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2016 World Championships

Wenjing Sui  and Cong Han Take Lead in Pairs Event

by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(2 April 2016)

Sui/Han from China Win Pairs Short Program

22 pairs competed their short program at the 2016 world championships in Boston, this is more than usually in recent years. As only four groups of four pairs qualified for the final, six pairs were eliminated. The general level was very good, with many pairs performing clean or good programs, but nobody was as outstanding like in the men’s and the dance competition.

Wenjing Sui & Cong Han from China, second at last year’s world championship in Shanghai, won the short program with 80.85 points and received the only standing ovation of the whole public. This is the highest score of this season, but no all-time world record, because Volosozhar/Trankov had gained 84.17 points at the Olympic Games in Sochi. The Chinese skated to a mixture of Spanish melodies, including the famous “Jeux Interdits” and are coached by the former world and Olympic Champion Hongbo Zhao. All their seven elements were at least very good, the side by side triple toeloop in a good sync, the throw triple flip and the triple twist landed safely. The step sequence at the end got GOEs of +3 from all nine judges. The components were around 9.3 with one 10.0 for performance as highest one.

Later Han said: “I think we have skated a perfect short program today. We have delivered what we can do in training. We feel very happy and honored that we can show it to the audience here. When we started to train under Coach Hongbo Zhao, we found many shortcomings in us on skating skills and performance. We followed the instruction by our coach. He taught us how to work better with your partner, and we have worked very hard to improve our unison. We also improved our edge work a lot by doing more training on skating skills than other pairs every day in training. Not only on the ice, but we also have off-ice trainings. We have been taking dancing lessons so as to improve our interpretation and performance level. We have love, but this love is like cousins. We feel each other maybe from five years ago. We tried harder and harder every day, until she hurt her feet. When we came back to competition, we didn’t get good scores, and we couldn’t go to the Olympics. We felt so sad. After that, we hope we can do better in our skating career. Many pairs can do their best in the season, we feel necessary to improve and catch up with the top pairs.”

Sui added: “No, there isn’t any chemistry between us, no (laughs).He is too serious. He talks too much every day, just like my father, so no chemistry. I think we improved our chemistry on the ice because we enjoy the music. I think a program is about the characters and story of the music, and I want to express what we want to tell through our movement on the ice. This is how we developed our chemistry on the ice.”

Last year’s world champions Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford from Montreal, Canada sit on second place, earning 78.18 points. Their triple twist was good and they were the only pair to perform a side by side triple lutz, which was clean. The throw triple flip (which they thought was a throw triple lutz) was a bit shaky, the other four elements excellent, all of which had a level 4. They skated to “Your Song”, by Elton John and their components had an average of 9.0 with some 9.5 as highest. But their harmony as a pair is not outstanding.

“Eric and I are very proud of our performance today”, Duhamel commented. “It’s been a rough season, internationally we have not done that program clean. We were tired of being unhappy. Our twist was not as smooth as we can do, but we hit that ending position and were feeling proud of ourselves. We were getting frustrated this season of hitting that ending position and feeling upset with ourselves. We came here to feel good at the end of the performance and we are very proud that we were able to do that. In the middle of the pair spin we have a position that really hits a musical accent, and the crowd really started to cheer. It made me very happy, and they continued until the end of the program. I actually hit the ending position before Eric, I couldn’t hear the music so I just assumed that it had ended. The crowd was amazing. Competing at the Olympics in Sochi was a dream came true, we took a long time to reach that point. It was an experience that we will never forget. Now, we enjoy the process day by day and we don’t want to get overwhelmed thinking about the Olympics yet, but we do understand that it is coming quickly. We didn’t skate our very best in Sochi, so we hope to go to Korea at the end of our careers and skate our best there.”

Radford added: “Pleasantly surprised by how well the audience reacted here. The audience has been amazing for all skaters and for all the events we’ve been watching, it’s been high energy, it’s been really exciting. There is an invisible energy in the building, when you go out and you start and you don’t know if you’re able to capture the heart of the audience. We’re just very happy that we could give that performance and share that moment with the audience.”

Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov from Russia, the Olympic Champions 2014 and European Champions 2016, are currently third, winning 77.13 points.

They interpreted the Bollywood music “Nagada Sang Dhoi” with authentic movements and costumes. Their triple twist was excellent, their side by side triple Salchow very good as well, but then Volosozhar landed the throw triple flip on two feet. At several competitions before this had not been sanctioned very much, but this time they got mainly GOEs of -1 for this element. The step sequence was excellent and the other three elements very good.

Trankov commented: “For sure, this was not best score today, but we skated good and we are happy about our skating although we did one bad mistake on throw. We are more surprised about levels, we only got a level 3 on the twist, which we didn’t have in a long time. We’re a little bit disappointed about this. Today, we skated in a good mood. We felt each other and we felt the music. We also saw some standing ovations of the audience at the end, that’s maybe the most important. It’s been three years that we did not compete in a World Championships, and here we skated last in the group, like in 2011 at our first appearance in a World Championship together. And there we were 3rd after the Short Program. When miss Worlds for three years, you miss a lot of experience. So that’s why we are ok with our third place and our skating. It was a hard way to come and also we did not become younger.

