2011 Cup of China

by Alexandra Stevenson

Most recent results on top.  Scroll down for earlier reports.

In an extremely compressed schedule, all four finals took place on Day 2, leaving only the Exhibition for Sunday evening.

Day 2:  Ladies Free Skate

"Caro" and Mirai Eclipse Young Russian, while the 18-year-old Japanese-American nearly gives her coach a heart attack.

1.Overall 182.14 Carolina Kostner; 1.FS 120.20 (56.95+63.31) Skating last of the ten ladies from five countries, Kostner presented a mature showing set to Mozartís Concerto No.23 dressed in two tones of blue. She opened with a good (+1.0 GoE) triple loop, but had to put a hand on the ice to keep from falling on the following triple flip which was meant to be combined with a triple toe, and she had -0.30 removed from the flipís base value. The panel of judges loved her spirals and all but one rewarded her with +2 GoEs. Her next five elements, double Axel, Level 4 flying camel, double Axel to double toe, triple toe to double toe, and triple Salchow, all received positives. However, she was forced to execute a three-turn to hold onto the landing of her second triple Salchow, and although she got airborne again for a double toe loop, the third jump was a mere single toe. She wrapped up the routine with Level 3 steps and two Level 4 spins.

This win, along with her very close second place in the Skate America Grand Prix (behind Alissa Czisny), means she now qualifies for the Grand Prix Final. She said, "I am so relieved that Iíve made it. Usually I struggle with consistency early in the season. The scores in this competition give me confidence that my programs have been accepted." This is her sixth medal in a Grand Prix. She won silver in the 2003 Cup of Russia and in the 2004 French Grand Prix. Then she took gold in 2007 in Japan, 2008 in Russia, 2010 back in Japan and now in Shanghai. She has won two bronzes and a silver in the Final in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

2.173.22 Mirai Nagasu; 2.FS 112.26 (55.64+56.62) Nagasu's routine, beautifully choreographed to Khatchaturiansís Spartacus, was far superior to her last weekís presentation in Mississauga. But it was far from perfect. She began with a triple loop to double toe loop which earned as additional +0.80 over the base value. The following double Axel to double toe was rewarded with an extra +0.50 but, although her spirals gained a full point over their base value, the judges gave Kostner 0.40 more.

Both Nagasuís triple Lutzes, the first combined with a double toe to double loop, were saddled with an arrow for slight under-rotation which meant she lost 0.90 on each of these elements. Her subsequent triple toe, second triple loop and double Axel, all got positives. Her steps were Level 3 and two of her three spins earned the maximum Level 4, but her concluding layback spin, for which she is famous, only got Level 3. Only one of the nine judges thought it deserved +2 GoE, seven punched in +1 and one official thought it deserved nothing over the base value. This is ridiculous. The girl seems to have a complete lack of understanding of what she has to do to win in this new system. If Kostner can get all Level 4 spins, then Nagasu should be able to do the same.

Nagasu said, "Coming off a bad skate at Skate Canada was very hard for me, because I really wanted to make it to the Final this year, but you might know that when I came to the Cup of China previously I did very well in the short program and then dropped to fourth place. To break that curse of doing well initially and then dropping is such a huge relief to me. Coming here and skating well I'm just happy and ready for my next competition." With television cameras and tape recorders running, she surprisingly referred to herself as feeling "like an old fart", which nearly gave her coach, Frank Carroll, sitting in the back of the press conference room, a heart attack.

3. 159.93 Adelina Sotnikova; 3.FS 106.21 (51.69+54.52). The 15-year-old Russian world junior champion, competing in her first Senior Grand Prix, wore an elaborate dress, with a purple skirt, shiny lilac bodice, and lots of flowers and greenery. Her music was Lisztís Liebestraum. She began with a triple Lutz-triple loop combination, which had 0.50 taken off its base value of 11.10 points because it was penalized with an "e" call, for a wrong edge takeoff. The following triple flip and triple Salchow earned an extra +0.90 and +0.70 respectively, but then she singled her second triple Lutz attempt which also was given a wrong edge call.

After reaching the point when the 10% bonus marks for jumps click in, Soknikova executed two flawed double Axels (-1.36 and -0.86) with a good (+0.50) second triple loop between them. All three of her spins were the maximum Level 4 and earned +0.71, +0.86 and +0.57. She said, "Overall I am not so pleased with my performance today, but I am happy about the initial combination that I did. Some other elements didn't work out and in my next competition I want to do everything as planned."

4.153.32 Kexin Zhang; 5.FS 100.47 (54.14+46.33) The 16-year-old who trains in Beijing moved up from fifth to fourth with a performance, dressed in black and red, to En La Cuervo from Love the Magician by Manuel de Falla. She began with an impressive combination of two triple toes, which gained +1.10 over their base value. However, the following triple Lutz to double toe had -0.40 removed and the subsequent second triple Lutz got an arrow for slight under-rotation. Her triple flip got an "e" call for wrong takeoff edge and her triple loop was saddled with an arrow for under-rotation. Two of her spins were Level 4 but the flying camel was Level 3. Her steps were also Level 3. On her last two jumping passes, she earned +0.20 for the triple Salchow to double toe but had -0.36 recoved from the base value of a double Axel.

5.152.48 Christina Gao; 4.FS 100.49 (53.89+47.60 -1) skated to Astor Piazzollaís Libertango wearing a red, backless with long sleeves creation with a red hair adornment. The American, who is trained by Brian Orser, pulled up three places from eighth with a fourth-ranked Free, despite falling on her third element, the triple Lutz, which received an "e". She opened with a +0.70 high triple flip to triple toe. Her second triple flip, later in the routine, got a slight negative (-0.30). Her triple loop was penalized with -0.70. The triple Salchow to double toe earned +0.60 and her last jump, a triple toe, got an extra half point. The layback spin was only Level 2, but the other two spins and her footwork earned Level 3.

Gao was 5th in the last US senior championships and had hoped to do better here. Although she was born in Cincinnati, her heritage is Chinese. Her father was a junior badminton champion in China. But she was off the ice for most of July due to a hip injury

6.150.20 Kanako Murakami; 7.FS 97.11 (44.10+54.01 -1) Dressed in light green, the young Japanese used a well known Piano Concerto, opening with a triple Lutz which was given an "e" for wrong edge. She was very disappointed to drop from fourth with a Free which was judged only 7th best and in which she fell on a triple flip.

