by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
Pairs Free Skate
The level of the pairs competition at Skate America 2019 in Las Vegas was relatively low. Nobody was world class and the U.S. team of Haven Denney & Brandon Frazer was the only pair without big mistakes.
Cheng Peng & Yang Jin from China won Skate America 2019 with 200.89 points and skated to the soundtrack of “Cloud Atlas“, but they were not outstanding. Their first element was a side by side double Salchow, followed by a combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop, but her landing on the second jump was shaky. The triple twist was excellent, but she fell on the triple throw loop, bumped into the barrier and hurt herself a bit so that they had to skip the Exhibition Gala on Sunday. The three lifts and the triple throw Salchow were very good, but the whole program lacked a bit of emotions. Peng commented: “We’ve won several silver medals and we’ve been longing for a gold medal. We put in a lot of effort and this gold medal is like a new starting point for us.”
Russia’s Daria Pavliuchenko & Denis Khodykin won the silver medal with 196.98 points. The pair from Moscow opened with a triple flip, which is very rare in pair skating, and got a small edge call. The combination of triple toe loop, double toe loop and another double toe loop was good, the triple twist excellent, but Pavliuchenko fell on the triple throw flip. Their lifts and the triple throw loop were very good, but their style is not yet first class and the components were around 7.6.
Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier of Wesley Chapel in West Florida climbed from fourth to third place with 192.70 points, a personal best for them. They performed the second best free program and a generally very dynamic routine to the soundtrack “Lion King Returns“, which caused a standing ovation from the public. The students of Silvia Fontana and John Zimmerman were a bit undermarked in the components (average 7.8) and would have merited at least the silver medal, if not the gold. They opened with a stellar twist, followed by an excellent triple throw loop and a good side by side triple Salchow. Her double Axel was under-rotated and she landed the triple throw Salchow on two feet. In the second half the three lifts were spectacular, had many GOEs of +4 and the other elements very good.
Denney said: “Our goal for this program was to be very proactive and mindful of what we were doing and not let anything get taken away from us.” Frazier added: “A lot of credit goes to John Zimmerman. He’s an artist when it comes to creating new, innovative things when it comes to lifts and transitional skating. Last season, when we started back with him, it was just a building year. This year, we really opened that door of creativity. I remember I was so stubborn in the summer. I was shaking my head on some of the things he was having us do. I really enjoy it now and am grateful for what he brings to the table.”
Jessica Calalang & Brian Johnson of Irvine, California, are fourth with 180.52 points. After an outstanding triple twist (with two GOEs of +5) Johnson fell on the double toe loop after the triple toe loop and fell again on the triple Salchow. The lifts were excellent, the triple throw Salchow good, but Calalang almost fell on the triple throw Lutz. Their components had an average of 7.3. Calalang said: “This is our first Grand Prix together enjoying our time out here. It’s nice that we had this experience, but we’re just going to go right into the next one.” Johnson added: “Any experience is good experience.”
Ashley Cain-Gribble, who is married since June, & Timothy LeDuc sit on fifth place with 177.54 points.Their twist was clean, their jump combination as well, but Cain-Gribble fell on the triple throw Lutz and singled the loop which he tripled. Two llifts were good, but they had to finish the Axel Lasso Lift abruptly.
Cain-Gribble said: “It honestly felt so foreign because we’ve been training extremely well and hard. Especially after the loop, my mind felt like it was exploding.” LeDuc added: “Obviously we are disappointed with the mistakes we made. We didn’t train to go out and skate like that. We knew there was an opportunity for a great result. But we know we are so much stronger than that.”
Camille Ruest & Andrew Wolfe from Montreal finished on sixth position, earning 155.16 points after a free program with three serious and some smaller mistakes. Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya & Harley Windsor from Australia are on seventh position with 152.92 points. Their triple twist was excellent, but they made several other mistakes, including two falls on the throws, and are far from their shape when they were Junior World Champions. The British team of Zoe Jones (39) & Christopher Boyadji (29) ended up eighth with 138.79 points after four serious and some minor mistakes.
