by Tatjana Flade
Pechalat & Bourzat Rally Back, Take Gold
France’s Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat rallied back in the free dance on Saturday at Lexus Cup of China to claim the gold medal. Overnight leader Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev of Russia dropped to second place and the bronze went to Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA).
Pechalat & Bourzat have been known for many years for their innovative programs, and this year’s free dance is no exception. The French chose the world famous story “Le Petit Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery as the theme for their dance the named “Le Petit Prince et Sa Rose” (The Little Prince and His Rose). “The free dance is always our strong point”, Bourzat noted. The 2012 World bronze medalists performed flawlessly and earned level fours for the twizzles, lifts and the spin. The Technical Panel with specialists Monica McDonald, Sylwia Nowak-Trebacka and controller Gilles Vandenbroeck rated the step sequences a level three. This is almost the maximum you can get in levels as a level four for the footwork is rather rare. Pechalat & Bourzat scored 102.08 points (not far off their personal best of 104.05 from Nice 2012) which added up to 165.68 points. “We are really happy to have won the third gold medal at the Cup of China, but at the same time we feel a little sad because this is our last season and the last Cup of China we will do. So it was a great pleasure for us to compete here”, Bourzat said.
Bobrova & Soloviev performed also very well to “Four Seasons” and “Lacrimosa”. However, technically they left some points on the table. One rotational lift was a level two, a curve lift a level three and only four elements were graded a level four. The reigning European Champions earned 97.72 points for the free dance and dropped one spot at 163.42 points overall. “As for our Free Dance, we probably just don’t have enough mileage on this program and we are not in top shape yet. We now will have some time to work before the next Grand Prix in Moscow”, Soloviev commented. He and his partner also explained the story of their dance: “We are birds, in fear and confused by a storm and trying to defend each other”, Dmitri explained. “In the middle of the program you hear a shot and I am dying”, Ekaterina added. The program is nice, but rather conservative.
Chock & Bates danced to “Les Miserables”, a rather bombastic choice for them. The Americans were technically solid and had the same levels as Pechalat & Bourzat. Their free dance merited 93.76 points and collected 150.53 points. “We are very pleased with our performance. We went in with a plan of attack and just to enjoy and put our best skate and I think that we did that. We are so excited about our first medal at the Grand Prix”, Chock commented.
Like their teammates, Pernelle Carron & Lloyd Jones of France improved in the free dance and moved up one spot to come fourth at 134.12 points. They skated to a modernized arrangement of “Swan Lake” that is probably not everybody’s taste. Jones, by the way, recently received French citizenship and now is eligible to compete at the Olympic Winter Games.
Two-time World Junior bronze medalists Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton (USA) showed a Bollywood program. They made no obvious mistakes, but had a few low levels that cost them. They dropped to fifth with 132.06 points.
All three medalists competed in their first Grand Prix this season. Pechalat & Bourzat’s next stop is the Trophee Bompard in Paris. Bobrova & Soloviev and Chock & Bates will compete against each other again in three weeks at the Rostelecom Cup of Russia in Moscow.
“Mermaid” Pogorilaya Snatches Ladies Gold
Anna Pogorilaya of Russia celebrated a very successful debut at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating when she came out of the blue to snatch away the gold medal from top seeds Adelina Sotnikova and Carolina Kostner.
Not many would have predicted the victory of the 15-year-old from Moscow, although she already had the cleanest short program. In the free she came back as “Mermaid”, skating to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” soundtrack. Pogorilaya is a dynamic skater with big jumps, and she hit them seemingly effortlessly: triple Lutz-triple toe, triple loop-single loop-triple Salchow as well as three more triple jumps. Her spins were a level four, what else. Funny enough, the only element she struggled with was the double Axel. She stumbled on the first one and popped the second one into nothing. The Muscovite was rewarded with gold and a total of 178.62 points. “Today I showed everything I can do and the judges apparently appreciated it”, the current World Junior bronze medalist said. Asked about the Axel she explained that she had trouble with it in practice and changed the set up. “I also think that maybe I was nervous or a little tired, therefore I popped”, she concluded. Anna is a bright girl and enjoys the spotlight. She loves competing, but admitted that she was nervous before the free skating. She hid it well.