7.143.47 Ksenia Makarova; 6.FS 97.57 (46.01+52.56 -1) The former Russian champion played Marilyn Monroe in a pink dress, skating to Diamonds are a Girlís Best Friend. She had a bad fall on her opening move, classed as a downgraded triple flip, and got an arrow on both triple loops which meant she received full credit for only two triples. But two of her spins were Level 4 and the concept of the routine was enjoyable.

8.142.09 Bingwa Geng; 8.FS 89.48 (45.38+45.10 -1), is a 17-year-old whose mother is a skating coach. She used music from the ballet Sylvia dressed in a white outfit with gold trim, opening with a high triple Lutz but stepping out of the landing. Her second triple Lutz was doubled and she fell on her second triple toe loop.

9.133.66 Valentina Marchei; 9.FS 81.44 (32.76+49.68 -1) Skating in a blue dress with chiffon, to a Medley from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Marchei came to a stop on the landing of her first jump, a triple Lutz. She was saddled with an "e" for her high triple flip and then singled her triple Salchow, which also happened on her second triple Lutz and a double Axel. The Italian fell on a triple toe loop in a routine best forgotten.

10.108.57 Qiuying Zhu; 10.FS 73.29 (35.16+38.13) skated to The Scent of a Woman.


Day 2: Men's Final

The New Math: When 3 + 3 = 1

The Men's Final witnessed a seesaw event in which the winner was only third in both sections while the leader after the SP plummeted to fifth overall. The home countryís second ranked national competitor unexpectedly stole some of the limelight winning the FS and the overall bronze.

The audiences have been greater than at both Skate America and Skate Canada. Although this is the first time Shanghai has hosted an ISU competition, the governing body will surely be open to any overtures concerning scheduling another international to take place here. In the meantime, Disney on Ice comes into town next week to perform for three days at the Mercedes Benz Arena. The USís judge for this event and the pairs was William S. Smith.

1.Overall 228.49; Jeremy Abbott 3.FS 149.17 (69.67+80.50 -1), third in both sections, was surprised to end up on the top step of the winnerís rostrum. The former twice US champion, who was only fourth nationally last season, smiled and admitted, "It was not my best but apparently I have good luck in China." His winning margin was 1.38 points.

Skating to Museís Exogenesis Symphony Part 3, Abbott fell on his opening quad toe, and singled his second triple Axel attempt, leaving out the triple toe with which it was meant to be combined, but made no other error. Abbott said. "I am happy to start off my season this way. I feel like I'm starting where I left off last season which means the season will only get better, so I'm excited about that."

He said, when asked if the fall on his opening move was off-putting, "The first thing you learn in skating is to fall down and get right back up immediately. You never want to fall in competition, but I guess mine came off the top of my program and, if I were to let it affect me, then I have a whole four minutes and fifteen sections of torture left. So I just try to put it behind me."

2.227.11; Nobunari Oda 2.FS 149.46 (74.30+76.18 -1) performed to The Umbrellas of 1.57Cherbourg. Although he was second in the FS, ahead of Abbott, that margin was only a minuscule 0.29 and it didnít affect their overall order. He finished second, 1.38 behind the gold medalist. He admitted, "I didn't do my best, but I still got advanced. I am happy to make the podium but next time I want to give a better performance."

Oda did not try a quad. He began with a +1.43 triple Axel to double toe to double loop. His second triple Axel gained 1.71 over its base plus the 10% bonus for being in the second half. However, both triple Lutzes, the first combined with a triple toe, the second with a double toe, were saddled with "e" calls, indication wrong edge take-off. He also was penalized with an arrow for a slight under-rotation on his triple flip on which he fell.

3.226.75; Nan Song 1.FS 154.03 (86.45+67.58) pulled up from fifth to win the bronze. Song, who has been the runnerup for the Chinese national title for the past two years, opened his routine, set to Lisztís Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, with a spectacular quad toe to triple toe which earned two full points over its base value of 14.40. Then he racked up a further 11.59 points for his +1.29 second quad toe and 10.07 for his +1.57 triple Axel. His second triple Axel, however, was combined with only a single instead of triple toe loop and his triple flip got an "e" for wrong edge takeoff. He said, "I am still in shock about having won a medal. It is my first time to be in the top three in a senior competition and I was far behind in the short program."

4.226.53 Yuzuru Hanyu; 4.FS 145.16 (72.80+74.36 -2), 2nd after the SP, slipped to 4th overall, with a FS ranked 4th best. He began with an impressive quad toe which earned 2.0 over its base value, an almost equally good +1.57 triple Axel, a triple flip which earned a full point extra, and a +0.71 Level 4 flying change foot sit spin.

However, he then ran out of steam. He fell on the second jump of his triple Axel to triple toe combo, and then immediately fell again on his second triple Lutz. His final jump turned into a double Salchow. He did, however, execute three good Level 4 spins. The Japanese 17-year-old performed to the soundtrack of Romeo & Juliet.

5.222.54 Artur Gachinski; 6.FS 140.90 (69.04+72.86 -1), the Russian, who had been so brilliant in the SP, dropped like lead. He fell on his opening move, a quad toe which was meant to be combined with a triple toe and then came to a full stop after landing his first triple Axel on two feet. He brought off his second triple Axel but it was combined with only one instead of two double toes. Later he doubled a Salchow but added two double toes to his second triple Lutz. He was only 0.80 in front of the Canadian in FS.

6.205.27 Richard Dornbush; 5.FS 142.34 (76.78+65.56), the American who was skating with a sprained ankle, put his hand on the ice landing his first element a quad toe. A triple Lutz gained a small positive but his triple Axel to triple toe had two full points remove from the base value. A second triple Axel was good. A double Axel was singled in a sequence after a triple Salchow. A triple Lutz with a double toe to double loop was saddled with an arrow and there were other slight faults. He skated to music A Fistfulof Dollars, Ecstasy of Gold which sounded like the William Tell Overture.

