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2016 World Championships

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford Golden Again

by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(3 April 2016)  The pair skating competition had a good, but not excellent level. On the one hand there was more depth than in many previous years. Even some teams who did not finish in the top ten, like the two Italian pairs on 11th and 14th place, gave relatively good performances with difficult elements and few mistakes. On the other hand some teams made seriousl mistakes. It was a surprise that none of the three Russian pairs won a medal. The jury and the technical panel were dominated by Westerners which might have influenced the result a bit. But the two Olympic medal winners, on the other hand, did not show their best.

Last year was the break-through season for Canadians Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford. They won everything including the world championships. But it was less difficult to get the gold because neither Volosozhar & Trankov nor Stolbova & Klimov nor Savchenko & Szolkowy competed, who had won the three Olympics medals in Sochi. This season, both Russian teams are back and Savchenko competes with a new partner. Therefore it was more difficult for the pair who trains in Montreal under Richard Gauthier and Duhamel’s husband Bruno Marcotte. After some competitions this season with mistakes here and there, their free program in Boston was finally flawless. They moved from the second place after the short program and won with 231.99 total points. They started with an excellent triple twist, followed by a good side by side triple Lutz which is their trademark. Duhamel landed the throw quad Salchow on one foot, then both showed a very good combination of one triple toe loop and two double toe loops. The other elements including the three lifts were excellent as well. They skated to the song “Hometown” by Adele and had components of around 9.3, with three 10.0 for performance and one for choreography as highest ones. Only on their pair harmony there is still room for improvement.

Duhamel later commented: “Eric and I are so happy and so proud that we were able to come and deliver the two performances that we worked so hard for. I feel so grateful to the audience in Boston, they carried us through from start to finish. We’ve worked so hard this year and I know coming into this competition we were kind of underdogs, but our team believed in us. We withdrew from the Four Continents, we didn’t skate our best at our national championships, we struggled on the Grand Prix circuit. It’s been frustration after frustration for us this season. It feels so good when it all comes together here. I was waiting for him to put up that last lift because I was going to explode. Let him focus for the last lift, he needs his strength, I thought. I could hear our coaches at the boards screaming along, it just got me going I was so excited. For next season, we’re trying to decide on special music to dedicate to the Finnish audience and Finland. My family is from Finland and Eric has connection to Finland and we want to have a special free skate.”

Radford added: “I think we flew under the radar based on our season that we weren’t quite as strong contenders compared to last season. It’s difficult not to doubt yourself when everyone else has that expectation of you and to go out and skate like that it doesn’t matter what the expectation is as long as we can do it we can make it happen. It’s exciting to see a progression in the sport; that’s what sport is all about. In the future for us, we were working on the throw quad Lutz at the beginning of the season and something we will continue to work on for maybe next season. I hope this continues, it really gives certain teams an opportunity to set themselves apart, such as Meagan and I adding the throw quad Salchow and side by side triple Lutz last season. If that wasn’t there, we might not be where we are now.”

Wenjing Sui & Cong Han from China had been in the lead in the short program, but due to nine less technical points than the Canadians they dropped to second place, earning 224.47 points. They began with a very good quad twist, followed by a good combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop. Then Sui fell on the throw quad Salchow against the boards and doubled the side by side Salchow which Han tripled. The other elements were successful, the lifts even excellent. They skated to “Samson and Delilah” by Camille Saint-Saens and their components were as high as those for the Canadians (9.3), but they had no 10.0.

“We left many regrets in this competition”, Han explained. “We have probably thought too much before we went to our free skate, that led to the mistakes we made during the program. But through this competition we have identified many opportunities for us. We have got to do our homework, and we will definitely work harder when we are back to China. I was also very happy to be here, competing in Boston, it was a nice place. For pairs today, in both the short program and long program, there isn’t enough time for us to express what we want to say. If you consider the technical elements in the short program, there are 8, no, 7 elements. If you spend too much time doing the transitions in between, you actually cannot be well-prepared for your next element. To be honest, I don’t think the current time is enough to express all the emotions that we want to show the audience. So I think it might be more ideal if we could revise the rule a little bit to ensure we can show the things to the audience.”

Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot from Germany moved up from fourth to third place and won their first world medal right in their first world championships together after being second at the European Championship in January. Massot had been released from France only in November after the German federation paid 25,000 Euros (around 29,000 US dollars) to the French federation. Their first element was an outstanding triple twist, surely the best in the world, which they plan quadruple next season and which all nine judges rewarded with GOEs of +3. Their sequence of two triple toe loops was good, then Savchenko doubled the Salchow which Massot tripled. The next elements were excellent, the choreo sequence unique and innovative. Savchenko landed the throw triple flip on two feet, but the three lifts and the throw triple Salchow at the end had an excellent quality. Their music was a modern version of pieces from the Peer Gynt-Suite by Wax Tailor and their components were around 9.1 with one 9.75 for interpretation as highest one.

