2009 Skate America
Marks Detail (Marks only, no calculated scores.)
Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao of China seem to be moving full speed and straight ahead in their quest toward mining gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and took first the pairs short program event tonight with the ease and confidence of seasoned world-level champions.
The esteemed Asian team came up more than 12 points ahead of the rest of the eight-entrant pair field with a 74.36, proving they are only getting better as they get older.
The pair, who has been married since 2007 and retired from competition for several years now, were the 2003 World titlists and 2002 Olympic bronze medalists. Last summer, they announced a comeback in hopes of representing China at the 2010 Winter Games in another Olympic bid for gold.
This evening, Shen and Zhao showed they are in fighting form with a flawless program to the aptly titled "Who Wants to Live Forever" by Brian May.
This performance was so strong the team racked up their highest seasonís best score for it, bettering the numbers they received at the Cup of China several weeks ago, where they had finished first.
Although they were the first team of the event to skate, Shen and Zhao were relaxed, confident and comfortable right from start to finish. They moved with much of the same strength, confidence and skill that had earned them premier world status several years back.
They knocked out an easy split triple twist for which they received plus one and two grade of execution marks, a high throw triple loop with a solid landing and an unusual and difficult lift in which he rotated her in record-like fashion on her back. Their combination pair spin was nice and their side-by-side ones were right in synch.
Zhao showed his competitive aptitude when he landed a triple toe at the start of the program after having struggled with it just prior in the warmup.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov of the Ukraine were second with a 61.70. This team, who is taught by Ingo Steuer and placed sixth at the 2009 Worlds, rightfully racked up some of the eventís highest marks with an arresting portrayal to "Dreams Illusion" by DJ1, a intriguing techno musical selection.
Although Morozov turned out on the landing of his opening side-by-side triple toe, the duo did everything else in the program without a problem. They did an outstanding lateral split triple twist for which they earned plus one and plus two GOEs.
Their program moved and the team engaged the crowd from start to finish with their elements, which were done at top speed and with great height and energy. They executed a level-four group 4 lift with one arm air position and setdown, a soaring throw triple loop, their pair and side-by-side spins and back outside death drop in which she held her foot to her head, all of for which they received plus one and plus two GOEs.
This team resonates many of the same artistic and technical characteristic that define Steuerís other team, Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy of Germany, the 2009 World Champions. They were exciting from start to finish and performed their elements with the same speed, height and energy as their training counterparts and seem set to fare well as they move closer toward the Olympic pinnacle of the season.
Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin of Canada finished third with a 59.64 for their strong and engaging rendition to a variation of the Eaglesí "Hotel California."
The team, who is coached by Richard Gauthier, Manon Perron and Bruno Marcotte, did solid side-by-side triple toes, a level-three straight-line step sequence and a level four one-handed star lift, for which they were awarded plus-one and plus-two GOE marks.
Despite doubling and missing a throw triple Lutz, the overall quality of their program was exceptional, and at least based on what they did here, look to be a strong international team this year.
Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, the 2008 and 2009 U.S. pair champions, tallied up 58.54 points to take home fourth.
Their poignant take to "Unchained Melody" featured an exceptional opening split triple twist, throw triple loop, level-four lift and back outside death spiral for which they earned plus GOEs. They missed their triple Salchows, however. (She singled hers and he fell out of the landing on his.)
The other two U.S. teams, Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig and Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski, had terrific programs that had some flawed elements.
The former team was sixth with their elegant take to the "Portuguese Love Theme" by Craig Armstrong and earned a 50.14. At the start, Evora under-rotated and fell on her side-by-side triple Salchow and touched down on the landing of a throw triple loop, which caused the team to get respective minus three and minus one GOEs.
Evora and Ladwig managed to get right back on course, and earned plus GOEs for their pair spin, side-by-side spins and back outside death spiral.
Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski were seventh with a 49.52. Although their performance to "Samba Pati" had some technical flaws, it was well designed (Marina Zueva did the choreography) and featured some fantastic elements.
The Detroit-based team executed a level four lift which garnered them plus one GOE marks, strong spins and a plus-one GOE worthy back outside death spiral.
Castile and Okolski had problems with their opening triple Salchows, as he doubled it and she opened on hers. She also doubled the throw triple Lutz.
