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Davankova, Deputat win pairs short in Lake Placid

Purdy and Marinaro, trio of Americans all in medal contention

Vasilisa Davankova and Andrei Deputat made quite an impressive JGP debut.
Vasilisa Davankova and Andrei Deputat made quite an impressive JGP debut. (Daphne Backman)

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By Mickey Brown
(08/30/2012) - Vasilisa Davankova and Andrei Deputat, the reigning world junior bronze medalists from Russia, won the short program Thursday night at the Junior Grand Prix Lake Placid, with a Canadian team and a trio of Americans in hot pursuit.

Skating to a Flamenco, Davankova and Deputat led off the event -- their first ever in the JGP Series -- and by the time the other 13 teams had finished, they still found themselves atop the standings.

The Russians skated a largely clean program, with grades of execution ranging from zero to 0.29, but they weren't totally pleased with their performance.

"We did 75 percent of what we can [do]," Deputat said. "We could have had more speed, more emotion."

Davankova was very blunt in her assessment of the team's segment mark of 48.97: "I think the score is too small."

Margaret Purdy and Michael Marinaro projected an elegance throughout their short, skated to Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Cano." The 2010 Canadian junior champs posted the highest program components score of the evening, 23.64.

The duo is in its sixth season together, and its fourth competing on the JGP circuit.

"We're not just trying to do the elements -- we're trying to do a program," Marinaro said. "We're trying to push it into the senior category and out of junior."

Three of the four American teams in the competition -- Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage, and Jessica Pfund and AJ Reiss -- are in contention for a medal, but each one also received no credit for an invalid element: Denney and Frazier, and Pfund and Reiss were bit by the death spiral, while Aaron and Settlage got tripped up by the combination spin.

Denney and Frazier, the reigning U.S. junior gold medalists, did all they could to keep up with the pace of their "Malaguena" short, for which they scored 44.58 points.

"When we first learned it, it was very challenging to match the choreography with the elements. As time went on, things started going into place," Frazier said. "There's still a lot of work to be done."

Close behind them are Aaron and Settlage, with 43.82 points. Their short, set to Camille Saint-Saëns' "The Swan," featured the cleanest side-by-side double Axels of the event, but what the duo was most proud of was how they sold the program.

"Performance has been a big part of our training this year," Settlage said. "We're trying to get into the characters, treat it like a play. We want to connect with each other."

Pfund and Reiss skated the most mature program of the night, to "Bolero for Violin and Orchestra" by Vanessa-Mae.

They had everything going until the final move, the death spiral, when she didn't get low enough, and they lost the element, plus incurred a time violation.

"It's one of the elements we need to work on the most. It's a big part of the short, counts for a lot of points," Reiss said. "It has improved a lot, too."

The team has worked with former Italian dance champion Lia Trovati, who also coaches at their rink, on improving their facial expressions and movements. Those lessons have clearly paid off, as they brought a level of drama to their program that other teams lacked.

Pfund and Reiss' score of 43.37 points put them fifth.

The fourth U.S. team in Lake Placid, Olivia Oltmanns and Joshua Santillan, came in ninth, posting a segment score of 39.10.

Note: In an effort to promote the discipline of pairs, the ISU is allowing host countries of JGP competitions to enter as many pairs teams as they want this season.