All eyes were on the senior competition this year at the Indy Challenge Pairs Figure Skating Competition, where reigning U.S. champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker debuted two new programs. Some of the top pairs teams in the United States participated in the competition, held Aug. 8-10, 2008.
The event, hosted by the Indiana/World Skating Academy Figure Skating Club in Indianapolis since 1990, is one of the largest pairs figure skating competitions in the United States, welcoming skaters from juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior and senior levels.
McLaughlin and Brubaker’s short program is to a modern version of “Malaguena,” and the long is to selections from “West Side Story.” The two were impressive in the short with their side-by-side triple Salchows and their well-known split triple twist, and in the long, both the throw triple Salchow and throw loop jumps were executed successfully. McLaughlin and Brubaker won both the short and the long by more than two points.
The next best team in each segment of the competition was Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, who train in Ellenton, Fla. They placed fifth at the U.S. Championships last year, and are hungry to make it onto the national podium. They have skated at the last few Indy Challenge competitions, and consider it an essential part of getting their programs in front of judges early in the season.
Evora considers the post-event critique sessions at Indy Challenge especially valuable in shaping programs. “They [the judges] go over the quality of each element, making sure it has all of the correct requirements in it, and how we can make it better,” she said.
Evora and Ladwig have said this year they are focusing more on increasing the grades of execution for each element, rather than simply upping the difficulty in their programs. This year they have modified the entrance to their split triple twist to make it more consistent.
Indy Challenge is also used in part for U.S. Figure Skating officials to assign skaters to international competitions. Evora and Ladwig, already slated to compete at Cup of China in November, were given the assignment to compete at Coupe de Nice in France in October shortly after their success at Indy Challenge.
Patty Hagen, co-chair of the event, said even teams that do not win a medal walk away from the competition with a wealth of information designed to help U.S. pairs teams make a good impression with international judges.
“Indy Challenge is a great summer tradition. It seems the teams come with many different goals, to try new elements, to try new programs, to test their fitness after a summer of training,” Hagen said. “It is a crucial event for teams hoping to be selected for international competitions. They get to show their stuff to selection-committee officials, and get in-depth evaluations in return. They get tons of information they can use to improve their programs.”