Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao (CHN) continued their successful comeback with their third gold medal in as many competitions. Meanwhile in the junior ice dance competition there were some surprises.
For Shen and Zhao, it was the sixth Grand Prix Final gold medal of their career. Their teammates Qing Pang and Jian Tong made it 1-2 for China by claiming the silver medal. Reigning World champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany took the bronze.
The Chinese husband-and-wife team posted a World record overall score of 214.25. “Our program was really good today; it felt awesome," Zhao said.
Shen and Zhao nailed a triple toe, excellent throw jumps and showed a rare forward outside death spiral to earn a personal best 138.89 points for their lyrical program to “Adagio.” "Each lift, the twist, the throws felt perfect and we felt more power,” Zhao said. “Coming back [after a break of two years] wasn’t easy; it was very hard. When we returned to practice, it was hard on our bodies, it hurt, but we are skating with our hearts.”
Pang and Tong, the 2008-09 Grand Prix Final champions ranked fourth in the short program. They rallied with a dynamic performance to “The Impossible Dream.” Their program was highlighted by their big throws and difficult lifts. They scored 133.82 points. The 2006 World champions broke the magical 200 points barrier for the first time in their career with a total of 201.86.
Savchenko and Szolkowy of Germany dropped to third with a score of 200.38 after she failed to complete the opening triple toe-triple toe sequence and stumbled on the throw triple flip. Their other elements were strong. “We were not completely concentrated. I don't know exactly, what was the reason for that. Maybe it was the quick turn-around between [Skate] Canada, [returning to] Germany and [then traveling to] Japan,” Szolkowy said.
Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov (RUS) delivered a strong performance but nevertheless slipped to fourth place. Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov (RUS) moved up from sixth after the short to fifth overall with a solid free skate, while Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang (CHN) struggled with some elements to finish sixth overall.
Junior Original Dance
Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin (RUS) upset reigning World Junior silver medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani (USA) to grab the lead after the junior original dance. The Russians opted for an Ukrainian dance while the Americans chose a Japanese theme for the folk and country dance that reflected their Japanese heritage. Both couples had the same technical base value, but Monko and Khaliavin narrowly beat the brother-and-sister team with 55.70 to 55.21 points thanks to a slightly higher program component score and slightly higher grades of execution for their elements.
“It was our best performance in competition this season so far, it was the cleanest one,” Khaliavin said. “It is surprising for us (to be in first place) as the Shibutanis had higher scores than we had in their Grand Prix events and they skated clean.”
Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) came in third with an elegant dance to folklore from the Andes as they got only a level two for their side-by-side footwork (54.35 points).
The couples earned big cash prizes in Tokyo. The breakdown (per couple) was as follows:
1st place USD $25,000
2nd place USD $18,000
3rd place USD $12,000
4th place USD $6,000
5th place USD $4,000
6th place USD $3,000
In junior ice dance, the winning couple will split $9,000 (U.S.) the second place team $7,500, third place $6,000, fourth place $4,500, fifth place $3,000 and sixth place $1,500
The remainder of the schedule for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final (junior and senior) is as follows:
* Sunday, Dec. 6: Junior Free Dance, Junior Ladies Free Skating, Exhibition Gala