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Americans dominate compulsory dance

U.S. teams take first, second and fifth place

Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein put an exclamation point on a career-defining junior season in Sofia.
Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein put an exclamation point on a career-defining junior season in Sofia. (Paul Harvath)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(02/24/2009) - For the second time in 12 months, 2009 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships is taking place in the Winter Sports Hall in Bulgaria's capital of Sofia, and the skating community watches eagerly as the world's best young skaters take the ice.

Of late, ice dancers from the United States have dominated the world stage. Based on performances in the compulsory dance, this trend seems alive and well in Sofia, because ice dancers from the U.S. ended up taking first, second and fifth place.

Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein from the school of Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva in Canton, Mich., who were the winners in the junior division at the 2008-2009 Grand Prix Final in December, won by a wide margin of almost two points. Their flow and their elegance were superior, and they interpreted the character of the dance in a most authentic way.

"We are happy with our result, and we were solid in our patterns. It is one of my favorite dances of all compulsory dances. It is very expressive and fun to do. But in practice this morning it was even better," said Zuerlein.

"We have done the dance for the whole year. After each competition, we have to go home and make changes to it," added Chock.

Taking second place were the brother and sister team of Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell from Ann Arbor, Mich., who showed their dance in a mature and dynamic style.

Madison Hubbell, whose birthday is today, commented, "We are happy that we did a clean performance and about our skating in general."

Ekaterina Pushkash and Dmitri Kiselev of Russia ended compulsories in third, which was somewhat of a surprise, even to the skaters themselves.

"We did not expect to be in a medal position", Pushklash said. "But the Paso Doble is our favorite dance, and we showed it in several other competitions this season. Therefore, we are used to dancing it in competition."

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, another sibling team from the U.S., are among the youngest skaters in the whole competition of 33 couples.

Competing in their first world juniors, the pupils of Igor Shpilband also did their Paso Doble very well and ended up in fifth place. Five North Americans are in the top six, with Canadian couples Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill and Karen Routhier and Eric Sauck-Lacelle in coming in fourth and sixth, respectively.