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2022 Skate America Pairs

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany



(26 October 2022) The pairs competition had a relatively low level with only two pairs having a very good standard. All Russian skaters are still banned for the whole Grand Prix series. Every year they had more than 10 pairs spots, and all pairs were at least good. The Chinese skaters were not allowed to leave their country and return to China due to Covid 19. Very good U.S. pairs like Cain-Gribble & Leduc, Calalang & Johnson and Lu & Mitrofanov as well as the three best Canadian pairs Moore-Towers & Marinaro, Walsh & Michaud and James & Radford had finished their career. For all pairs except Knierim & Frazier, Skate America 2022 was their first Grand Prix.

The reigning world champions Alexa Knierim & Brandon Frazier of Irvine, students of Jenni Meno, Todd Sand and Alexa’s husband Chris Knierim, took the lead in the short program and finished overall with 201.39 points. Skating to “Separate Ways” by the US rock band Journey and Steve Perry, they opened with a good triple twist, followed by a side by side triple toe loop which she almost under-rotated and got a “q”. The other five elements were excellent, including a triple throw flip and a step sequence with level 4. Their components were around 8.6.

Frazier said, “To come out on competitive ice after the way we ended last season meant a lot to me personally. There was a lot of positivity out there tonight. It was a little of a fight tonight, but it was our starting base.” Knierim added, “We are very happy to be back on competitive ice. It’s our first event this season. I felt calm and excited and warmed by the audience. It doesn't matter what event we're at. We attack it the same way and they all have the same weight to us.”

Like all other pairs, they opened their free program with the triple twist, in their case with a good one. Skating to “Signs of the Times” by British songwriter and singer Harry Styles, they continued with a good combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop, followed by a triple throw loop on which she fell. Then they both doubled the side by side Salchow, had three very good lifts, but Knierim landed the triple throw flip on two feet. The other elements were very good and the components had an average level of 8.5.

Frazier commented, “Tonight was a fight. I’m very proud of Alexa and I trusting each other to get through that program. “It’s a starting base for us and I can see this program growing throughout the season. We lost a lot of points out there, so we are disappointed about that.” Knierim corrected him: “Maybe we’re not disappointed in the program. We knew coming in that we are not in the shape that we needed to be our best. That is part of our journey and the process.”

Deanna Stellato-Dudek & Maxime Deschamps from Canada won the silver medal in their very first Grand Prix together with 197.89 points. Stellato-Dudek is American has a very interesting career: She is already 39 years old and competed more than 20 years ago as a single skater. The silver medal at Junior Worlds 2000 was the highlight of that first career. She finished that part of her life afterwards and was not on the ice for 15 years, but kept fit. In 2016 she started pair skating with Nathan Bartholomay in Florida. When he had to undergo complicated knee surgery she went to Canada and found Maxime Deschamps from Quebec, now 30 years old, who had had had many pair skating partners before. At Canadian Nationals 2022, the students of Josee Picard got third.

Their short program to the Tango “Oblivion” was excellent with seven good or very good elements, including an excellent triple twist with level 4, a good side by side triple toe loop, an outstanding reverse lasso loop lift and a stellar triple throw loop. Their components were around 8.1. Stellato-Dudek said: “It’s like a homecoming for me. I feel like at my wedding, I know everyone. We’re very pleased with our performance.” She added, laughing: “I feel very comfortable in lifts and would like to stay there during the whole program.”

Competing to the soundtrack of “Cleopatra”, they opened their free program with an excellent triple twist, followed by a soso combination of triple toe loop and double toe loop. The first two lifts were stellar, the two triple throws and all other elements good, and their components around 8.0. Stellato-Dudek commented: “We are very happy with our first Grand Prix. Our goal is to go to every event and score a little bit higher than we did in our previous one and improve the levels. We scored a little bit higher than a couple of weeks ago at Nebelhorn.” When she was asked about her age, she said: “There is no age limit to passion.”

Kelly Ann Laurin & Loucas Ethier from Rosemere in Quebec won the bronze medal with 156.94 points after being fourth in the short. The students of Stéphanie Valois and Yvan Dujardins made no big, but several small mistakes in the short which included a triple Salchow and a triple throw Salchow. In the free, they missed the jump combination. The triple throw Salchow was landed on two feet, but the other elements were relatively clean, including a side by side triple loop. Ethier explained, “This being our first Grand Prix event, being in last warm up group after short program was a big deal for us, we didn’t expect that. The energy was great and skating along the two other top pairs on the podium gave us energy.”

Laurin & Ethier  were alternates for the Austrailian pair Anastasia Golubeva & Hektor Giotopoulos-Moore who decided to compete in two Junior Grand Prix instead of the senior Grand Prix.

The second U.S. team of Maria Mokhova (16) & her brother Ivan Mokhov (23) finished fourth with 145.23 points after being sixth in the short. They were born in the USA, have Russian ancestors and train with their father Andrey Mokhov in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They said that Skate America was their sixth competition in a month. In the short she fell on the triple toe loop and double-footed the landing of the triple throw toe loop, the other elements were OK. In the free, they missed the individual jumps, but most other elements were clean.

 The Italian pair of Anna Valesi & Manuel Piazza ranked fifth with 144.47 points after making mistakes on several elements in both programs. Valesi & Piazza were alternates for the Dutch pair of Daria Danilova & Michel Tsiba who were injured

The third American team of  Valentina Plazas & Maximiliano Fernandez placed sixth with 143.55 points after being eighth and last in the short. They train with Jim Peterson in Canton, Michigan. Plazas said, “We learn from mistakes more than we learn from skating perfectly, so we learned a lot.” Plazas was born in Columbia, South America. She fell twice in the short, their lift was shaky and they had no triple jump in either programs. Individual jumps and throw did not work correctly in the free, but twist and lifts were good.

Letizia Roscher & Luis Schuster from Germany were third in the short program after making no big mistake. But in the free they were so nervous that they missed two lifts and made three more mistakes. Therefore they dropped to seventh position with 135.88 points. They had been fifth at Junior Worlds and are coached now by the Olympic pair skating medalist Robin Szolkowy and by Ingo Steuer. “There were too many firsts for us here”, Schuster said. “First time in the USA, first Senior Grand Prix, competing in the best group, competing in front of a big crowd and first press conference in our life. I really liked the crowd cheering us, this was another first for us.”

Roscher & Schuster were alternates for the Ukrainians Sofiia Holichenko & Artem Darenskyi who were not allowed to enter the USA because they have not only Ukrainian, but also Russian citizenship.

The Swedish brother-and-sister team of Greta & John Crafoord ended up eighth and last with 130.62 points. Greta had broken her knee cap last year and she is back on the ice only since September. They are coached by Olympic pair champion Aliona Savchenko and train with her in the Netherlands. They made no serious mistake in the short, but had only a double twist and a double flip. In their free, Greta fell on the double flip, they had some minor other mistakes and were quite slow.