Minto skaters dancing for joy

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

KITCHENER -- Their longest season has almost reached the finish line.

But Siobhan Karam and Joshua McGrath are still smiling. And still looking for ways to keep moving up.

The Minto Skating Club duo is still eighth following yesterday's original dance at the world junior figure skating championships. But there's still room to move tonight, when the free dance final is held at Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.

"We're getting closer," said Karam, 18, after their crowd-pleasing foxtrot blues skate yesterday. "It's not like it used to be, where everyone knew where they were going to finish (after the compulsories)."

Proof of that came yesterday, when Karam and McGrath finished ahead of Anna Cappellini and Matteo Zanni in the original dance. The Italians were tied for fourth after Tuesday's compulsories, while the Ottawa couple stood eighth.

With a score of 47.97 in the original dance, Karam and McGrath boosted their two-program total to 80.23. That's 1.44 points back of Cappellini and Zanni, now seventh among 27 couples. The climb gets a little steeper after that, but at least there's hope it can happen.

The No. 2 Canadian team at this event did it despite a stumble by Karam into the entry of their opening lift, which McGrath kept from being a fall by catching his partner.

"Just a little bobble," said McGrath with a smile. "She helped herself up, too."

Their level of element difficulty was improved, which gave Karam and McGrath a bump in the program component score.

"This was a new dance for us," he said. "We wanted to add more expression, have fun with it more."

It's the first world juniors for Karam and McGrath and their last, too. Karam isn't age-eligible for world juniors after this season, which has also included their first Canadian championship (in junior dance).

If the long grind is wearing on the two skaters, it isn't showing.

"We dread our training weeks more, those double run-through days," Karam said of their brisk workouts under the direction of coaches Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband in Canton, Mich.

Both skaters have loads of family support here -- "I've got about three van loads," said McGrath -- and they can't think of a better place to wind up their junior careers.

"It's just an honour to skate here," said Karam.

Added McGrath: "It's a nice place to finish the season, especially since it's in Canada."

GOLD-MEDAL DROUGHT

What the home crowd would also like to see is an end to Canada's 27-year gold-medal drought at these championships.

Londoners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir just might get it done, though they're still 3.54 points behind Americans Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin.

Both teams exceeded their personal bests by roughly six points yesterday. Matthews and Zavozin scored 58.89 points for a 98.78 aggregate total, while the Canadians tallied 58.33 for a 95.24 total.

"It felt like our best one," said Virtue, 15. "We really wanted to go out and have no regrets, and that's what we did."

The women's event was won by Japan's Mao Asada. The 14-year-old sensation has competed in six international meets, winning them all.

Top Canadian was Mira Leung, 15, of Vancouver, who was eighth.


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