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2013 Rostelcom Cup

by Tatjana Flade

Free Skates

Lipnitskaia Edges Out Kostner for Gold

Russia’s Julia Lipnitskaia edged out Carolina Kostner of Italy for the gold medal by less than one point. As a result, Kostner didn’t qualify for the Grand Prix Final. The bronze medal went to Mirai Nagasu (USA).

Overnight leader Lipnitskaia skated last and maybe the pressure got to her. The Muscovite fell on her opening triple Lutz, something you see rarely happen to her in practice or in competition. The unusual error derailed her and the following double Axel was shaky, but the teenager recovered to land a triple flip-double toe, double Axel-triple toe and two more triple jumps and her spins were excellent as always. Especially at the beginning and the end of the program to “Schindler’s List”, Julia shows a new maturity in her skating. She scored 118.56 points and was ranked second in the free skating. She totaled 190.80 points and held on to first place by less than one point. “I am happy to qualify for the Grand Prix Final with two first places, but I am not satisfied with my free skating. That was one of my worst performances ever. I will have to change something in my preparation and try not to repeat something like this. I was very nervous and when the first jump didn’t work, I wasn’t able to pull myself together”, the 2012 World Junior Champion said.

Performing to “Scheherazade”, Kostner completed four triple jumps and picked up a level four for her spins. However, there were some errors that eventually cost her the gold: she stepped out of the triple loop and touched down on the triple Salchow and the triple toe was shaky. The choreography and the program are exquisite. The 2012 World Champion set a new seasons best for herself with 122.38 points, which added up to 190.12 points. “I am very pleased with how I skated. I had a few mistakes, that is how it goes building up to an important event. I am happy to see that I’m moving forward.” The multiple European Champion was a bit sad that she missed the Grand Prix Final, though. “It would have been nice to go there and to be among the top six in the World right now, but I have to accept the result as it is”, she noted. Carolina now probably will take part in the Universiade in Trento, Italy, in December. “Trento is only 45 minutes from my home and my grandmother might come and see me skating which doesn’t happen very often”, the Italian said.

Nagasu put out a solid performance in her James Bond program that included five triples and two double Axels. No triple jump was underrotated (only a double toe in a combination) and it looks like Mirai is headed into the right direction. She made a big step forward since NHK Trophy. The Californian picked up 114.93 points for the long program and accumulated 175.37 points overall. “I am really with the way I skated today. It’s a huge improvement from my last competition at NHK. I wish that I could have put two together and make it to the Final, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. I’d like to take it as a blessing in disguise, because I have more time to train for Nationals and focus on making the Olympic team there”, the 20-year-old pointed out. Coming back strong was very important for Mirai. “I was told by a couple of people at NHK that I need to really figure out what I want to do with my career. I hope that I showed them that I’ve actually been working really hard and NHK wasn’t my best performance, but I worked hard this week. I stayed in Japan and I worked hard to get here to Russia. Hopefully I showed people that I’m still very much committed to the sport”, she explained.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia fell on a triple Lutz and flip in her program to “Malaguena”, but she pulled off four clean triples and placed fourth with 171.87 points. She told the press that she has been suffering from back pain and even considered withdrawing before the event. In spite of the falls, she was rather pleased with herself. “I had fun and I skated with emotions. Our sport is like that, not everything is always happening for you. At least I skated without popping jumps. I can say that I gave a 150 percent”, the 16-year-old commented in the mixed zone.

Satoko Miyahara of Japan finished fifth at 165.76 points. Her Flamenco program “Poeta” was highlighted by a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, but a triple loop was cheated.

Agnes Zawadzki (USA) dropped from third to sixth at 163.21 points after numerous errors. Most of her triples were flawed and at the end of her Tango program she tired and doubled a Lutz and a Salchow.

After her disappointing short program, Japan’s Kanako Murakami pulled herself together and turned in a much stronger performance that included a triple toe-triple toe and four more triple jumps. She finished seventh (162.46 points). Nikol Gosviani from Russia had few shaky jumps and no triple-triple combination to finish eighth (157.17 points). Haruka Imai (Japan) fell on a Salchow and steppe ouf a loop and Salchow. She was ninth (145.30 points).