Shen and Zhao Grab Easy Gold in Pairs
Chinese team continue victorious comeback trail
Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao of China continued their successful comeback toward claiming possible Olympic gold with an easy victory in the free skate and scored first overall in the pairs competition, indicating that they are indeed right on track in terms of achieving their goal in Vancouver this February.
In todayís competition, this astonishing team managed to break the 200-point IJS barrier with a total score of 201.40, coming up nearly 30 points of the rest of the competition. They were awarded a 127.04 for their free skate to "Adagio in G Minor" by Tomaso Albinoni, which was choreographed by Lori Nichol.
Despite two mistakes, Shen and Zhao were clearly the strongest pair in this event. They were fast, fluid and in synch and did high-flying lifts, perfectly matched spins and a huge throw triple Salchow.
The duo opened up with a triple toes into double toes and followed up with two double Axels in sequence, the second of which Zhao fell on. They then went on to do side-by-side flying camels into a back sit and 180-degree one-legged stretch spin and a left forward outside death spiral in which Shen held her leg to her head.
Shen and Zhao also flew through a soaring star lift, split triple twist and throw triple loop from a shoot-the-duck entry in which Shen touched down on the landing.
The team rebounded from there with a solid throw triple Salchow, pair spin and a easy lift from another shoot-the-duck entry.
Conclusively, Shen and Zhao were awarded plus-one and some plus-two GOEs on all of their elements, except for the double Axels, throw triple loop and pair spin.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov of the Ukraine took the silver with a 171.82 with their third-place impressive, but slightly marred free skate performance to the "Pearl Harbor" film score by Hans Zimmer.
Volosozhar and Morozov ran into some technical trouble at the beginning of their program when he stepped out on the landing of his triple toe. They also missed their triple Salchows.
From that point, however, they ticked off the rest of their elements without a problem and reeled off a whopping throw triple loop, handstand-style stag lift, long throw triple Salchow and fast, well-extended one-handed lifts. Their lateral split triple twist was outstanding and in it, Volosozhar turned with lightning-quick speed.
No doubt, this team might have been very well been affected by the terrible fall suffered by Meaghan Duhamel and Craig Buntin of Canada just prior to their performance which led to that team deciding to withdraw.
Duhamel, who sprained her foot earlier in the warmup, appeared to lose strength and momentum during the free skate and more than halfway through, hit her head on the landing of a throw triple loop. They then made the decision to pull out of the event
Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China jumped to third from fifth in the short program with their strong second-place ranked free skate to Scherazade with a 168.19 total score.
Although there were some problems with their double Axel-triple toes and flying camel combination pair spin, they earned plus GOEs on their throw triple loop, throw triple Salchow, split triple twist and various lifts.
On a side note, the team showed their gracious and affable nature after the medal ceremony when Hao Zhang cheerfully signed the skate boots for some of the younger fans.
Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker of the U.S. secured fourth with a total score of 165.37. They earned a 106.83 for their dramatic free skate to the "Slumdog Millionaire" film soundtrack, which was crafted by Sarah Kawahara.
Looking stronger than they did in the short, the team opened up with a nice triple Salchow-double toes and lateral split triple twist.
They ran into some subsequent trouble when Brubaker fell out of the landing on his double Axel and McLaughlin turned out on the landing of that same jump. In addition, she stepped out on the landing of the throw triple Salchow and two-footed her throw triple loop.
Still, McLaughlin and Brubaker maintained their focus and finished with a nice combination spin with a broken-leg variation and a high spiral sequence. They also did a lift in which they both go one-handed at some point, which earned them plusĖone GOE scores.
Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig of the U.S., who train with Jim Peterson, Alison Smith and Lyndon Johnston in Ellenton, Florida, placed fifth overall with a 148.33.
Their impressive free skate performance to "Piano Concerto No, 2 in C Minor" by Sergei Rachmaninov contained a throw triple Lutz, two lifts an a back outside death spiral for which they received plus-one GOEs. They under rotated and missed their triple toe-double toes and double Axels, but skated with much of the speed and finesse of an international pair team.
Brooke Castile and Benjamin Okolski from Detroit, Michigan wound up sixth with a 139. 58. They merited 90.06 points for their free skate to "Clare de Lune."
This team did not have their best performance here tonight, yet still showed great promise in those elements they had successfully executed. They missed their triple Salchows, throw triple Salchow, Axel combination and a lift, but earned plus-one GOEs for their back outside death spiral, combination spin and pair spin.
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