Skate Canada

Victoria, BC

Pairs Event

By Alexandra Stevenson

All photos Copyright 2006 by George S. Rossano

Place Team Country SP FS
1 Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang CHN 1 1
2 Rena Inoue & John Baldwin USA 3 2
3 Valerie Marcoux & Craig Buntin CAN 2 3
4 Elizabeth Putnam & Sean Wirtz CAN 4 4
5 Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent USA 5 5
6 Kendra Moyle & Andy Seitz USA 7 6
7 Angelika Pylkina & Niklas Hogner SWE 6 7
8 Jessica Miller & Ian Moram CAN 8 8
9 Rumiana Spassova & Stanimir Todorov BUL 9 9


Short Program

Starting Order - Short Program
  1. Jessica Miller & Ian Moram
  2. Elizabeth Putnam & Sean Wirtz
  3. Rena Inoue & John Baldwin
  4. Kendra Moyle & Andy Seitz
  5. Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang
  6. Angelika Pylkina & Niklas Hogner
  7. Rumiana Spassova & Stanimir Todorov
  8. Valerie Marcoux & Craig Buntin
  9. Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent


Short Program Placements


Team Country
 1 Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang CHN
2 Valerie Marcoux & Craig Buntin CAN
3 Rena Inoue & John Baldwin USA
4 Elizabeth Putnam & Sean Wirtz CAN
5 Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent USA
6 Angelika Pylkina & Niklas Hogner SWE
7 Kendra Moyle & Andy Seitz USA
8 Jessica Miller & Ian Moram CAN
9 Rumiana Spassova & Stanimir Todorov BUL

Zhang & Zhang


There was absolutely no question. Dan & Hao Zhang, performing to Spanish Caravan and Hello I Love You, were absolutely fantastic. They even won the audience vote for the best costumes. The title sponsor, Home Sense, put a ballot in each program and each day audience members could vote for their choice. "They won (for Day 1) by a big margin," said a Skate Canada official. Was it really because of their black and plum outfits (see photo) or because of their popularity? Does it matter? The poll was an added way to get audience members more involved, a situation which pleases everybody.

They soared through their first move, a triple twist. One judge went as far as to award a +3 Grade of Execution, eight gave Level 2 and one miserly soul punched in Level 1. Was that person marking the same move the rest of us saw? Even 1984 Olympic silver pair medalist Peter Carruthers, here commenting for television, said he was in awe of their execution of that move. However, the Technical Specialist David Moellenkamp and his assistant, 1997 & 1998 U.S. pairs champion Jason Dungjen, awarded only a Level 3.

Carruthers declared, "There is no way it could be any better. It was incredible. Thatís as good as it gets." Struggling with the language barrier, Carruthers tried to ask the pair what more they had to do to get a Level 4. A triple twist is so difficult even without the added features needed to get the added points for a high level that almost all pairs now stay with the double. Hao, who is 22, said the twist could have been higher but was not because of the difficult steps into the takeoff. They must do them to get a higher level but it slows their entrance a bit. Four of their level-earning moves did gain a 4 but the death spiral was only a 2. Dan turned 21 on October 6.

Of course, Hao is aided by the fact that his partner weighs so little. If life were fair, there would be a handicapping system with a sliding scale for a deduction based on weight and height difference. She is obviously one tough cookie. The fall she took in the Olympics when she slammed down onto her knees one half rotation short of the quad in their throw was stomach-turning. There was an enormous controversy because many felt she was permitted too long a time to recover and continue. They won world wide sympathy and silver medals in both the Olympics and worlds.

The beefy Hao said he had stomach problems in both Turin and Calgary. It was unclear whether he was living on a diet of bananas and rice or that his doctors had forbidden him to eat those two items. He said doctors in Beijing had discovered what was either three or five types of what they termed "diseases" in his stomach. What with that problem and Dan having to have recovery time for her knee, they didnít begin preparation for this season until August.