With two victories on the circuit, Lipnitskaia qualified for the Grand Prix Final like she had last year. However, last year she had dropped out with injury, so it will be her first time to compete in the Final. Kostner is only the second alternate for the Final with a silver and bronze medal from her events.

14th Grand Prix Gold Medal for Savchenko & Szolkowy

Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy of Germany claimed the 14th Grand Prix gold medal of their distinguished career. Their very first Grand Prix event was actually the Cup of Russia in 2004, and they took the bronze. The Germans never finished lower than third in any Grand Prix competition. Russians Vera Bazarova/Juri Larionov came second and Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch were third, like in the short program.

As soon as the first notes of Tchaikovski’s “Nutcracker” sounded in the “Small Sports Arena”, the audience started to applaud. Savchenko/Szolkowy gave a beautiful performance, but they made mistakes on the solo jumps: he doubled both jumps in the triple toe-triple toe sequence while she singled the Axel. Most of the other elements were strong – the throw triple flip, the triple twist, the lifts, spins and death spiral. Four elements merited a level four, two lifts a level three. After the hard fall in the short program, the team decided not to go for the throw triple Axel, but did the throw triple Salchow as the last element (she slightly two-footed). The four-time World Champions posted a new seasons best of 133.08 points and won with 206.33 points overall. “Today’s performance was a little better than the long program in our first Grand Prix Cup of China. That was our goal for this competition, to improve on some elements”, Szolkowy said. “I gave it my best today. I felt sore (from the fall in the short program), but I told myself, I’ll fight through it, I won’t give up”, Savchenko noted. She had realized that the audience applauded right at the beginning. “It was very nice, but also somewhat confusing. I thought, maybe we did something wrong”, she said, smiling. Pair skating has a long tradition in Russia and the knowledgeable audience expressed their honest appreciation of this team, which was really nice to see.

Bazarova/Larionov were much stronger than last week in Paris and also better than in the short. Skating to “Polovetsian Dances”, this time they landed their jumps – triple toe and a double Axel-double Axel sequence, if not in unison and somewhat wobbly. Their pair elements are of high quality, especially their triple twist, and they picked up a level four for two lifts and the side by side spin. This was another seasons best with 131.89 points, which added up to 201.61 points. „Concerning today, we are most of all happy that we were able to deal with our nerves and could put away all the thoughts we had after the unsuccessful short program. It was good that we worked together at the right time and with all the problems we had we tried to show everything and it’s good that we did”, Larionov told the post event press conference. Their relief was obvious. Larionov sported a beard, probably to fit better in his role.

Moore-Towers/Moscovitch’s program to “La Strada” featured a triple toe-triple toe sequence, a throw triple loop and Salchow, but she fell on the exit of their toe Lasso lift and also stumbled on the side by side triple Salchow. The 2013 Four Continents silver medalists scored 123.08 points and had 188.73 overall. “Our skate today definitely wasn’t an improvement on our first Grand Prix Skate America. We had a couple of weird things happen, but for the most part we were strong from the beginning to the end. Our skating skills are improving every time out. We are excited to have made the Final where we will have better performances”, Moore-Towers commented. She couldn’t really explain what happened on the lift, other that her foot suddenly slipped. “We forgot to land a couple of things”, the always funny Dylan noted.

Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov of Russia redeemd themselves after their subpar short program with an excellent free to “Addams Family”. They made no mistake and got a level four for their lifts and spins. Their side by side jumps look really solid and their throws have a nice quality. Even the twist, always their weakest element, has improved. The 2012 European bronze medalists moved up from sixth to fourth place with 188.10 points.

Teammates Julia Antipova/Nodari Maisuradze produced a quadruple twist. The catch was a bit flawed, but the element was still impressive. She doubled the side by side Salchow and the death spiral and combo spin were rated a level one, but the students of two-time Olympic Champion Artur Dmitriev made no real mistake in their routine to “Money” and “Great Gig in the Sky” as well as “Back to Black” by ACDC. The team from Moscow was ranked fifth at 181.50 points.

Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim (USA) came sicth with 173.70 points. At least he went for the triple Salchow this time even though he touched down, but he popped the Axel. The pair elements were nice, including the triple twist, lifts and two triple throws.

Lindsey Davis/Rockne Brubaker (USA) and Narumi Takahashi/Ryuichi Kihara of Japan made some errors and in general are not yet at the highest level. They finished seventh and eighth. The Technical Panel called one lift of the Americans a level two and it received no value.

Savchenko/Szolkowy qualified for the Grand Prix Final and so did Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, who had a silver and a bronze medal from their events. Bazarova/Larionov didn’t make it with a second and a fourth place.

Machida Takes Second Grand Prix Gold of the Season

Tatsuki Machida of Japan took his second Grand Prix gold medal this season. Russia’s Maxim Kovtun dropped to second after a few errors. Top-seeded Javier Fernandez held on to the bronze medal. Overall there were many mistakes in the Men’s event.

Machida was looking forward to present his “Firebird” to the Russian audience and they did appreciate his interpretation, although the performance wasn’t perfect. Machida wobbled on his opening quad toe but then hit a quad-double toe combination, a triple Axel-triple toe and four more triple jumps. He did step out of the second triple Axel, though. Two spins and the step sequence were rated a level four and the Skate America Champion scored 172.10 points, not far from his seasons best. Machida accumulated 257.00 points overall and pulled up from second to first place. “I am so happy to have I got first place and a spot in the final. There is not much time before the Grand Prix Final, so I have to start working soon. I am still not in a good condition and today I showed only about 40 to 50 percent of what I wanted to show. I landed the jumps, but it cost too much energy”, Machida explained. He is a very elegant skater with beautiful skating skills and interesting choreography. The gap in the component score between him and Kovtun was too small.

Skating to Tchaikovski’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Kovtun crashed on his first quad Salchow and then doubled the second before landing a quad toe and triple Axel, but then stumbled on the second Axel and singled the Lutz. The student of Tatiana Tarasova and Elena Vodorozeova earned 147.81 points which added up to 240.34 points. “I am absolutely not pleased with my performance. It is a shame, because I put in so much work when I look back. The coaches are upset and don’t know what the problem was. Maybe it started with the first mistake when I fell. I felt exhausted and I didn’t have any speed going into the second quad. I need more stamina in order to skate with more confidence”, the 18-year-old said.

Fernandez didn’t have a great day either. He went for all three quads, but none of them was clean (step out on the toe, bad stumble on the first and a fall on the second Salchow), and the Spaniard also missed the triple Axel and did an extra combination. The program to the “Peter Gunn” soundtrack is similar in style to the short program, going into the jazzy and fun direction. It is a good choice again, but there is some work left to do as the European Champion knows. He earned 145.12 points and with 226.99 points in total managed to held on to third place. “Today it was another hard day for me. I guess, I’m saving it for the next competition. My goal was to go to the Final, it’s not going to happen now, because I didn’t skate well here. I’m going to take something positive out of it - I got extra weeks to train and to focus on what I have to improve”, Fernandez said.

Konstantin Menshov of Russia once again came close to a medal, but finished off the podium in fourth with 223.03 points. He pulled off a nice quad toe that got even a +3 from three judges, but tripled the second planned quad and put down his hand on the triple Lutz. But he also landed atriple Axel-triple toe, triple Axel and two more triples and earned a level four for two spins. He had kept is program to music by René Aubry from last season.

Richard Dornbush (USA) performed much better than in the short program. The Californian fell on the quad Salchow, but at least he rotated it, and he hit six triples in his Beatles Medley to move up from seventh to fifth at 215.45 points. He was even ranked second in the free skating.

