Figure Skating: From the Boards

Pairs Short Program Recap April 27, 2011

I finally had the chance to watch the final two groups of the Pairs competition and now feel capable of posting my recap!

First, and likely most dramatic, was the performance by Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. They started strong, but on the triple twist, she nailed him in the nose with her elbow on the way down. He’s lucky he wasn’t knocked out cold…she hit him hard. Hard enough, in fact, that his nose was quite visibly broken and bleeding through the rest of the skate. But, to his great credit, he wouldn’t stop. Even telling her when she tried to tell him they should, that he would be fine. Clearly, he was not fine. But they managed to hit each element and go on to hold the 1st place position for quite some time!

His nose was reset by a team doctor afterwards and Eric said he’d wait to see how he felt in the practice session before the free tomorrow. Wishing them the best!

Also skating early on was the potential spoiler team from Russia of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. These two are a nearly brand new team, but they stepped up at Russian Nationals and beat both Kavaguti/Smirnov and Bazarova/Larionov who have competed well internationally all season.

Boy, did V/T make a statement here!

They not only hit every element, but they skated with passion, attention to detail, and an awareness of each other that defies their short partnership. I must say, I was quite impressed…as were the judges.

The American teams skated near the end, Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig in the second to last group. This is only the second time they’ve competed with their new short program to “Sing, sing, sing” and I must say, it is MUCH improved since 4 Continents. They looked much more comfortable and confident in each move. Unfortunately, she fell on the side-by-side triple toe which cost them. But their lifts are still spectacular, and she hit the throw. Although not enough to compete with the big guns, E/L earned their own season’s best score and have much to be proud of.

The other American team of Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin had the challenge — and honor! — of skating after China’s Pang and Tong (who I will get to momentarily!). Talk about a tough act to follow! However, John and Caitlin skated strong. They had a great triple twist (I think improved from Nationals, even), a stunning throw triple salchow, and a sultry, demure character that perfectly portrayed the maturity of the tango selections. However, a bobble by Caitlin on the side-by-side triple toe that was followed by a fluke toe-pick kind of fall by John cost them critical Grade of Execution points. Plus, I think they were more nervous than they let on! John felt terrible afterwards. Again, they don’t have the base technical content to match up with the top teams, but with the execution they’re capable of, they should have been a few places higher. Look for them to really lay it all on the line in the free skate — it’s the “final goodbye” so to speak, to the Ave Maria program in honor of John’s mother. If they could somehow recreate US Nationals, they could move back up the standings. Most importantly, as John said afterwards, “Don’t fall down!”

Now. Back to Pang and Tong.

I’ve said all season that they looked a bit flat. The elements were mostly there, but that was it. Nothing went any deeper. Today, they found it. And the result? Magic. This short program was absolutely stunning. Every technical element was executed with control and perfection. Every component to the choreography was meaningful and complete.

I fully expected the Germans to come in and take this title with a fair amount of ease. But Pang and Tong decided they weren’t quite ready for that, and they proved it.

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy also had a beautiful skate. They were mostly clean. There elements are big. But little things started to add up quickly: a pitch forward here, a scratchy landing there, and a small collision on the twist later one. The Russian crowd seemed to adore their Russian-folk themed short program, but the judges didn’t love it enough to ignore the imperfect execution. They weren’t happy with their scores, but (unlike the men’s short program!) I was in complete agreement with their 2nd place finish.

Expected to compete for a top spot on the podium was the veteran Russian team of Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov. They also started well. Similar to the Germans, they had a few minor issues. Still, big elements, and bigger crowd responses. Then the bizarre fall series continued and Smirnov went down just after they’d started their step sequence. Whether it was the fall, the lost points on the footwork, or the small errors all over, they fell to a fifth place finish just behind the other two Russian teams. Clearly, not what they were hoping for, and not what anyone expected. They sit roughly 11 points out of first, and nearly 8 points off the podium. They’ll have plenty of ground to make up in the Long.

I expect the free skate event to be quite the battle. The top three are separated by less than 4 points, while roughly 8points separate 4-10.

Here are the complete standings after the short programs.

  1. Pang/Tong (CHN)   74.00
  2. Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER)    72.98
  3. Volosozhar/Trankov (RUS)    70.35
  4. Bazarova/Larionov (RUS) 64.64
  5. Kavaguti/Smirnov (RUS)    62.54
  6. Takahashi/Tran (JPN)    59.16
  7. Duhamel/Radford (CAN)    58.83
  8. Yankowskas/Coughlin (USA)    58.76
  9. Berton/Hotarek (ITA)    57.63
  10. Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (CAN)    56.86
  11. Evora/Ladwig (USA)    54.64
  12. Hausch/Wende (GER)    53.90
  13. Zhang/Wang (CHN)    52.25
  14. Dong/WU (CHN)    49.29
  15. Kadlecova/Bidar (CZE)    45.20
  16. Zabijako/Kulbach (EST)    44.35
  17. Kemp/King (GBR)*    44.14
  18. Canac/Bonheur (FRA)*    43.92
  19. Bakirova/Kamianchuk (BLR)*    38.20
  20. Montalbano/Krasnopolski (ISR)*    37.43
  21. Martini/Kiefer (AUT)*    35.34
  22. Malakhova/Kenchadze (BUL)*    30.10
*did not qualify for the free skate
See you all again before the sun comes up for the free skates!!
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