A long 11.14 points behind in second are Valerie Marcoux & Craig Buntin. Skating to lively dance music Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White, Buntin fell on his triple toe loop but the rest of their moves were good. The three time Canadian champions are weathering a romantic reassessment period. The couple, who are both 26, say they are getting on much better now they have chosen to terminate their love relationship. "I think thatís because it was a mutual decision. Itís not like he wanted to break up and I didnít or the other way around. We both wanted it. It was a difficult decision at the time because we didnít know if we could still be able to skate or not. We had questions in our head. But weíre really lucky and everything is going great. The day after we broke up was the best practice we ever had!"

They had a "meeting" to discuss the breakup. Buntin explained, "She spoke her mind for about five minutes. Every word that came out of her mouth, I could have said. It cleared out things. It was a big relief to get that out of the way for both of us. Now we can concentrate on the skating. We wonít be together 24 hours a day. When weíre off the ice now, we can go our different ways and there wonít be as much stress." Marcoux said, "Weíre now good friends. Iím sure we always will be."

Twice U.S. champions, Rena Inoue & John Baldwin, lie third, 2.94 points behind the Canadians. The just turned 33 year old Baldwin was fit to be tied about what he saw as marks that were too low. Their music is Soul of Spain and they wore modern versions of a sleeveless Toreador outfit for him and a bright yellow flamenco dress for her with a pink inset. They started with +1 GoE for their double Axels and, although she had to turn out of the landing on the throw triple Axel, she got credit for the rotation. It is a move only they do. They received -2 GoEs for their spiral sequence in which Baldwin tripped. Their double twist Level 3 got a very slight minus GoE. Their change foot combination spin, Group 4 lift and pair combination spin all were awarded Level 4 but their back outside death spiral received only a Level 1. Baldwin was upset at that but it is now much more difficult to get high levels on this move. He also considered their component scores to be much too low. Inoue, his significant other who was 30 on October 17, was far calmer. She said, while trying to calm Baldwin down, "We made a lot of small mistakes. We got the marks we deserved." It was the voice of reason that Baldwin did not want to hear.

In fourth place, 1.38 points behind the Americans, are Canadians Elizabeth Putnam, who will be 22 on November 28, & Sean Wirtz, who just turned 27. They were Canadian bronze medalists in 2003 & 2004, but fourth in 2005 and fifth in 2006. They have had to deal with some very unfortunate circumstances this year. His uncle, Paul Wirtz, who had coached them, died of a fast developing cancer, early this year and two weeks ago her father died. Nevertheless, said Putnam, "They didnít want to withdraw." They train with Peter Tchernyshev in the United States but after attending Paulís funeral in Canada, when Sean went to return to Hackensack, NJ, the U.S. immigration people stopped him. It took about a month to sort out the difficulties and he lost that amount of practice so they are staying with last seasonís routines. Their short program music was Sing, Sing, Sing. They were attired in bright yellow and red polka dot fun outfits. They did good side by side triple Salchows but she stepped out of their throw triple Salchow. Their twist only got Level 1 and could be higher. Their back outside death spiral was also a Level 1 but they received Level 4 for their Group 4 lift, spiral sequence and pair combination spin. Their flying combination spin was level 3.

Tiffany Vise, dressed in a stunning bright green outfit, & Derek Trent may only lie fifth, 4.32 points behind Putnam & Wirtz, but they scored top marks in one area. They were the ONLY pair to score above Level 2 for their back outside death spiral. Two of the pairs got Level 2 on this move. All the others received Level 1 except Vise and Trent who scored a Level 4! Unfortunately, he singled his side by side triple toe loop. They used music from the popular Japanese "ballroom" movie, Shall We Dance? Their double twist Level 2 was good and their throw triple loop was superb. They gained Level 4 on their lift, spiral sequence and flying change foot combination spin. However on their pair combination spin they had problems and it was deemed only a Level 2 with a negative GoE.