Russia’s Artur Gachinski struggled again with his quad toe. He crashed on the first attempt and then just did a triple for the second planned quad toe. A triple-triple combo was missing in action and he stepped out of his first triple Axel. As a result, he dropped from fifth to sixth (211.49 points).

Peter Liebers of Germany fell on his quad toe and a triple Axel. He landed four clean triples and finished seventh (197.65 points). Uzbekistan’s Misha Ge remained in 8th place with 190.28 points. He missed both triple Axels (the second was downgraded) and got a deduction for using music with lyrics. He skates to a medley of dance music, starting with a Tango by Gotan Project, into Rhumba d’Amour and Electro Swing and ending with the Rock’n’Roll “Tutti Frutti” - this is where the lyrics are.

Machida advanced with two victories to the Grand Prix Final and Kovtun qualified with two silver medals.

Gold for Bobrova & Soloviev

Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev of Russia took the gold in the dance event, but the victory wasn’t as clear as they had hoped. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje of Canada won the free dance portion and got the silver medal while Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) clinched the bronze.

Bobrova/Soloviev’s “Birds” program to music from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and Mozart’s “Lacrimosa” was highlighted by their difficult and nice looking lifts and strong twizzles. These elements were graded a level four as well as the spin. The Russian Champions picked up a level two and three for the step sequences. Bobrova slipped and fell on a transition move, but was back into the program instantly so that the mistake didn’t really affect the performance. But the program as a whole is not as strong as their program last year. The concept and the music are a disappointing conservative choice. It is a shame. This team has progressed so much under Alexander Zhulin and Oleg Volkov, but for the Olympic year, the coaches resorted to a classical “Russian” program from like two decades ago. The shot in the middle (when the “Bobrova bird” gets shot) and the noise at the end (that apparently should be the desperate croaking of the “Soloviev bird”) are rather tacky.

The European Champions were ranked second in the Free Dance with 99.90 points, but thanks to their big lead from the short dance won the event with 168.32 points. “Too bad about the fall, this was terrible. But aside from that it was a great skate and we enjoyed it. We have always to skate with these emotions, but we need to be a bit careful to control them. The levels were better than in our first competition, just the circular step sequence was second level, probably this was an effect of the fall”, Bobrova said.

Weaver/Poje performed an authentic Tango to “Maria de Buenos Aires”. Their lifts are always impressive, but also their footwork was very smooth. This program looks refined and has a lot of passion. One might argue that a Tango is not an original choice, but this program is so well done and there is so much attention to detail that it captures the viewer right away. The Canadians really get into character and no wonder their performance was very well received by the capacity crowd in the Small Sports Arena. Five elements merited a level four and three elements a level three. Weaver/Poje scored 101.64 points which added up to 168.32 points overall. “Andrew and I are very pleased. It was a personal best skate for us, not a personal best score, but we are very happy that we came back strong and fought today. We are happy that the audience felt we skated the best today. The support was incredible, that helped us to perform very well”, Weaver told the press.

Chock/Bates gave a strong performance to “Les Miserables” and had five level-four elements. The Americans set a new seasons best with 95.57 points for themselves and overtook Russia’s Ekaterina Riazanova/Ilia Tkachenko to take their second Grand Prix bronze medal with 153.37 points. “Maddie and I a really happy with the week as a whole, especially with our two performances. I think that this is our best competition to date. Our next event is U.S Championships, which will be our most important event and Olympic qualifier for us. We use this (competition) as a stepping stone for our preparation for that competition”, Bates said.

Riazanova/Tkachenko danced also very well to “The Godfather” and had almost the same technical element score as Chock/Bates, but lost about two points in the component score against them and therefore dropped to fourth with 152.36 points.

Ksenia Monko/Kirill Khaliavin, also from Russia, finished fifth at 145.92 points. They take the roles of mimes in their dance to music by René Aubry and had a seasons best in the Free Dance. Like Riazanova/Tkachenko, they earned the almost the maximum on levels – level fours for everything except the step sequences that were a level three.

Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier turned in an interesting program to the “Hitchcock” soundtrack that was highlighted by innovative lifts and spin positions. But the Canadians lost a few levels and he wobbled on the twizzles and so they remained in sixth place (134.66 points). Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron of France skated much better than in the short dance and made no error. However, the step sequences were only rated a level one and two (124.27 points). Ukraine’s Siobhan Heekin-Canedy/Dmitri Dun gave a solid performance to “Tango de Roxanne” but they are somewhat pale compared to the other teams (123.57 points).

Bobrova/Soloviev and Weaver/Poje will meet again soon in the Grand Prix Final. Chock/Bates didn’t make it with their two bronze medals.

Short Programs

Lipnitskaia Earns Lead in Ladies Short

Russia’s Julia Lipnitskaia earned the lead in the Ladies short program as Rostelecom Cup kicked off Friday in Moscow. Second-placed Carolina Kostner of Italy trails the leader by 4.5 points. Agnes Zawadzki (USA) came third. The top three picked up a new seasons best.

Lipnitskaia confirmed with her strong outing her performances from Skate Canada and Finlandia Trophy earlier this season. Her strengths are her consistency even with the most difficult elements as well as her flexibility that allows her to do almost acrobatic spins. But this year the 15-year-old also has added more emotions to her skating and improved her presentation skills. Choreographers Ilia Averbukh and Elena Maslennikova gave her excellent programs that suit her more introvert personality but at the same time help her to connect much better to the audience than before. The short is set to “You Don’t Give Up on Love”, a very famous, romantic song in Russia. The technique was superb: Lipnitskaia seemingly effortlessly produced a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, a triple flip, double Axel and the above mentioned beautiful spins (that probably would be a level five if that existed) to score 72.24 points. That was also a new personal best. “Today for the first time ever I skated calmly. Usually l am very nervous, and I was nervous before I skated, but once I stepped on the ice this time I was absolutely calm. My goal is as always to skate clean. You should never think about scores, you have to do job and then the score will come”, Julia said. Self-critical as always she felt that she still could do better: “Maybe not in the execution of the elements, but I could up the difficulty of the program by putting more jumps into the second half”, she explained.

Kostner felt the magic of the Moscow ice as well. The Luzhniki “Small Sports Arena” is familiar to her as she competed at the 2005 World Championships. “This was the practice rink, I competed there (at Worlds). It is an honor still to be able to skate. It feels very special (the Moscow ice)”, the 2012 World Champion said. Carolina skated much better than at her first Grand Prix event in China, she landed her triple toe-triple toe combination, a triple loop and double Axel in her routine set to “Humoresque” by Anton Dvorak. Two spins and the footwork were a level four and the layback spin garnered a level three. The European Champion picked up 67.74 points for her effort. “I actually really enjoyed performing. As soon as I stepped on the ice, I felt a pleasure being here”, Kostner said.

Zawadzki shared the feeling of calmness with the top two Ladies and put out a solid program to “Sex and the City” with a triple toe-triple toe combination and a triple Lutz to earn 60.45 points. “I’m so happy with the way competed today. I finally feel like I was myself and I competed what I do in training. I have been struggling with my confidence, but since yesterday when I stepped on the ice felt myself again. I was so easy going and calm. I’m happy to be back (to Moscow), this is my fourth time here and I really love it”, the skater from Colorado Springs commented.

Mirai Nagasu improved as well much over her first Grand Prix event, the NHK Trophy. The Californian now does a triple toe-triple toe combo (instead of the triple flip-double toe) and it worked, as did the triple loop. But she lost points on the change foot combo spin that merited only a level one. This made the difference between her and Zawadzki as the two are almost tied. Mirai got 60.44 points and is in fourth place.

Russia’s Elizaveta Tuktamysheva had rough practice sessions but was able to stay on her feet in her Latin Medley program. She played it safe with triple Lutz-double toe (instead of her usual triple-triple) and stepped out of the triple loop, but all spins were a level four. Lisa finished fifth at 60.16 points, very close to the podium as well.

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara had a shaky landing on the triple Lutz and added a double toe for her combo. Her triple flip looked underroated, but she got full credit and scored 56.57 points.

