Germans Head the Field
Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy made good on a bold
commitment to win "everything" this season with a commanding
free skate at Skate Canada.
The couple’s program to "L’Oiseau" from Cirque de Soleil’s
"Nouvelle Expérience" show of the early 1990’s was intricate
and inventive, a clear step above the field. They opened with a superb
throw triple flip (+ 1.40 GOE), followed by a triple toe-double Axel
sequence (+1 GOE). They collided on the landing of their (Level 1) triple
twist – a move they began doing last season – but quickly recovered.
The couple missed their side-by-side triple Salchows (Szolkowy popped
his into a messy single) and their back outside death spiral was awkward
on both Savchenko’s descent and exit, and was reduced to Level 1.
Despite these flaws, the overall impression was one of spectacular
lifts, striking positions and challenging steps. The couple ended their
program with a throw triple Salchow, and although Savchenko appeared to
touch a second foot down, they were not penalized by the judges (+.28 GOE).
"We chose this program with our coach (Ingo Steuer) because we
want to be different from all the other (pairs)," Szolkowy said.
"At the end of the competition, everyone has to say, ‘I remember
Steuer, who won the world title in 1997 with Mandy Wötzel, said,
"I was pleased today; of course, there were still some mistakes.
Robin did a single Salchow, and there was a bit of a touch (down) on the
last element. The twist was not so good.
"I will have to ask the technical specialist about the death
spiral; to me, that was not a Level 1. Also, we will work more on the
The Germans earned 119.19 points (TES 61.19 + PCS 58) in the free and
188.63 overall, taking the title by more than 14 points. They also won
this event in 2005.
Canadian champions Jessica Dubé & Bryce Davison, winners of
’07 Skate America last weekend, performed another impressive free to
"The Blower’s Daughter."
The first half of the program was clean and inspiring, starting with a
softly landed Level 3 double twist with Dubé’s arms over head (+.7 GOE),
followed by a powerful double Axel-double Axel sequence (+ 1.4 GOE) and a
superb Level 3 Axel lift (+2 GOE). The program lost energy in its second
half, after Dubé doubled then fell on an intended triple Salchow.
"They had one major mistake, compared to last week when there were
two major mistakes, but overall I thought the program was better at Skate
America," Annie Barabé, the couple’s coach, said. "There were
some small mistakes on the footwork and the last lift was shaky.
"Still, with all of the factors – the 7 am practice today, the
early (10:30 am) start, the home crowd – I’m very, very proud and
happy they could skate this performance under pressure."
Dubé and Davison’s free took second place with 111.08 points (TES
59.92 + PCS 52.16). They won the silver medal with 174.20, assuring a spot
in the Grand Prix Final in Turin this December.
Russians Yuko Kawaguchi & Alexander Smirnov had a
technically ambitious program to "Love Story" that needed a bit
more spark between the skaters to be considered in the same league with
the German or Canadian free skates.
They opened with a good attempt at a quadruple throw Salchow (base
value of 8); Kawaguchi rotated the jump, but turned out of a two-footed
landing. Nevertheless, the move earned 6.24 points. Their triple
toe-double toe combinations were solid, as were their triple Salchows and
Level 2 double twist. Their finest lift was a Level 4 Axel; the burly
Smirnov lifted and set down Kawaguchi with one arm, and the move seemed to
go more than a third the distance of the rink.
The Russians earned 105.19 points for their third-place free skate (TES
58.11 + PCS 48.08) to capture the bronze medal.
"The (quad throw) was okay; I didn’t fall. We will work on it
more," Kawaguchi, who has skated pairs with several partners since
1998, said. "I have been landing it in practice but the stability is
not all there yet. I land it about 50% of the time.
"We have to practice all of the other elements; we can’t only
concentrate on the quad. In the summer we could, but now we have to skate
the programs and work on the expression, which makes everything more
"There are no big secrets to (learning) the quad throw," the
couple’s coach, Tamara Moskvina, said. "We work on it the same way
we work on all the other elements, slowly and safely."
Moskvina was asked to repeat her oft-told story of how Kawaguchi came
to train with her.
"She watched the Olympics in 1998. She sent me a fax, saying, ‘I
am Yuko Kawaguchi. I am 16 years old and want to skate pairs. I want to
skate as well as Elena Berezhnaya, and I want to take (lessons) from her
coach.’ Through her discipline and enthusiasm she defeated me and I
started to teach her."
Moskvina added that she has long wanted to use the "Love
Story" theme for a program, despite its close association with Jamie
Salé & David Pelletier.
"I love this music for so many years, and I wanted it for
Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze for the 2002 Olympics, but it was taken,"
"The music does not belong to a (specific) skater; it belongs to
the composer, Francis Lai."
Performing their free skate to music from "Dr. Zhivago,"
choreographed by Nikolai Morozov, Canadian bronze medalists Anabelle
Langlois & Cody Hay opened with a strong throw triple Salchow
(+.84 GOE), followed by solid side-by-side triple toe-double toe
combinations; a fine double twist; and triple Salchows. They were the only
pair to execute two different triple jumps in the free skate.
Langlois could not hold the landing of the throw triple Lutz (-1.40 GOE),
but all three lifts in the program were well done and rated Level 3 or 4.
"Kudos to the Russians for what they did out there, but I
completely disagree with the placement," Pelletier, commentating for
CBC, said. "I thought they had the best performance of the night,
except for maybe the Germans. It goes to show that in any judging system
you can have disagreements."
Langlois & Hay were fourth in the free (TES 57.97 + PCS 44.72 =
102.69 TSS) and fourth overall.
Like the Russians, Americans Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent
excited the crowds by landing the throw quadruple Salchow in practice, but
decided not to try the element in their free skate to "Les Miserables."
"We wanted to go for a clean program," Trent explained.
"We made the decision at our early morning practice today. We’ll
definitely try it at our next event (Tropheé Eric Bompard) or U.S.
Vise & Trent climbed from sixth place in the short to fifth in the
free (TES 55.62 + PCS 40.64) and fifth overall, with 96.26 points.
Performing to Puccini’s "Tosca," newly teamed Meagan
Duhamel & Craig Buntin hit two high, strong triple throws, the
Salchow and Lutz, after the halfway mark in their program, and showed
promising lifts and spins. Unfortunately, Buntin fell on the opening
triple Salchow, then doubled an intended triple toe. They placed sixth in
the free with 91.38 (TES 50.22 + PCS 42.16) and sixth overall with 144.16.
"I’m disappointed in myself," Buntin said. "The
Salchow is a new jump for me; I never tried it before Nebelhorn (this
September) and I’m 27. After I missed it, going in to the toe, I knew we
needed to hit (the toes) and I should have attacked it more."
The couple, whose only previous competition was a silver medal at
Nebelhorn, still hopes for a second Grand Prix assignment.
"Who knows? A lot of pairs have pulled out (of the series),"
Buntin said. "We’re planning to do Eastern Challenge (Canadian
qualifying competition) just to have another event under our belts."