U.S. Pairs 2019-20 season - News & Updates, Part X

aftershocks

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Can we please take discussion of non-U.S. pairs teams to the general pairs thread where I posted some of the top Warsaw Cup sp pairs videos...

Good luck to C/J in the fp. Digerness/Neudecker got off to a pretty good start, but then they ran into problems which is why they are farther down in the standings. They looked very fit, but with the injury layoff, they have to get everything back running on all cylinders. Danny fell on the sbs jumps and they had a few miscues which appeared to throw off their rhythm. Here's hoping D/N have a better fp.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKZV1w5uAcU Digerness/Neudecker sp Warsaw Cup
 

aftershocks

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CANT even remember the last time a new USA team had such a stellar result

It's always a process and a journey, different for every team. All U.S. teams have improved and are continuing to steadily improve. I think it's also important to remember that a number of U.S. teams have had to overcome a lot due to battling injuries and illness in recent years. If not for such setbacks, the Knierims, Denney/Frazier, and also Tarah/Danny and Pfund/Santillan might be much further along competitively. I applaud these teams' courage and fortitude. It's cool that things are coming together for a number of top U.S. teams, and that the discipline as a whole in the U.S. is looking strong.

Calalang/Johnson are in their second season together. While they are a fairly recent partnership, they have years of experience with other partners. Jessica has been on the senior circuit somewhat longer than Brian, but they both have a good amount of senior pairs experience. And they meld together extremely well, which is somewhat indefinable and elusive how that happens. A huge benefit likely is the fact they trained for so many years under the same coaches. However, there's no way to predict or to account for the almost magical way they seem to connect and to project next level quality. Kinda interestingly, they are both 24 years of age, with Jessica somewhat older by 9 months. :)

ETA:
It's a very lovely program to Game of Thrones theme song, choreographed by Benoit Richaud...

Benoit Richaud and Cindy Stuart are listed in C/J's Wiki entries as having co-choreographed both their sp and fp this season.
 
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aftershocks

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Midwestern Sectionals Pairs Final sp:


It's nice to see Pfund/Santillan. They look good, but likely have to work themselves back into fully confident competitive shape. They seem happy to be back on the ice! I like the cute storytelling component in their sp. I hope they can build to skate this fun program clean at U.S. Nationals. :cheer2:

Serafini/Tran also look strong and possibly might have been in first. But Mervin had a small step-out on the sbs jumps. Where they lost the most points though was surely on the sbs spin, where Mervin got out of sync and then missed a catch leg spin position change. He simply continued spinning upright, which helped his momentum to make the next spin position change, but the tech panel would have noticed the mistake of course and deducted points accordingly. S/T have made wonderful progress since 2019 U.S. Nationals, and they seem to have a nice rapport with each other and with their coaches. :)

New young pair McIsaac/Sadusky are cute together and very entertaining. They both seem new to pairs and obviously still have a ways to go to add difficulty and to increase their competence. As strong singles skaters, they both landed their sbs jumps! Yay! (y) M/S are Jim Peterson's new team, which bodes well. This is a promising start. The audience was very into their delightful and peppy choreography/ personalities:


Coming back from injury, Laiken/Keenan have to rebuild their competitive fitness too, but they look good together, and it's nice to see them again. It's just about rebuilding strength and confidence.

I really like Chan/Howe, but they don't seem to have made significant improvements since the off-season. Lu/Mitrofanov also do not seem to be steadily progressing (Misha may be recovering from a shoulder injury). L/M are at Rostelecom Cup this weekend. I wonder if their training camp is the best place to be for high level pairs training? Both C/H and L/M, who train under the same coaches, have a lot of potential but both teams need to be showing more progress IMO. Howe previously trained in Canada with Gauthier/ Marcotte, when he was paired with Nadine Wang. Maybe both of these young teams just need more time. I hope they figure out what they need to focus on to improve.

Timlen/Highgate-Brutman always have lovely, expressive choreography. Allison landed a beautiful throw. They strike me as a team who would be wonderful show skaters. Mokhova/Mokhov look good and they had a strong performance too, but they are still building as Maria continues to grow. She seems older than her young age. It was a family affair in the kiss 'n cry. ;)

It was nice to see Cassie Andrews again, with her new partner, Dustin Sierk. Good luck to them as they continue to train and improve. They strike me as a team who would make a good adagio pair, when their elements become stronger.
 
