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2013 NHK Trophy Short Programs

by Tatjana Flade

Davis & White Easily Dance To The Lead

World Champions Meryl Davis & Charlie White (USA) easily danced to the lead in the short dance. Everything else would have been a major surprise. Italy’s Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte came second while Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani (USA) are currently ranked third.

With “My Fair Lady”, Davis & White picked a fast paced, light-hearted music that suits their style very well. They were able to bring across the happy mood and combined that with their solid technique. However, the levels were not as good as at Skate America three weeks ago. The couple from Detroit had a level four for the second sequence of the Finnstsep and their rotational lift. The other elements were rated a level three. Davis & White collected 73.70 points, two points below their seasons best from Skate America. “Charlie and I feel really excited about the direction our short dance is taking. We have a lot of things we want to improve before the Grand Prix Final. But I think since Skate America we’ve really grown into the presentation of this program ,which is really what we were aiming for”, Davis said.

“It’s very simple just the levels. At Skate America we had level four for both Finnsteps and twizzles and here we had a level 3 on the Finnstep and twizzles”, White explained when asked about not achieving a seasons best. “We have to figure that out obviously. We don’t want to go backwards, but it felt good, that means a lot, too. This is still part of the building process when we figure out in which direction we need to go to make sure that we can get the levels and achieve that feeling that we were able to get today. But we are really happy with how we skated the program, and I think right now this is the most important thing”, he continued.

Cappellini & Lanotte delivered a characteristic Quickstep and Foxtrot to “42nd Street” and “Broadway Lullaby”. At Skate America they had earned a level four for all elements, this time three elements got the hightest degree of difficulty: the fast twizzles, the first Finnstep sequence and the rotational lift (anything else than a level four for a lift is disappointing for ny dance team). The Italian Champions scored 64.58 points. “It was kind of tough start in the warm up when I fell unexpectedly in the Finnstep. I guess that made us a little more nervous. There were a couple of mistakes and we left a few points on the ice, but in general we are proud of our short dance. We were able to bring a lot of fun and dance out there. It was not a perfect skate, but something we can build on”, Cappellini explained.

Shibutani & Shibutani chose three songs by Michael Bublé as they feel they have a special connection to them. The siblings achieved a seasons best with 63.09 points with a strong performance. “Going into this week our goal was to show improvement from Skate America. The performance felt really good and our Finnstep levels got better”, Maia Shibutani noted.

“This being the Olympic season everyone wants to pick music they can look back on later in life and remember. There is no story behind any of the Michael Buble songs, but in our selection, we were struck by how the lyrics connected to the story of Maia and Alex, our story. The past couple of years have been more difficult, I think it is safe to say, than our first year in seniors. That was kind of a magical year for us. Obviously we struggled through injury and various things. The first song that we use is “The best is yet to come”. We wanted to include it, because that’s kind of our mantra this year. We wanted to show that we are back”, Alex Shibutani elaborated.

Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov of Russia danced with a lot of emotion and character, but they ended up fourth since they only had level twos except for the lift. They now have 61.35 points. “We feel great about our performance. This was one of my easiest skates, it was very emotional and powerful, easy to skate. However, apparently we didn’t quite focus look at the technical score. This is upsetting, because we’ve worked so hard. But we will skate better and we will fight”, Katsalapov said.

Canada’s Piper Gilles & Paul Poirer finished fifth at 55.20 points ahead of Germans Tanja Kolbe & Stefano Caruso (52.39), who felt that they improved since their last competition.

Cathy and Chris Reed gave an upbeat performance but low levels kept them in seventh place (51.91 points). 2012 World Junior Champions Victoria Sinitsina & Ruslan Zhiganshin were left in last place with 44.34 points as she fell on the first keypoint in the Finnstep and basically left out the whole sequence. As a result, they had no level for this part.

Volosozhar & Trankov Skate to Confident Lead in Pairs Short Program

As expected, World Champions Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov of Russia lead by a wide margin after the Pairs short program at NHK Trophy. Wenjing Sui & Cong Han of China are trailing the Russians by almost 12 points. Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang, also from China, are sitting in third place.