Pairs Short Program
Skate America 2019 in the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas started with the Short Program. The level was not very high because five of the eight pairs made a serious mistake on the side-by-side jump and there were some other big errors.
Cheng Peng & Yang Jin from China, coached by Olympic Champion Hongbo Zhao and fourth at the World Championships 2019, took the lead with 72.73 points. Skating to “Alegria“ from the Cirque du Soleil, they began with a side by side triple toe loop, but Peng stumbled. The triple twist, the triple throw loop and the Reverse Lasso Lift (level 4) as well, all got mainly GOEs of +3 and +4. Their components were around 8.4.
Jin commented: “We made an obvious mistake on the side by side jump, but the rest of the elements were quite good and we’re overall satisfied with the performance. Pang added: “The hardest part at the beginning of the season is to get back into competition mode. It’s been half a year since the end of the last season.”
Daria Pavliuchenko (16) & Denis Khodykin (20) from Moscow, gold medal winners at Junior Worlds 2018 and fifth at the European Championships 2019, sit on second position, earning 71.25 points. They were the only pair without mistakes: Their triple toe loop was good, the triple twist excellent and the triple throw loop even got one GOE of +5. Their dismount of the Axel Lasso lift was innovative because Pavliuchenko glided between his legs under him on the landing. They skated to the music “The Storm“ by Havasi and had components with an average of 7.6. Pavliuchenko said: “It was a normal performance for us. There is always room to grow and we made a little error in the step sequence. Overall we lost two levels (on elements) in the performance,”
U.S. champions Ashley Cain-Gribble & Timothy LeDuc of Euless, Texas, ninth at Worlds 2019, are currently third with 68.20 points. Skating to “A Storm is coming“ by Tommee Profitt, the began their short program with a clean triple twist, followed by a very good side by side triple Salchow. Then Cain-Gribble fell on the throw triple Lutz, but the rest oft he program was good. Their components were around 8.0.
LeDuc explained: “Skate America is a really special competition. It feels like we’re right at home. It’s wonderful to look up to the audience and see people that we know and love everywhere. We know that our season is going to build as it continues with our main goal being at the World Championships, so we know this is one step along the road.” They had said before that their goal is a Top Five place at Worlds in Montreal.
The second U.S. team of Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier of Wesley Chapel in West Florida are fourth with 65.18 points. Their Axel lasso lift, their twist and their throw loop were world class, but Denney doubled the side by side Salchow and stepped out. They skated to “Quidam“ from the Cirque du Soleil and had components of around 7.3. Brandon commented: “Technically we lost some points with the double, but actually it wasn’t bad. Haven and I have been tackling our own personal goals this season, and today was a right step in the right direction to achieving those.“
The third U.S. pair of Jessica Calalang & Brian Johnson of Irvine, California, is currently fifth, winning 61.27 points. Their triple twist was stellar, but they made three other mistakes: Calalang fell on the side by side triple toe loop and she stepped out of the triple throw Lutz and he slipped on the step sequence. They competed to the music “Light of the Seven“ from the soundtrack of “Game of Thrones“ and had components with an average of 7.0.
Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya & Harley Windsor from Australia train in Moscow now with Andrei Helako after living in Montreal for one year. They placed sixth with 55.06 points and began their short program with a good triple twist. But then Alexandrovskaya fell on the triple toe loop and touched her hands on the triple throw Lutz. Their lift was a bit shaky and the spin had only the basic value.
Camille Ruest & Andrew Wolfe from the Montreal pair skating school of Richard Gauthier are on seventh position, earning 54.63 points. Ruest landed the triple twist on two feet and fell on the triple toe loop. The other elements were relatively clean, but the spin only got a basic level. They skated to “Let Me Down Easy“ by Max Frost and had components of around 6.8. They lack a bit of elegance.
Zoe Jones & Christopher Boyadji from Britain were invited as alternates for the Russian pair of Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert who could not compete in Las Vegas because Enbert has heart problems again after missing parts of last season for the same reason. The British sit eighth with 47.92 points. Most of their elements were not clean and they only had a side by side double Axel.
Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy Leduc, third after the Pairs Short Program.