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aftershocks

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Jessica & Brian have won gold at Warsaw Cup! Congrats to them. :cheer2:


Videos aren't up yet, but should be soon. The livestream just ended. :)

ETA:
Results in Junior pairs sp at Midwestern Sectionals:

@Sylvia, I get that Grace Knoop must have a leg or foot injury. What is the rule on this? Did Grace & Blake (another Jim Peterson team) have to show up and glide around the ice w/o performing any elements so they can be assured a spot at U.S. Nationals? I don't understand.
 
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olympic

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It looks like S/T squeaked out a win over P/S. Both seemed to have done reasonably well: S/T went for a SBS 3F w/ small deduction (but rotated) and a 3-jump combo. P/S landed SBS triples and actually looked strong (according to GOE protocols) on the lifts. IIRC, the lifts were probably overall their weakest element historically.

It looks like there are a few US pairs that need a twist boot camp ;)

ETA - Based on USFSA criteria, who made it to Nationals??
 

haribobo

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Everyone besides McIsaac/Sadusky who missed the TES by like 2 points or so. And obviously Andrews/Sierk who withdrew after SP.
 

aftershocks

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Here's Jessica/Brian's fp at Warsaw Cup! :encore:


They skated very well. I enjoy both their programs and their costumes so much. :love: The same goes for their last year's programs which were Salsation by David Shire (Caribbean or Latin-flavored jam), and Nocturnal Animals by Abel Korseniowski (a more classical genre; soundtrack to the Jake Gyllenhaal movie). This season working together with a collaboration between Benoit Richaud and Cindy Stuart for both programs (Light of the Seven - Game of Thrones; and You Are the Reason by Calum Scott & Leona Lewis) has brought out yet more facets to this lovely new partnership.

Brian was slightly unsteady on the second jump in the combo pass, and he turned out of his 3-sal but still had the rotations. It looks like they planned the 2-toe/2-toe combo for the first jumping pass, and then the 3-salchows. Jessica seems a bit more focused and calm on the jumps in recent outings. They both just need to continue building confidence on the jumps and managing to be in sync on landing them consistently, which is one of the more difficult things to accomplish in pairs skating. Still they obviously have the ability. Now, perhaps it's a matter of building confidence and landing the jumps without worrying about each other.

C/J are so well-matched. They already know each other and have trained under the same coaches for years, so they don't have to worry about re-learning or adjusting to different techniques. The main challenge for them as a new team is working out their unique timing and rhythm, which varies with different partners. But they are so far ahead of the game otherwise than most new partnerships would be, which is maybe one reason why they've had success together so quickly. Their 3-twist is gorgeous, and their lifts seem so effortless. They have great speed, good SS, beautiful flow over the ice, and a palpable connection. I enjoy the unique touches of Jessica's positions on her death spirals. They look at each other throughout their performance and we can sense the caring and the friendship they share that in turn expresses the feel of their music. They have so far worked in four different music genres with three different choreographers to steady success!

IMO, C/J's PCS should have been higher at Warsaw Cup than it was -- they did have the highest PCS, but deserved even higher! It's understandable they were slightly behind on TES to the second place team due to not having the strongest jumping passes. But they do have good jumping ability, so they should be able to continue improving in that area. I will take further comparative remarks re international teams to the general pairs thread.
 
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haribobo

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SENIOR PAIRS VIA SECTIONALS

Serafini/Tran 162
Pfund/Santillan 161
Lockley/Prochnow 140
Mokhova/Mokhov 140
Timlen/Highgate-Brutman 140
Chan/Howe 139

INTL BYES BY ISU SB

Cain-Gribble/Leduc 205
Knierim/Knierim 202
Denney/Frazier 199
Calalang/Johnson 191
Kayne/O'Shea 178
Lu/Mitrofanov 168
Digerness/Neudecker 134
 
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olympic

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L/M had a rough go of it at RC. I hope they can gel as a team because the attempted elements are pretty ambitious, especially the SBS jumps.

ETA - Wow 13 group. Judging by scores to date. It looks like 2 competitive tiers for the final 2 groups has developed in US pairs at Nationals:

1. Top tier - SK/K, CG/L, D/F, C/J and K/O. Someone won't make the final group for the LP
2. Second tier - L/M, S/T and P/S
 

pairskatingfan

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The way it looks so far is there are some tough battles going on for placements at Nationals.

1-3 seems to be between The Kneirims, Ashley and Tim, and Haven and Brandon. They have all looked equally strong at different times in this international season and could each make great cases for the top:

If clean, the Kneirims probably win thanks to the best overall package of everyone and presence on the ice.

However, Ashley and Tim may see the top of the podium thanks to long term consistency. Though they have had a few misses this season, they have been most consistent over the last few seasons compared to the other teams.

