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2018 Grand Prix, Helsinki, Pairs

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany



(5 November 2018)  As is often the case, the pair skating competition was the first competition to finish at the Helsinki Grand Prix of this season, which was the third of the six Grand Prix. The general level of this competition was mixed, with no real top pair competing.

Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert from the Russian school of Nina Mozer, seventh at the Olympic Games and fourth at the World Championships 2018, won their first Grand Prix gold medal with 198.51 points. In the short program, they skated to "Alexander Nevski“ by Sergei Prokofiev. After an excellent triple twist with level 4, Enbert fell on the side by side triple toe loops which was downgraded and therefore received only 0.65 points minus one point deduction for the fall. So they got less than zero for this element. The triple throw loop was excellent and had GOEs of mainly +4, even one +5 from the Spanish judge. Three more elements were at least good. Their components were around 8.2 in spite of a solid but not fascinating performance. Later Zabiiako explained, “There was a huge mistake on the jump, but it happens.“ Enbert added, “Our music is not typical for us or for figure skating and at first we had some doubts about it. But when we started working on it with choreographer Peter Tchernyshev, we realized it works.”

In their free program to the French music "Toi et Moi“ by Igor Krutoi, they began with a triple twist which had a bit of a unelegant landing though it was on one foot and got GOEs of mainly +3. The jump combination of a triple toe loop and two double toe loops was good, but then Enbert fell on the side by side Salchow. The other elements were very good but the triple throw flip a bit unclean. They always lack a bit of emotions and fire, but nevertheless the components were around 8.2. Zabiiako said, “It means a lot to us to have won our first Grand Prix gold medal. It was a good experience for us.“  Enbert added, "For the first time we went into a Grand Prix as the top-seeded pair and there was a little pressure and it was harder.“

Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise from Italy, tenth at the Olympic Games and fifth at the World Championships 2018 in Milan, took the silver medal with 185.77 points. They had taken the lead in the short program with 68.18 points but they were only .59 points ahead. Skating to the music "Never Tear Us Apart“ by Joe Cocker, Della Monica had stepped out of the side by side triple Salchow which Guarise landed clean. They received mostly -2 for this element. After this mistake, the rest of the program was clean, The triple twist and the triple throw loop good, the lift and the combination spin excellent, the step sequence with a level 3 very good and the backwards outwards death spiral good. Their components had an average of 7.9. Della Monica later said, “We were well prepared, we’ve trained a lot in the past weeks, but the legs were shaky. It was not our best performance.” Guarise added, “We’ve trained very well, we’re in good shape and there is no excuse. We really wanted to show our new program and there was some pressure.”

Because of some mistakes, the students of Christina Mauri skated only the third best free program, but it was enough to remain at least second, just just .16 points ahead of the bronze medal winners. Skating to "Tristan and Isolde“ by Maxime Rodriguez, which the French composer himself had adapted for them, Della Monica and Guarise began with a side by side Salchow, but Guarise landed it forward and could not add a second jump, whereas Della Monica doubled it anyway. The triple twist was good, but Della Monica touched her hand on the triple throw loop and two-footed the landing oft he triple throw Salchow. Later she doubled the toe loop which he tripled. The three lifts were excellent and brought them around 23 points, the other elements were good. Their components were around 8.0.

The reigning World Junior Champions Daria Pavliuchenko (15) & Denis Khodykin (19), also from Russia, won a bronze medal in their first senior Grand Prix, gaining 185.61 points. They finished their short program to "When Winter Comes“ by Andre Rieu on the third position. The students of Sergei Dobroskokov and Sergei Rosliakov started with an excellent triple twist with level 4 and a good side by side triple toe loop, but Pavliuchenko touched down her hand on the triple throw flip and Khodykin stumbled during the step sequence which therefore only got a level 2 and GOEs of mainly -2. The other elements were good, however and the components had an average of only 6.9 because their style still is a bit junior-like. “We were a little nervous. We try to do our work well and we want to skate flawless and clean,” Pavliuchenko commented. “Our music is slow and beautiful and it’s about love.”