Now we’re thinking about having a baby. So at the next Olympics, it might be time to have a baby. We have all medals, we are Olympic Champions, World Champions, European and National Champions, and we’re completely fine with the result. Now, we just try to enjoy our skating and the skating of our rivals. I like the young Chinese couple skated today very much. I think they have good chances in the next Olympics. They have an amazing technique and a really good choreography. Also Megan and Eric, they have a strong technique, they’re also world champions. They also fight for a medal, maybe gold, in Korea. For me it’s a pleasure to fight not only with one couple, like it was before. Before it was just the Germans and us who really fought for the gold. Now it’s five, six couples and it is more interesting. Our goal is just to skate and enjoy the competition. For sure, the best is if we won some medal. Now, we’re thinking like this. We’re not only skating for the gold any more like before.”

Five time world champion Aliona Savchenko from Germany and her new French partner Bruno Massot are in fourth position with 74.22 points, skating to the music “Creature du Siam” from the Cirque du Soleil. Their triple twist at the beginning was outstanding and is the best triple twist in the world. Eight of the nine judges rewarded it with GOEs of +3. Then Savchenko landed the throw triple flip on two feet and Massot’s landing of the triple toeloop was a bit shaky. The other four elements had a level 4 and were excellent. Their components were around 8.6.

Savchenko commented: “It wasn’t our best short program, there were some little mistakes. The height of the throw triple flip was too good, I hesitated to open it and then I had no chance to land it on one foot. But it is amazing to be back. I am very happy with my decision to look for a different partner. It is a new beginning and I’m enjoying every second. There is still a lot to do, but we have a lot of potential.” Massot added: “We are skating together for almost two years and that is still a short time for a pair. We were at Europeans, but they are not as big as worlds. There were some mistakes, but we gave the maximum. Our goal is to skate two good programs, to skate better than at Europeans, and we’re not looking at a placement or a score.”

The second Russian pair Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov, silver medal winner at the Olympics two years ago, sits fifth, earning 73.98 points. Skating to “I Put a Spell on you” in a version of Annie Lennox with good speed, they began their short program with a wobbly triple twist which had never been their strongest element. The other six elements were at least good, the highlight being the dynamic step sequence to the beat of the music. Their components were around 9.0. They had not been at Europeans 2016 in January, mainly because he had shoulder problems. But the week after Europeans they performed in a series of the Art on Ice shows in Switzerland, but without difficult lifts.

Klimov commented: “It was ok, it wasn’t our best performance, but still we are satisfied. Indeed we didn’t have too much time to prepare, just three weeks. This time at Worlds, we’re just skating for ourselves, we need to skate clean for us to get that feeling back for after such a long time off.” Stolbova added: “We were both injured. I tore a muscle in my calf. We couldn’t do anything basically for two and a half months. It has been a tough season with many injury problems.”

The third Russian couple of Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov, which is coached by Andrej Hekalo and Robin Szolkowy, is on sixth place with 72.00 points. Their triple twist was very high and excellent, the other elements at least good. They skated to the Irish folk music “Lord of the Dance”.

Morozov said: “The skate was good, it was the best of the season, and we’re very satisfied that we were able to show our maximum potential here at worlds in the short program. You must be happy about that. Yes, there seems to be a lot of Irish fans so we could feel the crowd engaging with us more and more towards the end.”

Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim of Colorado Springs, second at U.S. Nationals this year, sit on seventh position with 71.37 points. Their first two elements, the backward outward death spiral and the triple twist, were excellent. But then Knierim fell on the triple Salchow, like so often in the past. The lift and the throw triple flip were very good. Their music was “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica. Scimeca commented: “We had a beautiful program and I don’t think we could have done the other things better today, but when you’re at an event like this, with these amazing athletes, these mistakes aren’t allowed. So we‘re obviously disappointed, but we’ll just keep pushing forward.” Knierim added: “Minus the big obvious mistake it was good. It definitely wasn’t stressful to skate at home, it keeps you motivated and having the crowd behind you is awesome.”

The U.S. Champions Tarah Kayne & Daniel O’Shea of Ellenton, Florida sits only on 14th place. Their death spiral had only a level 2, the triple twist was a bit shaky and the side by side triple Salchow good. Kayne put down her hand on the throw triple lutz and O’Shea fell near the end of their step sequence, but astonishingly enough they still got a level 4. O’Shea said: “It‘s a great opportunity for us to be out here in front of an American crowd, they were great and they gave us a lot of energy It is unfortunate to make those mistakes. I’ll have to go back and watch the video to know what happened.” Kayne added: “I‘m honestly very disappointed in our program today. We‘ve been skating very well and consistently and I think we showed that in our elements today. We made a silly mistake in our footwork so it’ll take me a little bit to come back from that.”

The Canadian pairs Iliushechkina & Moscovitch (8th) and Moore-Towers & Marinaro (alternates for Séguin and Bilodeau and 10th) had clean programs, the French pair Vanessa James & Morgan Ciprès (9th) and the Italians Nicole della Monica & Matteo Guarise (11th) as well.