Wash­ing­ton-area ice dancers earn first Grand Prix medal

The Washington Post Sunday - - NFL WEEK 9 - BY LIZ CLARKE liz.clarke@wash­post.com

In their sec­ond year com­pet­ing in the elite ranks of in­ter­na­tional fig­ure skat­ing, Wash­ing­ton-area ice dancers Lor­raine McNa­mara and Quinn Car­pen­ter earned their first Grand Prix medal Satur­day, tak­ing bronze at the Helsinki Grand Prix of Fig­ure Skat­ing.

The achieve­ment, com­ing three years and three months be­fore the 2022 Beijing Olympics, means they are on track for a goal and dream they have shared since child­hood — rep­re­sent­ing the United States at a Win­ter Games.

But their fo­cus, Car­pen­ter said in a tele­phone in­ter­view from Helsinki, will con­tinue to be on mak­ing steady, in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ment un­der their coaches at the Wheaton Ice Skat­ing Arena and in the up­com­ing Grand Prix in Inns­bruck, Aus­tria.

“It’s some­thing to keep in the back of our minds,” Car­pen­ter, 22, said of the 2022 Olympics, not­ing that he and McNa­mara were al­ter­nates at the 2018 Pyeong-Chang Games. “But it’s not some­thing we’re fo­cused on at this mo­ment. We’re just work­ing to grow as much as pos­si­ble as skaters and as a team.”

The on-ice part­ner­ship of the 19-year-old McNa­mara, who was born in Wash­ing­ton, and Car­pen­ter, who is a Bethesda na­tive, is un­usual in its longevity and sta­bil­ity. They teamed up more than a decade ago, in 2005, when they were 6 and 9, re­spec­tively.

“To­day and ev­ery day, it helps us,” McNa­mara said. “We’re so con­nected. We know each other so well — some­times bet­ter than we know our­selves. We know the ins and outs of it. How to work to­gether at all times.”

They’re also un­usual in hav­ing the same coaches — former Rus­sian ice danc­ing cham­pi­ons Alexei Kil­i­akov and Elena No­vak — all those years to­gether.

“We are so, so lucky to have started with them right from the be­gin­ning and con­tinue to be with them,” said McNa­mara, whose mother and sis­ter flew to Fin­land for the Grand Prix. “In my opin­ion, it’s the best train­ing group we could ask for.”

The duo made their Grand Prix de­but last sea­son, af­ter ad­vanc­ing from the ju­nior ranks, and made strides but didn’t fin­ish atop the podium.

Af­ter plac­ing third in the short dance at Helsinki, McNa­mara and Car­pen­ter held their poise and com­po­sure in Satur­day’s free dance, set to Porz Goret by Yann Tiersen, earn­ing pos­i­tive grades of ex­e­cu­tion on ev­ery el­e­ment and three Level 4 lifts to earn 105.26 points. That brought their over­all score to 176.66 — good enough for the bronze medal.

Though thrilled with the achieve­ment, McNa­mara noted that the cou­ple didn’t “skate for medals,” ex­plain­ing, “We skate for our­selves and to show our im­prove­ment.”

Rus­sia’s Alexan­dra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin won the ti­tle, while Italy’s Char­lene Guig­nard and Marco Fab­bri took sil­ver.

Reign­ing Olympic cham­pion Alina Zag­i­tova of Rus­sia won the women’s event. Fel­low Rus­sian Stanislava Kon­stanti­nova took sil­ver, and Ja­pan’s Kaori Sakamoto cap­tured bronze.

The men’s com­pe­ti­tion con­cludes the Grand Prix on Sun­day.

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