Savchenko said: “After all that’s happened, and I just lived my dream, and if it’s a dream come true, it’s amazing. It’s all the emotions coming out. I’m really, really happy that I continued and I can enjoy what I love to do.. Today it was really hard to skate after Meagan and Eric, but I was thinking that we had nothing to lose. We’re new here, and we’ll just do what we can do best, and I tried to concentrate on me and my elements.” Massot commented: “We can just say that we are really happy. First, to be here, in our first season together. And then, to get the medal, that was not our objective. We wanted to do two good programs, we had some mistakes, but we still got the medal. I would like to say thank you, Aliona, to want to continue and to continue with me. Without her, I would not be here.”

The three Russian pairs, all from the school of Nina Mozer, finished only fourth, fifth and sixth. Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov were the best of them, winning 214.48 points. Their triple twist was a bit wobbly, but correctly landed. Their jump combination got GOEs of -1 and -2 because after two good triple toe loops Stolbova singled the third toe loop which Klimov doubled as planned. If both partners do not show the same number of rotations negative GOEs are required according to the rules. If Klimov had performed a single toe loop as third jump like his partner, they would have had positive GOEs. Next was an outstanding throw triple flip, followed by Stolbova’s fall on a triple Salchow. The rest of the program was very good, with the throw triple Salchow as highlight. Their components had an average of 9.0. Klimov commented: “We felt good. Again, like yesterday, it wasn’t perfect but it was good. I can say that we are not ashamed of this performance. We were very focused because obviously we didn’t compete in a long time, so we really needed this concentration. We will now go to the Challenge Cup where we will skate our free skate again.”

Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov landed on fifth place, earning 206.27 points. This young team stated with a huge triple twist which they plan to perform with four rotations next season. Morozov touched down a bit on the side by side triple toe loop, but all elements were clean, with the throw triple Salchow as late highlight. Morozov explained: “To finish with a clean free skating and a seasons best score was the best way to end the season. It was hard to skate last in the group though, we felt it in our legs and in the steps, but then we got into it and it was fine. The early morning practices were something we’re not used to.”

The Olympic Champions Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov dropped from third in the short program to the sixth position, gaining 205.81 points. It is the first time they were beaten by their teammates. After a triple twist which had no clean landing, Trankov stepped out of the triple Salchow which was planned as a jump sequence. Next was the throw triple flip which lacked flow after the landing. The triple toe loop, the death spiral and the spin were excellent, but then Volosozhar overturned the throw triple loop. Worst of all: The first lift got zero points instead of six or seven because they finished it too quickly and abruptly. They refused any comment, which is very unusual for them because especially Trankov likes to talk and criticize everything. There were rumors that he has shoulder or back problems or that she is pregnant because after the short program like on other occasions before Trankov had talked about a baby which the married couple wants soon. But nobody confirmed these rumors.

The second Canadian pair Lubov Iliushechkina & Dylan Moscovitch finished seventh, winning 199.52 points. Apart from her popped side by side triple Salchow, they skated clean and with a lot of energy. Iliushechkina said: “It was great, we are very happy with the program. The Salchow felt good in the preparation, but I rushed a little bit and it happened. I just told myself “Forget, forget, forget”, I knew every next element would be important.” Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro, also from Canada, took the eighth position with 190.90 points and an almost clean free program. Therefore Canada has three teams in the top eight, which is a great success for the federation, especially as their second best pair Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau withdrew three weeks before Worlds due to an injury of her.

Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim of Colorado Springs were the better of the two pairs and dropped from the seventh place after the short program on ninth with the twelfth best free program, winning a total of 190.06 points. Their quad twist at the beginning was almost clean, both landed the side by side triple Salchow on one foot, but Knierim without flow. Instead of a planned combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop, he doubled and she fell on the first triple toe loop and later stepped out of the throw triple flip. The other elements were good and six of them got a level 4. Skating to the soundtrack of “Elizabeth the Golden Age”, their components were around 7.8, with some 8.25 as highest ones. Knierim said: “We had a lot of technical errors which didn’t help the program itself. It’s tough to have one person on the team not feeling 100 percent, not clicking, but regardless of who made an error, it was both of us out there, we both get the marks for it, we’re each to blame for a good or a bad skate.” Scimeca added: “I was the problem today, I messed up on everything. I don’t have proof but I felt like my right blade kept slipping every time I was on the outside edge. I didn’t feel secure on it. But, that’s life.”

The U.S. champions Tarah Kayne & Daniel O’Shea of Ellenton, Florida, ended up 13th with 178.23 points. They skate to the musical Phantom of the Opera” by Andrew Lloyd Webber. After a relatively clean triple twist their side by side triple Salchow was solid and the throw triple Salchow good. The sequence of two double Axels was excellent, but Kayne fell on the throw triple Lutz. The rest was good again. A 9th and a 13th place guarantee two spots for the USA at next year’s Worlds again. Kayne commented: “I was pretty happy with our long program but we did have one major mistake on the throw triple Lutz -- our timing was a little off because I only pushed off with one hand instead of two. Our goal at the beginning of the season was just to make it to Worlds so coming in as national champions definitely pushes us for next season. It was great to have qualified for the free but next year we want to be more of a name and not just participating.” O‘Shea added: “The triple twist is a work in progress for us and it will be there for next year. There’s always someone willing to step up and take the leadership role and we push each other which helps us to keep progressing.”