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2016 Skate America Pairs

by Klaus Reinhold Kany





The pairs event at Skate America 2016 did not have a top level because only the top two teams skated almost without mistakes and even the winners had less than 200 points. Julianne Séguin & Charlie Bilodeau from Chambly in Quebec, eighth at the World Championships 2015, but injured during Worlds in Boston 2016, won their first Grand Prix competition with 197.31 points. In the short program, the students of Josee Picard (who had coached the 1993 World champions Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler) had one serious mistake when Bilodeau doubled the loop which was planned triple and stepped out of it. The other elements were good, including a level 4 triple twist, a very good triple throw lutz and four other level 4 elements. Their music was "Skokiaan“ by Louis Armstrong.

Bilodeau said: "The triple loop is pretty consistent except today for me. For me, that jump is really a feeling jump. As soon as I’ve got that feeling, we land it almost every time but sometimes it happens, like today. We had our personal best score here. We have been able to get our level we wanted to have at this competition. So we are happy with that and we still have some more room with going higher in the score.” Séguin added: “When the timing can get a little bit funny it’s hard to do it but I think it’s a good jump and we can keep it and be consistent like we can do at home.”

Their long program to the soundtrack of "Cinema Paradiso" was faultless, therefore they moved from third to first place. The combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop was excellent, the triple Salchow good, the triple throw Lutz and throw loop as well, like the three lifts and the other elements. The forward inward death spiral was even outstanding. The components had an average level of 8.0.

Bilodeau commented: "We are really happy with what we did today. We have been able to focus on the long program even with the mistake we did in the short program, so we’re happy with that. We got the gold so, it’s amazing. I would say really it’s just a lot of work when were able to deliver a performance like we did tonight, as soon as the music starts, we just try to create a moment together and we are able to do that with all the work behind it at home.”

Séguin added: “Of course, first, we need to like the music. We don’t have any particular way to choose our music. We just want to feel something when we’re listening to it and try to find a story behind that. That’s what came with that music. We are always working the same way. We keep in our mind that we are not focusing on any place, any podium or anything. We are just working hard, do our job, do our best, skate with our heart and that’s what we were able to do tonight.”

Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier had a successful comeback after she needed surgery at her knee in spring 2015, which took a year of healing. During this injury Frazier worked alone with Marina Zueva in Canton to improve his posture and skating skills which had been a point of criticism before. At Skate America you could see the improvement clearly. After Denney had recovered they changed coaches and went to the new pair school of Rockne Brubaker and his wife Stefania Berton in Geneva, Illinois. Like two years ago at Skate America in the same rink, they won the silver medal, this time with 192.65 points.

Six of the seven elements in the short program were at least good, the triple throw loop excellent, but Frazier stumbled on the side by side triple Salchow. Their music was the soundtrack of the musical Don Juan by Felix Grey and the components were around 7.5.

After the short program Denney commented: “The last time we were here was two years ago when we were doing Skate America. It’s bringing back good memories; that was a fun competition. And it’s nice because our training location is in Chicago so it’s nice that it’s not too far.”

"We’re happy with our short program today. It was our first Grand Prix back since almost two years. We were appreciative to be back on the ice. We were happy with our skate today. All the ligaments are 100 per cent. I’m feeling very strong. I’m still wearing a soft grace. I was in a titanium brace for a long time. It’s been a long journey and process to trust my knee again and get everything back. At first it was hard because I was like ‘I don’t know.’ But I have to put that out of my mind because I’m going to fall, it’s normal. We just keep working hard.”

Frazier added: “I think that Haven and I can both agree that there were some really tough days, especially when she was first cleared to get back on the ice. It took us a long time to get some of the elements that came easy to us in the past. It took a while to get things moving on top of everything -- getting things trained into a program, we’ve moved training locations, new coaches -- the whole thing felt like more than just the injury itself. I think I can safely say and have the opportunity to say I’m really proud of my partner. She’s truly a warrior. I’m very blessed with every day I get now to be back on the ice.”

In the free program to the famous soundtrack of "Somewhere in Time“, the triple twist, the triple throw loop and Salchow were good, the lifts very good, but Denney’s double toe loop in combination with the triple Slachow was downgraded and her axel was only single. The program had a good flow and was elegant, therefore the components had an average of 8.0.

