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Summer Notebook: Rockin' the ice in Detroit

Pechalat, Bourzat prepare season debut; Kemp, King plan Florida move

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat with with their coaches at the Detroit Skating Club, Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova.
Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat with with their coaches at the Detroit Skating Club, Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova. (Jacque Tiegs)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany and Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(08/19/2011) - Bloomfield Hills, where Detroit Skating Club (DSC) is nestled just a 30-minute drive northwest of downtown Detroit, is challenging its fellow Motor City suburb, Canton, for the title of Michigan's busiest skating Mecca.

Back in the '90s, DSC could boast of two world champions -- six-time U.S. champion Todd Eldredge, and 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski -- as well as luminaries including all-time U.S. ice dance greats Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev, and Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow. In years since, it has remained a prominent international training center.

Now, with two husband-and-wife coaching couples -- Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova, who are assisted by Massimo Scali, and Jason Dungjen and Yuka Sato -- it is challenging its glory days.

"We're thrilled not only about the development of the club, but also of business at the rink," Swallow, DSC's managing director, said. "Our coaches attract top-level skaters, and having U.S. champions and world and European medallists training here helps to attract more beginners, adult skaters and children."

European ice dance champions Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France, fourth at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships, arrived at DSC in June amidst reports the Russian Skating Federation asked their former coach, Alexander Zhulin, to concentrate on preparing Russian prospects for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"Yes, that is true," Bourzat, 30, said. "After we were told this, the only coach we wanted to go to was Pasquale.

"We knew Pasquale from the time [he spent] as an assistant coach to Muriel Zazoui in our former home town of Lyon, France. He worked with us between 2000 and 2003 when we were juniors and Zazoui was very busy with Olympic champions Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat and other senior dancers."

Both skaters admitted the move has advantages and disadvantages.

"We have to get used to training with many other couples on the same ice," Bourzat said. "In Moscow, we often trained with only one other couple [Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov]. Here, it is four or five."

"In general, life here is easier than in Russia," Pechalat, 27, said. "Finding an apartment, getting a car and shopping are all easy. But sometimes I miss the Moscow culture, like having the possibility of going to the ballet or theater in the evenings."

That drawback is countered by the opportunity of working with Krylova, a two-time world ice dance champion (with Oleg Ovsiannikov).

"She can show me the female aspect of our programs better than Zhulin could," Pechalat said.

The team plans to return to France at least once every three months to avoid U.S. visa problems and work with French choreographer Kader Belmoktar. Their first trip back home is to show their programs -- a short dance to a Rumba and slow and fast Samba rhythms, and their "Egypt" free dance to music from Peter Gabriel -- at the annual Orléans Paris Masters competition in October.

"We plan to compete in three Grand Prix events [Skate America, Skate Canada, and Trophee Eric Bompard] and, hopefully, the Grand Prix Final," Péchalat said. "Skating is our profession, and we have to make our living. Since the ISU is giving us the opportunity to compete and get prize money four times, we will use it."

Another of Camerlengo's teams, Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, placed fifth in Moscow, just one spot behind the French.

Although the two teams are close in standing, Weaver and Poje welcome having another top team in the group.

"It just motivates us to train even harder," Poje said. "Certainly we want a medal at worlds and so do Nathalie and Fabian. But right now it is summer and there is no big rivalry."

Weaver and Poje, who placed second to the now-split team of Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier at the 2011 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, spent some of the summer re-learning the Rumba patterns required in this season's short dance. Like the French, they plan to compete at three Grand Prix events, plus (hopefully) the Final.

"We trained the Rumba for two weeks back in 2007, but have not trained it since," Weaver said. "We think we found a very creative way to include our Rumba (set to "Histoire de un amor") in the short dance. We will also interpret a hot Batacuda [African-influenced] Samba.

"Our free dance is set to the song "Je suis malade" which was originally sung by Lara Fabian but has been specially arranged for us by composer Carl Hugo."

The French and Canadians share the ice with American teams Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, recently nominated for Nebelhorn Trophy and Skate America; Anastasia Olson and Jordan Cowan, who will also compete at Nebelhorn next month; and eight other junior and senior dance teams.

With so many skaters at the rink and two young children at home, Camerlengo and Krylova rely heavily on Scali's support, as well as that of Punsalan and Natalia Deller, known in her competitive days as Natalia Annenko. The Italian Scali -- who won world bronze with partner Federica Faiella in 2010 -- had hoped to return to competition this season, but those plans have been postponed indefinitely.

"Federica is still suffering from the hip injury she received in April, and besides, I am enjoying coaching very much," Scali said.

On the singles' side of DSC, reigning U.S. champion Alissa Czisny and two-time world junior champion Adam Rippon work primarily with Dungjen, who accompanied them on a recent tour of Japan so he could continue their training in the mornings.

"It was my first Japanese tour, and it was fascinating," Czisny said. "I can't wait to go back in September for the Japan Open.

"My main goal for the coming season is definitely to win a medal at worlds, but I can't take anything for granted. First I have to qualify at nationals, and we have only two [U.S. ladies'] spots. Last season I saw Jeremy [Abbott] not qualify, and I didn't make it the Olympic year [2010]. So I know how difficult this will be."

Rippon, who moved to DSC in mid-June after training for two seasons under Brian Orser and Ghislain Briand in Toronto, originally came to DSC to choreograph his free skate [set to Bach's "Air" and "Toccata and Fugue"] with Camerlengo.

"I had only planned to stay for a week, but I liked the training facilities with the three rinks and the atmosphere here so much, I decided to stay," Rippon said.

"Jason [Dungjen] is an excellent coach. He has a sharp eye and sees right away why a jump isn't working. He helped me get back my triple Axel, which is consistent now. During the Japanese tour, he asked me to perform it in each show, and all of them worked."

Rippon -- famous for the "Rippon" Lutz, executed with both hands over head -- is also training a quad Lutz.

"My goal is to include it sometime this season. We will see," he said.

Abbott, whose main coach is Sato, has resolved the boot problems that plagued him last season, contributing to inconsistent performances. He reports the quad toe loop is again consistent and plans to include it in his free skate, set to music from Muse.

What's new in pairs
Canadian pair champions Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch had planned to unveil their new programs -- a short to the quickstep "Borsalino" and free skate to music from Henry V -- at the Indy Pairs Challenge, but Moscovitch's strained Achilles' tendon forced them to compete at the Thornhill Summer Skate instead.

There, the team won both the short program and free skate events, although they stressed they were still building to peak condition.

"It was a rough start but we wanted to do it," Moscovitch said. "We're doing a triple toe-triple toe sequence in the free, and also triple Salchows, plus the lifts are more difficult than last season. [Moore-Towers fell on a triple toe at Thornhill and Moscovitch on a triple Salchow.] We wanted to put the programs out there and get more feedback."

In September, British pair champions Stacey Kemp and David King, eighth at the 2011 European Figure Skating Championships, will relocate to Ellenton, Fla., to train in Jim Peterson and Lyndon Johnston's group. There, they will share the ice with U.S. silver medalists Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, as well as Felicia Zhang and Nate Bartholomay and juniors Christine Mozer and Danny O'Shea, among others.

"We're excited about making a fresh start," King said. "We plan to move right after we complete our IJS competition and monitoring in Sheffield [August 22-26]."

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy will perform this season's short program to music from the Hans Zimmer soundtrack of Illuminati. The German world pair champions have yet to publicly reveal their free skate music.