by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(8 December 2018) Although the reigning World Champions Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron are not at the Grand Prix Final because they did only one Grand Prix this season, the level of the Rhythm Dance was very high. Nobody made a serious mistake.
World silver medalists Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue from the USA took the lead with 80.53 points. After Skate America and Skate Canada they had changed a lot of movements and elements in both programs. Dancing to the two Astor Piazzola Tangos “Alevare“ and “Tangata del Alba“, they began with an excellent twizzle sequence which had a level 4 for both partners and mainly GOEs of +4 and one +5. In the Tango sections the hit only three of the eight key points. Their curve lift was outstanding and had two GOEs of +5 and the midline step sequence as well with an average of GOEs of +4. Their components were round 9.3 with some 9.75 as highest ones.
Hubbell said: “It’s been five weeks since we completed the last competition also being in Canada. So it was a long five weeks of changing the program. Today we felt like we really put the performance first and really showed off this new concept to the audience. We changed a quite bit actually with the Rhythm Dance. So much of the program is elements, so the changes we made even though they were quite drastic they came together relatively quickly. We just love the character and I really connect with this piece and with female vocals so it’s really great to have the very classic song. We’re very happy and appreciative of the audience here in Vancouver.”
The second place of the Italian couple of Charlčne Guignard & Marco Fabbri, winning 78.30 points, was a little surprise because the other teams made no mistakes either. The Italians got very high technical points for their elements although the levels were mixed. Their stationary lift was almost in Hydroblade position and had one GOE of +5, their components were around 8.9.
“We are still in shock”, Fabbri commented. “No, I mean, we are very, very happy. We are a little bit tired because of the jetlag, but tonight I think we performed really, really well. We did a season’s best at the Final, among the best couples in the world - this is something really great for us. After our two Grand Prix, we had another competition, another challenger series after which we worked a lot on the rhythm dance to make this program even more passionate and precise and clean. We’re very happy because we could perform it the way we wanted to tonight and we couldn’t ask for more. Our first Final is just great.”
Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov from Russia are on third position with 77.33 points. Their rotational lift was only a level 2, but very good nevertheless. The four other elements were performed excellently as well and their components were around 9.1.
Katsalapov said: “We are very happy to be here at the Grand Prix Final and we are also pleased with our performance today. We felt the Tango atmosphere on the ice and it was like only the two of us were out there skating. We just didn’t want the music to end. We love Vancouver, it’s a beautiful city and again, we’re just so happy to be here. The event organization is great and we were ready. We really enjoyed our skate. Since this is the mid-season, we are improving with each competition. I think there was a mistake, we didn’t complete the rotation in the lift. We didn’t get our season’s best. So I do not think it worked out that well. We hope that during the Russian Championships we will skate even better, enjoy the skate and get a different score. We still have room to grow.”
Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin, also from Russia, are fourth with 77.20 points, only 13 hundredth behind their teammates and 1.1 points behind the second place. They hit only three of the eight key points in the Tango sections, but the lift and the twizzle sequence were outstanding and the components around 9.2.
Stepanova said: “We are happy with our performance. Our coaches are happy and it was delightful to see their reactions. The crowd is here is amazing, and they welcomed us even during the practice.” Bukin added: “At the end of the program I was overwhelmed with emotions, it was amazing how the audience was supporting our performance.”
Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro from Russia had to skip their first practice in Vancouver because his suitcase with the skates got lost on the flights and arrived one day later than her suitcase. They sit fifth with 72.98 points. Their levels were good, but their GOEs were mainly +2 and +3. Zagorski explained: “We did well, - we were a bit nervous during the warm up, but it went away. We already made it to the Final, so our goal was to show a good performance.”
The second U.S. team of Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker are sixth, earning 71.33 points. Their twizzles were excellent, the other elements good, but they hit only two key points. Hawayek said: “Regardless of being the late starter to this season, we’ve come out stronger. The consistency of our program has really improved since our previous season. The Tango Romantica is a tricky beast but we are progressing in general and we are happy with the way things are coming.” Baker added: “We are really grateful to be here at our first Final and hoping to make it one of many. We are really taking in this opportunity to be here and trying to learn as much as we can.”