Haven and Brandon on the other hand have beaten Ashley and Tim twice on the Grand Prix circuit this year and proven their worth to international judges, the only question is whether they get the same respect from US judges. If they land their jumps as they have started to do, they have a real chance to win based on the strengths of their lifts, their beautiful throws, and their “two as one” skating and unique transitions.

Kayne/ O’Shea don’t seem to be in this group right now, though at their full peak they are competitive with this group. They have their next Grand Prix to prove that, but right now they are competing for the pewter medal with Calalang/ Johnson.

Jessica and Brian did a much better job on their jumps in Warsaw, the question is if this will continue to improve as we head into US Nationals. If they skate clean and there are other mistakes, they could end up as high as 3rd.

My guess?

1. Haven and Brandon
2. Ashley and Tim
3. Knierims
4. Calalang/ Johnson
5. Kayne/ O’Shea

I could see Jessica and Brian being lower in the short and overtaking Tarah and Danny in the free skate just based on more consistency... either way this group has a ton of wiggle room and could go one of many ways.

The next group of skaters seem to be in a tight race for sixth.

Audrey and Misha have the most technical content of any team in the competition, going for 3S Eu 3S combo, and have the cleanest twist of the middle/ bottom teams, despite lacking height. On top of that they seem to have great consistency. Still it seems something is missing from their skating. They don’t do anything badly, but they don’t do anything outstanding either. Their skating needs a spark and this could be the key to them getting beat. However, their consistency alone may mean that they could rise above one of the top 5 teams should they falter too much.

Serifini/ Tran seem to be a team on the rise. From the bottom of Nationals last year, they have improved this season enough to compete at an international and win the US Pairs Final. No doubt they have good skating, but have they truly gelled together yet? Their twist needs improvement, but it seems like they are capable of just about every element. It’s too early for this team to jump into the top five, but let’s check back in two years and maybe there’s a different story. They landed side by side flips and a toe combo at the pairs final. Clean, they should beat Audrey and Misha, but will they be clean?

Pfund/ Santillan are finally back from injury/injuries. They competed decently well for a team that has been out for a year at the pairs final, the question is whether the version of them we see at nationals will be a continuing improvement with more time for training post-recovery, or if what we saw at the pairs final is their peak. They hit a magnificent side by side triple salchow in their free skate and a beautiful throw loop in the short, combined with surprisingly strong lifts they nearly won the event. If clean and with continued improvement they would probably end up in 6th place, only time will tell what occurs for these 6th - 8th places, I can’t even make an accurate prediction of any kind.

Nica and Danny seem to be solidly in 9th for the event, with all the other teams with a pretty solid chance of rounding out the top 10.

Training, grit, health, and mental strength will be the difference maker for these pole positions. The question is, who will come out ahead.

Find out, in Greensboro Bum bum bum!!
 

oleada

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On top of that they seem to have great consistency. Still it seems something is missing from their skating. They don’t do anything badly, but they don’t do anything outstanding either. Their skating needs a spark and this could be the key to them getting beat. However, their consistency alone may mean that they could rise above one of the top 5 teams should they falter too much.
I don’t know, they haven’t skated a particularly good LP at either of their events this year. Their lifts need A LOT of work; his lift technique is quite frightening. They didn’t get a single level 4 on their lifts and all their lifts at Rostelecom had deservedly negative GOE. It could be a one off, but they struggled with the lifts at US Classic (but then again, so did everyone else). No level 4s there either. I don’t remember it being this bad last year. I totally agree they need more spark to there skating, particularly her, but I also think it can be hard to have spark when the lifts are so :yikes: But no level 4 lifts means giving up tons of points especially when a number of the US teams actually have very nice lifts.
Actually, L/M’s levels were low across the board, looking at it, not just the lifts. Of course the US callers will likely be more lenient.
 

mtnskater

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I hate to say it but Lu & Mitrofanov looked really undertrained in Russia. I expected to see improvement this year, but they seem to have slid backwards. Audrey looks like she has grown, is this it? Or have they had injury issues? Are they participating in the USFS pairs training camps in California? I had hope for them because they are pretty consistent on the SBS jumps.
 

clairecloutier

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Lu/Mitrofanov are coming off an injury which caused them to miss Finlandia Trophy. So it's not that surprising that they looked a bit off in Russia. No doubt they still wanted to compete anyway because it was their only GP assignment. They're not among the U.S. teams entered at Golden Spin, which is the last pairs CS event this year.
 

aftershocks

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L/M had a rough go of it at RC. I hope they can gel as a team because the attempted elements are pretty ambitious, especially the SBS jumps.

