skaters zaretsky 298.88.
(photo credit: Lionel Gaffen)
VANCOUVER – With the familiar strains of “Hava Negila” reverberating through Pacific Coliseum Monday night and the audience clapping in time, Israel’s Roman and Alexandra Zaretsky delivered a clean performance, good enough to keep the brother and sister pair in 10th place.
The 55.24 points created a gap of three points between the Zaretskys and the thirdhighest American couple of Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates.
But the Russian pair of Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski in front of the Israelis also held a considerable lead of more than three points going into the final free skate, which was due to be held Monday night.
The combination of a strong showing in the compulsory dance, the luck of the draw determining the skating order, and a just-concluded US-Canada hockey game put Israel’s ice dancers in the final group of competitors and vaulted them onto primetime in Canada.
Going third from last, before first-place finishers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada and fourth-place finishers Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto of the USA, the Zaretsky siblings were able to feed off the high energy and warm enthusiasm of the crowd.
“You know how much enjoyment [you get] when you’re skating and there’s 14,000 or 15,000 people clapping and screaming?” Roman Zaretsky asked after exiting the ice. “You go and you do it and you don’t think about the marks. You don’t think about what place you’re going to get.”
“It’s amazing,” agreed his sister Alexandra on the timing of their appearance.
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On Monday night, millions of viewers watching the Israeli pair show off what Canadian TV commentator and former ice dancing champion Victor Kraatz called very well rehearsed performers with clean lines in their skating.
He did note that they faltered at one point, where their twizzle was out of sync, though he pointed out that they entered the spin with a difficult position that would help compensate for the imprecision.
Indeed, the judges barely deducted for the error. Roman noted the mistake after the performance, but brushed it off, and both skaters said that overall they felt very good about the program.
They ended on a strong note with a lift-and-spin sequence that Kraatz described as a “brilliant finish.”
The Zaretskys also enhanced their performance with costumes reflecting traditional shtetl attire.
Though Alexandra’s brocaded peasant dress was shorter than Orthodox custom allows – wearing long skirts can be difficult and even dangerous on the ice – she compensated with a full head covering.
Roman also wore head attire in the form of a yarmulke which he had kept from the wedding of his coach, former Israeli Olympian Galit Chait.
Their performance was greeted by several Israeli flags and supporters from the Vancouver Jewish community.
They were given an enthusiastic reception when they took the ice, though at least one fan was dismayed by the choice of music and dress.
“I was hoping that they would do something that was a little more representative of modern Israel,” said Eve Camerman of the “tired” music. “I think it’s stereotypical and I find it a little disappointing.”
But Camerman, a Canadian who made aliya in the 1970s and returned to Vancouver several years later, stressed that she didn’t mean to impugn the Zaretskys’ skating or that that diminished her pride in seeing them take the ice.
“So often when people [talk] about events in Israel or Israelis overseas, it’s not always the most flattering or for happy events, and this is a very happy event that we’re proud of,” she said. “They are Israeli youth doing what everyone else in the world does.”
Only nine couples, though, do it as well.
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