by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
In the pairs competition there were only three teams because the 2019 World and 2020 Four Continents Champions Wenjing Sui & Cong Han withdrew. Han told the Chinese News Agency that he is in recovery from a hip joints surgery he underwent in April. “We had planned to come back at the Four Continents Championships. But as the Cup of China is held on home soil, we thought for a while of the possibility of competing in Chongqing. However, we finally decided not to be in a hurry," he explained.
Their teammates Peng Cheng & Jin Yang won the gold medal with 223.90 points and a huge difference to the two other teams. They had been 17th at the Olympic Games of 2018, ninth at the World Championships in the same year and 4th at Worlds 2019. They and all other Chinese pairs are head coached by former Olympic Champion Hongbo Zhao. He had said some days before, "Although the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on our training plans, generally speaking, everything is going smoothly. The Cup of China is like an exam.“
Chang & Yang opened their short program to the soundtrack of “Somewhere in Time“ by John Barry with a side by side triple toe loop, but Cheng fell on this jump which was a bit under-rotated. All other elements were excellent, including the triple throw loop and the triple twist with an brilliant catch. Five of them had at least one GOE of +5, the throw loop even from four of the five Chinese judges. This routine was choreographed by Canadian ice dance coach Marie-France Dubreuil and their components had an average of 9.1.
Jin commented, “This is the first time we competed this new short program and overall we are satisfied with it. We did it only two months ago and we still continue to make some changes. After almost one year not competing, we are not that familiar with the competitions. Even though we had a test skate, it still feels different here. Peng said that I did not skate that well today, we did lots of effort back home practicing for those elements. That’s why it’s competition, anything could go wrong, so we will just try to do better one competition by one. Both of us liked the music and it’s the style that we haven’t tried before.” Peng added: “I am not so happy about my jump as I made a mistake. We have worked a lot on the jumps and this mistake has not happened in a long time.”
Their romantic free program to three pieces from the soundtrack of “Cloud Atlas“ was choreographed by Lori Nichol. Their first element was an excellent side by side triple Salchow, followed by a combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop, but Chang doubled the first one. All other elements were stellar, the triple throw loop even had GOEs of +5 from all five judges. The loop lift, the triple throw Salchow, the Axel lasso lift and the choreographic sequence also had some GOEs of +5. Their components were around 9.2.
Later Peng said, “Today we skated better and more relaxed than yesterday. Also, since we are skating this program for the second season, we feel more experienced with it. We have not changed it because of the pandemic but also because we felt we have not yet shown the full potential of this program.” Jin added, “We are really happy to come here and to compete with our teammates.”
Yuchen Wang & Yihang Huang had been were eighth at Junior Worlds 2020 and skated their first senior competition. They won the silver medal with 175.40 total points. They began their short program to “Go Now“ by Adam Levine with a very good triple twist, but then she stepped out of the triple toe loop which was also out of sync. The triple throw Salchow was very good, the other elements good.
Wang said, “We had a small mistake in the program but after that we were able to adjust well. We were a little nervous after not competing for a long time, but we basically were able to perform what we are able to do in our training.“ Huang added: “We are competing at the Cup of China for the first time and we were able to show our level from training, There were still some mistakes and we were a bit nervous.”
In their free program, they used four pieces from the soundtrack of “The Lone Ranger“. After a very good triple twist, they produced a combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop (he a bit shaky). Then she fell on the triple Salchow which he doubled and fell once more on the triple throw loop. The seven other elements were clean. Their components had an average of 7.2. Huang explained: “Overall we skated pretty well and showed what we can do in training, Today we tried the throw triple loop for the first time (in competition). We had some mistakes and we want to make up for it next time.”
Daizifei Zhu & Yuhang Liu ended up third with 140.37 points in their very first international competition. All seven elements in the short to “Never Tear Us Apart“ by Bishop Briggs were relatively clean, including a side by side double Axel, but nothing was exceptional. Liu explained, “It was quite OK for us. We also have a new choreography and made some changes in the step sequence,” Zhu added, “I am happy with how my partner did and he helped me to overcome my nervousness.”
In their free to “Mulan” by Jerry Goldsmith, Zhu fell on both individual jumps. Eight other elements were relatively clean, but the spin at the end had no points. Liu commented: “This competition is a challenge for us, Anything can happen in competition, including mistakes. We need to learn how to adjust mentally.”