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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
Derwood ice skaters Rachel and Michael Parsons are the 2017 World Junior Figure Skating Champions in ice dancing.
They took that title March 18-19 in Taipei City, Taiwan.
Next up: Earning a spot on the U.S. Olympics team.
“As we move up to senior level, we will be competing against the best of the best and competing for an Olympic spot,” Michael said. “It will be very intense.”
They say their ultimate goal is to represent Maryland and the United States in the Olympics.
“This is our passion and takes up our entire lives — we love it,” Michael said. “Every time we get out on the ice we are happy to be there.”
On their way to the World Junior title, Rachel, 19, and Michael, 21, earned a season’s-best score of 164.83, just 0.46 points ahead of silver medalists Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd of Russia.
Rachel and Michael are the first team of siblings to win a World Junior title in ice dance.
The competition featured the top 31 junior ice dance teams in the world.
“It was kind of an amazing week for us and the whole experience has been pretty incredible,” Rachel Parsons said. “The city was beautiful and the competition was the best we had skated all year. It was also our last competition at the junior level, so it was important that we finish this chapter of our career on a huge note.”
Michael Parsons agreed, saying the big international competitions are always special.
“There are so many people we know from so many countries, all coming together for a shared interest,” he said. “There is a huge sense of comradery. We compete against each other, but we are a huge group of friends.”
The Parsons duo said they were confident in their performance.
“We knew for the most part we had a really good program,” Michael said. “We had a bit of a mistake in the last element of our free dance, but there was little doubt when we finished.”
He said when the scores came up, he felt a sense of relief.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Rachel said. “I felt like we deserved it.”
The competition included a short dance and a free dance — in total about seven minutes of ice time. They perform the same dances at every competition throughout the season.
Michael said that they had a good week of practices, which the judges watch.
“Practices are important. You can win or lose because of a practice,” he said. “It’s all about the impression you give the judges throughout the week of competition.”
Another reason why they believe they did well was the program they performed.
“It was very special to us and meant more to us than in previous years,” Michael said. “We put a lot more emotion and power into our performance.”
For the Parsons team, the victory caps off a rare “perfect season” in 2016-2017. In addition to winning gold in Taipei City, they also placed first at Junior Grand Prix in Yokohama, Japan; Junior Grand Prix in Dresden, Germany; Lake Placid Ice Dance International in Lake Placid, N.Y.; Junior Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France, and the 2017 U.S. National Championships in Kansas City.
Michael and Rachel Parsons have competed at Junior Worlds four times, although this was the first year they won.
Skaters Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, also of Montgomery County, finished in seventh place. They won the event last year.
The two teams train together with the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy, in Wheaton and Rockville, and are considered likely contenders for the U.S. Olympic Team.
Michael said his skating career began when he wanted to play hockey. His mother, Christine, had skated when she was younger and told him he needed to learn to skate first.
“So, I started taking figure skating lessons and I never stopped,” he said.
For Rachel, it was all about the bling.
“I watched the girls skate on TV and loved their sparkly dresses,” she said.
The pair usually practice four to five hours, six days a week.
Rachel, a recent graduate of Col. Zadok Magruder High School, is taking a gap year. Michael attends Montgomery College, but took off this semester to focus on competing.
Once they unlace their skates for good, Michael hopes to pursue a career in sports medicine or orthopedics. Rachel is still undecided, but is interested in art and design.
Terri Hogan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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