7.204.41 Kevin Reynolds; FS 140.10 (79.30+62.80 -2) was 7th throughout the event. The Canadian landed a fine opening move, a quad Salchow, which earned +0.86 GoE added to its base value of 10.50. He also got credit for the following quad toe loop but it was not well landed and 1.71 was removed from its base value. He fell on both the triple Axel, which got one arrow for slight under-rotation, and his quad loop attempt, which was saddled with two arrows which meant it was downgraded. Later, he executed a combination of three triple jumps, flip to toe loop to loop which got an extra +0.50 GoE over its base value plus 10% bonus for jumps executed after the half way point.

8.182.49 Jialiang Wu; FS 117.43 (63.49+54.94 -1.0) dropped from sixth after the SP.


Day 2: Pairs Free Skate

Russians and Chinese on comeback trail from a year plagued with injury

1.186.74; 1.FS 122.29 (58.53+63.76) Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov presented a flawed showing but still won by a comfortable margin of 9.07. Dressed in baby blue, the routine, set to Debussyís Clair de Lune, has great potential. But such delicate music highlights even minor mistakes. They got off to an uncertain start with a planned sequence of two triple toe loops. The second one was completely out of synch. He doubled his and she wobbled on her landing. But since this has been a part of their routines for several years now, the problem was probably early season nerves.

That was their only negative Grade of Execution although there was a little uncertainty on the landing of the second throw, a triple loop, in which her hand may have touched the ice. They conclude with a pair spin which got a good GoE but was only Level 1. It came right after all three Level 4 lifts, which are executed consecutively. Last season, she had shoulder surgery and he had a groin problem so they only competed in one Grand Prix, and finished off the podium at Worlds. Immediately after this event, they were flying to Sapporo to compete in the NHK Grand Prix. They will also take part in the last GP in Moscow. She said, "It was a good start for the next competition. We are doing as many competitions as possible." This season the worldís top six skaters may choose to do three, instead of two Grand Prix events.

2.177.67; 2.FS 117.10 (59.07+59.03 -1) Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang He explained, "We did quite well today although we had some problems in the short program. We did not compete at all last season because of my injuries, but we were second at Skate America (behind the German world champions) and here, which means we can go to the Final and hopefully we'll skate well there." They won the SP in California but were only third in the FS gaining a total score of 0.99 more than in Shanghai.

Their FS is to Lizstís Totentanz, and starts off with a triple toe meant to be combined with a second triple toe and a third jump, a double toe. However, they simplified it to a triple to two doubles and he struggled on the last landing. Later she fell and he doubled their planned triple Salchows. But they showed a lot of technical content. Two of their three lifts were Level 4. Their third lift, a Group 5 Axel lasso, which was their final element, was only Level 3. Their final element, a pair combination spin, earned Level 4. Their triple twist and both triple throws were solid.

3.172.04; 4.FS 111.26 (56.47+56.79 -2) Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch dropped from second to third with a FS which was ranked fourth best. They interpreted Patrick Doyleís music for Henry V in appropriate costumes, she in royal blue, he with a red top and blue bottom. She fell on the second of their sequence of two triple toes, which was their opening move, and then again, half way through on their throw triple loop. But they did complete side-by-side triple Salchows and although the landing of their throw triple Salchow late in the routine was flawed, they had a lot of very good content. The routine has the potential to be extremely good.

She admitted, "Today wasn't our strongest performance. We are a little bit disappointed with the silly mistakes that we made, but pleased that we could still attain enough points to keep our podium finish and have a chance to make the Final (which is in Quebec City in December).

4.170.63; 3.FS 112.75 (60.51+53.24 -1) Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig had the highest technical score for their FS but only the fifth best component marks, possibly because they performed in the first half of the event after placing 5th in the SP. They climbed up a place but needed more than 1.41 to claim a medal. They used this music, Daphnis and Chloe, for the 2008 season and have returned to it, said their coach, Jim Peterson, because they hadnít then explored the musicís full potential.

As they left the ice, they looked disappointed but Peterson told them, "You made only one mistake really!" He was referring to her stumbling and putting both hands on the ice which was classed as a fall, on their second element, the side-by-side triple toes. Their throw triple Lutz and later throw triple loop were solid. Two of their lifts and both the pair and solo spins earned Level 4. All of their lifts had interesting positions or added features.

5.169.47; 5.FS 109.47 (56.66+54.81 -2) Wenjing Sui & Cong Han had an unfortunate start. She fell after he put her on the ice after catching her on their extremely high opening move, a quad twist. Then, immediately following that, she had a bad fall slamming to the ice on her triple toe loop. Nevertheless, immediately afterwards, she landed a fine throw triple Salchow and, later, a throw triple flip. They completed a back outside death spiral and side-by-side flying combination spins, both earning Level 4. But they both stepped out of their double Axels which got double arrows meaning they were downgraded. There were some interesting lifts but they dropped a place to fifth, 1.16 behind Evora & Ladwig.

6.162.96; 6.FS 108.54 (63.11+45.43) Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin performed to Requiem for A Dream. Because of their height difference, they have an advantage in certain moves. However, they finished 6th in both sections and overall, 6.51 points behind their teammates, Sui & Han.

7.141.84; 7.FS 93.59 (49.85+44.74 -1)Taylor Steele & Robert Schultz, who are trained by Kris Wirz, performed to Gershwinís Piano Concerto in F in grey and black outfits. She fell on their

8.120.95; 8.FS 82.61 (42.09+41.52 -1) Klara Kadlecova & Petr Bidar performed to Phantom of the Opera.


Day 2: Dance Free Dance

Stealing His Soul

1.Bobrova & Soloviev 163.52; 1.FD 97.79 (45.95+51.84)

2.Shibutani & Shibutani 148.40; 2.FD 90.61 (43.14+48.47 -1.0)

It was a disappointing day for US silver medalists and world bronze medalists, Maia and Alex Shibutani. Russians Katya Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev, who lay 7.94 points ahead of the American siblings after the SD, expanded that lead to 15.12 with a flamboyant performance to Walpurgis Night from Gounodís opera, Faust. "Basically, sheís the devil," Soloviev said with a smile. "Sheís out to steal my soul and she succeeds."

