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(photo credit: Lionel Gaffen/Fotomix)
Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovksy will continue their reign as national ice dance champions for one more year.
Chait and Sakhnovsky, who finished sixth in their event at last week's World Figure Skating Championships in Calgary, Alberta, performed to Ravel's "Bolero" in the free dance program on the closing day of the Israel Figure Skating Championships at the Canada Center in Metulla.
"It's been a very difficult season and a very long one for us, and I'm glad that it's over," a visibly exhausted Sakhnovsky told The Jerusalem Post shortly afterwards. "Now I'm just looking forward to a little peace of mind and to be able to relax a lot."
Brother-sister ice dance duo Roman and Alexandra Zaretsky chose "Caravan" for their free dance and finished in second.
Talina Milshtein and Shmuel Fainberg made their debut in the ice dance novice category and will represent Israel at international junior events during the upcoming season.
"For such a small country, I think we're doing fantastic," said Gary Hoppe, one of the judges at the nationals who also is an international judge. "We have two excellent seniors in the ice dance of world class caliber, and both had clean skates.
"I think that if we weren't such a small country, we would have been judged more fairly at [January's European Figure Skating Championships], the Olympics and at the just completed world championships."
"If we were a larger country, we would have more clout internationally," he added.
In the men's event, Roman Serov defended his title, while Sergei Kotov came in second. Evgeny Krasnopolski captured the gold in the junior men's. Yan Tales bounced back from a slow start in the short program to win the silver in the junior men's, followed by Aaron Vays, a recent immigrant skating for Israel for the first time, and then Nazar Mahmud.
Hoppe complimented all three. "Both Serov and Kotov skated extremely well. Of the juniors, Krasnopolski really impressed me with the way he's greatly improved."
Jenna Wykens, another new immigrant from the US, claimed the junior women's title after a fine free skate performance, with Rima Beliy coming in second. (The Jerusalem Post reported in Thursday's edition that Beliy was in first and Wykens second after the short program. However, Wykens was, in fact, in first going into Thursday's final program and Beliy was second.)
"I'm delighted with the opportunity to skate in Israel, it's a real thrill for me," Wykens exclaimed.
Her coach, Priscilla Hill, was on hand to see her prot g e win her age group. Hill is a professional ice skating coach who was once the No. 2 skater in the US. She is the longtime coach of Johnny Weir, the US' top skater for the past three years.
"Given the relatively new skating federation here, the youngsters that I've seen here show a good deal of potential," said Hill, who plans to continue working with Wykens in Israel when possible and in the US, where she coaches about 20 skaters.
"However, the junior level skaters need to up their technical level to have a chance [at a] medal at international events. My impression of [Nazar and Ruslan] Mahmud is that they both have a lot of potential."
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