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Team Unique leads at world synchros

Haydenettes fifth; Miami University seventh

Several members of the Haydenettes earlier this week in Zagreb.
Several members of the Haydenettes earlier this week in Zagreb. (Kelly Hodge)

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By Kelly Hodge, special to icenetwork.com
(04/04/2009) - Five years ago, in 2004, Zagreb, Croatia hosted the World Synchronized Skating Championships, and two Finnish teams ended up on the podium. Marigold Ice Unity, who went into this competition as Team Finland 1, was hoping for a repeat of that result and was looking to regain their world title.

It is their teammates, however, Team Unique, or Finland 2, at this event, who will enter the free skate in first place. Skating to "I am a Woman," the Finns put up the best score of the night, 82.36. The team had the strongest technical mark of the evening, earning 49.40 points. Aside for a small error on their circle element, they received full credit for each of the required elements and a sheet of positive Grades of Executions (GOE).

"We are happy, happy, happy!" exclaimed coach Mirjami Penttinen. "We have been waiting for a world medal for many, many years. There are three great teams in Finland, and we are the only one who hasn't medaled at worlds, so finally we're able to prove that we are on the same level as the other two good teams."

The team started their program with a block, called at Level 4, with a step sequence, also at Level 4 and never let go from there. They're hoping for a the same feeling going into tomorrow's free skate.

"I want the team to skate like they did today, and let the judges decide" said Penttinen. It it's enough for a medal, that's really good, and if it turns out to be enough for a gold medal, that's a dream come true."

Sitting in second place with 80.12 points is Nexxice, known as Canada 1 at this championships, who has finished third the past two years. Nexxice put out a clean free skate, to "Bata Yetu" by Christopher Tin. Decked out in light orange dresses, their skating style was soft and light as they seemed to float across the ice.

"This has been a great adventure," said team captain Jennifer Beauchamp. "Our goal has always been to improve from competition to competition, and we were able to do that tonight. We're really happy with how well we did and with how we placed."

The team opened their program with a block Level 4, and while the step sequence only received a level three, they received a string of positive GOEs, including a +3 from one judge. They went on to finish each element extremely well, earning several more +2s and +3s.

Finland 1, Marigold Ice Unity is sitting in third place, and was the only team of the top three to not be thrilled with their placement.

"Our goal was to be higher tonight," said coach Anu Oksanen, "I'll have to look at our protocol and see what we didn't get called, and we'll keep fighting tomorrow."

The team skated to a light-hearted piece, "Radio Gaga" by Queen, and received 78.68 points. The program components mark was their strength, earning the highest of the evening with 33.28, with they struggled in the technical element score, receiving only the 6th best. The team received only a Level 1 step sequence on their block, and also received a downgrade on one of their intersections.

"Tomorrow night, we need to skate clean," said Oksanen. "No mistakes. We have to skate perfect, and the team has the right attitude to do it.

Sitting right on their heels, with 78.24 points, in Team Surprise of Sweden, the 2007 World Champions, who skated a fun, energetic program to Abba's "Mama Mia." The team had several small technical errors, including downgrades on step sequences and a collision in their intersection.

Team USA 2, the Haydenettes, is also within striking distance of the podium, with 77.10 points. The team skated a strong short program, with no major errors, and received the third highest technical score of the night.

"We are really excited with how we skated, we put it all out there," said captain Erika Hoffman. "We attacked and we're really happy with our score -- it was our personal best for the season.

Miami University, the reigning U.S. champions, is in seventh place with 71.62 points. The team skated its Beatles medley program very well, but several technical errors kept their first mark lower than expected.