by Doris Spicer Pulaski
Canadians Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford’s program to "Angel" by Philippe Rombi, choreographed for them by Julie Marcotte, did not start well. Their trademark side-by-side Lutzes were not in unison; Radford landed his Lutz on two feet, and Duhamel pitched forward and had to put both hands down on the ice to catch her balance. Duhamel also struggled with their triple Salchow combination, singling the second jump of three. Radford had a stumble while holding Duhamel aloft in their final lift, a level four hand-to-hand press; still they had fought through everything.
It was a difficult day for Meagan Duhamel. She and her partner Eric Radford had not fallen, but nothing was easy or smooth. When she left the ice, she told her coach at the boards, "That's all I had today." The coach felt they should score about 120.00 points. When their scores were finally posted, Duhamel exclaimed, "I was not expecting that!"
The students of Richard Gauthier, Bruno Marcotte, and Sylvie Fullum had received a Free Skate score of 128.74 and a total score of 199.18, giving them personal bests in the Short Program, in the Free Skate, and in total score. They had won the gold medal at the 2013 Four Continents Pairs Championships. The team from Canada had finished second in the Free Skate, but the big lead they had carried over from the Short Program was enough to give them the victory.
At the post-Free-Skate press conference, Duhamel discussed their programs, "We made a couple of changes in our program, we really worked on the artistic side, and today we saw an improvement in the program component scores since the Grand Prix Final. Today, we had to fight for everything. We showed all we have, but for the worlds we have more.
Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch, the 2013 Canadian National Silver Medalists, who won the Free Skate with a personal best score of 130.45, finished second again with a personal best overall score of 196.78 points that was not quite enough to pass Duhamel & Radford for the win. If Moore-Towers had been able to land her throw triple loop, the team's score would have been high enough for the victory. The point loss due to the one point penalty for the fall and the loss of grade of execution points for the element were too great. Every other element in Moore-Towers & Moscovitch's program to a "Queen Medley was picture perfect. The students of Kristy and Kris Wirtz were the only team to attempt, let alone land, a sequence of two triple toe loops. Their side-by-side spins were particularly wonderful, in complete unison, centered, and very, very fast. And their musical interpretation of Mark Pillay’s choreography was beautiful.
The pair was happy with their skate. “We feel great about our performance. It is a bit unfortunate that we lost the championship on an element we do easily all the time, but we don’t intend on that happening next time”, Moore-Towers said earnestly. “(At the ISU World Championships next month) we want to skate two clean programs. We want to better ourselves from here and from Nationals and we’re really hoping that lands us on the podium. There are a lot of teams vying for the spot and we are trying to get it. If we keep working hard and skate the way we know we can, it’s attainable."
Following the Short Program, any of four teams could have gotten third place at the 2013 Four Continents Championships. All four of the contenders skated to personal bests in the Free Skate; in fact, all seven pairs earned personal bests in the Free Skate.
Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir of the United States skated a powerful program choreographed by Julie Marcotte and Mark Mitchell to a tango, "Payadora" by Julian Plaza. The team had chosen to go to Marcotte this season for more complex programs. They wanted to really improve their performances, and felt that a more challenging program by Julie Marcotte would help them achieve their goals, and improve their Program Component Scores, particularly in Transitions. Their strategy seems to be working. The pair, who is coached by Robert Martin, Carrie Walt, and Peter Johansson, won their first U.S. National Championship last month, and their first Four Continents medal here, a bronze. Their new personal best of 117.04 points in the Free Skate erased their previous mark by 4.38 points, and their total score of 170.10 points was enough to win them the third place.
The pair from Boston, MA, had struggled in the Short Program, but gained some redemption in the Free Skate. The 2013 U.S. National Champions continued to struggle with the synchronization of their side-by-side spins, and Shnapir popped their planned double Axel-double toe loop combination to a single Axel-single toe loop. All their other elements ranged from acceptable to outstanding. Castelli & Shnapir's throws had great height; great distance covered, and smooth, controlled landings. Their throw triple Salchow from a dance lift was particularly outstanding. The pair still needs to add base value difficulty to their routine, and has been training a throw quadruple Salchow and a throw triple Axel, but have not attempted either in competition so far this season. The duo could also add extra base points by changing their technique for their huge triple twist to earn a higher level for the skill. However, their most urgent efforts should be to improve their side-by-side spin technique, since they have experienced problems at both the 2013 U.S. Nationals and at 2013 Four Continents.
