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Samuelson and Bates finish ice dance trifecta

American duo wins all three components en route to gold

The medal winners celebrate on the podium.
The medal winners celebrate on the podium. (Klaus-Reinhold Kany)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(02/29/2008) - Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates found redemption on Friday, capping their wire-to-wire win at the 2008 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. Unlike last season, the team won each of the three ice dancing components, including Friday's free dance, on their way to a gold medal.

Samuelson and Bates sat in second place heading into the free dance at the 2007 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, but Samuelson slipped during a step sequence, causing Bates to step on her left hand. Bates' skate opened a sizable gash on Samuelson's hand -- one that required the then-16-year-old to undergo emergency surgery. The pair was forced to withdraw from the competition.

A year later, they traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, prepared to peak as a pair. And they succeeded.

"It is the extreme opposite from what happened last year," Bates said. "After the bad luck there, we marked this year's junior worlds in our calendar and knew this would be our most important competition of the season."

Their free dance, set to a romantic Italian song named "Luna," scored an average of 7.1 points, an exceptional score for junior dancers. They scored mainly +2's for their seven elements and even two +3's. The pair also executed the the fastest twizzles, something they worked on in training.

"We train very well at home," said Bates. "When we come to a competition, we can be relaxed and trust each other. But there is always something to improve. At the beginning of this season, there were rule changes on the twizzles, therefore we had to train them differently."

Near the end of their program, the team included a parallel jump in their choreography, executed during the linking steps. The maneuver reflected their strong will to win and their joy at having given an excellent performance.

"We felt very, very strong during our performance today and can be proud of it," said Bates.

Canadians Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier finished second in the free dance, giving them the silver medal. They performed an excellent tango program, one that was a bit more conservative than the other top teams. The program blended classical ice dance with modern elements, all of which scored L 4.

"We are very happy with our performance," said Poirier. "We had a lot of speed. Our original goal was [a top-five finish], so this is just the icing on the cake to come in second."

Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov took bronze after placing third in the free dance. The Russian pair danced to 80's mega-hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart," by Bonnie Tyler. Their performance was a bit more superficial than the two top teams, with more +1's than +2's from the judges. But all their elements were given an L 4.

Co-favorites Maria Monko and Ilia Tkatchenko, also from Russia, placed a disappointing fourth in the free dance because Monko fell during the twizzle sequence, costing the Russian duo several points. They also finished fourth in the overall competition.

Brother and sister duo Madison and Keiffer Hubbell placed fifth in each component, including the free dance. The pair scored an L 4 on six of their seven elements. But they finished a straight-line lift early, causing the judges to rate it an L 2. Unfortunately, just as in the original dance, Madison also fell on a linking step, causing the pair to lose points.