In sixth place, 2.48 behind Vise & Trent, are Angelika Pylkina, 16, & Niklas Hogner, who turned 22 September 22. She wore a lavender catsuit and they skated to music said to be Sozo by Kitari and Peacock by Rene Dupere. They were fifth in the last world junior championship. The pair is coached by her mother who moved from Russia to LinkŲping so her daughter could skate with Hogner and form the first pair to represent Sweden since 1962. Their order of elements was unusual in that they started with their spiral sequence for which they received Level 4 and a good GoE. But she fell on the side-by-side Salchow which was downgraded to a single. They also made a mess of their throw triple Salchow.

Only a marginal 0.64 behind the Swedes in seventh place are Kendra Moyle, who is 16, & Andy Seitz, who turns 21 on December 13. They are the current U.S. Junior champions and were runners-up in the world junior championships. They were just thrilled to be entered for this event. Skating to the very popular, Grieg Piano Concerto in A Minor performed by Maksim Mrvica, they began with their Group 4 Level 3 lift which scored the base value as did their double Axels and Level 2 double twist. However, she fell on their throw triple loop. Their spiral sequence and flying change foot combination spin were Level 4 and although the death spiral was only Level 1, their pair combination spin was Level 3. It was a very promising senior debut.

Lying eighth, 1.80 points behind Moyle & Seitz are Jessica Miller, 25, & Ian Moram, 26, who placed seventh in the 2006 Canadian championships. Miller is an American who initially moved to Montreal to train with Bruno Marcotte in 2002 when she teamed up with Moram. They followed Marcotte to Vancouver when he accepted a position in this area. They performed to Black Magic Woman. She fell on their side by side double toe loops.

Lying ninth and last, 5.50 points behind Miller & Moran are the Bulgarians, Rumiana Spassova, 17, & Stanimir Todorov, 24, the three time Bulgarian champions. They performed to music from the soundtrack of a sinister sounding Bulgarian movie, Sentenced Souls.

Free Skating

Starting Order - Free Skating
  1. Jessica Miller & Ian Moram
  2. Rumiana Spassova & Stanimir Todorov
  3. Kendra Moyle & Andy Seitz
  4. Elizabeth Putnam & Sean Wirtz
  5. Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent
  6. Angelika Pylkina & Niklas Hogner
  7. Rena Inoue & John Baldwin
  8. Valerie Marcoux & Craig Buntin
  9. Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang


Free Skating Placements
Place Team Country
1 Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang CHN
2 Rena Inoue & John Baldwin USA
3 Valerie Marcoux & Craig Buntin CAN
4 Elizabeth Putnam & Sean Wirtz CAN
5 Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent USA
6 Kendra Moyle & Andy Seitz USA
7 Jessica Miller & Ian Moram CAN
8 Angelika Pylkina & Niklas Hogner SWE
9 Rumiana Spassova & Stanimir Todorov BUL

Inoue & Baldwin

Zhang/Zhang, skating to last seasonís free to The Offspring of Dragons, were not perfect and did not show the spark that had fired their short program. But they still did more than enough to win by the spectacular margin of 24.65 marks. They wore the same pink and white outfits that were seen in the Olympics. The routine began with a great throw triple Salchow but in the following jump sequence, she singled her double Axel and did a double toe jump. He fell on his attempt at a triple toe loop. Their triple Lutz twist was as spectacular as ever but was still only Level 3. The Group 5 toe lasso lift morphed into a carry and gained Level 4 which was also awarded for their pair combination spin. The back outside death spiral in which she does a three turn to a forward inside edge while down in the low position was given Level 3. The throw triple loop and side by side triple Salchows were landed with ease. The spiral sequence was a Level 4. The next three moves, Group 5 Axel Lasso lift, circular step sequence, and change foot combination spin were Level 3. The final move was a Group 3 lift which was given Level 4.

