by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(28 October 2018) The pairs competition at Skate Canada 2018 in Laval, Quebec, had a very high level. The Technical Panel was quite mild with their levels. Seven of the eight pairs, for example, received a level 4 for their step sequence in the short program.
Vanessa James (31 years old) & Morgan Ciprès (27) from France, bronze medalists at the World Championships 2018 in Milan, were the favorites and won with a huge distance, collection 221.81 overall points. They have trained in Florida for a few years under John Zimmerman and his wife Silvia Fontana and have much improved since. They took the lead in the short program with 74.51 points to the music "Uninvited“ by Alanis Morisette from the soundtrack of "City of Angels“. Ice dance World Champion Guillaume Cizeron, who is younger than the French pair skaters, did the choreography for this program as a kind of vacation job in Florida. The triple twist was excellent, had a level 4 and mainly GOEs of +4. Her triple toe loop was a bit shaky, the spin, lift and death spiral were very good, the triple throw Lutz deeply landed and the excellent step sequence had a level 4. The components had an average of 8.6. Ciprès commented, “We are very proud of our Worlds medal, we had a really good fight, but this year is a whole different year.” James added, “Everyone has been working hard. There are new rules and regulations, and everyone is trying to be a little bit more innovative. I don’t count anyone out of the game at any competition.”
In the free program, they skated to the soundtrack of "Wicked Game“ and "The Last Feeling“ by Maxime Rodriguez with a romantic sound and a bit in the style of the music used by Olympic champions Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot’s in their last two free programs. Ice dance world champion Charlie White choreographed this program which got components of around 9.1 with two 9.75 for performance as highest one and got a standing ovation. They began with an excellent triple twist (level 4) followed by a very good combination of triple toe loop, double toe loop and another double toe loop. Their triple Salchow was outstanding, the lifts as well as the choreographic sequence in which they performed a perfect ice dance lift. The throws were excellent as well.
Ciprès said, "We are really happy with the performance we did today, it was better than yesterday. I’m really proud to win this competition because again today it was a big fight on the ice and everyone skated really well.“ James added, “We are very proud of this gold medal here but even more so about of the performance we made in that group full of great skaters and great performances. It gives us confidence.”
The couple's free program ends with a long slide with Cipres in a lunge holding James above him, which in this competition ran too long before it came to a stop, and the couple received a one point time deduction. The arena scoreboard showed a program time of 4:13 by the time they came to a stop.
Cheng Peng (30) & Yang Jin (24) from China, 17th at Worlds half a year ago, won the silver medal with 201.08 points. But they did not really merit this medal and only had the fourth best free program. The short program was good, however, and they skated it to Ophelia by The Lumineers. Their triple toe loop was almost clean, the other elements very good and the components were around 7.9. “It is our second time at Skate Canada and we feel better this time. When we came here yesterday (to practice) we missed our jumps, but it was better today,” Jin explained. But their free program to a new version of "La vie en rose“ was a bit introverted and the public only gave a small and polite applause. Both skaters began with a double Salchow which was planned triple, followed by a jump combination in which both performed a triple toe loop, but then he singled the second jump and she doubled it. The two triple throws were excellent, the lifts very good and the other elements good. But their components of around 8.1 were too high, especially for performance. Jin commented, “We missed the jumps, but the other elements were okay and the GOE was good. We just need to improve the jumps. We love our programs this year and a big thank you goes to Lori Nichol (choreographer). She gave us so much help to show more emotions and our connection.”
Kirsten Moore-Towers (26) & Michael Marinaro (26) from Canada won the bronze medal with 200.93 points. They train in the Montreal school of Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte. They remain the only top pair in their country since Duhamel/Radford, Seguin/Bilodeau and Iliushechkina/Moscovitch all retired or split this summer. The Canadian high performance director Michael Slipchuk said that his federation is actively looking for a new partner for Charlie Bilodeau, whereas Seguin took a break. Marinaro‘s catch on the triple twist was a bit unclean, but the triple toe loop relatively good (he landed a bit deep) and the other elements very good. They skated to “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” by Leona Lewis and their components were around 8.0. Later Moore-Towers said, “Our main goal for this competition was to not take ourselves out of the game in the first part of the competition. We are generally a stronger long program team and we wanted to be able to start strongly as well. It’s our first time at Skate Canada since 2015 and the energy is amazing.”
