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2013 Skate Canada: Pairs Free Skate

by Alexandra Stevenson

Italians Make History; Canadians Hopes Rained on as Lift Collapses

1.  Overall 193.92; 2.FS 124.54 (63.41+61.13) Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek, Italy, were delighted that placing second in both sections translated into gold, even if it was only by a minuscule 0.15 over the Chinese duo, and, also, because the top Canadians took themselves out of contention with a collapsed lift, due to her injured shoulder.

Hotarek, who is from Brno, formerly skated for his home country, the Czech Republic, placing 13th in the 2008 World pair championship. But after that partnership dissolved, he sat out a year (the 2008-9 season), during which time the Italians welcomed him to Milan. Italy has never had a pair this successful before. They are that country’s first ever Grand Prix pairs gold medalists.

They were lucky. Had Sui not fallen, the Chinese would have won. It was an extremely close result, with the less than a point separating the two pairs. The Canadian crowd, of course, was disappointed that the Canadian leaders after the Short Program were only third overall.

Hotarek explained, “It’s a big surprise for us. We just wanted to do our best like we do every day. Today, we also had a little bit of luck. We are happy with how we skated and, of course, we are happy with the placement, but that’s just the consequence. We’re just happy to be here.” His partner shrugged, “We like to write history - What can I say? No, I’m just kidding. We worked a lot, not only on our technique and the elements, but also on how we inter-react on the ice. In Skate America (in Detroit, the previous week, where they finished fifth), we had issues and I was very upset.”

She explained that they had a session with their coaches, Franca Bionconi and Jason Dungjen in the Bloomfield Hills rink before coming to Canada, and ironed out those problems. They were on the top of the world, singing along with their national anthem on the rostrum and continually looking at their gold medals as if they were afraid they might disappear.

Skating to Phillipp Glass’s version of Dracula, dressed in black with a little blood red, they opened with a triple toe loop combined with two double toes which got them off to a good start and they banked 7.50.points. Their triple twist was Level 2 earning a total of 6.10. Their one negative was the side-by-side triple Salchows. She stepped out of the landing and they lost -1.20. Also, nowhere near their best was their back outside death spiral, which received a “B” for basic and they earned only 2.80 points.

But two of their three lifts and their final element, the pair combination spin, were Level 4 with good Grades of Execution. Their last lift, the Axel Lasso, was Level 3 with +0.80. Their first throw, a triple Salchow, set for when the 10% bonus marks click in, earned one vote of the maximum +3, along with four +2s and four +1s. Their later throw triple loop got an extra +0.90.

He said it was a wonderful conclusion to their trip to Canada which started out poorly, after his bag was left off the plane arriving here. A former pilot explained to this reporter that the bag was never lost but it was big, and the airline had an overweight on luggage problem. They chose to leave behind luggage rather than passengers and, because Hotarek’s suitcase was large and heavy, his was one of those left behind. Unfortunately, the same thing happened on the next flight and Hotarek spent two days without skates. Ross Miner and Patrick Chan offered him their practice skates, but he said he was worried about lifting his partner on skates with which he wasn’t that familiar. Fortunately, the bag was delivered, finally, and they left happy with their medals.

Dungjen, who was fourth in the 1998 Olympic Games with partner, Kyoko Ina, has been through everything his current pupils are experiencing. He said, “We coach high-level skaters (at the Detroit rink). Each has different habits and a different approach. We work with each one individually to ensure that they are happy and comfortable. This is important. The Technical requirements have become even more demanding. I always ask my students,‘Are you doing everything possible to prepare your elements?’ There is no slacking when you are going for gold.”

2. Overall 193.77; 1.FS 124.75 (65.76+59.99 -1); Wenjing Sui & Cong Han, China, wearing elaborate Russian outfits and interpreting the famed music, “Kalinka”, most famously used by the great Russian pair Irina Rodnina & Alexander Zaitsev, won the Free Skate, opening in unbeatable fashion with a Level 3 quad twist that was spectacular, and deservedly earned 9.67 points..

But then they came back to earth presenting a three jump combination of triple toe loop to two double toe loops, about which the judges disagreed. Six of them saw something wrong and punched in -1. Two thought the element was completely satisfactory in all aspects and gave 0, and one thought it was “superior” and awarded +1. With the top and bottom marks discarded, the average resulted in -0.50 removed from the element’s base value of 6.70. Perhaps one of the tasks for the referee should be to check whether the judges’ spectacles are in good working order before letting them take their rink side seats!

Sui & Han then attempted side-by-side triple Salchows, but she did only a double and they were awarded only the base value for that jump of 1.30. However, one judge thought it bad enough to punch in -2 while another thought they were good enough for +1. Again, something is wrong there! The judges even have video replay available for them if they really can’t make up their minds.

The rest of their program was excellent. Their throw triple flip gained four of the maximum +3 Grades of Execution, while the other five judges gave the next highest award, +2. Their second throw, a triple Salchow, set late in the program also gained the maximum GoE of +3 but only from two judges. The rest of the panel gave +2 on that element. Their back outside death spiral was only Level 2 with +0.40. Their flying change foot combination solo spins and their final pair combination spin were both Level 3 but the first one received only a marginal positive of +0.03 while the last one gained +0.64.

Their first lift, from Group 3, set for when the bonus marks for lifts and jumps click in, earned Level 4 with +0.57. That was followed by a second lift, a reverse Lasso, which earned unanimous plus 1s. Their third lift, which was their 11th element, a Group 5 Axel Lasso, received Level 4 with +0.80, the result from the judges awarding seven +1s and two +2s. They pulled up from third after their Short Program.

Sui is on the comeback trail. She spent much of last season recovering from epiphysitis, which is an inflammation of a growing bone.