ETA - Wow 13 group. Judging by scores to date. It looks like 2 competitive tiers for the final 2 groups has developed in US pairs at Nationals:

1. Top tier - SK/K, CG/L, D/F, C/J and K/O. Someone won't make the final group for the LP
2. Second tier - L/M, S/T and P/S

Yep, as I mentioned earlier, Lu/Mitrofanov need work in a number of areas. They have the ability to complete strong elements, but they've been very inconsistent. Lu has a stiff quality about her skating, so maybe she and Misha too could benefit by taking dance and acting lessons. Also, I wonder if their coaches are the best coaches for pairs. They train with the new team Wang/Howe, who also don't seem to be making visible progress in their competitions. But it's early yet for W/H. As well, L/M are a young team who have promise that needs to be wisely guided.

Agreed that from recent competition results it looks like the top five are as you list them. But K/O will have to be better by Nationals to hold their own against the top four teams. Of course, the results on the day are what matter, and I know K/O are very competitive. Still, they don't seem as confident right now, and I don't see much improvement in their skating from last season. We'll see how K/O compete at NHK this weekend.

Pfund/Santillan are coming back from injury and they looked good at Sectionals, and seem very happy to be back. I think the battle will be close as you say between P/S and Serafini/Tran. L/M need to be more consistent, so placement of these three teams will be interesting. As Claire has noted, Misha suffered an injury. I also mentioned this in my post #397. I remember seeing Misha wince in pain while rubbing his shoulder at an event (maybe during the off-season). So understandably, their lifts have been shaky. Dealing with injury can definitely throw a team off their rhythm and confidence in performance. L/M are still young with a lot of room for growth, so I hope they receive the guidance that will help them improve.
 

aftershocks

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Haven and Brandon on the other hand have beaten Ashley and Tim twice on the Grand Prix circuit this year and proven their worth to international judges, the only question is whether they get the same respect from US judges. If they land their jumps as they have started to do, they have a real chance to win based on the strengths of their lifts, their beautiful throws, and their “two as one” skating and unique transitions.

I prefer to think of the top three as being neck 'n neck. :D It will come down to who is strongest and cleanest on the day, no? But then, there's also the gnarly GP/ BOW factor and whatever else under the recent Worlds and 4CCs assignment guidelines/ selection process... :COP:

I can't really say who I'd like to see win, but I guess I favor C-G/LD to defend their title, and between D/F and the Knierims, it's a tough choice, but if D/F come out ahead of Knierims at Nationals, D/F's medals on the GP should make the difference. This, unless Knierims show us something we haven't yet seen from them this season at NHK and end up grabbing a medal. And I just hope to see C/J shine and enjoy themselves!

I love 'em all top-to-bottom. Pairs fs is my guilty pleasure. :summer: :encore:
 

aftershocks

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If the Knierims go clean with more confidence ,pizzazz and self-belief, it will be wonderful to see. Yep, they have next-level quality and skills, but they need to deliver consistently and convincingly. They have the programs and the coaching staff to do so.

Higher averages have to be backed up with competitive grit when it counts. Overall, as we have seen, the top three senior pairs so far this season are close, with generally comparative strengths and weaknesses. :)

Regarding Junior Pairs Sectionals:
All those who competed advance since only 12 were entered? Grace Knoop had an injury, and so she showed up with partner, Blake Eisenach, so they could glide around on the ice and still qualify? I love that they at least did two basic overhead lifts in the fp, and Blake set Grace down easily. It looked like they wished to understandably not take any chances with her leg or foot injury. What are the rules regarding this situation?

Does anyone know why Mikhail Gumba, Winter Deardorff's new partner, changed his last name to Johnson? Does Gumba mean Johnson? Or is Johnson otherwise a name in his family, and the coaches wished to present him with a more accessible-sounding name? Otherwise, I don't get the switch. It also looks like Winter is not using her middle name, Noel, as it appeared she would earlier.

I like the Winter/Mikhail mirror pairing (Broadmoor). I always enjoyed watching Winter with Max Settlage, so I'm glad she found a new partner. Mikhail has previously competed in singles and ice dance. Additional standouts in junior pairs are winners Finster/Nagy (Broadmoor), and two pairs I haven't seen before: Anastasia Smirnova/ Danil Siianytsia of Yarmouth Ice Club/ All Year FSC, and Kate Fleming/Jedidiah Isbell of The Skating Club of Boston. I'm familiar with Isabelle Martins/ Ryan Bedard of Chicago FSC/ Northern Ice SC. Those are the top five junior pairs.

Of note, Derrick Griffin has a new partner in Arianna Varvoutis (Pines FSC). Wasn't there buzz a few years ago about Griffin and Erin Coleman winning novice pairs out of nowhere? What happened to their partnership?
 

