Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko on their new approach to skating

Throughout their partnership, Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko have achieved several medals in their career so far, including two Junior World medals, Grand Prix medals, and, more recently, Four Continents bronze medals.

April 2024 will mark ten years since the two decided to partner up. “It feels like it’s gone by very fast,” Ponomarenko said. “If I sit down and think back, we’ve experienced so much [together].”

Reflecting on what they’ve learned in that time, Carreira explained: “We can’t do it without the other. Our connection with each other is the most important thing; more than training, more than anything, just being able to work together is really important. I couldn’t imagine doing this with anyone else. It’s been so fun, and we’ve experienced so much and we’ve grown together. We were just kids when we teamed up, and we didn’t have our parents around, so we really got to rely on each other and grow our friendship and relationship. It’s been an amazing journey.”

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© Christina Carreira | Instagram

Changes to the rhythm dance rules and structure in the off-season meant that the team’s focus was first on choreographing their free dance. 

The choice of Perfume – The Story Of A Murderer was Carreira’s, inspired by Anna Shcherbakova’s short program to the same music in the 2019-2020 season. “I really loved the music and I remember loving her dress. Then I started listening to the album and I thought it was really interesting and different, but we felt like it was kind of flat – like there was no change of rhythm. A fan sent me the album La Belle Époque (by Audiomachine) and it matched perfectly with Perfume. We showed the coaches and they really liked the idea but they thought it was very dark. So they wanted us to find our own storyline that was inspired by it, but that was a little less dark than the movie.”

Having only four minutes to encapsulate a movie that’s over two hours, Carreira and Ponomarenko created their versions of the main characters to build their program around – something that they’ve outwardly improved upon in recent years when competing.

The choreography process was broken up into chapters which Ponomarenko mentioned helped him develop the character that he’s portraying on the ice. “In the first part, I’m not so creepy, it’s more of [an] introduction, where we meet. There are some moments where the audience sees [that] this guy is a red flag. But Laura, who is Christina’s character, does not see that yet. Then as the story goes on, and we go into the choreo step, and further, we start to incorporate more of those signs throughout the program until the very end.”

“We wanted to show the growth from love to obsession,” Carreira added.

The introduction of the Choreographic Rhythm Sequence in the rhythm dance, alongside the theme “Music and Feeling of the Eighties”, was announced in May. 

“For me, I like change, but at the same time, it was very stressful,” Ponomarenko said.

He also credits his parents’ excitement, which then led to his own enthusiasm for the theme. “They [were] like, ‘Oh my God the 80s, that was the best time ever.’ So seeing that excitement kind of motivated me to finally pursue different avenues in the 80s and really explore what that was all about.”

IAM choreographer Sam Chouinard went to London, Ontario, to work with the team and had a playlist with various artists, including their eventual choice of Stevie Nicks. “That was the one we gravitated towards pretty early on.”

Their arrival in early 2021 to the Ice Academy of Montreal Ontario campus, ended up being sandwiched between two serious injuries for the team – Carreira’s broken foot in 2020 and Ponomarenko’s ankle surgery in 2022. 

Leading up to the start of the 2023-24 season  for the first time since before the pandemic  the team was able to train to their fullest potential. “That extra time is so valuable,” Ponomarenko said. “I think as skaters that train, I’d say, 48 weeks out of the year. It’s a lot, so every week counts.”

We really focused on working the details and the skating skills, working together. We stripped it down completely to the basics, which was actually really, really fun because we haven’t worked on it for years. We also had the time to fully explore elements and programs and overall just have time with the coaches to really get to know them as well.

“It’s only our second or third season with Scott [Moir] and second season with Madison [Hubbell] and Adrián [Díaz]. So we’re still getting to know our coaches. And I think this was a very valuable offseason where the team grew closer.”

Not only has their coaching change helped the team develop their on-ice skills, but it’s given them a confidence boost with their approach to the sport. 

“As people, the biggest change I find is our approach to training. We used to kind of dread the hard days and be scared of run-throughs and stuff and that’s not the case anymore. Now we look forward to it. We really enjoy what we do, and we genuinely have fun even though it’s hard. There are other things that have improved, but I’d say mostly it’s our belief in ourselves and our approach to training,” Carreira explained. 

Ponomarenko added: “Scott even said yesterday ‘Living in the uncomfortable and getting comfortable with it.’ I think that’s something that we struggled with before, and moving to Scott and IAM London, that’s really changed and for the better.”

Two-time Olympic medalist Madison Hubbell and two-time Olympian Adrián Díaz joined the Ontario campus after Carreira and Ponomarenko, in 2022, but the value that they bring has been important. They both praise Hubbell for helping Carreira with finding her confidence and Díaz for bringing fire and energy to the coaching team.

[Scott, Madison, and Adrián] have different strengths, and they all complement each other. Together they make a really great team and we’re super happy with them.

Reflecting on the season so far, the duo is happy with what they’ve displayed. 

They debuted their programs at the local Quebec competition, Championnats québécois d’été in August, before heading out for their Challengers the following month placing fourth in their first at Nebelhorn Trophy and improving just a couple weeks later at Finlandia Trophy to win the silver medal. 

Both of their Grand Prix competitions were also in Europe, in France and Finland respectively, and they placed fourth at both – inadvertently repeating last year’s results. The 2024 U.S. Championships was the season highlight, where the team showed massive improvement to win the silver medal at the event, and even won the free dance. 

They’ve also approached this season with a new mindset, switching from being result-oriented to focusing on the present at every competition and performing two strong skates. “Christina and I have a connection moment before every performance. We just focus on the next four minutes and not the future. It’s definitely [been] a process but we work on that every day.” “[Nationals] was a big confidence boost for us. Focusing on what we have to do, and not the results – it really paid off at Nationals. I feel because we went in, we know that if we skate to the best of our ability, we will get the results that we want. The skating part is in our control and the results and scores are in the judges’ hands. So really focusing on what we can control and how we escape has been the priority and I feel like it paid off at Nationals and kind of reinforced that. That path is kind of the one we need to keep going on focusing on ourselves,” Carreira detailed.

The 2024 World Championships, which are taking place in Montreal, Canada, double up as a home Worlds for Carreira, who was born and raised in the city. 

“I’m not more nervous than I would be normally, I’m mostly excited. It’s a very cool venue. My family’s gonna come and watch. But I think we’ll definitely keep our bubble and stay within the team, and then we’ll get to celebrate with family after. So we wanted to feel as normal as possible, but we’re mostly just so excited to compete here.”

This is the second time the duo has made the World Team. They’ve made changes to their material approaching the final competition of the season, and hope to skate two good programs. 

We hope that it pays off and it goes well, but really [the goal is] just skating to the best of our ability and enjoying the moment.

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Check out some photos of Christina and Anthony over the years, courtesy of Verit

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