by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(8 December 2017) World silver medalists Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot from Germany won the pairs short program with 79.43 points. After Skate America they decided to change their program and to go back to last season‘s "That Man“ by Caro Emerald, a Lindy-Hop with a lot of funny and entertaining little movements. Especially Massot did not feel comfortable in the Flamenco program they had performed between September and November of this year. Due to his back problems he could not move so well as a Flamenco dancer.
The Lindy-Hop emphasizes other movements and does not need such elegance. Massot said: "I feel much better with this program. It is fun, I just love it.“ They began their program with a huge and very elegantly landed triple twist, for which eight of the nine judges gave GOEs of +3. Although Savchenko raised her arm while being in the air, they had only a level 3, contrary to Skate America. The side by side triple Salchow had an excellent harmony, the triple throw Lutz was very good as well. Like at Skate America, they did not try the triple throw Axel because it was not stable enough.
The hip lift was very good although Massot later said "The lift and the footwork were a bit wobbly. When I landed the jump I felt that the skating boot was soft and when I did the throw I was sure that it was broken. I told her and she said "Go, go.“
The lift, the step sequence, the death spiral and the pair combination spin all had a level 4. All these elements had mainly GOEs of +2. Their components had an average of 9.2, with many 9.5 as highest ones.
Savchenko said in the mixed zone: "I liked best today that we did all elements clean, in spite of Bruno’s lace being broken and my dress being broken. The zipper of my dress broke. We fought until the end.“ Massot added: "We are getting better with each competition and even if we have to fight, we are giving 200 per cent. So we have room for more points.“ Massot, by the way, has received the official documents for German citizenship when they came back from Skate America, and he is very proud to have passed the tricky language and grammar test. "I will keep this German citizenship as well as my French citizenship for the rest of my whole life.“
World bronze medalists Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov from Russia currently sit on second place, earning 78.83 points, just 0.6 points less than the Germans. Their first element also was the triple twist, almost as high and impressive, but with a level 4. Skating to Rakhmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, they continued with a side by side triple toe-loop, but her landing was a bit shaky. Their triple throw loop was outstanding, the other four elements at least very good, all of which had a level 4. Their components were around 9.2, which seemed a bit too high because they showed less emotions and interpretation in the program.
Morozov commented: "We like how we did our short program today, we have good emotions about it. In general, we did everything well. Maybe to the end of the program we got tired a little and that influenced our scores that we are not the first now. The first half of the program was really good. It doesn’t matter what competition we have, if it‘s Grand Prix Final or Europeans, every competition Is important. In every competition there are judges and you should show what you can.“
Not surprisingly, he also asked about the IOC’s decision to suspend the Russian NOC from the Olympic Games, "We are being asked about it all the time. We will go to the Olympic Games, because for every athlete the Olympic Games are the most important competition, the competition of your life. I hope that there will not be more pressure and we will prepare to it like for any other competition. We do not like to go to the Olympics in neutral status but we just don’t have any other choice. Waiting for the decision was not something like torture. It was not a surprise for us, we were ready for this news long ago, now it just was officially announced. We are just hostages in this situation. We cannot influence it and nothing depends on us.“ Tarasova added, "But anyway everybody will know that we perform for Russia, that we represent our country even if we do it under neutral flag.“
The present world champions Wenjing Sui & Cong Han from China finished third with 75.82 points. Their first element was the side by side triple toe-loop, but unless at other events, this time Cong Han fell on the jump, which cost them between three and four points. All other elements were very good or excellent, including a triple throw flip. The program was skated to "Hallelujah“, performed by Leonard Cohen, choreographed by Lori Nichol and their components were around 9.3.
Han explained, "Because of my failure, I am really not happy with today’s performance. I am trying to look back what I could have been doing better, but I couldn’t believe this.“ Sui added: "Compared to the last competition, we didn’t adjust the program because of limited time available to make changes, and I am afraid that I even forget some of the elements. I think I am rather used to making the mistakes or failure, but I was not prepared that he made the mistake. Because of this, we just need to do our best at the free program.“
The 2014 Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov from Russia are fourth with 73.15 points. Skating to a modern version of the Tango "Besame Mucho“ by Consuelo Velazquez, they began with a triple twist, which was – like almost always – a bit unclean. Then Stolbova fell on a linking step before the triple throw Lutz, but could nevertheless perform the element correctly. The rest of the program, including a side by side triple toe-loop, was very good. Most of their GOEs were +2 and their components had an average of 8.8.
Stolbova said, "We like to perform in Japan and we felt here well as always. Except for my serious mistake on the crossovers, our performance was good. All the elements have high scores, we improved our twist lift, so now it is not so scary to watch it. We have got a level four for all the elements. I was doing my best to save the throw and the jumps were good. Of course, our main goal are the Olympics. Games. We decided to stay for one more Olympic cycle to show a better result than in Sochi.“
About the IOC decision about the Olympics, she added: "I just want to ask everybody to leave us alone, because for the last two days we have been called with different questions about it. Please, let us just prepare for the Olympic Games. We will prepare for them and we will go there under the white flag.“
The 2015 and 2016 World Champions Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford are currently fifth, winning 72.18 points. After a good triple twist Radford’s side by side triple Lutz was a bit wobbly and then Duhamel touched down her hand on the triple throw Lutz. The other elements were very good. They skated to "With or Without You“ by U2, performed by April Meservy and their components were around 8.8.
Duhamel later said, "I was really nervous. I actually missed a double Lutz on the warm-up so that made me even more nervous. But after the twist and the Lutz were done I felt more settled. The throw was a little bit stuck on the take-off which resulted in not having much flow when I came out, that was a shame. But we were committed to the performance and when we finished we felt like we put on a good show. I thought our skate was better than Skate America.“ Radford added, "As soon as the music started I felt in the zone just really feeling the music and as Meagan said, we really performed that connection. I think that having those little bobbles can detract a little bit and I think that affect our second mark a little bit. We gave it our all and that’s what we were able to do.“
Xiaoyu Yu & Hao Zhang from China finished sixth with 70.15 points. Yu fell on the opening triple toe-loop. The other elements were good, the triple throw loop even excellent, but the program was not very elegantly presented. Their components were around 8.4.