by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(10 December 2018) The Free Program of the Senior Pairs at the Grand Prix 2018 in Vancouver had a good, but no outstanding level. One free program was really excellent, the one of Vanessa James & Morgan Ciprès from France. They won the Final with 219.88 points although they had been only fourth in the short program and had the only complete standing ovation of the whole three days in Vancouver. They train in Florida with John Zimmerman and skated to “Wicked Game“ by Chris Isaak and “The Last Feeling“ by Maxime Rodriguez.
They started with a very good triple twist, followed by a good combination of triple toe loop, double toe loop and another double toe loop. GOEs of +5 and +4, however, were exaggerated. The side by side triple Salchow came in perfect harmony, the three lifts were stellar, the triple throw flip as well, the triple throw Salchow a bit deeply landed, but on one foot. Their style has improved since last season and therefore the components were around 9.2 with one perfect 10.0 for composition. The 2014 Ice dance Olympic Champion Charlie White had done the choreography.
Cipres commented, “We are really happy about this victory tonight. It is going to be an amazing season with a good condition. The most important thing is a result and the fight we had coming up to today. Just fight. We never give up. That’s us. That’s it. Every time I come to Canada, Toronto, Montreal, I don’t know what’s going on here but it’s amazing. Even at practice, doing the six minutes warm-up, for every element we do.”
James added, “I could not be happier than I am today. We really need to work on the short program. I’m very proud after such a disappointment yesterday that we could bring it strong home. Every time we come to Canada, we have a standing ovation. We feel good, they make us feel at home and I think that’s what’s most important. I’m Canadian and that makes me feel even more proud. We’re just so happy to be here right now.”
To win Worlds and maybe retire afterwards is the most important goal in this season for James, born in Canada with a father from Bermuda, and her partner Ciprès who grew up as a single skater near Paris. They are a top pair only since they moved to John Zimmerman in Florida in the summer of 2016.
Cheng Peng & Yang Jin from China won the silver medal with 216.90 points after taking the lead in the short program. Both doubled the side by side Salchow because of Peng’s former foot injury at the beginning of their program to “La Vie en Rose“. The triple toe loop – double toe loop combination was good. The triple throw loop and triple throw Salchow were outstandingly wide and high and had several GOEs of +5. The three lifts and the triple twist were excellent, everything else at least good.
Peng said, “One month before this competition I twisted my right food and we couldn’t do systematic practice. So I was worrying about my overall performance. With that said, I was pretty satisfied with the result we had today.“ Jin added, “After the Olympics season, we were both pretty down. This year, we are focusing on the quality of our performance and coach gave us a plan to follow.“
Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov from Russia won the bronze medal with 214.20 points. Using the music “The Winter“ by Balmorhea, they opened their program with a stellar triple twist which they had done in a quad version last season. But it is no longer worth doing quad elements in pair skating. The side by side triple Salchow was very good, but Morozov singled the second jump in their combination of triple toe loop, double toe loop and another double toe loop. Then Tarasova stumbled on the triple throw flip and almost fell. The other elements, including the three lifts, were excellent again and they had components of around 8.8.
“Not everything in the performance went as planned and there were some mistakes today and yesterday,“ Tarasova commented. “Overall it was not such a bad competition, though. We will be fixing our mistakes and will focus on the next competition.” Morozov added, “The free skate was not perfect. We started well, had a little mistake on the first combination. I overturned a bit on the first jump so I had to make the second jump a single so that we were in sync for the third jump.”
Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert, also from Russia, finished on fourth position, earning 201.07 points. After a good triple twist both performed a clean combination of triple toe loop, double toe loop and double loop. Then Zabiiako stepped out of an under-rotated triple Salchow. Their triple throw flip was deeply landed. The first two lifts and the triple throw loop were excellent, but he could not lift her on the Axel lasso in the first try. They restarted the lift a second time which is not allowed and therefore this element got no points. They lacked a bit of emotions and had components of around 8.4.
Zabiiako said, “Every mistake is disappointing, without the mistakes we would have been happier. It’s hard to say right now what had exactly happened on the lift, we will review the video. We got unsynchronized at some point. This is not a typical mistake for us, however things are happening.”
Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise from Italy came fifth, winning 187.63 points. Skating to “Tristan and Isolde” by Maxime Rodriguez, Della Monica doubled the Salchow which both had planned triple. The twist was almost clean, but Della Monica missed the triple throw loop and also fell on the triple toe loop. The rest of the program was very good.
Della Monica explained, “We’ll just work a little bit on jumping, especially the toe loop because even when we jump a perfect toe loop, it’s not together. We have different rhythms so we will work more on those details.” Guarise added, ”Actually it was a hard competition for us. I think jetlag was very bad for us in general. But it was good to skate here, it was an amazing experience for us because it was our first final.”
The third Russian pair of Daria Pavliuchenko & Denis Khodykin ended up sixth with 186.81 points, quite close to the fifth place. They were by far the youngest team being 15 and 19 years old. The triple flip, which is very rare for pairs, was out of sync and she got an edge call. Three other elements were not perfect. The triple twist and the two triple throws were excellent, the lifts soso. Khodykin said, “Being in the Grand Prix Final is already a huge achievement for us.”