Nikol Gosviani of Russia fell on her triple flip-triple toe combo and also doubled the Lutz to place seventh (50.21 points). Haruka Imai stumbled on the triple Salchow and switched her combo to the loop, but it was only with a double toe instead of the planned triple toe. She also went down in the footwork. She is currently ranked eighth at 49.55 points. Teammate Kanako Murakami had a bad day she popped her combination into double toe-double toe (landed forward on both feet on top of it) and also underrotated the triple flip (49.24 points).

Kovtun Leads Men after Short Program

To the delight of the home crowd, Maxim Kovtun skated to the lead in the Men’s short program. Tatsuki Machida of Japan sits second, trailing the Russian by 7.63 points. European Champion Javier Fernandez of Spain came third.

Kovtun not only confirmed his performance from Cup of China but topped it. He pulled off the quadruple Salchow-triple toeloop combination, the quad toe, triple Axel and didn’t fall in the step sequence in his Flamenco program. He was rewarded with a personal best score of 92.53 points. "I am very happy today with my performance, everything I planned worked out. But I still can skate better than that. I am waiting with impatience for each competition and for the off-season to work more on my skating in order to get a higher component score. I am still lacking in this area”, the 18-year-old said. He also added, grinning, that apparently his component score is directly linked to landing the quads. Indeed, the components were rather high. It was a strong performance, no doubt, and he also skated the program better than in China, but the component score shouldn’t have been higher than Machida’s (which it was, if only slightly).

Machida stumbled on the back end of his quad toe-triple toe combination, but nailed the

triple Axel, triple Lutz and earned a level four two spins and the step sequence. With 84.90 points, he remained well under his personal best from Skate America and the performance wasn’t as magical either. “I am not in the best condition right now and considering that I am happy with how I performed. I am just not feeling very well and I am still trying to find out what it is”, the Japanese skater revealed. “I am looking forward to perform my free skating to “Firebird” by Russian composer Igor Stravinski tomorrow in front of a Russian audience”, he added.

Fernandez looked a bit better than at NHK Trophy, but he still made mistakes in his jazzy program to “Satan Takes a Holiday”, falling on the quad Salchow and reducing the combo to triple Lutz-double toe. The triple Axel was good and one spin merited a level four. The reigning World bronze medalist picked up 81.87 points. “My short program wasn’t the best one again. I have some little problems with the quad and I keep working to fix them. I have to keep my mind clear for the warm up and competition to pull out a better program”, the reigning World bronze medalist explained. He also talked about his music choice: “We decided this because it is kind of fun and we wanted to do something different in an Olympic year. The skaters usually go with a different kind of song in the Olympic year and we wanted something happy.”

Konstantin Menshov of Russia ranked fourth at 72.43 points. He pulled off a triple Axel and a somewhat shaky quad toe-double toe combination, but again had a problem with the Lutz. This time he didn’t fall, but he doubled it. “I botched the Lutz again and I am really upset about it. I couldn’t skate properly in warm up or in practice”, Menshov admitted. “I didn’t do a single good Lutz in practice here.” He came in as a replacement for Evgeni Plushenko, who withdrew last week citing a knee injury, but Menshov didn’t feel he was unprepared, although he originally didn’t plan to compete here. Teammate Artur Gachinski follows just behind him in fifth at 72.18 points. He crashed on the quad toe and did a triple Lutz-double toe only, but the triple Axel was good. He also fell on a pose in the middle of the program. “Emotionally, the performance was so strong that I couldn’t hold it together and fell on nothing”, Gachinski said. “I managed the triple Axel and the Lutz, but I fell on the quad. I thought I would do the toe, because I am ready for it, but then I did it on my backside”, he added.

Germany’s Peter Liebers fell on an underrotated triple Axel and finished sixth (65.38 points). Richard Dornbush (USA) doubled his planned quad Salchow and took a hard fall on the triple Axel. To top it off, he did double Lutz-triple toe for his combination and is now in seventh place (63.74 points). Misha Ge of Uzbekistan also missed the triple Axel and the triple flip-triple toe was downgraded (63.23 points).