Bobrova, dressed in black outfit with long sleeves, a skirt with a ragged hem and black feathers in her hair, Ė think of a blonde version of the glamorous Morticia from the television show The Addams Family Ė appeared to thoroughly enjoy her performance. Soloviev, who married a former singles competitor in 2006, was in a loose white top with black around his neck. He declared, "We definitely skated better than yesterday. We feel this was our best performance of the season so far and we plan to improve on that emotionally, technically, with our edges, the lifts and the speed of our spins."

The Russian champions earned 2.81 more on the element score and 3.37 more on the components than the silver medalists, who received a point deduction for an over-long lift as which had also happened in their previous competition in Finland a few weeks prior to this event. Bobrova said that the Russian Federation was going all out in an effort to do well in the Olympics in Sochi in 2014, and their improvement this season was helped by that policy.

The Shibutanis skated immediately prior to the winners, to a Glenn Miller selection including the well known In the Mood, Moonlight Serenade and Chattenooga Choo Choo, which was written for Sonja Henieís most popular movie, Sun Valley Serenade. It was a very enjoyable, very smooth, pleasant four minutes, but it lacked a daring, on-the-edge of your seat quality that the Russians brought to their FD.

While the Russians had two +3s for their twizzles, and Level 4 for six of their eight elements with their lowest GoEs three 0.79s, the Shibutanis gained only one +3, for their long lift in which both parts received Level 4, and a total of five Level 4 items. Both couples had a Level 2 on one of their step sequences and Level 3 for the other, although these awards were reversed with the Russians getting the 3 for their diagonal steps and the Shibutanis for their circular steps. In addition, the Shibutanis received only Level 2 for their spin, which gained a mere +0.50 over its base value.

Maia said, "We feel like this is a great stepping stone for us. We're competing next week (in Japan), so we're looking forward to the process." Her brother added, "We had a great time this week. Our free dance was a strong performance and we feel we've made some good improvements since Finlandia. We are very happy with our first Grand Prix silver medal."

3.Carron & Jones 130.97; 3.FD 78.56 (38.19+40.37)

4.Coombes & Buckland; 130.39; 4.FD 76.50 (39.92+39.58 -3.0)

The French representatives, Pernelle Carron & her Welsh partner, Lloyd Jones, were over the moon with their first GP medal, which they earned by just a sliver, 0.58, over the Britons, Penny Coomes. Carron & Jones have had a stressful year, moving in August from Lyon to train in the United States with Natalia Linichuk in Aston, PA. Jones explained, "For a month, we were training in Courchevel without any coach. The move was organized by the French Federation. So we havenít had much time to work on the routines so we did not expect this medal." Their Free was to a Jazz Medley. Carron, who is the spokesperson for the duo, said, "We are very happy with our performance and we had a great time out there on the ice. It is a great beginning for us after we changed coaches."

Coomes, who was in pink with a cut-out back with Buckland in a modified black Elvis outfit, both collapsed onto the ice with only five seconds left in their routine on their final "transition lift". They also had a deduction for one of their three previous lifts which ran overtime, but still finished only a sliver behind the French. The piece started somewhat oddly with music from the famous movie 2001, Thus Spake Zarathustra. Buckland explained, "This was played as an introduction to one of Elvisís later concerts." They also included such standards as One for the Money, Blue Suede Shoes and I Canít Help Falling in Love with You.

Many skaters complained about the state of the ice. One American said, "When you get high humidity like we have here, what happens is that the ice melts and refreezes and becomes quite brittle so it can affect edges and landings quite significantly." Coomes said, "I think what happened with us is that Nick caught an edge and went down and couldnít help pulling me down, too."

5.Huang & Zheng 120.11; 5.FD 75.04 (38.34+36.70)

6.Yu & Wang 115.59; 7.FD 67.23 (33.57+33.66)

Huang & Zheng overtook their teammates with a classic routine Astor Piazzollaís Libertango. Yu & Wangís FD was set to Howlís Moving Castle soundtrack by Joe Hisaushi.

7.Lichtman & Copely 109.61; 6.FD 69.35 (37.65+31.70)

8.Samuelson & Gilles 106.74; 8.FD 63.10 (34.05+32.05)

Litchman, who was in a fun shocking pink miniskirt with boots (i.e. socks) up to her knees in the 1960s style, with Copely in an elaborate "swinging" outfit to match, presented a carefree routine to music from the comedy movie, Austin Powers, was judged sixth best. But, although they overtook their teammates, they could not make up enough ground to challenge the Chinese, who were buoyed up by performing in their home country. Samuelson & Batesí Christopher Dean choreographed FD to the delightful Staircase to Paradise was just too new for the couple to do it justice at this initial outing.


Day 1:  Pairs Short Program

1.64.45 (34.47+30.98 -1) Yuko Kavaguti, who turns 30 on November 20, & Alexander Smirnov, who was 27 on October 27, established a 3.67 point lead despite their one point deduction for running overtime. Skating to All Alone by Joe Satriani, they opened with their solo triple toe loops which gained +0.70 over their base value, and then earned an extra 0.80 for their Level 2 triple twist. She landed their throw triple loop with such grace and ease, they got +1.20 over its base value.

Their straight line steps were Level 3 with +0.86 and how they executed their maximum Level 4 Group 3 lift elicited a full point more from the nine judges over its base value. Their forward inside death spiral was also Level 4 but with just 0.10 extra. Their finishing element, the pair combination spin was Level 4 but with only 0.01 added.

Kavaguti gave up her Japanese citizenship to become Russian after they teamed up to train with Tamara Moskvina in St. Petersburg in the spring of 2006. Unlike the US, Japan does not allow citizens to hold more than one passport. After winning the Russian title for three straight years, they were dethroned last season and had to be content with the silver medal.

She explained, "We are satisfied with today's performance. This is our very first competition this season. We decided to compete in three Grand Prix events (a new option this year for those placed in the top six at Worlds) as we didn't get to skate so much last year." They were a disappointed fourth in the world championship last April, after winning the bronze in the previous two Worlds.

2.60.78 (32.63+28.15) Kirsten Moore-Towers, 19, & Dylan Moscovitch, 27, who won the Canadian title at their second attempt after teaming up in the spring of 2009, skated to Boursalino by Claude Boiling, dressed in black. The piece is very dance-y, suiting their upbeat personalities. They opened with their Level 1 triple twist which got an extra +0.40. That was followed by their solo triple toe loops which got a very slight negative, -0.20.