The first element in the free program to the soundtrack of "The Great Gatsby“ was a side by side triple flip which he landed clean and she a little bit shaky. Their combination of a triple toe loop and two double toe loops was very good and in perfect harmony. The triple twist, the throw triple flip and the triple throw loop were excellent and got several GOEs of +4. Two lifts were not clean, but the other elements good.  “We really enjoyed this competition. We skated well, but we had some mistakes and we hope we’ll skate better next time,” Pavliuchenko said.

Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer from Austria, who train mainly in Berlin with Knut Schubert and sometimes in Switzerland with Jean-Francois Ballester, were 14th at the World Championships 2018 and placed fourth in Helsinki, winning 174.81 points. This is their best result in a Grand Prix up to now. They were already on fourth place in a short program to the romantic music "Fortitude“ by Haevn. Their triple twist there was almost clean, the side by side triple toe loop very good, but Ziegler touched down her had on the triple throw flip and Kiefer stumbled a bit on a step. In the free program to the two songs "Hello“ and "Rolling in the Deep“ by Adele, their triple twist at the beginning was relatively clean, the combination of a triple toe loop and two double toe loops very good, but she double the Salchow only double and on two feet, which he tripled. Many good elements followed, including a triple throw flip and a triple throw Salchow. But at the end Kiefer had no more power to lift his partner from a kneeling position over his head, although they had said before that they had worked a lot on their fitness in the summer.

The North Korean pair of Tea Ok Ryom & Ju Sik Kim had been a subject of huge interest in the Olympic season. They qualified for the Games at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, they took part in the Games in South Korea, were ranked 13th there and with their appearance contributed to the better political relations between the two Koreas. This summer they did not train in Canada (like in the summer of 2017), but remained in their home country. They kept the two programs of the Olympic season and the costumes, but adapted the programs to the new rules, made the free program 30 seconds shorter and adapted the new required elements. In Helsinki, they competed in their first Grand Prix and finished on fifth position with 174.24 points, just .57 points ahead of the Austrians. After a good triple twist in the short program, Ryom fell on the side by side triple toe loop and touched down on the triple throw loop, but the other elements were good. In the free program, the triple twist, the three lifts and the triple throw loop were very good, but Kim stumbled after throwing his partner for the triple throw Salchow and Ryom had problem with the individual jumps.

Deanna Stellato-Dudek (who had asked the ISU to write her last name in the correct version with two words) & Nathan Bartholomay, third at U.S. Nationals in January, and students of Jim Petersen in Florida, were invited to Helsinki as alternates for Wenjing Sui & Cong Han. The Chinese pair had withdrawn from their two Grand Prix because Sui still suffers from her stress fracture in the leg from March.

The Americans finished sixth with 159.21 points. In their short program to two songs by Whitney Houston, their triple twist was a bit unclean, Bartholomay fell on the triple toe loop (and Stellato touched down with her hand) and Stellato stepped out of the landing of the triple throw loop. The other four elements were clean. In the free program, after the triple twist they popped the triple throw Salchow, then he did a single Salchow and a double toe loop instead of two triple elements. Stellato-Dudek stepped out of the triple throw loop, the three lifts and the other elements were good.

Laura Barquero & Aritz Maestu from Spain, who train in Italy with Franca Bianconi and Barbara Luoni, finished seventh with 149.54 points. They were invited because Finland has no pair and China lost the three guaranteed spots when the competition was moved to Finland. In their short program the triple twist was clean, the triple throw flip almost clean, but Maestu fell on the triple Salchow. In the free program, they made no major mistakes, but several small ones. While in Finland they learnt that they will also compete as alternates (for the German pair of Annika Hocke and Ruben Blommaert) at the NHK Trophy in Japan the week after and had to change their flight in order to get right from Finland to Hiroshima in Japan. They said that they were excited to get a second Grand Prix so suddenly.

Miu Suzaki & Ryuichi Kihara from Japan, who train with Jason Dungjen in the Detroit Skating Club, came as alternates for the Canadian pair of Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau who had split in the summer. They ended up eighth and last, earning 145.65 points. In their short program, Suzaki missed the side by side triple flip (which was under-rotated). Their triple twist was not landed correctly in his arms before she touched the ground. She fell on the throw triple Salchow whereas the remaining four elements were relatively clean. But Kihara is not really strong enough to perform a very good lift. In the long program, Suzaki stumbled after landing the triple twist and on the triple flip, fell on the triple throw flip and stepped out oft he triple throw Salchow. The other elements were good.