by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(11 February 2019) The pairs competition at the 2019 Four Continents Championships in Anaheim, California was finished quickly because only eight pairs from the USA, Canada and China competed. The gold medal winners with 211.11. points in the Honda Arena in Anaheim are Wenjing Sui & Cong Han from China in their first international competition since the Olympic Games in February 2018 where they had won the silver medal. Sui needed surgery in spring time after a stress fracture and had other injuries. In their short program to the music "No One Like You“ by Red Electrick, Sui fell on the triple toe loop. The other elements were very good, including the triple throw flip and four level 4 elements.
Sui commented, “The fall hurt a lot. This is our first competition, so I think we were a little too excited. I think we didn’t adjust our conditions too well, because in our practice we were normally able to skate clean in the short program.“ Han added, “I’m not really satisfied with today’s performance. It was not the best we could do in our usual practice. It’s been a long journey for us to be here today. The Chinese Figure Skating helped us not only mentally but also in our daily life after the Olympics. We had to recover from injury, learn the techniques from the very beginning. We are very excited and happy to come back to the competition, and we feel like we really belong to the rink. As for today’s performance, I did feel like I’m a little bit too excited.“
For their free program, they chose the music "Rain, in your Black Eyes“ by Ezio Bosso. The first element was an outstanding triple twist, followed by a good combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop and an excellent throw triple Salchow. The pair combination spin got only a basic level and Sui fell on an under-rotated triple Salchow. The lifts were excellent, the triple throw flip soso. The components were around 8.9. Han commented, “Wow, we are only 0.06 points higher than them. So close. We weren’t really ready for this competition.“ Sui added, “We were pretty nervous. I’m really happy we could show what we have today on the ice, but honestly this was not the best of us. We will do the best we can and continue training hard. This is our fifth Four Continents title.“
Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro from Canada won the silver medal with 211.05 points, just 0.06 points less than the winners. They had been in the lead in a clean short program with a very good side by side triple toe loop and an excellent triple throw loop. Moore-Towers commented, “We were pleased with our skate today. We’ve had mistakes in our short so far this season so we were hoping today to come out and to deliver a clean performance with the levels that we’ve practiced at home and I think we succeeded in that today. I injured my right ankle at the Olympics last season. It affected the end of our season last year and our off-season was largely rehabilitation and we weren’t skating a lot.“
In the free program, the two individual triple jumps and the two throws were very strong, two lifts as well, but the reverse lasso lift was not clean. The judges‘ GOEs for this lift went from +3 to -5. Their components were around 8.6. “It was bittersweet not to win gold medal“, Moore-Towers commented. “Of course we know we left some points on the table but we’ll go home and work to not make the same mistakes in a couple of weeks at Worlds. Overall we’re pleased; we’ve never won a short program at an ISU Championships before so that was a new experience for us, a good one as well.“
Cheng Peng & Yang Jin from China took the bronze medal, earning 205.42 points. In the short program, the triple toe loop and the triple twist were excellent, but Peng fell on the triple throw loop. They were not happy afterwards and Jin said, “Today we missed the throw and death spiral level and spin level, we lost so many points. We noticed the rink is a little smaller, so maybe tomorrow we’ll try to skate a little slower. Before this competition, we had some problems. Peng had to change to her new boots, and we still have problems in her feet and my knee.“ Peng added; “We want to do a relaxed performance tomorrow because I saw that there are a lot of Chinese audience and it is now the Chinese New Year.“
In their free program, Peng stumbled on the side by side triple salchow, whereas Jin doubled it. The parallel combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop was good, the triple twist and the two throws were outstanding, lifts and other elements very good. The components were around 8.6. Peng explained, “We did what we could for today’s performance.“ Jin added, “She did better than me today. My landing of the triple jump was not very steady. But overall the program was good. This competition is a good learning experience and wake up call.“
The new U.S. champions Ashley Cain & Timothy LeDuc of Texas finished fourth, winning 196,82 points. In the short program, six elements were good, but the triple loop, which is very rare for pairs, was marked under-rotated. Their components had an average of 8.2. Cain said, “We really want to be on the podium, but we also want to put out two strong performances backing up our National‘s performance. Right after my concussion in Zagreb in December, we made a plan of how I would get back to Nationals feeling confident in myself and the elements. We did a lot of section work with the programs, so the elements were trained even if we weren’t able to do a lot of full programs. I was able to openly talk about my emotions so I wasn’t keeping anything inside.“
In their free program, the two individual jumps were not clean, but all other elements are least good. Cain said, “Our goal for Worlds is to place in the top ten and get the second spot back for the U.S. The only way to do that is to skate two solid performances.“ LeDuc added, “It is a wonderful feeling to be announced as National Champions. And to come out carrying a responsibility is something we have wanted for a long time. We’re really excited to go to Japan to compete for the USA.“
Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier of Florida placed fifth with 184.18 points after being seventh in a short program with Denney‘s stumbled and under-rotated triple Salchow and six other clean elements. She explained, “It wasn’t the best program we know we’re capable of doing - my Salchow, for instance, I didn’t let it go all the way up before I rotated. So I know I can do that better. Overall I thought we did a good job with staying in the moment of the program.“ Frazier added, “We were maybe a little tight on one element - the (back outside) death spiral - but I think we had a little bit more energy and performance than what we had at our U.S. Championships program.“
In their free program, they had problems with both individual jumps, like all American pairs in years. This astonishing weakness in jumps is one main reason for the low level of U,S. pair skating in general. All other elements were very good. Frazier said, “We’re proud of our performance because we had a tough start to the season and we came out here showing promise and improvement.“
Tarah Kayne & Danny O’Shea of Colorado Springs are on sixth place with 180.36 points. Six elements in the short were good, the levels excellent, but Kayne’s triple Salchow was not clean. She said, “I’m very happy with our performance today, especially with our levels on some elements like our footwork that we’ve been working very hard on and our death spiral. I’m a little bit disappointed that I made a small mistake on my jump.“ In their free program, Kayne fell on the individual triple Salchow and on the triple throw loop. The triple twist was not clean, but the other elements very good. Kayne commented, “I’m very disappointed in my performance today; we’ve been practicing and training really well.“
Evelyn Walsh & Trent Michaud from Canada ended up seventh with 159.05 points, their countrymen Camille Ruest & Andrew Wolfe eighth with 158,91 points. The Australian Harley Windsor had tendonitis in his foot and withdrew with his partner Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya. The visa for the North Koreans Tae Ok Ryom & Ju Sik Kim was too complicated because in their country there is no American embassy and it would have been necessary to fly to China to get a visa for the USA.