Everything else got positives, a +0.60 for their solid throw triple loop, +0.50 for their Level 4 Group 3 lift, and the same, +0.50, for their Level 3 forward inside death spiral. Their Level 4 straight line steps earned +0.70 and their Level 4 pair spin got +0.43. Moscovitch said, "We feel good about todayís performance. We went out and did everything we needed to do. But it wasnít our best short program weíve ever done. It wasnít as easy and smooth as we would have liked, but we worked through it and we got everything done and weíre happy with the outcome."

3.60.57 (30.77+29.80) Dan Zhang, 26, & Hao Zhang, 27, who are not related, placed second behind the current world champions in the Skate America Grand Prix two weeks ago. They lie a disappointed third. They opened their routine, set to A Transylvanian Lullaby, choreographed by Lori Nichol, with a great throw triple loop which so impressed four of the nine judges they punched in the maximum GoE of +3. The other five officials were almost as impressed, giving +2. For their Level 2 triple twist, the panel unanimously gave +2s.

But then he doubled instead of tripled their solo Salchows. Hao said, "We are not so pleased as I made a mistake, but the other aspects of the program were quite good. We hope to do better tomorrow." Their pair combination spin and their forward inside death spiral got Level 4 with +0.36 and +0.70 respectively. Their Group 3 lift was Level 3 with +0.71 and their straight line steps Level 2 with +0.50. They are back after a layoff of a year due to his injury.

4.60.00 (33.16+27.84 -1) Wenjing Sui, 16, & Cong Han, 19, are the twice world junior and Chinese senior champions. They performed in blue denim to Country Dance by Josh Turner. It was a lively, fun piece although she fell on their first element, their side-by-side triple toes. In their triple twist, they got Level 3 because she has an added difficulty, placing her arm over her head. They earned +1.40 over its base level. Their throw triple flip was excellent and it got +1.60. Their straight line steps were Level 2 and +0.43.The pair combination spin was Level 4 with +0.57. Their Group 3 lift gained Level 4 and got an extra +0.86 and their forward inside death spiral was rewarded with +0.70.

5.57.88 (31.39+26.49) Amanda Evora, who turns 29 on November 17, & Mark Ladwig, 31, were making their this seasonís Grand Prix debut. The twice runners-up for the US title, who were 9th and 11th in the past two world championships, opened well with a +0.40 Level 3 triple twist but they had problems on their side-by-side triple toes. Their pair combination spin was Level 4 with +0.29; the throw triple loop got +0.60; the Level 3 straight line steps got +0.50 as did their Group 3 lift. Their final element, the Level 3 forward inside death spiral gained +0.70 over its base value.

6.54.42 (31.91+22.51) Xiaoyu Yu, 15, & Yang Jin, 17, who train in Harbin with Bo Luan, interpreted Tchaikovskiís The Nutcracker. They have been runners-up for the national title for the past two years and they competed last week in Mississauga, in their first senior Grand Prix, finishing 7th. Last year they earned bronze in the Junior Grand Prix Final in Beijing.

They opened their routine with a beautiful triple twist which gained +2 from seven of the judges and +1 from the other two officials. Their triple toes were good enough to earn +0.70 over their base value and their throw triple loop gained +1.10 but their Level 3 straight line steps received only their base value. Their Group 3 Level 4 lift gained a marginal 0.14 extra. Their Level 3 forward inside death spiral was rewarded with a half point more than the base value. Their concluding element, the pair combination spin, was Level 2 and received plus 0.07 extra.

7.48.25 (26.68+21.57) Taylor Steele, 19, & Robert Schultz, 22, have been the fourth ranked Canadian juniors for the past two seasons. They are trained by Kristy and Kris Wirz in Kitchener Waterloo. They skated skated first of the eight pairs from five country, performing to music from Ennio Morriconeís soundtrack for Malena. Last year they were fourth in the Junior Grand Prix final. They got negatives on their Level 2 triple twist and side-by-side triple Salchows. Their throw triple Salchow earned its base value. Their pair combination spin was the top Level 4 but received only an extra 0.07. Their Group 3 lift received Level 2 with +0.21. Their Level 2 straight line steps got just the base value as did their Level 3 forward inside death spiral.

8.38.34 (20.28+20.28 -1) Klara Kadlecova, 16, & Petr Bidar, 20, performed to a Flamenco played by The Princesses of the Violin. They teamed up in January 2009 and were 14th and 8th in the world junior championships. In the world (senior) championship in Moscow in April, they were 15th. Their solo jumps were double Lutzes and their twist a Level 1 double twist. She fell heavily on their throw triple Salchow. As can be deduced from the marks, almost ten points lower than Steele & Schultz, they have a long way to go before they meet the normal standard for this event.


Day 1:  Men's Short Program

1.Artur Gachinski 81.64 (44.63+37.01) Performing seventh of the eight competitors, to The Saint Louis Blues, the 18-year-old, who trains in St. Petersburg with Alexei Mishin, made a sensational start with a combination of quad toe to triple toe. With the extra +0.86 GoE, he banked 15.26. His triple Axel gained +1.86 over its base value and the triple loop was rewarded with +0.70 extra. His first spin, the change foot combination got the maximum Level 4 with +0.43.

Then the blond-haired youngster showed he is human, not a robot, by messing up his sit spin which deemed only the very basic Level 1 by the Technical Specialist past US champion, world silver medalist and a great spinner, David Santee. (The base value of a Level 1 change foot sit spin is 1.90 while the base value for Level 4 is 3.0.) His circular steps and final spin, the flying camel, was Level 3. Gachinski won the bronze medal in his debut in the world championship in April. However, his lead is a minuscule 0.29 over the fourth ranked Japanese, who recently won the Nebelhorn Trophy.

He said, "It was quite a good performance today as I landed all my jumps. I had positive emotions and I did almost everything in my spins. I am very happy that it was a successful day for me."

2.Yazuru Hanyu 81.37 (44.93+36.44) is right on Gachinskiís tail, despite changing his routine. Skating to Etude in D Sharp Minor Patetico by Skriabin, he had -0.57 taken off the base level for his quad toe loop, which was originally meant to be a combination. But he tacked the triple toe loop onto his triple Lutz. Hanyu somewhat amazingly ended up with a +0.30 higher "elements" score, even though his triple Axel received 0.43 less GoE than the Russianís. The Japanese had two Level 4 spins, as opposed to Gachinskiís one, and his other spin was a Level 2 as opposed to Gachinskiís Level 1.