Frazier explained: “We are very pleased with our performance tonight. It wasn’t perfect but it was a step in the right direction that we’re looking for this season. We’re very appreciative with every opportunity we’ve been given this week. Training has been quite a process coming back. I told Haven earlier this week that it was just great to be able to come to this arena where we came in second two years ago and had a strong performance in the free skate. It was a good emotional feeling this week to come out and put out two respectable programs.”

Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov from the Russian pair school of Nina Mozer performed an excellent modern short program to “Glam” (Electro Swing Remix) by Dimi Cat and were in the lead, eight points ahead of the other teams (75.24 points). The triple twist was outstanding and got five GOEs of +3, the triple throw loop was excellent as well and everything else at least good. The components were around 8.4.

Morozov said: “Today we had a a personal best and were glad to have this moment.”

"We feel it’s possible for us to become the Russian team number one. We work with our great team and our coaches, Robin (Szolkowy) and Nina (Mozer), and think it’s possible and we will do everything for this.”

But eight points ahead were not enough to keep the first place because after several mistakes in the long program they finished third, earning 185.94 points. Skating to "Music is my First Love“ by John Miles, Tarasova fell on the quad twist, which is new in their repertoire, because Morozov could not catch her correctly. She was so confused that she singled the side by side Salchow which was planned triple. After a triple throw Salchow (a bit shaky) Morozov doubled the toeloop which was planned triple. Then they pulled together and the rest of the elements were good. The components were around 7.7.

Morozov said: “Today we had a mistake on the quad. It was not our best skate and we had a lot of other mistakes. What happened? I think it was because I was sick in the morning. I have a temperature. Maybe this is why.”

The French pair Vanessa James & Morgan Ciprès finished on fourth position with 174.65 points. In July they left their coaches in France and now train under John Zimmerman and his wife Silvia Fontana in Coral Springs, Florida. In both programs they tried a new variation of the triple throw flip which never any pair has shown before: When he has thrown her up, she puts both hands over her head, like some single skaters (Adam Rippon and several Russian girls) do during some jumps. In practice it sometimes worked well, but in the short program James landed on two feet and in the long program she fell. The other elements in the short program (to the music “The Weekend” by “Earned it “ and Maxim Rodriguez were good.

In the long program to the evergreen “Sounds of Silence” in a version of Disturbed and Maxim Rodriguez they made more mistakes: James fell on the triple toeloop and on the quad throw Salchow and she doubled the side by side Salchow. Lifts and other elements were good, but the whole program did not look very polished yet.

The second Russian team of Kristina Astakhkova & Alexei Rogonov, who train with Artur Dmitriev, ended up fifth with 174.52 points. In the short program, Astakhova stumbled on the triple Salchow, the other elements were clean. In the long, she fell on the triple loop and he stumbled on the triple toeloop. Most other elements were good, but the triple throw loop was landed on two feet.

The U.S. champions Tarah Kayne & Danny O’Shea of Elleton, Florida finished sixth, winning 173.50 points. Their triple twist only got a base level because he did not catch her correctly in the air. During the triple Salchow she was a bit out of balance and she fell on the triple throw lutz. The other elements were good. The long program was better, here they were even third. Most element of the students of Jim Peterson were good here, she only fell again on the throw triple lutz and her double Axel was landed on two feet and a bit underrotated. Twist, triple Salchow and the lifts were more or less clean.

The third U.S. team of Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran, who train mainly in Montreal,  ended up seventh, earning 171.95 points. In the short program, the triple twist was not a hundred per cent clean and he had to finish the lift abruptly because he would almost have lost balance while he held her in the air. The other elements were good. They began the free program with a good triple twist and a very good backward loop lift. But then both stumbled on the triple toeloop, she landed the triple throw lutz in a shaky manner and he fell on the triple Salchow. The whole program looked as if they had to rush behind their music.

The Chinese judge Tianyi Zhang missed the short program although she was on site in Hoffman Estates. So there were only eight judges, which is no technical problem. The Swiss referee Beatrice Pfister explained that Zhang had thought she would have to judge only the men after the Chinese pair had withdrawn from the event. In Junior Grand Prix, the rule says that normally you will judge only if a skater of your country is in the competition. But in seniors it may be different. She stayed in the hotel during the pairs short program and fell asleep because of the jetlag. The referee decided then that she could judge at least the pairs long program the next day. The next time, Pfister said, the ISU would learn from this incident. The referee would mention at the judges meeting before the event precisely who has to judge which event.