At the conclusion, to show his embarrassment for the jumping error, Hao did a little combination of three jump to single toe loop. Dan said she was pleased with the showing considering they had had less training time than in previous years. He said heíd been jet lagged. They said the difference between Victoria and Beijing is 16 hours and the trip to Canada had taken 21 hours. They also felt a problem with the size. "The rinks in China are 60x30 meters (Olympic size) not the hockey size of North America," said the interpreter.

Inoue/Baldwin won the silver medals with a superb throw triple Axel. Skating to a selection of music by Puccini, Inoue literally floated into a feather landing in the move only she and partner do. Smiling, she said, "When it goes right, the landing is really soft and it just flows. The rhythm is just perfect. If it isnít right, it pulls on my body and really hurts my foot." How did she prepare for the move? "I do visualizations. For my preparation today I broke down every little thing and walked through it with my body and mind, each bit at a time." TV Commentator Peter Carruthers was among those who were just amazed as its lightness of this amazing move. It was a better than their throw triple loop, which was a little strained.

The routine did not get off to a good start. Baldwin fell on their first move, side by side triple toe loops. "There was quite a bit of water on the ice there and I got quite wet," he said. "I had to wipe my hands on my costumes because I had to have dry hands for the lift." But things improved. They received Level 4 for their double Lutz twist and for six of their other moves. However, they were awarded only a Level 2 for their back outside death spiral and their straight line step sequence. They have chosen to accept three Grand Prix events. This was their "non-scoring" event. (Points from two events determine who goes to the Final in St. Petersburg.)

Dressed in orange and brown, Marcoux/Buntin, skating to LíAmour (Love) by Osvaldo Montes, dropped behind the Americans to finish third but only by an incredibly small margin, 13 one hundredths of a point! They admitted it was not the performance they were hoping for.

Marcoux said, "We made lots of little many mistakes. We will build on this and do better in our next Grand Prix event (Cup of China). Like Craig said, ĎTonight was like our first pancake, not so good. The second pancake is usually perfect and we intend to skate that way in our next event.í" Buntin also said, "In training we do this routine so much better."

Putnam/Wirtz, skating to Tchaikovskyís Piano Concerto No. 1, were fourth, 8.48 points behind their teammates. Their finish was very emotional, a kind of release after all that theyíve been through to get to this point, and was perfect for their music. Putnam, almost in tears with the relief of getting through this event, said, "Weíre glad we didnít pull out but itís been very hard. We really skated for my dad. We havenít been able to train."

Vise/Trent, who spin and jump in opposite directions, were 8.25 further back in fifth place. They were delighted to get credit for the rotation of their throw quad Salchow and, although she fell, the fall was not jarring at all. The move earned 6.80 points and they earned a Personal Best. "I just have to get the check out right," said Vise. "The rotation is there and if I fall itís not a heavy fall. I do think we will land it in competition sometime soon." They skated to Les Miserables which they did not realize their coach, Doug Ladret, had also used in his competitive days.

Moyle/Seitz, skating to music from Borodinís Opera Prince Igor, were extremely upset about his sit on the death spiral. Itís the sort of problem that has happened to many pairs but in this new system it meant no marks for the element plus the one point deduction for the fall. Six of their eight elements were Level 4 and the other two, Level 3. They definitely show promise. They said it was a thrill to be on the same ice as skaters they look up to. They moved up a place to sixth but were a very large 14.50 points behind their teammates.

Dressed in black, Miller/Moram, skating to a soundtrack, Nouvelle France, were first up for the free skate. They gave a delightful performance portraying the story in which she is an imprisoned murderess who falls in love. Their coach, Bruno Marcotte, said their jumps must improve but the performance was good. They had some interesting lifts which helped them climb a place to seventh, 2.90 points behind Moyle & Seitz.

Pylkina/Hogner had looked really good in practice but they didnít hold it together in the event and dropped from sixth to eighth overall. They used music from the movie Dracula, Interview With A Vampire.

Spassova/Todorov, skating to the Paso Doble, Viva Espana, filled out the field. They survived three falls.

2006 Skate Canada Pairs Medalists


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