Hanyu, the 2010 Japanese and world junior champion, was 4th in the 2011 Japanese senior championship. He was practicing on the ice in his hometown of Sendei when the earthquake struck. The building shook so badly, he ran out without stopping to put on his guards on and ruined his blades. The rink sustained such water pipe damage it had to close. Hanyu had to go to another city to train. His home was damaged but not destroyed. Despite these problems, this summer he won the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany.

The 16-year-old, who will be 17 on December 7, said, "I did a quad today. That was good, but I had planned a quad-triple and I couldn't do it and I regret this a little."

3.Jeremy Abbott 79.32 (40.39+38.93), the 2009 and 2010 US champion, who was only fourth nationally this past season, performed an extremely interesting routine to Benny Goodmanís Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen and other pieces from the soundtrack of Swing Kids. The 26-year-old opened with a triple flip to triple toe loop but there was obviously some tension on the landing of the first jump. However, his triple Axel soared and he got an extra +1.43.

He only just managed to save the triple Lutz, a jump that is normally very solid for him, losing -0.10 on it. He admitted, "Today, I gave a shaky performance but I was happy to be on my feet. It's a fun program. It's great to finally start the season and now I have somewhere to go up from. My last competition was Four Continents in Taipei (where he earned the bronze) and itís been a long wait to get back in competition."

4.Nobunari Oda 77.65 (39.68+37.97), who was the ranking skater and performed last, opened his routine, set to Memphis Soul Stew, with a splendid triple Axel which two of the nine judges rewarded with the maximum +3 GoE and the rest gave +2. That was followed with a +1.30 triple flip to triple toe and a Level 4 flying camel spin that got only a minuscule +0.07. Then the 24-year-old was saddled with an "e" for wrong edge takeoff on his triple Lutz. His steps were Level 3 and his change foot sit spin Level 4, but his final move, the combination spin, was only Level 1.

Oda, who was the Japanese champion in 2009, has been runner-up nationally for the past two seasons. He was 7th in the Olympics and 6th in this yearís world championship, although in the 2010 worlds he had a meltdown in the SP and didnít get through to the FS, finishing 28th. He and his wife had a son, Shintaro, in October 2010.

5.Nan Song 72.72 (41.38+31.34) performed to Clint Mansellís Requiem For a Dream. The 21-year-old from Qiqihar, who trains in Beijing, was 22nd in his first world championship last April. He opened with a +0.14 quad toe to double toe followed by a better performed +1.14 triple Axel and +0.20 triple Lutz. All three spins earned Level 4. His straight line steps were Level 2.

6.Jialiang Wu 65.06 (37.35+27.71), the 3-time Chinese champion, who was only third nationally this past season, performed to Poeta en el Puerto by Vincente Amigo. The 26-year-old began with a +0.60 triple Lutz to triple toe and a +1.14 triple Axel. But his triple loop and two Level 3 spins received small negative GoEs. His straight line steps were Level 3 with +0.07. He finished with a base value Level 4 combination spin.

7.Kevin Reynolds 64.31 (31.36+32.95) has competed in the Canadian senior championships for the past six years being only 21 now. He won bronze in 2010 but was only fourth this past season and had a similar setback at Worlds, where he placed 11th in 2010 but only 20th this past April. He is the first skater to perform two quads (toe loop and Salchow) in the SP, which he accomplished in the 2010 Skate Canada Grand Prix. He has also landed a quad-triple-triple in competition (the 2008 Canadian nationals). Despite these feats, he has yet to medal in a Grand Prix event.

Here in Shanghai, Reynolds tried a quad Salchow to a triple toe but got an arrow on the first jump. That meant a full point was taken off the combinationís base value but he still banked 10.50. Then he nearly fell on his triple Axel which also got an arrow for slight under-rotation. The flying upright spin was Level 3 with +0.36. But his triple Lutz was saddled with an "e" for wrong edge takeoff. His remaining two spins and straight line steps received two Level 3s and a 2.

8.Richard Dornbush 62.93 (31.50+32.43 -1) fell on his first move, a triple Lutz, which was planned as a combination. He also messed up the triple Axel and failed to Plan B and add the missing triple trip to his triple flip. However, all three spins were Level 4 and the steps were Level 3. In his routine, set to The Fifth by David Garrett, he plays Beethoven. The 21-year-old was second in the last US championships, after being 11th in his debut, and was selected for the world team where he finished 9th, a good debut. Obviously this was a disappointment, since he had placed 4th in Skate America in Ontario, in his home state, California, only two weeks previously.

Pulling out too late for replacements to be named were former world champion Brian Joubert, who has a back problem, and the host countryís Jinlin Guan.


DAY 1:  Ladies Short Program

1.61.88 (31.44+30.44) Carolina Kostner of Italy, who now trains in Germany, established a marginal lead of 0.90 over Mirai Nagasu, with a less than perfect showing to Shostakovichís Allegretto from Trio No. 2. Wearing bright yellow with one shoulder and sleeve in green, she was solid on her opening triple toe to triple toe combination of jumps but nearly fell on her triple loop.

The 24-year-old admitted, "I am not completely satisfied with what I did today. At Skate America I got low levels on the spins, so I was concentrating a lot on the spins this week. I probably was more focused on the spins today than on the jumps." Her score in the SP in that competition was 60.23, which put her second. Although she won the FS in Ontario, CA, she lost the gold to Alissa Czisny by only 0.13.

In Shanghai in the SP, her Levels were the same as in California (two Level 4s and 3 for the layback and step sequence) but this time she gained much better Grades of Execution for these elements. However, in the FS in the US, she got Level 1s for two spins which cost her the title. "I donít want that to happen again," she said.

Kostner has had a very checkered career, doing badly in the Olympic Games (9th in 2006 and 16th in 2010) but soaring up to earn two world bronze medals, 2005 and 2011, and a silver in 2009. She has been European champion 3-times, silver medalist twice and bronze medalist once.

