by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
The general level of the pairs competition was low with many mistakes. The Russian and Chinese pairs were missing.
For the first time in the 26-year-old history of the Grand Prix Final, a Japanese pair won the gold medal. Riku Miura & Ryuichi Kihara collected 214.58 points. But it was close because they made several mistakes in their free program after being in a narrow lead. They train with Bruno Marcotte in Oakville, Ontario, about one hour southwest of Toronto.. Marcotte had chosen them and suggested them to compete together in a try-out seminar in Japan some years ago. They skated to the music pieces “Atlas, Two” by the U.S. band Sleeping at Last and to “Shared Tenderness” by Karl Hugo. Their first element in the free program was an excellent triple twist, followed by a jump combination of triple toe loop, double toe loop and double toe loop, which he did, but she doubled the first one. After an excellent Axel Lasso lift he touched down on the triple Salchow which she did correctly. Later she touched down on the triple throw Lutz, whereas the triple throw loop was landed a bit shaky. The three lifts and the other elements were excellent and their components around 8.7.
Miura cried a bit in the kiss and cry corner and commented, “I made mistakes in the jump. I was feeling bad for my partner and till the scores showed we were feeling bad. But when I saw the results that we mostly got the levels, I think that’s a part we’ve improved at. Everyone cheered for us very warmly, so we were able to bring out our strength until the end.” They skated to her favorite song, which she also commented, “It’s the style of the music and even the lyrics is the things we never worked on before. It’s about sacrificing yourself for love. It’s fun to explore that kind of new creative presentation for us.” Kihara added, “Right now we were able to win the gold together. We both made minor mistakes, so we are very disappointed about that. It was a very good experience for us performing under so much pressure and it’s a good experience before the March World Championships in Japan. This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake in the Salchow. I felt bad for my partner as we waited for the score. If the kids in Japan see our result from this competition and get interested in pairs, it would mean we’re doing our best.”
World Champions Alexa Knierim & Brandon Frazier won the silver medal with 213.28 points and are trained by Jenni Meno, Todd Sand and Knierim’s husband Chris in Irvine, California. Without mistakes, they would have easily won. Skating to “Sign Of the Times” by Harry Styles and to “Healed Broken Wings” by Karl Hugo, they opened with a very good triple twist. But then Frazier, who really seldom makes mistakes, popped the double toe loop which was planned in combination with the triple toe loop. Their triple throw loop was outstanding, but Frazier stepped out of the triple Salchow. The three lifts were excellent, the triple throw Lutz very good, the other elements as well. Their components were around 8.5, a bit lower than those of the Japanese pair.
Knierim said, “We fought very hard. It was a tight competition in the short program and the long program and that is what makes the sport exciting. We have areas to improve and we are pleased to take part in the Grand Prix Final. Every moment on the ice is special, those moments are very limited in life as a skater in your career.” Frazier added, “Alexa and I have grown very well since we started our season at Skate America. We had a very late start to our season. I feel a little personally disappointed tonight for myself and my jumps. Normally I can execute better, so I feel bad. But I am very proud of us overall and we've done a great job improving in each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season.”
Sarah Conti & Niccolo Macii from Italy won a surprising bronze medal with 187.02 points after being fourth in the short program. Skating to the soundtrack of “Cinema Paradiso”, they began with a good triple twist, followed by the jump combination of triple toe loop, single Axel and double Axel, but Macii two-footed the third element. Then he fell on the triple Salchow. Conti stepped out of the triple throw loop, but all other elements were good and the components were around 7.5. Conti said, “This medal was unexpected and historical for Italy. It is our first Grand Prix Final and the first medal in this discipline, so we’ll keep the good momentum for the rest of the season with the jumps and lifts and we want to improve the little things to be even better. I really didn’t believe what just happened - we didn’t skate the best of our ability, but we got the historical medal.” Macii added, “It’s our first year with a triple twist, it’s our first year about a lot of things, let’s say we’re still somehow outsiders who are getting almost too many results. We are super happy.”
Deanna Stellato & Maxime Deschamps from Canada placed fourth with 184.28 points. The landing of the triple twist was not clean and Stellato-Dudek stepped out of the triple toe loop and could not add a double toe loop. The Reverse Lasso Lift was very good, but Stellato-Dudek touched down on the triple throw Lutz. Their side by side double Salchow was clean, but they did not get many points. The other elements were good and the components around 7,5. Stellato-Dudek admitted, “I'm super disappointed, we weren't able to train because I've been sick and I still am, that's what that was basically. I think knowing that I can fight through, not having trained and being sick, is the one thing I can take away from this.” Deschamps said, “We work together, we stay together on the ice and that's what we have to remember from this. In every hard moment we're there for each other.”
Rebecca Ghilardi & Filippo Ambrosini from Italy finished fifth with 180.39 points in their first Grand Prix Final. Their triple twist was a bit shaky. In their jump combination, Ambrosini had two double Axel and one single Axel, whereas Ghilardi had one double Axel and then two single Axel. Ambrosini performed a triple Salchow which Ghilardi doubled. Later she touched down with both hands on the triple throw loop. The lifts were at least good, the carry lift with a change of direction of him even excellent. Their components had an average of 7.5.
Emily Chan & Spencer Howe of Norwood near Boston ended up sixth with 162.91 points, also in their first Grand Prix Final. Their first element was a good jump combination of double Salchow and two double Axel. Chan then under-rotated the triple toe loop, their twist was soso and she fell on both triple throws. The other elements were o.k. Chan commented, “Maybe we weren’t working as well together in the throws because usually our throw jumps are very consistent.”