3. Overall 190.62; 3.FS 121.05 (54.71+66.34) Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford earned bronze in the past world championships and are the reigning Canadian champions so they had realistic hopes of winning, particular since they went into this portion in first place. They performed last of the eight pairs, to “Alice in Wonderland” and “Everlasting”. She was Alice and he the Mad Hatter. It is a great idea, and the routine has enormous potential. But, on their seventh element, they failed to lock into the first position in their Group 5 Axel Lasso lift, which, done at Level 4 with the 10% bonus has a base value of 7.15 plus the GoE score. They, obviously, were very distraught about the failure, although they tried to be sporting about the very distressing situation. They also got an arrow on their second element, the side by side triple Lutzes, for a slight under-rotation.

Duhamel said, “Despite the (two) mistakes, we could feel the energy in the building and I think the crowd could, too. They still gave us a standing ovation and we got the second highest component mark that we’ve ever gotten. [In this, the second of the two types of mark, they were 5.21 points ahead of the Italians. For this category, the nine judges punch in a mark on a scale of 0 to 10, for each of five categories after the skater/s have finished their routine. The five categories are: Skating Skills; Transitions & Linking Footwork; Performance & Execution; Choreography & Composition; and Interpretation. This is quite separate from the “Elements Score” which is a combination of the Technical Panel’s determination of “Levels” and the judges’ Grades of Execution which the judges punch in immediately each element is performed.] Yes, it is complicated.

Duhamel continued, “What we will concentrate on right now, is the potential of that program. We believe it has Olympic podium potential if we hit our levels the way we normally do.” Radford explained the problem. Duhamel suffered a shoulder injury after a fall three weeks previously. “When you get to that point in the program (the second half of the four minute, forty second routine), a lot of it is just muscle memory. When you’re tweaking little things, you start thinking, and that can lead to problems. Maybe that’s what happened.

4. Overall 159.82; 4.FS 106.88 (54.52+53.36 -1) Paige Lawence & Rudi Swiegers were lying a disappointed sixth after the SP, and skated third up, so when the Canadian second ranked pair finished their performance to “Oz, the Great and Powerful”, they had to wait to discover whether they had climbed. She was in a light blue dress and he wore a brown waistcoat.

She explained, “I missed the first jump (falling on their side-by-side triple toe loops)” That meant they scored only 2 points, and one of those points was deducted for the fall. Then they received only the “Basic Level” on their triple twist, and did a sequence of two single Axels. She admitted, “Yes, we down scaled the double Axels, but I still felt like I could find in myself that attack, that wild animal kind of this that goes for everything.”

He said, “I don’t feel like I doubted myself and that was such a huge step forward for me.” They pulled themselves together for their fourth element, solo flying change foot spins which had an interesting “broken leg” portion. Their back outside death spiral was Level 3 with just a tiny -0.10 taken off. Everything else received good GoEs including the two triple throws (loop and Lutz). Their group 4 lift, which had an interest carry section, earned Level 4 and the other two lifts were Level 3, including the Axel Lasso, which earned an extra 1.10. They finished with a Level 2 pair combination spin which earned +0.43 average GoE. Their element score of 54.52 was only 0.19 behind their teammates, Duhamel & Radford. They were also fourth last year in this event.

5. Overall 158.83; FS 5 103.82 (53.45+51.37 -1) Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier, USA, are the 2013 world junior champions. This was their Senior Grand Prix debut and they admitted they were nervous. Skating fourth, they opened their routine, set to “Notre Dame de Paris”, with a good triple twist which got Level 2 and +0.70 followed by a +0.90 throw triple loop. However, they got -0.30 removed from the base value of their side-by-side triple Salchows. After the choreographed section, they did side-by-side double Axels but she fell. Their change foot combination spin was Level 3 with +0.36 but their forward inside death spiral was only Level 1 with +0.20.

Their Group 5 Axel Lasso lift was rewarded with +0.50 over the Level 4 base value but they got -0.70 subtracted from their throw triple Salchow. Their last two moves were good. The Group 5 toe lift earned Level 3 with +0.36 and the pair combination spin was Level 4 with +0.14. They finished fifth in both sections and overall. If they had gained an extra 0.02, they would have overtaken Lawrence & Swiegers.They will compete again, in the Japanese Grand Prix, November 8-10.

6. Overall 153.71; FS 6 101.02 (52.47+49.55 -1) Lindsay Davis & Rockne Brubaker, USA, who teamed up in February and are trained at the Canton rink by Johnny Johns and Marina Zueva, climbed a position performing to the evocative music from “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”. They began with +0.80 triple Salchows followed by a Level 1 base value triple twist and a good double Axels to double toe loops which gained an extra +0.57. Their choreographed section received an extra +0.70.

However, she kind of fell out of their Group 5 reverse Lasso lift, although their Level 4 Axel Lasso lift, two elements later, gained +0.50 over its base value, and their Group 4 lift got an extra +0.21. She had a messy landing on their eighth element, a throw triple Salchow, and fell on their next move, a throw triple Lutz but their 11th element, the forward inside death spiral, received an extra +0.30 over the Level 3 base value of 3.20. Both of their spins, the side by side and the pair version, earned Level 4 with +0.43 and +0.21, respectively. It certainly wasn’t perfect but it was a learning experience, and not bad for a Senior Grand Prix debut, which now requires an incredible amount of technical skill.

7. Overall 149.59; FS 7 94.51 (48.19+49.32 -3) Mari Vartmann & Aaron van Cleave, Germany, had three falls, two on solo jumps and the other on their throw triple loop.

8. Overall 131.39; FS 8 91.89 (45.94+45.95) Margaret Purdy & Michael Marinaro, Canada, had five elements with negative overall GoEs. Their only Level 4s were the solo and pair spins, and their only Level 3s were two of their lifts.

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