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2016 Grand Prix Final

Marseille, France


Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov Take Senior Pairs Title

by Klaus Reinhold Kany

The pairs event at the Grand Prix Final 2016 in Marseille, France was the first senior competition to be finished. The level of the competition was good but nobody was outstanding. At the moment there is no really top pair in the world which is comparable to skaters like Hanyu, Fernandez, Virtue & Moir, Papadakis & Cizeron or Medvedeva in the other disciplines.

The gold medal for Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov from Russia, earning 213.85 points, nevertheless was well merited. They are trained by Nina Mozer and five-time world champion Robin Szolkowy from Germany. Morozov is often asked if there is any relations to the coaches Stanislav Morozov or Nikolai Morozov with the same last name, but there is none. In the short program to “Glam!” (Electro Swing Remix)”, all seven elements had an excellent quality: The huge triple twist is their best one, was elegantly landed and got six times GOE of +3. The side by side triple toe loop was in perfect harmony, the triple throw loop was excellent and the step sequence got a level 4. The components had an average level of 8.8 and 78.60 points was a new personal best for them.

Morozov said: “I feel good actually, we did our best short program of this season and we are very happy that we can do better every competition. I think this is very good progress for us. We like the support from the audience when everyone claps and they like our short program. We like to skate and ‘talk’ with the audience. We knew the Final is like a mini World Championships.”

Their free program to “Music is my First Love” by John Miles was convincing as well and quite fast, but not as brilliant. They began with a quad twist which they have included in their free program only since this November. It was cleaner than in Paris and even had a level 3. Then Morozov stumbled a bit on the side by side Salchow which was downgraded, whereas her jump was clean. The triple throw Salchow was very good, but on the jump combination he singled the third toe loop after both had jumped a triple and a double toe loop and she another double one. The rest of the program was flawless and two of the three lifts and the triple throw loop even excellent. Near the end they looked a bit exhausted. The components had an average level of 8.7.

“In the short program we want to dance, we have fun dancing with swing. In the free program it’s a different story”, Morozov commented. “It’s lyrical and it’s like, music was my first love and it will be my last, something from Love Story and lyrical and it’s like a mix.” Tarasova added: “We’ve had two weeks of good preparation and worked very hard and this is the result. This victory is a big step forward for us. The judges now look at us as potential winners and that is important.”

The Chinese pair Xiaoyu Yu & Hao Zhang, who compete together only since this fall but had years of experience with other skaters, won the silver medal with 206.71 points. Six of their seven elements in the short program were clean, including the side by side triple toe loop and the loop lift. The triple twist (with level 4) and the triple throw loop were even stellar, but the side by side spin a bit out of sync. It is astonishing that the spins have been the weakest elements of all Chinese pairs for decades. Their components were around 8.4.

Zhang commented: “We skated quite relaxed and happily today, unfortunately there was a little mistake but overall I think it was a good performance. The music was so loud on the spin, she couldn’t hear me count. It has been only six months since we’ve been skating together but we have worked very, very hard and although we are still lacking in some aspects, a lot of work has been put in every day in practice.”

In the free program, they were third, but it was enough to remain in second place overall. After a huge and technically demanding triple twist (Level 4) their jump combination was not perfect because Yu under-rotated the triple toe loop and land the double toe loop on two feet. Their triple throws were excellent again and all level elements had a level 4, including the technically difficult backward outward spin. But near the end of the program Yu fell at the end of the pair combination spin.

Later Zhang said: “Today I’m very pleased that we have first place and second place in the Grand Prix events and very pleased that we can compete in the final and we got second place. The place is good but there were some problems.” Yu added: “We are very excited to be on the podium. Today I felt very tired in the lifts and in the jumps, but I fought through it and we did pretty well.”

The reigning world champions Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford from Canada made several costly mistakes and therefore finished only third, winning 205.99 points. In the short program to “Killer” by Seal, they started with a good triple twist, followed by a side by side triple Lutz (which no other pair in Marseille tried), but Duhamel put her hand on the ice. Then she fell on the triple throw axel, which was under-rotated and which also no other pair tried. The rest of the program was very good, including a difficult axel Lasso lift and three other level 4 elements. Their components had an average level of 8.5, because their harmony as a pair is not that excellent.

Duhamel explained: “Well it wasn’t the way I wanted to have my birthday go. We had a back-up plan in case the side-by-side triple Lutz didn’t work and I had half a mind to tell Eric to go for the throw Lutz but we haven’t missed the Axel since we’ve been here and I just thought I feel good let’s do it. I’m kicking myself now for not calling the Lutz. At home the triple Axel is a way more consistent throw.”

Radford added: “We’re trying some really difficult elements, the triple Lutz and the throw triple Axel. It’s frustrating because they were really good in practice but they’re not transferring into the performance and today they weren’t even close. It’s a high risk program and there’s not a high reward. The throw Axel is too risky unless you get good GOEs. We’re going to have to review this when we get home.”

Their free dance music was “Non, je ne regrette rien” (“No, I don’t regret anything”) sung by Patricia Kaas to the melody which Edith Piaf had used 50 years ago. After a very good triple twist Duhamel doubled the side by side Lutz. Then they risked the quad throw Salchow which Duhamel landed with a touch down of her hand, but she did not fall. The loop lift was excellent, but then Duhamel messed up the jump combination because she stepped out of the first triple toe loop and could not add two clean double toe loops. And the style of some of her jumps is a bit awkward. The other elements were good, the lifts had an excellent quality, but again their look as a pair is not outstanding.

Duhamel commented: “We are really disappointed with our performance today. We were prepared to come to this competition and have two great programs, and unfortunately we couldn’t have one great program, so we have to reassess a lot of things. We struggled in the Grand Prix circuit, and we struggled here. We can’t continue this season like this, we have to make a U-turn now as we prepare for the second half of this season so that we can show the best of our skating and be happy and proud of ourselves when we get off the ice. Last year our season didn’t start very well but then it peaked at the end.”

Radford added: “There were some really good things in our performance today and some unfortunate mistakes on important elements like the jumps. They’re usually our strength and when we mess them up it’s not good. But altogether I think the program was smooth and we tried the throw quad Salchow which went quite well.”

Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert from Russia finished on fourth place, earning 188.32 points. They were only nominated because the German pair Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot withdrew due to Savchenko’s foot injury. Enbert said: “We are here as alternates and found out last Friday. We were already training seriously and getting ready for a competition in Zagreb, so we were prepared.” Their short program to Sviridov’s “Snowstorm” had no serious mistakes, but three little slips on the triple twist, her triple toe loop and the landing on her triple throw loop on two feet. In the long program to “Cry me a River” by Michael Bublé, they again did not make serious mistakes, but both doubled the side by side Salchow and they were a bit slow.

Julianne Séguin & Charlie Bilodeau ended up fifth with 186.85 points. After their two Grand Prix, they had gone back to their last year’s short program to “Monde Inverse.” Bilodeau fell in both program on individual jumps and she missed the triple throw Lutz in the short program, otherwise their elements were clean. The Chinese pair Chang Peng & Yang Jin ended up sixth with 183.19 points. Their short program was clean, but in the long Peng fell on both individual jumps and almost crashed at the end of the Axel lift.