Olympic Finnstep Surprise

 by Alexandra Stevenson

Tensions were a little tight backstage at the World Arena in Colorado Springs on Saturday – not between the competitors at the Four Continent Championships – but between the top ranking stars and their Association.

An announcement had just been made that the Finnstep Pattern Dance will be part of the requirements for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi where Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir hope to defend the Olympic laurels they earned in Vancouver.

Moir questioned the Chair of the International Skating Union’s Ice Dance Committee, Halina Gordon Poltarek, about the ISU’s decision to include the Finnstep in the Games, and the Yankee Polka for next year’s world championships, which are in his home town, London, Ontario.

Virtue explained, “Nobody I’ve talked to likes the idea of watching a Polka. I agree with Scott. Why can’t we just have an Original Dance which would be more audience friendly?”

Her partner is adamant in his belief that, “The pattern dance slows down our presentation. This season’s Rhumba – the dance on ice dates back  to 1964! The (set) steps slow our routines down.”

In fact, the Gregory Rhumba dates back even further. The steps were devised by Walter Gregory in London in 1938 and have been in skating competition since then. 

The very patient Ms. Poltarek explained that they had to deal with everyone’s input. The Olympic authorities had insisted all the program and arrangements had to be made years in advance and they had to continue the status quo through the Olympics.

There is also a powerful lobby from coaches who make their living teaching Pattern Dances. These exercises, boring as they may be, teach rudimentary skill the way scales are essential in producing concert pianists.

Poltarek believes that if the current system continues past the Olympics Games, the Short Dance would likely include only a reduced number of steps from Pattern Dances instead of whole sequences. And there is the possibility that Moir’s wishes could come true. The ISU would go back to an “Original” Dance without such restrictions.

Such a possibility gives Moir no comfort. “That would be too late for us,” the 24-year-old said with a scowl. They do not expect to compete beyond 2014.

It was his second defeat of the day. Less than a couple of hours previously, he and his partner were beaten in the Short Dance. They lie 0.55 points behind their training mates from Canton, Michigan, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the Olympic silver medallists.

Last April, White and Davis took the world ice dance crown away from Virtue and Moir, becoming the first Americans ever to win the world ice dance title. The two couples are in a class by themselves, a fact readily admitted by the French Nathalie Pechalat and Fabien Bourzat, who recently won the European title.

Copyright 2012 by George S. Rossano

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