Hawayek, Baker win junior dance despite errorsMove to DSC pays big dividends for Baker; WISA teams shine
Cross-country coaching changes are tough, doubly so when the coaches you're leaving happen to be your parents.
That's what Jean-Luc Baker did in the summer of 2012. On Thursday at the 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships, it paid off as he and partner Kaitlin Hawayek won the U.S. junior ice dance title.
The duo overcame her fall on a twizzle and a sloppy closing choreographic lift in their Améliefree dance to take the crown with 132.26 points.
"Not every competition is your best. You have ups and downs," Hawayek said. "Definitely, there were mistakes made. Personally, I, myself, made a mistake on the twizzles. It was probably one of those lapses of judgment. Ice is slippery."
The skaters maintained their speed while earning Level 4's for three lifts, including an opening curve lift that showed off Baker's steady, deep edges and gained maximum grade of execution points. Despite the errors, they gained the highest program components score of the event and won the free dance with 86.96 points.
"We put out the skate we could," Baker said. "We had mistakes here and there, but we did our job, and we're still pretty happy with it."
Jean-Luc's mom, four-time British ice dance champion Sharon Jones Baker, trained him in ice dance from age 10 at the Olympic View Arena in Mountlake Terrace, Wash. She and Jean-Luc's dad, former British pairs competitor Steven Baker, coached Jean-Luc and former partner Joylyn Yang to U.S. juvenile and intermediate titles. (Yang retired from competition due to injury.)
When Jean-Luc graduated from high school, a decision had to be made.
"We sat down with him and said, 'Now is your opportunity to move to a training center environment,'" Steven said. "It's the next step in your progression. We used to take Jean-Luc and Joylyn to Burnaby, B.C., to train with Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe's teams, and they thrived on that. We couldn't offer that at home."
After a successful tryout, Jean-Luc moved to Detroit to skate with Hawayek and train under a team of coaches headed by Pasquale Camerlengo. There, training partners have included European champions Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat, and 2012 Canadian silver medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.
Hawayek and Baker's results this season, including a silver medal at the Junior Grand Prix Final, prove Jean-Luc's move is paying off. Still, mom Sharon sounds a wistful note.
"They had one of their best performances at the JGP Final, in Japan," she said. "We weren't there; we watched it on icenetwork. It's not about us, it's about him."
"I think it's like any other kid going off to college; it's just that my college is training at DSC," Jean-Luc said. "My mom sees I love what I'm doing, and that's all that matters."
Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, second after the short dance, took the silver medal with a sophisticated free skate to Hans Zimmer selections from Sherlock Holmes and The Godfather. Their closing lift, with McNamara in a plank position across Carpenter's shoulders, was especially effective. They placed third in the free and ended with 147.50 points.
"It was a good, clean skate, the best we could have asked for," McNamara said. "It's always good to know we have something to improve upon."
"We were inspired by the Sherlock Holmes movie," Carpenter said. "I play him, she plays Irene Adler, and I'm searching for her, trying to figure out where she is and whether she is on my side or not."
McNamara, 14, and Carpenter, 17, train at Maryland's Wheaton Ice Skating Academy (WISA) under a coaching team headed by Alexei Kiliakov. WISA embraces a team training approach, which the skaters believe is instrumental to their success.
"It's what we love about training there," McNamara said. "We learn from each other and get constant feedback every day."
Another WISA team, Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons, bit into bronze with an ethereal free skate to music from the Twilight saga. Their rotational lift, perfectly timed to the music, was especially strong, and their twizzles were more than solid.
The siblings earned the highest technical elements score and placed second in the free. They finished with 145.78 points.
"We accomplished what we came here to do -- we had two clean skates," Michael said. "We skated our hearts out."
At one time, the 15-year-old Rachel was a fan of the Twilight books; her 18-year-old brother, not so much.
"There was a lot of discussion on what music we should skate to," Rachel said. "We both love classical music, and this sounded like something we could express well.
"In the program, we're in a dream, wanting to be together. It's about our journey to find each other. We're brother and sister, so we don't have that romantic love, but we do love each other."
Holly Moore and Daniel Klaber, another DSC team, were fourth after an energetic Latin routine highlighted by fast twizzles. They earned 136.66 points overall.