulietti-Schmitt said. "Today was not our best performance. We know it's already an improvement from Lake Placid [Ice Dance Championships], so we're happy with that."

Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus placed eighth with a sprightly, entertaining program to An American in Paris, choreographed by their coaches, Karen Ludington and Sasha Kirsanov.

"Other than level stuff, the competition went really well for us," Cannuscio said. "We had fun and showed our programs for the season. I feel like we expressed them well, which is what we wanted to do.

Another of Zoueva's teams, Alissandra Aronow and Collin Brubaker, placed 13th with 100.31 points. They showed solid twizzles, but lost ground when their two step sequences gained just Level 1.

"It feels good to be done; now, we have to go back and see what we can do to improve things," Brubaker said. "Overall, we are pleased with our performances here."