Team Surprise leads at world synchros

Swedes on top after short program

Team Surprise leads after the short program at world synchros.
Team Surprise leads after the short program at world synchros. (Mary Jane Hanlon-Rogers)


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By Kelly Hodge, special to
(03/28/2008) - The 2008 World Synchronized Skating Championships in Budapest, Hungary, kicked off this evening with the short program. It was an exciting event that left many teams in a close hunt for a medal, and the results left the door open for any team to step up to the plate and pull an upset in Saturday night's free skate.

As with last year, reigning world champions Team Surprise, competing in this event as Team Sweden 1, got off to a strong start in their quest to bring home the gold.

"It feels really good," said co-captain and longtime team member Magdalena Sivertsson, "We are really happy with how we performed today, but there are many teams here that are very good, and we must skate our best tomorrow, too."

The team performed their short program to "Anything for Love," by Meatloaf, and wowed the judges with their signature speed, power and sharp unison. Despite having their intended Level 4 step sequence in the block called at Level 3, and two minor element deductions, Surprise earned the highest technical elements score of the evening by receiving a majority of +2 Grades of Execution (GOE) on every element in their program.

The team secured their lead with their closing, no-hold step sequence at the very end of the program, for which they earned a Level 4 in addition to +2's from every judge on the panel. They were aided by the audience, which pushed them through to the very end of their program.

"My favorite moments of the program [were] where we skated for the audience and really got a response. The support of the audience felt so good," added co-captain Liselott Nilsson.

Team Surprise will enter the free skate with 74.72 points, just 2.17 points ahead of the second place finishers.

After a disappointing season last year, where they finished fifth and eighth, the Finns are back and ready to reclaim their spots on the podium. Team Finland 1, the Rockettes, skated a lovely, lyrical program to "Ave Maria," performed by Celine Dion. In ivory dresses, the team appeared to float across the ice, as they completed their required elements with ease, including a Level 3 block executed with a Level 4 step sequence.

The team did make two minor errors -- a downgrade in their point of intersection from Level 4 to Level 2, and they did not receive full credit for their Ina Bauers in their moves-in-the-field-element. But, a sheet of positive GOE's more than made up for it. The team earned 72.55 points for their short program.

"My favorite part of the program was seeing the feeling that the girls got," said coach Kaisa Nieminen. "They were relaxed and not nervous. They skated well from the beginning, but anything can happen, as we saw with a fall this morning in practice."

"I am really excited for the free skate tomorrow. They enjoy skating it, and I love it. I know they can do a great job."

Finland 2, Marigold Ice Unity, coached by Anu Oksanen, also skated a strong short program. The team skated to a modern version of Carmen and showcased a sharp, crisp skating style with excellent unison, and they earned Level 4's for both step sequences in their program.

The team opened their program with their moves-in-the-field sequence which included Ina Bauers in one line, spread eagles with a change of edge and 135 degree spirals. They received full credit for each and collected an additional .91 points for positive GOE's, including a +3 from one judge.

With a score of 70.87, the team is less than two points from the Rockettes and just under four points away from the leaders.

"I think we did a very good program," commented the team's captain. "Tomorrow we'll try to do our best. I hope that it will be enough for gold."

Team USA 1, the Haydenettes, are currently sitting in sixth place. But, with 66.82 points, they are certainly within striking distance of the podium. The team skated a nice program overall, but deductions and reductions for several small errors added up; including a collision in their triangle intersection and a downgrade on the step sequence in their block from Level 4 to Level 2.

Miami University is just behind them in seventh place with 64.28 points.

With just over four points separating first from fourth place, and just over six points separating places three through seven, the places on the podium are still wide open, and the free skate is anyone's game to win.