by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(25 October 2021) The pair skating event of Skate America had a relatively good level. Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov from Russia, World silver medalists in 2018 and 2019, won with 222.50 points. Since this early summer they have worked with coach Eteri Tutberidze and choreographer Daniil Gleikhengauz and continue working with Olympic Champion Maxim Trankov. Because of the travel problems they left Marina Zoueva in Florida. The new coaching staff helped them to win in expression. Their excellent short program to “Metamorphosis Two“ by Philip Glass and “Experience“ by Ludovico Einaudi (80.36 points) had six outstanding elements, among them a very parallel triple toe loop and a huge triple twist with level 4. Their triple throw loop was a bit shaky, but their components had an average of 9.3. Morozov commented: “This is our fifth competition this season and we did a step forward with each one. It was not 100 per cent, but we are happy for today.”
They opened their free program to “Lighthouse“ by Patrick Watson with a side by side Salchow which he tripled and she doubled. Their triple twist was stellar and got three GOEs of +5, followed by the jump combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop, but Morozov stumbled on the first jump and could not add a second one. The triple throw flip and triple throw loop were outstanding, the three lifts as well and the other elements excellent. This time the components were around 9.1. Later Morozov said, “It was not perfect, but it was a good step forward. It is a good feeling to win a Grand Prix again for the first time since 2018. For this season we are back in Moscow and we have a great team, that’s why we have good results."
The silver medal for Riku Miura & Ryuichi Kihara, both native Japanese and winning 208.20 points, seemed to be a surprise. Both had done pair skating with other partners before when their Canadian coach Bruno Marcotte brought them together in 2019 during a seminar in Japan. After Worlds 2020 were cancelled they could not return to Japan and continued in Canada as long as their rink in Oakville was open. They were tenth at the World Championship 2021 and made progress since, although they were not allowed to go back to Canada after the World Team Trophy in Japan in April. Marcotte worked with them online regularly for the whole summer 2021 and they could come back to Oakville only in early September when Canada opened its borders again. They won the Autumn Classics in September ahead of Canada’s new team of Vanessa James & Eric Radford and the U.S. team of Cain-Gribble & Le Duc with a big distance. In Las Vegas, six of their elements in the short program to “Hallelujah” were very good, including a triple throw Lutz. Only Miura’s triple toe loop was nearly under-rotated and got a q, but they were awarded components of around 8.5, more than ever before.
In their free program to ”Woman” by Shawn Phillips, they moved up from third to second place. Nine of their 11 elements were excellent again, including a combination of triple toe loop, double toe loop and another double toe loop. Their lifts had many GOEs of +4. They had good speed and skated with a visible joy, but Miura went down on the triple throw Lutz (and cut her knee) and their triple throw loop was not a hundred percent clean. “Now we aim for another medal at our next Grand Prix event and we would like to get 210 points," Miura announced. "We are taking it step by step."
The second Russian pair of Aleksandra Boikova & Dmitrii Kozlovskii, coached by Arthur Minchuk and Tamara Moskvina in St. Petersburg, won the bronze medal with 205.53 points. In their short program to “Swan Lake,“ most elements were very good, but the triple Salchow out of sync. For their free program they had chosen the well-known music of Malaguena. They had planned to open with a sequence of triple Salchow, Euler and another triple Salchow, but Boikova’s Euler was downgraded and she fell on the second Salchow and later again on the triple throw flip. Most other elements were very good, but these two mistakes let them drop to third place.
U.S. champions Alexa Knierim & Brandon Frazier, who were seventh at the World Championships in springtime, came fourth with 202.97 points. They train in Irvine, California with Jenni Meno, Todd Sand and Knierim‘s husband and former ice partner Chris Knierim. In their short program to “House of the Rising Sun“ (scoring 66.37 points), Frazier stepped out of the triple toe loop and she landed the jump quite deep. The triple throw flip and the lift were excellent. Their components had an average of 8.2. Knierim commented, "I felt like I was a little tight in some areas, and I think we maybe came out of the spin a little different this time. I think there were just some spots we're going to grow from." With the second best free program without any serious mistake they could move up from fifth to fourth place. The triple twist was good, followed by a clean combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop. The lifts and the choreographic step sequence were their best elements.
Jessica Calalang & Brian Johnson, who also train in Irvine, finished in fifth position with 197.42 points. At Nationals 2021, Calalang was tested doping-positive for a banned substance, but had no explanation why. Therefore they were not allowed to compete at Worlds and all funding money was stopped. More than half a year later it was found out that a cosmetic cream which she had put on her skin, contained the forbidden substance. She was released, her name was cleared and they were allowed to compete again at the Cranberry Cup, the John Nicks Pair Challenge, the Finlandia Trophy and now at Skate America. Skating to "Come Together" by Gary Clark Jr. and Junkie XL, their twist and lift were outstanding. The triple Salchow, she had struggled with in the warm-up was relatively clean and the spin a bit out of sync .
Calalang remarked, "I am so satisfied with that performance. After my suspension was lifted, it really felt like we could skate with a new sort of joy or freedom." In their free program to “Who Wants to Live Forever“ by Queen in a new version, they dropped to fifth place because Calalang went down on the triple toe loop and Johnson on the triple Salchow. The other elements were excellent.
Alina Pepeleva & Roman Pleshkov from Moscow were sixth, earning 183.12 points. They were 5th at the ISU Junior Final two years ago. Pepeleva fell on the triple toe loop in the short program, all other elements were good. In the free, she doubled the toe loop in the jump combination and went down again on the triple Salchow, everything else was successful.
Chelsea Liu & Danny O’Shea finished on seventh place with 175.40 points. They teamed up in Irvine in March 2021 after skating with other partners before. In the short, she almost fell on the triple Salchow and landed the triple throw loop with a touchdown, the other elements got plus-points. In the free, they missed three elements.
Evelyn Walsh & Trennt Michaud from Canada ended up eighth with 147,61 points after making several serious mistakes. They fear the new Canadian pair of Vanessa James & Eric Radford will snap the second Canadian Olympic spot (behind Moore-Towers & Marinaro) and will not allow Walsh & Michaud to fulfill their dream which they had until this summer.