Team Fintastic leads at synchro world challenge

Jazz fourth; Colonials sixth

The Chicago Jazz junior team finished fourth overall at the World Challenge Cup for Juniors.
The Chicago Jazz junior team finished fourth overall at the World Challenge Cup for Juniors. (Kelly Hodge)


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By Kelly Hodge, special to
(03/07/2008) - The World Challenge Cup for Juniors got off to an exciting start in Rouen, France, with seven teams all in range to grab the top spot.

Finland's Team Fintastic sits in first place, a good start to their quest to repeat their world junior crown.

They skated a strong and clean short program to music from a Midsummer Night's Dream.

"I think the music is beautiful, happy and cheerful," said Kaisa Nieminen, the coach of the Finnish national junior champions.

The team sailed through each required element, earning 42.08 for their technical elements score, a full 7.58 points above the maximum base value of 34.50 in the junior short program. A score of 26.55 for their program components gave them 68.63 overall and a four point lead going into the free skate.

The program was highlighted by a strong circle with a Level 4 step sequence, a lovely line section and a strong block.

"I loved the circle tonight," explained Nieminen "I was really happy with its flow and with the steps. They looked nervous at the very beginning, but after about 15 seconds, they relaxed. It was clean, and I am very happy with how they did and really enjoyed watching their presentation."

Team Convivium from Sweden has yet to medal at a world challenge cup for juniors and is currently sitting in second place.

The skated a near flawless program until the very last element -- a wheel. The end skater in their three spoke lost her edge and fell.

"I am really pleased with my team, it was very good," said coach Helen Wieland. "We had a fall, but it was no big deal. It was small and ice is slippery!"

Convivium chose to skate to "Invincible" by Carola, a Swedish artist.

"I really wanted to skate to good, happy upbeat music, and I really wanted to do something Swedish," explained Wieland.

The team skated with power and flow, opening with a fast circle that traveled and changed direction. The team also executed a Level 4 step sequence, and went on to skate an impressive block, which was graded at the highest level. Convivium also thrilled the crowd by executing a routine with close spacing, something impressive but difficult to do.

"My goal for the team tomorrow is to hold our place -- or to at least be on the podium," said Wieland. The team finished seventh in this event in both 2006 and 2007.

In third are the Musketeers, also from Finland, who are the 2006 world junior champions. They are coming off a disappointing season last year, where they failed to qualify for this event.

Coached by Anu Oksanen, who also coaches the senior Marigold Ice Unity, the team skated a lyrical program to "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong. With strong skating skills, extension, flow and musicality, their strength was in their second marks. The team earned 38.35 for their technical elements, only the sixth in the competition, but made up for it by earning 26.02 for their program components.

Last year's bronze medalists, The Chicago Jazz, are fourth. They performed their short program to music from the soundtrack of East of Eden, they made one small error; a skater fell during the step sequence in the circle.

"It was a fluke," explained team member Tara Dudas, who is competing at her third junior challenge cup. "It didn't shake me up, it actually inspired me to keep going and finish strong."

The team skated with their trademark power, speed, edge quality and flow, executing most elements very well -- the moves that stood out were their collapsing box and triangle intersections.

"We're really content," said Dudas. "We are excited to skate the free skate tomorrow and we're ready for a comeback. We want to show the judges and the audience what we can do."

Jazz emerged from the short program with 63.34 points.

The Colonials finished in sixth place, after a short program set to "Colors of the Wind" from the Pochohantas soundtrack. They skated to the best of their ability, sailing easily through all eight required elements and earning 38.77 as their technical score, and 23.02 for program components; totaling 61.79 overall.