Joshua Farris (USA) withdrew from the competition following the morning practice. He had sprained his right ankle in practice on Thursday.

Savchenko & Szolkowy Win Pairs Short

Germans Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy won the Pairs short program in spite of a bad fall on the throw triple Axel. Vera Bazarova/Juri Larionov of Russia and Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch follow in second and third as well and also made errors.

Savchenko/Szolkowy’s lyrical program “When Winter Comes” started very well with a triple twist and a solid side by side triple toe. The pair elements lift, pair spin, death spiral and footwork merited all a level four and were very well executed. The throw is the next to last element and Savchenko fell really hard. She had tears in her eyes while waiting for the score in the Kiss Cry. The four-time World Champions got a seasons best with 73.25 points. Aliona came late to the press conference and cooled her hip with ice. “I am very sad (about missing the Axel). But tomorrow is a new day and we’ll try to make the best out of it”, she said. “I hope Aliona will be okay for tomorrow”, her partner noted. When asked if she’ll be okay to skate the free, Savchenko answered. “We’ll see”. Aside from the fall the program was definitely better than at the Cup of China three weeks ago, as Szolkowy confirmed. “Our skating today was a lot better than our last competition in China, and that was our goal for today. As everybody could see we had a bad fall on the throw. It is a risky element”, he said.

The Germans should really reconsider if it is worth the risk, especially in the short program. Their throw triple flip is usually excellent and gets them high GOEs, plus the program components suffer from the throw triple Axel as well, not just, because it went wrong, but also because they slow down going into it and it almost looks separate from the rest of the program.

Bazarova/Larionov went into a new direction with their Charlie Chaplin inspired short program to “Titine” from the “Modern Times” soundtrack. They overall performed better than in Pairs last week and completed a triple twist, throw triple flip and also got a level four for four elements, but he doubled the side by side toeloop while she stumbled on a triple. The 2012 European silver medalists collected 69.72 points, a season best score. “Compared to (the Grand Prix in) Paris (last week) we were able to fix the mistake on the death spiral. We had lost a level there, now we changed the entry and got the maximum level for all elements. The first jump didn’t happen for both of us. It is very upsetting, because it worked in training and in the warm up. Tomorrow we’ll try to fix our mistakes”, Bazarova said.

Moore-Towers/Moscovitch’s playful program to “Motley Crew – Mic Mac” featured a triple twist and throw triple loop and a beautiful level-four Axel Lasso lift, but he crashed on the triple toe. The Canadians scored 65.65 points. “I think I was working on some yoga poses on the landing (of the triple toe). The ice was a little bit slippery”, Moscovitch joked. “We’ve been skating all week, we haven’t missed anything. It happens, that’s skating. The rest of the routine felt very good, aside from the mistake I think we did everything quite well”, he added.

Russia’s Julia Antipova/Nodari Maisuradze turned in a solid performance to “Beethoven’s Five Secrets” by The Piano Guys to come fourth at 62.87 points. Their triple twist has enormous height and they can do even a quad (which they plan for the free skating).They also landed a throw triple Lutz, side by side triple toe (her landing was somewhat tight) and a level-four Axel Lasso lift. This is a relatively new team and competes in their first Grand Prix event. “Basically I am happy with the performance, because it is important that Julia overcomes her fears. She only started skating pairs last year. This year she slowly understands and gets into it. The next competition will be better”, Maisuradze told the press.

Americans Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim are currently ranked fifth. Skating to “Papa Can You Hear Me”, they completed a triple twist and throw triple flip, but he doubled the side by side triple Salchow (59.56 points). Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov of Russia had an off day. They brought back the triple twist (which was better than ever before) and hit the side by side triple toe, but then the program went downhill. She fell on the throw triple flip and they both fell on the death spiral that got no level. They are standing in sixth place (57.20 points).