2.60.96 (31.75+29.21) Mirai Nagasu, the 18-year-old, who won the US title in 2008, when she was too young to go to Worlds, then plummeted to fifth nationally the following year, is struggling. She had a good Olympic season when she was 4th in the Games after placing second nationally but last season her third in nationals was not enough to get her on the world team. She has been fighting her way back but in Skate Canada was a disappointing fifth in both sections and overall.

In Shanghai, wearing maroon with a matching hair adornment on her bun, she opened her routine set to Danzarin by Tango Lorca, with a +0.90 triple loop, but her triple Lutz to double toe was given an "e" for slight under-rotation. All her spins were Level 4 and the steps Level 2. She explained, "Since I didnít do as well as I hoped last week, I was determined to do better here. For some reason, I am able to manage the jet lag to Asia quite well, but the time difference of only three hours from the Pacific to the east coast bothered me in Canada.

"There was a setback this morning with my boots. One of my heels started to break. Iíve seen that happen to other people, but it has never happened to me. They didnít have a drill, but we got an extra long nail screwed into it. I am glad that everything got fixed and I skated the best I could for where I am at right now. My only wish is I'd skated like that last week at Skate Canada. It was my goal to make the GP Final."

3. 53.74 (29.66+25.08 -1) Adelina Sotnikova, who turned 15 on July 1 which means she will be the age-eligible for worlds in Nice by a matter of a few hours, presented her routine to Ravelís Bolero, falling on her first move, a triple Lutz meant to be her combination, which was given an "e" for wrong edge takeoff. Thinking on her feet, she added a double toe loop to her triple flip, to make that the combination. Her spins were all Level 4 and the steps Level 3.

The current Russian and world junior champion said, "I am not pleased because I didn't do the big triple-triple combination I had planned, but I did another combination. Hopefully I'll be able to show everything I can tomorrow." She is trained in Moscow by Elena Vodorezova Bulianova, who was a skating child protťgť at the time when Kati Witt, Tracey Wainman and Elaine Zayak were also getting critical acclaim as child stars.

4. 53.09 (25.80+27.29) Kanako Murakami, Japan, the 2010 world junior champion, will turn 17 on December 7. Last season was her first at senior level. She won bronze nationally and then placed eighth in Worlds in Moscow. Skating to a violin piece called Muse, she was saddled with one arrow on the second jump of her triple flip to triple toe combination and a double arrow for her triple loop. All her other moves received positive GoEs, with two of her spins getting the maximum Level 4, and the layback Level 3. Her steps were Level 2.

5. 52.85 (31.47+21.38) Kexin Zhang, who turned 16 on October 10, is from the birthplace of Chinese skating, Harbin, but trains in Beijing. Her David Wilson choreography is set to Rachmaninovís Piano Concerto No.3. She opened with a combination of two triple toe loops earning an extra +0.80 over the base value. However, her triple Lutz was flawed. Two spins were Level 4 and the layback Level 3. Her steps were Level 3.

Zhangís showing is a benefit the host nation receives by being permitted three entries in the restricted overall entry of only ten singles. Although she has competed in junior Grand Prix events, this is her first senior international.

6. 52.61 (29.66+22.95) Bingwa Geng, who is from Qiqhar but trains in Beijing, was second in last seasonís nationals and placed 18th at Worlds. She skated to Michel Legrandís poignant The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, also created by David Wilson, completing a triple Lutz to double toe, and a triple toe with two Level 4 spins. All seven elements had positive GoEs.

7. 52.42 (26.46+25.96) Valentina Marchei, 25, took part in three world championships but that was in 2006-2008. She has begun training with Jason Dungjen and Yuka Sato at the Detroit SC. "I wish I had made this move years ago," she said after performing to two Mamboís referred to as Johnnyís and Ronnyís, from the movie Strictly Dancing. Her triple Lutz to double toe got -0.40 off the base value, but all her other elements earned their base value or better. In Skate America this season, she finished 9th.

8. 51.99 (29.34+23.65 -1) Christina Gao, a 17-year-old from Cincinnati who has placed fifth in the past two US nationals, skated to To Love You More by Lucia Micarelli, opening with an impressive +0.50 triple flip to triple toe. But then she fell on her double Axel and was given an "e" for her triple Lutz. Two of her spins were rewarded with Level 4. The layback was Level 3 and the straight line steps Level 2.

9. 45.90 (20.44+26.46 -1) Ksenia Makarova, whose parents won Olympic bronze for the Soviet Union in 1984, came to the United States before her teen years. She returned to Russia and won the national title in 2010. That season she was 10th in the Olympics. She placed 8th and 7th in the last two Worlds. However, in the recent Skate America Grand Prix, she finished only 5th. Skating to Ashramís Maria and the Violinís String, she messed her first two elements falling on the first jump of what was meant to be a combination of two of these jumps and almost falling on her second element, the triple loop which got a double arrow, meaning the jump was down-graded. She pulled herself together completing the double Axel, two Level 4 spins and Level 3 layback and steps, but it was not a good outing.

10. 35.28 (16.40+19.88 -1) Qiuying Zhu, who turned 17 on October 3, from Harbin, performed to Tchaikovskiís The Nutcracker falling on her triple Salchow meant to be combined with a double toe loop.


11/04/2011 DAY 1 THE COMPETITION BEGINS

There are two English newspapers available in my hotel. Only one, the 24-page broad-sheet Shanghai Daily, has mention of the event, with a photograph of Dan and Hao Zhang traveling with speed backwards holding with one hand in spirals, with about 120 words predicting the likely stars culled from the official ISU preview created so efficiently by Tatiana Flade. But, even though there are two Chinese couples, no mention was made of ice dance. Yet the place is crowded with very appreciative spectators, more than at Skate Canada and definitely more than in Skate America.

Competitors universally are praising the fact that there are so many non-stop flights to Shanghai. The journeys from Detroit, Toronto, Newark and Chicago were long but at least when you landed, you were in the area of town where the event is taking place, Pudong.

I am told the judges thoroughly enjoyed their opening dinner, a cruise on the river.

SHIBUTANIS and COACH PUZZLED OVER MARKS

The SHORT DANCE opened this third of the six Grand Prix events, with three US couples competing in the eight strong field from five countries. The result put a scowl on the face of ice danceís most famous coach. Igor Shpilband trains the worldís top three couples in Canton, Michigan, including siblings Maia & Alex Shibutani, who are, or rather were, the favorites in this Cup of China.