Still, the team was pleased. “We are very excited," Castelli remarked, "The long was a toss-up, it could be anyone’s game. We are happy with how it came out. We worked hard and had a good long program. It was our season’s best. We both would have liked a little better short, but overall we are very happy with where we started and ended.”
Although Felicia Zhang & Nathan Bartholomay, the 2013 U.S. Bronze Medalists, did not win a medal, they, too, must be happy with their performance. The team attained the minimum TES scores to qualify for the 2013 World Championships in both the Short Program and the Free Skate. Because the team is new to international competition, other than Senior B events, the 2013 Four Continents Championships is the first event in which they have been able to post an ISU personal best score, so, of course, they earned personal bests in all three categories. Their Free Skate to the score of "West Side Story" by Leonard Bernstein earned them 114.32 points, and an overall score of 167.30 to place fourth in the event.
Although the team's skating skills and speed are not quite yet up to the standard of the top three teams, and their routine could have more transitions, their unison in their side-by-side spins was excellent, their musicality very pleasing, and their triple twist and double Axel-double Axel sequence were very cleanly executed. Their only severe problem was a fall by Zhang on the team’s throw triple Lutz, due to the fact that she landed a bit tilted and was unable to hold onto her edge. Zhang & Bartholomay seemed to lose a bit of energy at the end of the program, after Bartholomay had a small stumble on their hip lift. Still, their coach, Jim Peterson, told them after they left the ice, "It was strong right to the end."
Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang from China finished the event in fifth place overall, although their performance to "Poeta" by Vincente Amigo only placed them sixth in the Free Skate. The fifteen-year-old Peng and twenty-eight-year-old Zhang successfully completed a huge quadruple twist, the only one of the event. Unfortunately, immediately after their twist, Peng tripped on her toe pick in a rut while skating to their next move. The juxtaposition of brilliance and the mistakes of a newly paired team characterized their entire routine.
Their pair moves were very good; however, their individual jumps gave them the most trouble Both Peng & Zhang popped their triple Salchows to double Salchows, and under-rotated doubles at that, and in their attempted triple toe loop combination, Peng did the planned triple toe loop-double toe loop-double toe loop, while Zhang did only a triple toe loop-single toe loop combination. The students of the legendary Chinese coach Bin Yao and Yu Sun earned a personal best of 112.36 points in their Free Skate, and 164.82 points overall. The improvement in their Free Skate from their earlier events this year, 2012 Cup of China and 2012 Trophee Bompard, is striking, and we should expect an even better performance from them at the 2013 World Championships.
Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers, the 2013 Canadian Bronze Medalists, finished in fifth in the Free Skate, and avenged their last place finish in the Short Program. The team scored 113.54 points for a personal best and fifth place in the Free Skate, and 162.30 points total and sixth place overall. Skating to the soundtrack from "War Horse," choreographed by Bernard Ford, Carol Lane, and Juris Razguliaevs, Lawrence & Sweigers portrayed a man leaving to fight in World War I and his sweetheart. The students of coaches Patricia Hole and Lyndon Johnston demolished their previous personal best score for a Free Skate by 8.09 points, executing almost all of their planned elements well, the sole exceptions being a double Axel-double Axel sequence, in which Sweigers over-rotated the second jump and could not hold a good exit edge, and their throw triple loop, in which Lawrence landed rather low and tilted. It was a splendid performance indeed, and perhaps would have scored even higher if the team had not been the very first to skate.
The couple in seventh and last place, Wenting Wang & Yan Zhang of China, also accomplished a personal goal. Although their scores of 94.30 points in the Free Skate and 145.56 overall were far from those of the other teams, nonetheless, they achieved the minimum TES required to qualify for the 2013 World Championships. Skating a routine choreographed by Wei Zhang to the soundtrack from "The Last Samurai,” Wang & Zhang attempted to open with a quadruple twist, but it was so under-rotated that it was called a triple twist. Wang's jumps are very small indeed, and a difficulty for the team. Both her triple Salchow and double toe loop in combination were called under-rotated, as was her double Axel, and they were only able to obtain level one for their Pair Combination Spin. Still, this is the team's very first senior season, and the students of Bo Luan will no doubt improve in later outings.
Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim of the United States were unable to compete here as scheduled, due to an injury to Scimeca's foot prior to the Short Program.
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