Lindsay Davis/Rockne Brubaker came seventh as she stumbled on the triple Salchow and their death spiral received no value (51.59 points). Japan’s Narumi Takahashi/Ryuichi Kihara placed eighth. She struggled on the landing of the triple Salchow and throw triple Salchow (48.64 points).

Bobrova & Soloviev Lead by Almost Seven Points after Short Dance

Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev of Russia danced to a surprising big lead of almost seven points over Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje in the short dance. Russia’s Ekaterina Riazanova/Ilia Tkachenko are currently ranked third.

Bobrova/Soloviev delivered a strong performance to “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “I Will Wait For You” as well as “Swing Baby”. Their dance had more flow and character than at the Cup of China and the Russians picked up a level three for both Finnstep sequences and the side by side footwork. The twizzles and the straight line lift were rated a level four. The World bronze medalists scored a seasons best with 68.42 points. “Today, before we took our starting pose, I told Katia, that we aren’t just going to skate, we are going to dance. We did that and we were actually talking to each other during the performance, there were moments like Katia said, ‘chasse’ and I said, ‘great’. We did that for the first time and I think it helped us to skate with emotions and power”, Soloviev shared.”Indeed, it was a special feeling and we pushed each other through”, Bobrova agreed. It was also special to them to perform in front of a home crowd and of their friends and relatives that rarely get to see them skating live.

Weaver/Poje’s dance to “42nd Street” looked crisp and smooth, but they got dinged by the Technical Panel (controller Katalin Alpern, ISR, Technical Specialist Michael Webster, GBR and Sylwia Nowak-Trebacka, POL) for their elements: a level one and two for the Finnstep pattern, level two for the curve lift. As a result, the Canadians scored 61.50 points, about 9 points below their seasons best from Skate Canada. Even if you think that the scores at their home event were somewhat inflated it is still hard to believe that their performance was so much weaker – it certainly didn’t look weaker at all and the skaters themselves felt that it was at least as strong as at Skate Canada. “Andrew and I were actually very happy with our performance. We felt like we performed like we do it at home and it felt strong. Unfortunately it wasn’t really reflected in the technical score, but it’s no surprise, because the Finnstep is a difficult dance and we’re going obviously keep working. We hope to get to the Grand Prix Final and skate strong there”, Weaver said. “We went out there and put out what we practice. We just came short on some levels so we need to work on that. To be honest we felt that parts of the program were stronger here than they were in Canada. So seeing the marks we were a little surprised with what we received. We just have to go back and look at the feedback from this competition to figure out what exactly is different that they’re looking at here that they were from previous competitions. A different eye sees different things”, Poje explained.

It is unfortunate when the Technical Panels judge so differently. Obviously skaters don’t perform the elements exactly the same way in each competition, and aside from obvious mistakes an edge might be better or worse here and there. The skaters mostly know that themselves and admit it. However, this panel here found hardly any keypoints were met – and these were couples that in their previous competitions (with different panels) got higher levels especially in the Finnstep and they didn’t perform poorly in Moscow. Nobody got a level four and the only team to get at least a level three for both sequences was Bobrova/Soloviev. The credibility of the sport suffers from this kind of judging.

Riazanova/Tkachenko as well had only two level twos on their Finnstep. “Apparently the different panels have a different point of view of how the keypoints should be performed”, commented Tkachenko. Their lively “Chicago” routine was highlighted by twizzles and a rotational lift. The Russians scored 58.59 points. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) placed fourth with 57.80 points. They had a level three and one for the Finnstep and just a level one for their rotational lift, but still got a seasons best. Ksenia Monko/Kirill Khaliavin of Russia are ranked fifth (55.83 points) and Canadians Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier came sixth (51.14 points) ahead of Ukraine’s Siobhan Heekin-Canedy/Dmitri Dun (45.00). Gabriella Papadakis/ Guillaume Cizeron of France didn’t skate well. He was off balance on the twizzles (level 2), the Finnstep wasn’t great either (level 1 and 2), the side by side circular footwork was level one only and on top of everything he fell in the closing pose (44.49 points).

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