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Stepanova, Bukin bag dance gold with 'Bolero'

Papadakis, Cizeron finish in second; Aldridge, Eaton bring home another bronze

Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin of Russia completed a perfect season in Milan.
Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin of Russia completed a perfect season in Milan. (Getty Images)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(03/01/2013) - Once again, "Bolero" is the music of ice dance champions.

In 1984, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean struck Olympic gold with their passionate free dance to Ravel's undulating anthem of love. This time around, Ivan Bukin, the son of Torvill and Dean's greatest rival Andrei Bukin -- who with Natalia Bestimianova won Olympic silver in 1984 and gold in 1988 -- won the prize at the 2013 World Junior Figure Skating Championships.

Bukin and his partner, Alexandra Stepanova, wrote a perfect ending to a perfect season by winning the world junior ice dance title in Milan on Friday, outpacing their rivals by nearly seven points. It was their fourth international gold of 2012-13; the Muscovites also won both of the Junior Grand Prix events and the Junior Grand Prix Final in Sochi in December.

Skating to a modern Flamenco version of the Ravel classic, they performed seven excellent elements at high speed, including a brilliant twizzle sequence that gained +3 and +2 grades of execution (GOEs) from the judges. One shaky curve lift rated just Level 2, but their program components averaged around 7.6 and peaked at 8.25, and they won the free dance and the title with 150.17 points overall.

"We had a good performance and did everything we could do, and we are very happy," the 19-year-old Bukin said. "We all agreed on the music and liked it. It is a great arrangement. It has nothing to do with my father's time; we did not think about that at all."

While Bukin said that the couple did not know yet if they will compete as seniors next season, Stepanova is already making plans.

"We have to work on the technique in order to get close to senior-level skating, to show grown-up, confident skating," Stepanova, 17, said. "We'll have to work on our physical strength, as the senior-level free dance is a little longer than in junior, and we'll have to work on our mental strength to feel more confident."

Gabriella Papadakis and Giullaume Cizeron of France, second to the Russians at the Junior Grand Prix Final, overcame an ankle sprain Papadakis suffered during her off-ice morning practice to win silver with 143.26 points.

Their free dance to Pink Floyd's "Money" and "Hey You" opened with a fluid diagonal step sequence. Papadakis then performed a shaky twizzle sequence, but the team continued with two very good lifts and an excellent spin before stopping their program at the 2:40 mark so Papadakis could receive treatment for her injury. After a three-minute rest, they finished their program.

They placed third in the free dance with 81.68 points.

"The free dance obviously wasn't easy, as this morning I injured my ankle in the warm-up on the floor," Papadakis said. "I couldn't walk all day and I didn't know until the last moment if I could skate.

"We stopped in the middle and went to the referee (Rossella Ceccattini). I just said that it hurts too much to continue and that I can't continue. She answered that according to the rules, I can rest for three minutes and continue then."

Cizeron addressed the team's future.

"We could stay in juniors, but we decided to move up the senior level for next year because we might have a chance to compete at the Olympic Games," he said.

According to a new ISU rule, skaters may take up to a three-minute break during their programs, without the fear of disqualification. Yuri Balkov, who is judging in Milan, confirmed that there is no deduction if the referee determines the skaters stopped for a medical reason. If they stop for any other reason which is within their responsibility -- for example, a costume malfunction -- there will be a deduction.

Two-time U.S. junior champions Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton, who won bronze behind the Russian and French teams in Sochi, duplicated that result here to take home their second consecutive world junior bronze medal.

Performing to selections from Fiddler on the Roof, the team from the Detroit Skating Club gained four Level 4 elements to take second place in the free dance with 82.44 points. They ended with 139.33 points.

"We are just honored to be able to compete at our second junior world championship and to compete against such great athletes throughout the entire field," Eaton said. "It's been a wonderful season. We performed our program to the best of our ability today, and I don't think I can ask for a better experience."

Aldridge and Eaton, who train under a group of coaches headed by Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova, will move up to the senior level next season.

"I definitely think it's an exciting step into our future. We're looking forward to competing at our highest peak at that point," Eaton said. "We train with some of the best in the world. Their passion, their abilities on the ice will definitely drive us to push ourselves more to compete at a high level for the senior events."

Russians Valeria Zenkova and Valerie Sinitsin climbed from fifth place to fourth with their entertaining free dance to Cats, while Mackenzie Bent and Garrett Mackeen of Canada slipped from fourth to fifth with a tango routine.

Another team from Detroit, Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, rose from 11th after the short dance to seventh overall after a sixth-place free dance to music from the movie musical Singin' in the Rain.

"I am almost speechless, because we are a team for such a short amount of time and we have accomplished so much already," Hawayek said. "In eight months, we have done so much; we have won a silver medal at a Junior Grand Prix and junior silver at nationals, and now we are seventh in the world.

"We moved up several spots in the free dance ... It was hard, but it was clean, and we put out a solid performance. [The judges] recognized that we have not only the technical ability, but also the ability to play with the crowd and to play off of each other."

Two-time U.S. junior bronze medalists Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, who train at Wheaton Skating Academy in Maryland, placed ninth.

"I definitely enjoyed it and I had really a lot of fun this time," Carpenter said. "It was a wonderful experience to skate in front of all these people. I think our footwork could have been a little bit better today and maybe get a higher value, but other than that, we are pretty happy with our elements."