Volosozhar & Trankov looked strong again in their “Masquerade Waltz” program, reeling off a high triple twist, triple toe and a throw triple loop. The death spiral, pair spin and step sequence were rated a level four. The couple from Moscow scored 82.03 points. “Today we did a good short program, although the feeling maybe wasn’t so comfortable in the last three elements. But we got a high score and we are happy with it”, Volosozhar said. “We didn’t aim for a record score. We just wanted to finish in first place and get to the Final”, Trankov noted. “Maybe we were holding back emotionally. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I was skating for a record”, he added.

It still was more than enough to hold off the competitors. Sui & Han performed also very well to “La Strada”. Their routine included big throws (throw triple flip, triple twist), a reverse lasso and a side by side triple toe. For this, the students of Olympic Champion Hongbo Zhao earned a new personal best score of 70.13 points. “It was a good short program for us and we did our best”, Han commented.

Peng & Zhang just had competed last week in Beijing and again were solid in their routine to “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”. The team landed a triple toe, triple twist and two level-four elements, but she touched down on the throw triple loop. The Cup of China bronze medalists collected 65.09 points and improved their personal best. “We had an error today, but we are in third place and got our highest score, so we are happy with that”, Zhang told the press. “We have been skating together for just over a year now and it was very hard, we had to work a lot”, he explained.

Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier (USA) finished fourth at 58.67 points. Their program to “Malaguena” was highlighted by a throw triple loop and a triple twist, but he landed forward on the triple Salchow (downgraded). Teammates Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir follow in fifth place with 58.60 points. He fell out of the landing of the triple Salchow while she two-footed the throw triple Salchow. Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers of Canada are ranked sixth as both crashed on the triple toe and she also fell on the throw triple Lutz (52.78 points). Japan’s new pairs team Narumi Takahashi & Ryuichi Kihara finished seventh. She did a three turn out of the triple Salchow and they had a few low levels (49.54 points). Anastasia Martiusheva &  Alexei Rogonov had a rough skate that left them in eighth place at 48.97 points. She doubled the toe loop and took a bad fall on the throw triple flip. She was bleeding from a cut in the chin, but the Russian team doctor confirmed that it was not a serious injury.

Takahashi Scores Personal Best to Win Men’s Short

Three weeks ago, Daisuke Takahashi of Japan skated rather poorly and finished off the podium. In the short program at NHK Trophy he proved that it is too early to write him off. The 2010 World Champion fought back with a stellar performance in his short program to take a 10.77 point lead over Javier Fernandez of Spain. Nobunari Oda of Japan came third.

Skating to “Sonatino for Violin” by Japanese composer Mamoru Samuragochi, Takahashi nailed a quad toe, triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe combination as well as two level-four spins and level-four footwork. With each jump landed, the crowd of more than 9,000 spectators at Yoyogi National Stadium roared. With 95.55 points he not only scored a new personal best but also now got the second highest score ever achieved in the Men’s Short Program. Patrick Chan tops the list with his 98.37 from the ISU World Championships 2013. “Today I’m extremely happy with my performance and I haven’t been that happy in a while. I never expected my score to be that high, I was surprised. But it wasn’t about the score, I wanted to regain my confidence (with this performance)”, the 27-year-old said. “After Skate America, I had time to sit down with my team. There was some harsh feedback and needed to understand what I have to do. I was able to get off to a fresh start”, he continued.

Fernandez finally debuted in competition this season (if you don’t count the free skating only invitational Japan Open where he participated) and presented his playful short program to “Satan Takes a Holiday” that suits his laid-back personality. The Spaniard stumbled out on the landing of his opening quad Salchow but he completed a triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe combination. The European Champion picked up a level four for all three spins and scored 84.78 points. “I had a little mistake in my quad, but I think this is a great start for me. It is my first Grand Prix and my first big competition this season. It was a great competition today”, Fernandez said. He added that he didn’t mind that he got the late Grand Prix events, but admitted that he was getting a little itchy to compete. “I did my short program in a small competition in Canada”, he said.