Adelina Sotnikova didn’t follow up on her strong short. She already didn’t go for her triple Lutz-triple loop but played it safe with triple Lutz-double toe. Maybe she should have attacked instead of trying to defend her position. So she fell on a popped flip and later on a triple flip. Four clean triple jumps including a double Axel-triple toe combination remained. The 17-year-old dropped to second at 174.70 points. “Maybe I just got too nervous as I had to skate last and I had the chance to win. I tried not to think about it and I don’t know why the performance went wrong. But I don’t give up. I still have another Grand Prix and I will try very hard”, Adelina said.
Carolina Kostner usually has a slow start into the season, and this time was no different. Like in the short, she missed a triple toe and took a painful fall on her hip. Other points were lost when she doubled a loop and Lutz and under-rotated a Salchow just a triple flip-double toe, a triple Salchow-double toe-double loop combination were clean. The spins and footwork had level threes and fours. Her choreography on the other hand was exquisite in both programs. Although the 2012 World Champion was ranked second in the free skating, overall she finished third with 173.70 points. “I actually enjoyed performing tonight, although I had quite a bit of mistakes. Usually I make mistakes when I am nervous, but today I was not nervous. But that is how I learn every time I compete. Of course not very pleased about performance, but in the end I am in third place and I can go home with a smile”, the reigning World silver medalist noted.
Kanako Murakami only under-rotated one jump in her free skating “Papa Can You Hear Me” ( loop), but popped a flip and the double Axel. Four triple were fine and all spins had a level four. She remained in fourth place at 165.95 points. Nikol Gosviani from St. Petersburg made a few errors, notably falling on an under-rotated triple flip-triple toe combo, but moved up to fifth place at 152.04 points. Haruka Imai of Japan struggled again with underrotations and came sixth (150.30 points). Agnes Zawadzki (USA) started well with three triples into her Tango routine, but then the program went downhill. The skater from Colorado Springs fell on a triple Lutz, under-rotated another triple Lutz, doubled a Salchow and singled the Axel. She finished 7th (147.64 points). The three Chinese girls placed 8th to 10th. Kexin Zhang under-rotated three jumps. Xiaowen Guo at least landed six triples. Zijun Li was far from her best and faded to 10th and last place. She withdrew from NHK Trophy.
The Trophee Bompard will see a rematch of Pogorilaya and Sotnikova while Kostner’s next event is the Rostelecom Cup of Russia in Moscow in three weeks.
China’s Yan Triumphs in the Men’s Event
The newcomers Han Yan of China and Maxim Kovtun of Russia took gold and silver in what was the first senior level Grand Prix of their respective career. Takahiko Kozuka of Japan settled for the bronze.
17-year-old Yan won China’s first Men’s title at Junior Worlds in 2012. Now is continues his success at the senior level. He put out a strong free skate to a Waltz medley that featured a quad toe-triple toe combination and four more clean triples as well as three level-four spins. However, he stepped out of the triple Axel and doubled the loop. The skater from Harbin racked up 245.62 points overall. “I was nervous in my free skating today, maybe because I didn’t skate so late. I didn’t perform the complete program, it is very hard and I didn’t show all the difficulty yet. But I am very happy that the judges appreciated my program”, Yan said. He has strong skating skills and his choreography has improved this year after working with Lori Nichol.
Kovtun, who is considered a hot favorite of the Russian Figure Skating Federation, is gaining more consistency. He has been a strong jumper since he was a junior, but often was hot and cold in competition. The 18-year-old sat in second place after the short and was able to deal with the pressure. Performing to Peter Tchaikovki’s Piano Concerto No. 1, he reeled off two quadruple Salchows, two triple Axels as well as three more triples, but he doubled an intended quad toe loop. The music is a bit overwhelming for him, though. Kovtun won the free and placed second overall at 238.65 points. “To win the silver medal in my first senior Grand Prix is very valuable for me and a motivation to train harder and to win more competitions. I learned for myself that I have to work more on my second mark. Today it was already higher than yesterday and I skated more freely”, Maxim said.
Kozuka is still not in top shape. He crashed on an under-rotated quad toe and also on a triple flip in his long program to “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso”. He still pulled off five triple jumps including a good Axel, but he singled the second Axel. The 2011 World silver medalist accumulated 226.92 points. Although his result was better than at Skate America, he was very disappointed. “Today’s performance was the worst in my skating life. I am not injured or sick, but I need to concentrate more on my next competition”, he told the press. Right now he cannot be considered as a favorite for the Japanese Olympic team, but there is still some time before Nationals in December.
