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Skate America attracts aspiring Olympians

September 27, 2017
By CHRISTIE SAUSA - Correspondent , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships veterans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, the 2014 World Junior champions, will return to Lake Placid for the Skate America Grand Prix event Nov. 24-26.

The skaters have been building their careers since their World Junior win in 2014 - most recently with fifth-place finishes at the 2016 and 2017 national championships - and are gearing up for an exciting and challenging Olympic season.

In the figure skating discipline of ice dance, the innate complexity of the turns, lifts and spins is often underappreciated because the teams make it look so easy. Yet ice dance is perhaps one of the most challenging sports, as athletes must be athletic, graceful and expressive - all while interpreting various styles of dance.

Article Photos

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker perform their free dance routine during the 2017 National Championships. The duo will take part in the Skate America event in Lake Placid Nov. 24-26. 
Photo by Daphne Backman,

"We bring a lightness and a genuine quality to the ice that is very organic and honest. We try to bring ourselves into every character and story we portray," Baker said. "In addition, the chemistry we have on the ice and the edge quality and deep knee bend we utilize we would consider some of our strengths."

Watching Hawayek and Baker perform, specifically at the 2017 National Championships, one is struck by these characteristics and the delicate poise of the performances. Indeed, the team is proud of their performance last season.

"Last season had a ton of high moments for us," Baker said. "We really felt like we found our groove and produced strong programs that we performed well and improved upon as the season went on. It was a very productive and developing season for us, and we're excited to build upon that momentum this season."

Ice dance competition is comprised of two segments: the short dance and the free dance. The short dance theme is set every year, and requires a combination of a set pattern skated for about half of the program, followed by original choreography by each team.

The short dance theme this year is Latin dance rhythms. The team is skating a new short dance, and last season's free dance.

The short dance is comprised of the songs "Get Busy" by Sean Paul, "Soha Mil Pasos" by Isabelle & Felicien and "Fireball" by Pitbull.

For the free dance segment, Hawayek and Baker are returning to their free dance from last season, "Liebestraum," recomposed and re-orchestrated by Maxime Rodriguez. According to an NBC Olympics Q & A this summer, the pair felt obliged to keep it for a variety of reasons.

"We really love it, obviously but for us, we still can find so many things in which we can improve on from that performance," Baker said. "We wanted to do the program more justice."

Hawayek and Baker train in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan at the Detroit Skating Club, under the coaching team of Pasquale Camerlengo, Angelika Krylova and Natalia Annenko Deller, along with help from Paul Bellantuono and ballet master Veronique Breen.

While Hawayek and Baker are placing emphasis on improving certain components of their skating, they have their sights firmly set on the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. They are off to a good start after placing second in the CS U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City in September.

"Our goals for this season are to continue to improve on our performance factor and put out solid programs with consistent levels and GOE for each element," Baker said. "We also are aiming to fight for a spot on the 2018 US Olympic Team, which is named in January after our national championships."

Before nationals and the Olympics will be Skate America, which is the last of six events in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series. As one of the teams chosen to represent the United States in the event, they will receive the valuable experience of competing in front of an international judging panel and vying for a medal against skaters whom they would be competing against in national and Olympic competition.

Hawayek and Baker hope to use Skate America to continue a successful season and work on various components of their performances.

"Our goals for Skate America are to put out two solid performances and improve upon scores from previous competitions, really nailing our elements and feeling as we have improved upon the performance quality of our skate as well," Baker said.

Lake Placid is a familiar and welcome place to compete for the duo.

"We have been to Lake Placid many times, and consider it almost like home to us; both together and with previous partners," Baker said. "We have done numerous competitions during the Lake Placid Summer Dance Championships over the years, and have come to love the energy of the 1980 Olympic Rink.

"It is particularly exciting for Kaitlin because her family is only a short distance from Lake Placid, being from Buffalo, NY, and usually whenever we get to compete in Lake Placid, family of hers that doesn't often get to travel to competitions of hers will come see her skate."

Tickets for Skate America are still available. For more information, go tot or call the Olympic Center box office at 518-523-3330.



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