Sylvia

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Regarding Junior Pairs Sectionals:
All those who competed advance since only 12 were entered? Grace Knoop had an injury, and so she showed up with partner, Blake Eisenach, so they could glide around on the ice and still qualify? I love that they at least did two basic overhead lifts in the fp, and Blake set Grace down easily. It looked like they wished to understandably not take any chances with her leg or foot injury. What are the rules regarding this situation?
Yes, all 12 Junior pairs advance to to Nationals (13 teams were listed originally in the practice groups but McClellan/Rounis withdrew before the starting order was posted). The rule remains the same in this situation: in order to qualify, an injured skater or team has to show up and at least step on the ice for both programs.
Does anyone know why Mikhail Gumba, Winter Deardorff's new partner, changed his last name to Johnson?
No, but Mikhail received his U.S. citizenship this past summer so perhaps it's related to that?

ETA: Deardorff/Johnson will make their Team USA debut together in the junior pairs event at Golden Spin of Zagreb next month, along with Smirnova/Siianytsia (who debuted on the JGP this fall).
 
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Sylvia

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Excerpt:
It’s been a busy season indeed. But as a relatively new team, Calalang and Johnson feel a sense of urgency. “We’re trying to really get the experience in and keep coming closer to all of our competitors,” Johnson said. “Because they have the years. And we’ve got to get there.” With the 2022 Olympics coming up, Calalang and Johnson are on a mission to grow their partnership as quickly as possible.

After they competed at Skate America, Calalang and Johnson took a few minutes to talk with Figure Skaters Online about how their partnership started and their progress this season.
 
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aftershocks

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Smirnova/Siianytsia (who debuted on the JGP this fall).

They are a striking pair. What are their backgrounds?

Thanks for your response to my earlier queries. I don't see any reason for Mikhail to suddenly change his last name to 'Johnson' because it's an American name, simply because he became a U.S. citizen. Most skaters born in other countries who become U.S. citizens don't necessarily change their names. I guess there's no way to know why the name change unless we ask him directly though. :)

And do you recall what happened with Derrick Coleman and his previous partner(s)? How long has he been paired with Varvoutis?
 

aftershocks

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Thanks to Claire for the FSO interview with Calalang/Johnson. It's cool getting a bit of insight about how they came together and details about their training routine.

Regarding their partnering, I never thought they split up just to skate with each other. I know that Zack Sidhu was having serious back problems, which had hampered his and Jessica's momentum. So their split was apparently inevitable. Brian & Chelsea were okay together, but not necessarily physically well-matched. I think Jessica and Brian are much better matched physically and in terms of maturity and personality. So due to happenstance and being in the same camp, they came together and it has magically worked. It's interesting they indicate having tried out with others, before determining they were a good match.

Regarding the jumps, that's cool they have the same mindset I mentioned earlier: they can do the jumps, and getting them consistent will make a huge difference since they are very well-rounded in every other aspect of their skating. I imagine it's just a matter of training the jumps wisely and strategically, while working on the mental aspects of jumping in unison, but not worrying about each other landing the jumps in the moment. I noticed that they reworked jump placement in the sp, and they also planned a different jump combo in the fp.

The ease they have on the lifts is great. It's cool that Robin Szolkowy has worked with them on creating unique entries, positions and dismounts.

Continued good luck to Brian and Jessica. Onward and upward. :cheer2:
 

Sylvia

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They [Smirnova/Siianytsia] are a striking pair. What are their backgrounds?
Both were born in Ukraine and currently are coached by Trudy Oltmanns in Shakopee, Minnesota:
ISU bio: http://www.isuresults.com/bios/isufs00107271.htm

Siianytsia has been in the U.S. since at least 2016 because he competed in Juvenile Pairs with a different partner at 2017 U.S. Nationals.
Smirnova previously competed twice on the JGP for UKR in 2017 when she was 13 with Artem Darenskyi: http://www.isuresults.com/bios/isufs00103393.htm (he currently skates with Sofiia Nesterova for UKR)
 

Spiralgraph

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Sigh I'm disappointed about Tarah and Danny too, I have a soft spot for them. It wasn't that they were initially enthralled about moving to Sapenfield, with Tarah's slow recovery from her injury it made the most sense to train with Dalilah in Colorado. But I'm surprised their twist isn't a lot better by now. They should do some hard thinking about what to do really soon.
 

Sylvia

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@clairecloutier's article on the Knierims was published before their NHK Trophy SP:

I hope both they & Tarah/Danny will have better free skate performances. :)
 

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