The winds of change were prevalent in Beijing.
One of the biggest surprises of the competition was the result of the pairs short program. China’s Qing Pang and Jian Tong, the reigning World champions, and their young teammates Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, the reigning World Junior champions, were separated by a point heading into the free skate.
Takahiko Kozuka won the men’s event (233.51 points) with a commanding 16-point lead over silver medalist Brandon Mroz from the U.S. (216.80). Bronze went to comeback kid Tomáš Verner of the Czech Republic (214.81).
“It was my first time competing at a Grand Prix in China, and I’m definitely happy to have won this event,” said Kozuka, 21. “It was the first time I won both the short and long. It made me realize that if you work hard, you really can do it.”
Mroz, who turned 20 on Dec. 22, was delighted to win his first senior Grand Prix medal.
Claiming the bronze was redemptive for Verner. “Last year was rough, but now I think I’m headed in a good direction,” the 24-year-old said.
Brian Joubert was hoping to complete a grand slam with a victory in Beijing. Cup of China is the only Grand Prix event he has never won. But costly technical errors in the free skate left him in fourth place (210.29).
In the ladies event, Mirai Nagasu from the U.S. captured the lead after the short program, ahead of Japan’s Akiko Suzuki and Miki Ando.
But Ando claimed the gold with 172.21 points. It was far from her best performance, but she loaded the back end of her program with a series of jumping passes, landing five in less than 60 seconds, and racked up major points.
“I didn’t have enough speed [in my free program], and I did not get level fours for my spins or footwork,” the 23-year-old admitted.
China has become a good luck competition for Suzuki, 25, who won her first Grand Prix title in Beijing last season. She skated into second with 162.86. Russia’s Alena Leonova, 20, sat in fifth after the short but captured the bronze with 148.61. Nagasu fell to fourth with 146.23.
Pang and Tong experienced technical issues in the free skate but captured the pairs title with 177.50 points. They were the first team to punch their ticket to the final in December.
Sui, 15, and Han, 18, who qualified for the final in the junior ranks, skated into second at their first senior event with 171.47.
America’s Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin claimed bronze, the first Grand Prix medal of their career, with 166.72.
After mining gold at two pre-season events, Nebelhorn and Finlandia Trophy, Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat from France danced away with their first Grand Prix crown with 159.59 points.
“It is our first time to win a gold medal at a Grand Prix event. It was a great day for us,” Bourzat said with a wide smile.
Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and
Dmitri Soloviev placed second with 145.39 points, also capturing the first Grand Prix medal of their career.
Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy claimed the bronze (139.52) ahead of Nora Hoffmann and Maxim Zavozin from Hungary, who were fourth with 130.82 points.
Originally published in February 2011