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2020 Four Continents Championships, Pairs

Sixth Four Continents title for China’s Sui & Han

by Tatiana Flade

(11 February 2020)  Wenjing Sui & Cong Han of China won their sixth title, but it was not a walk through the park for them. The reigning World Champions sat only in third place following the Short Program to “Blues Deluxe” as they made an uncharacteristic mistake – Sui felt distracted by her costume and doubled the throw flip. However, they were only a little over three points behind as the other elements were strong. The throws were not a problem in their expressive Free Skating to “Rain, In Your Black Eyes”, and the Olympic silver medalists produced a triple toe-double toe-double toe combination as well as all level-four elements. Their only error came when Sui doubled the Salchow. Sui & Han scored 144.34 points for the Free Skating and pulled up from third to first at 217.51 points total.

“Every time it is very special and very different. It gives us more confidence and trust,” Han said about winning their sixth Four Continents title. “It (the title) is dear to me, because we lost the short program, but then we caught up with the long program and that is very special to me. Today we are quite satisfied we showed a good level of skating. We realized where we had problems and we’ll figure them out and make some adjustments as we prepare for the World Championships,” he continued.

“This time we had some problem with the short program dress and also with the level of the death spiral. We also had some problem today in the long program with the triple Salchow,” Sui shared. “Last month we have been training very hard and everything was very good, but this time there were some problems. We should fix those things, keep working, help each other and enjoy skating,” she added.

Teammates Cheng Peng & Yang Jin were a close second in the Short Program with a clean performance to "Alegria“ from "Cirque du Soleil“. Skating to the “Cloud Atlas” soundtrack, the ISU Grand Prix Final silver medalists delivered another strong performance that included a triple Salchow, triple toe-double toe, triple twist and throw triple loop and Salchow. The Chinese team achieved a seasons best with 137.33 points and totaled 213.29 points to repeat as silver medalists at Four Continents.

“We are quite satisfied with our performance. Our training before these Championships was not as solid as we would have liked it, so there was some progress today. Now we want to train hard and prepare for the World Championship,” Peng said. She explained that the team had to deal with some illnesses and injuries.

Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro had a great start into the competition by winning the Short Program. Their modern touch to “Love on the Brain” came across very well. But they run into trouble in their long program to “Carry You”. While the throw triple loop and lifts were strong, the skaters struggled with the side by side jumps. On top of that, Marinaro splatted on a transition move. The Canadian Champions were ranked fourth in the Free Skating with 126.39 points, but overall held on to third place at 201.80 points.

“Today was a disappointing four minutes, but we had a great week in Korea with great practices. We had a great short program and we’re still very proud. Today was not our day unfortunately.  It’s a little soon right now, but in a couple of hours or day we’ll have meetings with our coaches and come away from this competitions with a lot of good lessons. We have five weeks before the World Championships and we’re aiming to peak for that competition,” Moore-Towers said. “I think we are on the right track. We’re happy with our progress this year. We have a new coaching team. We’ll just keep putting in the numbers and we believe we’ll be consistent in the next couple of weeks.”

U.S. silver medalists Jessica Calalang & Brian Johnson had issues with their triple Salchow in both programs, but their pair elements were solid. The team from California ranked fourth in the Short Program and third in the Free Skating to finish fourth overall on 196.15 points.

“There’re two things I could have done better, but overall it was a really good skate. We are happy with it,” Johnson said about the Free Skating. “We’ve been together less than two years, but already we are in the last group at the Four Continents with Olympians. I have nothing but hope for the future. We are on the right path.”

Tarah Kayne & Danny O’Shea (USA) made some errors on the side by side jumps as well but produced good lifts. They moved up from seventh to fifth place on 196.15 points.

“Last season we ended on kind of on a low point and this season I think we both feel a lot better about ourselves and state of progress we are skating. This program gives us something we can build on for next season,” Kayne commented. “We don't really have any other competitions planned (for this season). We just hope to go back home and start preparing for the next season so that we can come back with stronger technical elements.”

Similar to the Canadian men, the two pairs teams Evelyn Walsh & Trennt Michaud and Liubov Ilyushechkina & Charlie Bilodeau competed for spot at Worlds. Canada has two spots in Pairs, and one is reserved for Moore-Towers & Marinaro.

Walsh & Michaud came out on top. She under-rotated the triple toe in the Short Program and doubled the Salchow in the Free Skating. They placed sixth (177.58 points). Ilyushechkina & Bilodeau only teamed up last spring and have shown some promise, but Four Continents was not their competition. Her toe loop and throw flip became only doubles in the Short Program. The National bronze medalists impressed with their lifts in the long, but they made too many errors in the long program: he fell on the triple Salchow, she under-rotated the triple toe and doubled the throw loop. That was only enough for seventh place.

U.S. Champions Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim had a rough Short Program when he doubled the toe and she fell on a triple and he also aborted the side by side spin. They ranked fifth and then  withdrew from the event to return home due to family illness. Feiyao Tang & Yongchao Yang of China withdrew before the Pairs Short Program citing injury. Tang aggravated an existing hip injury.