Samuelson, Bates lead, but not by much

Americans win original dance, lead by only 1.72 points

Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates pose after their OD practice earlier in the week.
Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates pose after their OD practice earlier in the week. (Klaus-Reinhold Kany)


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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to
(02/28/2008) - The required rhythm for the original dance this season is a folk dance. It may be a rhythm from your own country, but the skaters have the choice to choose from all over the world. Music from at least 15 countries was played on Thursday at the 2008 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. Because of the success of the folk dance this year, the dance committee of the International Skating Union is thinking of repeating this rhythm for the Olympic season.

Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates of the U.S. won the original dance in Bulgaria. After winning the compulsory dance by just 0.12 points over Maria Monko and Ilia Tkachenko of Russia, the Americans took Thursday's session by a slightly more comfortable margin -- 0.32 points. This time it was Canada's Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier in second.

Samuelson and Bates used two Russian dances, the famous "Kalinka" and a second one called "Russkie Napievi," in their routine that earned 57.84 points. Most of their elements were excellent. Their twizzle got five +2 Grades of Execution and seven +1s; their rotational lift received a +3 and five +2s. Their one mistake came when Bates slipped at the end of their midline step sequence. Despite that, they now have a 1.72-point lead over Crone and Poirier heading into the final.

After the session, Bates said, "We had a lot of fun out there and hopefully portrayed Russian folk as best we could. We skated pretty good today, except for the small mistake. When we originally heard that folk music was required for this season, this was a new approach. But we like the idea, and we think that it is a great choice. It gives to the skaters a lot of opportunies."

Samuelson added, "The folk dance is good for the audience as well as for the judges. They don't have to watch 24 tangos."

The Canadians, Crone and Poirier, moved up from third to second place overall with a flawless Romanian gypsy waltz. They danced a bit more conservatively than the Americans, but it was a real dance. All their elements got Level 4. They even had 0.71 more element points than the winners but 1.03 less points in the component score. Five of their elements got at least one +2.

"We were able to show everything we had trained, and the audience seemed to like it. The folk dance is good to show the diversity of strength of each couple," Poirier said afterwards.

Russia's Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov, who finished fourth in the compulsory dance, moved to third overall with their third-place, Greek folk dance that had very good elements and no mistakes. Monko and Tkachenko fell from second to fourth place overall after Monko stumbled during the twizzle sequence of their original dance.

Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell of the U.S. remained in fifth position after showing a good Bavarian folk dance. Its elements achieved Level 4, but Madison fell on a linking step. This is not as serious as falling during a required element, but they did get a small deduction for it.

Afterwards, she said, "We are happy with our performance, except the mistake naturally, and hope to be better tomorrow."