Denis Ten suffered from an infection and back pain in the past few weeks and had to withdraw from Skate America. But he wanted to come to the Cup of China no matter what. The reigning World silver medalist doubled his planned quad and like in the short popped a Lutz in his free skating. However, the program “The Young Lady and the Hooligan” has great potential. The skater from Kazakhstan placed fourth at 224.80 points. “I don’t regret coming here. It was good to compete at this level. A Grand Prix event is something different than a small competition”, Ten commented. Richard Dornbush took a hard fall on the quad toe and tripled the quad Salchow, stumbling out of it but then recovered to produced seven triple jumps, although some landings were a bit shaky. He was ranked fifth (218.57 points). Florent Amodio of France landed on both feet and under-rotated the quad Salchow, popped the second planned quad Salchow, but hit two triple Axels to finish sixth at 213.39 points. Germany’s Peter Liebers turned in a solid performance, but his quad toe was under-rotated. He remained in 7th place at 200.80 points. China’s Nan Song tripled his quad toe and had one combination too many. He finished 8th ahead of teammate Yi Wang.
Savchenko & Szolkowy Take Risks and Win
Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy of Germany overtook short program leaders Qing Pang & Jian Tong of China to take the 13th Grand Prix gold medal of their distinguished career. Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang were happy with bronze, their first Grand Prix medal.
The Germans attacked in the free skating with their triple toe-triple toe sequence, throw triple flip, triple twist and three level four elements, however she singled the Axel while he stumbled on a double and she also fell on their spectacular throw triple Axel in the last seconds of the program. The four-time World Champions also lost some points on the pair combination spin that once again garnered only the base level and two lifts were a level three. The team was still pleased with their effort in Beijing, especially considering that they never had done a full run-through of their demanding program with all elements in practice. They are skating to “Nutcracker” by Peter Tchaikovski. They never had skated to classical music before and coach and choreographer Ingo Steuer, this time in cooperation with David Wilson, created a beautiful program, a true fairy tale on ice. Once the Germans master all their difficult elements, they can fight for the gold in Sochi, although Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov look like the favorites right now following their strong season debut. Savchenko & Szolkowy scored 201.21 points overall. “The free program was a little better than the short program. This is our first competition and it is just one step to Sochi. After all we are satisfied. But we still can get a lot more points”, Szolkowy explained.
Pang & Tong as so often had trouble with the side by side jumps. He singled and Axel and doubled the toe in their lyrical free skating to “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables”. Their throws were fine, but like the Germans they had a few lower levels. The reigning Olympic silver medalists scored 194.38 points overall. “We skated like in training, but we had a few problems and we lacked energy”, Pang analyzed. “We didn’t feel so confident before the competition as it is our first one and this is hard for everybody. We are not at a 100 percent yet”, Tong added.
Peng & Zhang ’s free skating routine to “Yellow River Concerto” was highlighted by a quadruple twist. The throw loop and Salchow were big as well, but she reduced the combination to triple-single toe and they both did a double Salchow. The Chinese duo earned 187.19 points. “We are glad to have won our first Grand medal. We have been skating together for a little over a year only”, Zhang said.
The new Chinese team of Xuehan Wang & Lei Wang showed promise by finishing fourth. They made not many mistakes (172.35 points). Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim (USA) dropped one spot to fifth at 161.72 points. He struggled with the solo jumps, singling an Axel and doubling the Salchow while Scimeca fell on a throw triple loop after he threw her awkwardly.
Felicia Zhang & Nathan Bartholomay (USA) moved up from 8th to 6th place with a solid performance. Their only major error was her fall on the throw triple flip. Russians Anastasia Martiusheva & Alexei Rogonov struggled with several elements and he dropped her from a lift so that they slipped to 7th place. Daria Popova & Bruno Massot of France opened with a nice triple twist, but then made numerous errors to finish 8th.
The three medalists won’t meet again in their next Grand Prix events as Savchenko & Szolkowy will go to the Rostelecom Cup of Russia, Pang & Tong to the Trophee Bompard in Pairs and Peng & Zhang to NHK Trophy in Tokyo.
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