They are currently lying second, a substantial 7.94 marks behind the leaders, Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Russia, who were sixth in the past world championships when the Shibutanis won bronze. Bobrova and Soloviev were surprised to be in the lead, admitting they did not skate their best. She said, through a translator, "I just kept from putting my hand on the ice, which would have got a deduction. We definitely have skated better." They scored 65.73 (32.50+33.23).

Shpilband said, "I have no idea why Maia and Alex were given Level 1 for their (rotational) lift. It got Level 4 in Helsinki a few weeks ago." He was referring to the Finlandia Trophy in which the Shibutanis won silver behind the Olympic champions, Canadaís Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, whom he also coaches.

"There was nothing different," he maintained, although in Finland (Oct 7-9), even with the Level 4 lift, they earned only 58.45 (28.00+30.45) for this section, similar to their awards today.

Here in Shanghai, the Shibutanis, 17 and 20, were awarded 57.79 (27.71+30.08). "I thought we performed very well," said Alex Shibutani. However, in addition to the Level 1 for the lift, their non-touching steps earned only Level 2. Both parts of their Rhumba were Level 3 and their twizzles received the maximum Level 4.

They looked sophisticated, dressed all in black, with Maia in a one-sleeved concoction sprinkled with silver. They skated immediately after the Russians, to the music Batucada by DJ Dero; Skip to the Bip by Club des Belugas, and Jazz Machine by Black Machine, bringing this part of the contest to a close.

Bobrova, 21, & Soloviev, 22, have taken part in three world championships, finishing 13th in 2008, 8th in 2010 and 6th earlier this year. They executed Rhumbas with a Samba for the mid-section, receiving three Level 3s and two Level 4s.

22-year old Britons Penny Coomes & Nick Buckland, who train in the United States in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, with Evgeni Platov, performed in the first group but managed to overcome that disadvantage and lie a surprised third with 53.89 (28.85+25.04). They performed with great exuberance to El Bess del Findl sung by Christina Aguilera and Letís Get Loud by Jennifer Lopez. Their Rhumba gained Levels 3 and 2, their twizzles and the rotational lift were Level 4 and the non-touching steps Level 3. He cut a finger on one of his blades and came off the ice, bleeding. She was dressed in a gorgeous backless dress in gold and black. They finished 16th in their first Worlds earlier this year.

4. 52.41 (25.35+27.06) Pernelle Carron, 25, & Lloyd Jones, 23, represent France but are now training in the United States with Natalia Linichuk. Jones, as his name clearly indicates is Welsh. They performed to Sambas, with a Rhumba mid-section. They have placed 12th in the past two world championships

5. 48.36 (27.58+21.78 -1) Next on were the very experienced Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang, two 25-year-olds who are from Harbin but get choreography from Natalia Linichuk in Aston, PA. They made their international debuts in the Montreal and Scottsdale Junior Grand Prix events in 2002! Theyíve been at the Chinese nationals every year since 2001. They have been senior national champions three times and competed in the 2006, 2008 and 2010 Worlds. They presented a Cha Cha, Mambo and Rhumba but got a deduction for a feather falling off her costume.

6. 45.07 (21.73+27.58) Xintong Huang & Xun Zheng, both 24, who train in both Harbin and Beijing, and, as do their teammates, go to the United States for two months every summer to get choreography from Natalia Linichuk. They have also taken part in three world championships in the alternate years to their teammates, 2007, 2009 and this year, placing 21st, 22nd and 17th. They are the current national champions. They presented a Mambo, Rhumba and Samba.

7. 43.64 (22.51+21.13) The new pairing of Emily Samuelson & Todd Gilles opened the championship. This was their first international. They teamed together only in August after a "Change Partners and Dance" situation arose in which Samuelson's previous decade-long partner, Evan Bates, skated off into the sunset with Madison Chock. Gilles has had several partners and his younger sister, Piper, recently snagged current Canadian champion Paul Poirier. They will be eligible to represent Canada next season.

Samuelson, 21, and Gilles, 25, train in Ann Arbor with Jaroslava Nechaeva & Juri Chesnichenko. Their SD, set to Samba, Mambo and Samba was choreographed by Tom Dixon.

8. 40.26 (18.79+21.47) Charlotte Lichtman, 18, and Dean Copely, 22, who train with Shpilband in Canton, are delighted to be taking part in their first Senior Grand Prix. They are the current US Junior champions who were third in the World Junior championships this past season. "We know what top class skating is because we train with the best everyday," said Lichtman, who received Level 4 for both their twizzles and their straight line lift but only Level 1 for their Rhumba sections and the non-touching steps. They used Mambo No.5 for the beginning and end with Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps by the Pussycat Dolls.


11/03/2011 Day 0: CUP of CHINA, third of the six Grand Prix events held on successive weeks, starts tomorrow

This is the first international figure skating competition for Shanghai, a crowded city of 23 million. The city's population is exploding even though couples may not legally have more than one child, because of the surge of country folk flocking to make money in the cities.

The competition site is one of a flock of stadiums recently completed around an artificial lake connecting to the nearby Huangpu River. The skating is taking place in the Oriental Sports Center, which is also known as the Shanghai Aquatic Sports Center, on which construction started on December 30, 2008 and was completed in late 2010. After the World Swimming championships were held in July, the pool was taken out. This is the only event to be held here since then, although the world short track speed championship was held earlier in the year. 

The budget for building this huge complex of sports facilities was 2 billion yuan (over $300 million). Western advisors predict that the money has been unwisely used. They predict a similar fate for these architecturally impressive sites as has happened to the iconic Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing. The building, used for the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games, was universally praised for its ground-breaking design, but now sits empty with its only income coming from an entrance fee of $7 to get to the souvenir shop. 

The American team for the Cup of China comprises (Men) Jeremy Abbott and Richard Dornbush; (Ladies) Christine Gao and Mirai Nagasu; (Pairs) Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig; and (Ice Dance) Maia & Alex Shibutani, and Emily Samuelson & Todd Gilles.

Missing from the field is former world champion Brian Joubert of France, and the host country's Jiulan Guan. Both withdrew due to pain problems. 

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