They had chosen a medley of three Pink Floyd songs for their free program. Their first element was a triple twist which was landed not in a totally correct way in his arms before her skates touched ground. In the jump combination her triple Salchow after the double Axel and the Euler was downgraded. All other elements vere very good and had mainly GOEs of +3. Moore-Towers commented, “It was a personal victory to go out in a group such as this one, of very capable and impressive pair teams. Our goals are mainly to improve on our performances each time. We started with a rough competition at Autumn Classics, we were a little bit better in Finlandia (Trophy) and a little bit better again here.”
Aleksandra Boikova (16) & Dmitrii Kozlovskii (18) from St. Petersburg, students of Artur Minchuk and Tamara Moskvina, finished fourth with 196.54 points, but they would have merited at least a bronze medal. They were fourth in the short program to the Russian folk music "Dark Eyes“, which was correct. He had some problems to land the triple toe loop in a clean way, most other elements were good, however. The triple twist and the triple throw Salchow were even excellent. They skated the second best free program, but the difference to the Chinese and Canadians should have been bigger. They gave a flawless and extroverted performance to Peter Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. Their triple Salchow as well as the combination of triple toe loop and two double toe loops were very good. The twist, the high throws and lifts were excellent and they had six more technical points than the Chinese and Canadians. At the end they got a standing ovation from parts of the public, but their components were too low with an average of 7.7. Morgan Ciprès later said he saw and loved their program and they are leaders of the next generation of pairs.
Evelyn Walsh (17) & Trennt Michaud (22) from Brantfort, Ontario, moved up from sixth to fifth position with a total of 172.53 points. Both programs were better than at Skate America a week ago. In the short program, they made no big mistake. Skating to "Come Together“ by the Beatles, they began with an almost clean triple twist. Their triple toe loop, lift and death spiral were good, the combination spin a bit shaky, but they got GOEs of -1 on the average. Their free program music was the Romeo and Juliet version by Polish composer Abel Korzeniowski. Except for a fall of Walsh on the under-rotated side by side triple Salchow, the program was faultless: the combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop, the three lifts, the two triple throws and all other elements.
Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya (18) & Harley Windsor (22) from Australia, Junior World champions in 2017, finished on sixth place with 170.22 points. They have been training in Gauthier’s and Marcotte’s school in Montreal since this spring. But the beginning there was quite difficult for them because Gauthier wants to have a lot of fun also in practice whereas especially Alexandrovskaya tends to complain and argue a lot with his partner and the coaches during practice. Gauthier did not allow this any more. In Laval, they began their short program with a good triple twist, but then Windsor doubled the side by side toeloop which she tripled. After the program she looked at him and asked if he did a triple and you could see his ashamed face when admitting to her he did not. Their triple twist at the beginning of the free program to the romantic tango music "Por una Cabeza“ (from Scent of a Woman) was excellent and was mainly rewarded with GOEs of +3. Then Alexandrovskaya stepped out of the double toe loop after both had performed a triple toe loop. The triple throw loop was so-so, then he doubled the Salchow which she triples but stepped out. The other elements were clean, the lifts even very good.;
The U.S. competitors Haven Denney (23) & Brandon Frazier (25) are seventh with 166.95 points. They moved back from the school of Rockne Brubaker in Geneva, Ilinois, to coach John Zimmerman in Florida in the summer. They were eighth and last in the short program to the music of "Billie Jean“ by David Cook because Denney fell on the side by side triple Salchow and as well on the triple throw loop. The other elements were good, the twist and the step sequence even very good. They skated the fifth best free program and could move up one spot. Their triple twist was excellent and had mainly GOEs of +3. But then Delley singled the Salchow which he tripled. She touched her had on the triple throw loop, but the Axel Lasso Lift was good even if the landing was not difficult and they therefore had a level 3 and not a level 4. Their combination was only double toeloop and double toe loop. The other elements were good, but she said in the near past that she is sometimes afraid of the difficult elements.
Camille Ruest & Andrew Wolfe from Canada ended up eighth and last with 162.16 points. They also train in the Montreal pair skating school of Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte. In the short program, the triple twist was not clean (like in the free program) and Ruest touched down on the triple Salchow and stepped out of the triple throw loop. The other elements were good. The lifts and the combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop in the long program were good, but she fell on the triple throw loop and he singled the Salchow.