Like Takahashi, Oda improved from his first Grand Prix event, which was in his case Skate Canada. Skating to “Cotton Club”, the 26-year-old produced a triple Axel, triple Lutz and fast spins, but he underrotated the quad toe in his quad-triple toe combination. Oda earned 82.70 points. “I definitely wanted to avoid the same mistakes I did at Skate Canada. I know that the judges gave me an under-rotation and an edge call (on the Lutz) and those are definitely things I want to correct”, the skater from Osaka noted. “I haven’t skated in a while at NHK Trophy. It was great that I was able to control my tension and turn it into energy. I heard the audience cheering for me and that gave me a lot of energy as well.”

The following skaters are not far behind and a lot can happen in the free skating. Adam Rippon (USA) sits in fourth with 82.25 points. He decided not to do the quad Lutz for now, but went for a quad toe. He stepped out of the landing but landed a triple Axel and triple flip-triple toe combination in the second half of his “Carmen” routine. Japan’s Takahito Mura is currently ranked fifth. He stepped out of the back end of his quad toe-triple toe combination and touched down on the triple Lutz (79.97 points). Sergei Voronov of Russia reduced his combo to quad toe-double toe and finished sixth (79.80 points). Jeremy Abbott’s quad toe was not clean and downgraded, but he recovered with a triple Lutz-triple toe and triple Axel. Max Aaron landed a quad Salchow-double toe combo but missed the triple Lutz. He placed eighth at 76.21 points. Konstantin Menshov of Russia finally also fell on the triple Lutz but had a triple Axel and quad-triple toe combo.

Asada Claims Ladies Short

Mao Asada of Japan claimed the Ladies short program followed by teammate Akiko Suzuki. Russia’s Elena Radionova is currently ranked third.

Asada opened her program to a Nocturne by Frederic Chopin with a triple Axel, but had to fight for the landing. The program also featured a triple flip, triple loop-double loop combination as well as level four spins and footwork. The two-time World Champion picked up 71.26 points. “I really focused to skate like in practice and I think I improved from Skate America. After Skate America, I was able to work on my transitions and spins”, the 23-year-old said. She credited choreographer Lori Nichol with giving her a new vision to skating and being able not to just think about the jumps.

Suzuki skated last and put out an inspiring performance to “Hymne à l’amour”, the instrumental version of a famous song by Edith Piaf. However, the 28-year-old reduced her combo to triple toe-double toe and also wobbled on the triple flip. Suzuki collected points with her spins and footwork that were all graded a lavel four. The Japanese skater posted a new seasons best with 66.03 points. “My toe loop (combination) and my flip were not so clean, but I am happy with my interpretation. This is my third competition and also I controlled my nervousness, I still worried about my jumps and I think that was reflected in the performance today”, Suzuki said.

Tiny Elena Radionova showed guts in her program to “Anna Karenina”. When she put her hand on the ice on her opening triple Lutz she was unable to do her combination. But the World Junior Champion just tacked a triple toe onto her triple loop in the second half of the program. The double Axel could have been better, but the spins were fast and featured beautiful positions. The Moscow teenager scored 62.83 points. “Overall I’m pretty pleased with my performance although not everything worked out today as planned. I had to switch my combination and my coach encouraged me also to do it, I heard her shouting, go, go, from the boards. I think the triple loop-triple toe is a difficult combination and not many people are doing it.” She also explained that her coach was considering not to send her to NHK Trophy because of pain in her foot. “But I always wanted to come”, the 14-year-old stressed. “Once you have the chance to get to the Final, you should use it.”

Gracie Gold (USA) in fourth place scored exactly 62.83 points as well, but Radionova’s higher technical score (34.12 vs 32.55) broke the tie. Skating to “Three Preludes” by Gorge Gershwin, Gold produced a triple Lutz-double toe combination, but stepped out of the triple loop. Italy’s Valentina Marchei turned in a solid performance to the Italian song “Torno a sorriento”, completing a triple Salchow and triple Lutz-double toe loop combination (61.90 points). Satoko Miayahara of Japan underrotated the triple Lutz in her combination with triple toe to finish sixth at 58.39 points. Russia’s Alena Leonova fell on the triple toe-triple toe combination. She said she is not yet a 100 percent following her ligament injury that forced her out of Skate Canada. Mirai Nagasu (USA) stumbled on a cheated triple flip and underrotated the triple loop. She came eighth. Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia missed her triple Lutz attempt and is ranked ninth. Zijun Li of China was withdrawn following her poor performance at Cup of China the week before and was not replaced.

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