Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy skated to victory in the pairs event at Skate Canada in Kitchener, Ont. yesterday, and in the process set a new world record with their overall score of 206.71. Russia’s Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov claimed the silver medal and the bronze went to Canadians Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison.
Overnight leaders Savchenko and Szolkowy skated last and put out a breathtakingly beautiful program to “Outside of Africa.” The reigning World champions earned 132.55 points (66.55 element score/66.00 program component score) in the free skate and their overall mark of 206.71 points surpassed the 206.54 points of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao (CHN) set in 2005.
“It's a very nice feeling, but it is not us who judge. We just try to interpret the program as well as we can so we don’t get ones,” Savchenko said.
Savchenko and Szolkowy's program was highlighted by a triple toe-triple toe sequence, a throw triple flip, a triple twist, difficult lifts and a throw triple Salchow in the last seconds of the routine. Their spins were graded a level four as well as the lifts and the spiral sequence, while the death spiral was a level three. The only glitch came when they both singled the Axel. “We felt good during our program. There was one mistake, but it felt very good that we did what we do in practice,” Savchenko said on getting one 10.0 score for performance.
The Germans had dumped their previous program right after a disappointing performance at Trophée Bompard where they had finished third. “It was a good decision to change our free program. Now we have a new program, new skates and new costumes,” said Szolkowy with a smile.
Mukhortova and Trankov received a deduction of two points for an interruption and scored 119.91 points (63.11/58.80) for their free skate. They totaled 185.71 points. “When I did my double Axel, my bootstrap was broken. I felt it on my lift. The referee gave me a signal that I had to stop, so I must stop. I didn’t want to do it but it was (the regulations),” Trankov said. “We started to skate again. It was nothing special.”
The European bronze medalists landed a high triple twist early in the program as well as a solid triple toe-double toe combination and a double Axel in their romantic routine to “Love Story.” At that point, Trankov’s bootstrap came loose and referee Patrick Ibens stopped the performance. After the brief interruption the Russians continued as if nothing had happened, nailing the throw triple loop and Salchow, producing strong lifts and a level four pair combination spin; only their side-by-side spin was out of sync and garnered only a level two.
Skating to “The Way We Were,” Dubé and Davison opened with a triple twist but then he singled the second jump in the double Axel-double Axel sequence while she stumbled on the triple Salchow. The 2008 World bronze medalists recovered to produce lifts with many variations and a throw triple Lutz, but Dubé touched down with her hand on the throw triple loop and the pair combination spin received no credit as she put her foot down. The Canadians collected 109.03 points (52.95/56.08) and overall had 166.93 points.
“The performance was better than (the Grand Prix) in France but technically, we made a lot of mistakes,” Dubé said. “We left a lot of points on the table.”
Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay (CAN) finished fourth with a solid program that included a triple twist, throw triple loop and Salchow as well as side-by-side triple Salchows (159.95 points). Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett (USA) came in fifth with a dynamic performance. They landed triple throws and a triple toe loop.
Both Savchenko and Szolkowy and Mukhortova and Trankov qualified for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final.
Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir defended their overnight lead in ice dance. Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat of France came in second in the free dance and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (CAN) remained in third place.
Virtue and Moir had picked a sultry Spanish Flamenco and produced fast-paced footwork and a curve lift with her upside down. They were awarded a level four for the lift and the twizzles and a level three for the circular footwork, while the side-by-side footwork was a level two. However, the performance was marred by two uncharacteristic slip-ups by Virtue during transition moves. Moir caught his partner twice and prevented her from falling. The reigning World bronze medalists earned 60.57 points (29.50 element score/31.07 program component score) and compiled 101.26 points with two parts of the event completed.
“It was a little bit of a tricky skate for Tessa and I today," Moir said. “We are a little bit disappointed. We’ve trained that program so hard in the last four weeks and it was a lot better than it was today.”
"We've been training this program really well and we felt prepared, so it was kind of a shock to us," Virtue added.
The French champions scored 56.05 points (27.90/28.15) and now have accumulated 91.60 points overall.
"It was difficult for us to skate between two Canadian (couples) because we can see how much they love their skaters, which is normal," Péchalat said. "But it was a good job and a good moment for us."
Pechalat and Bourzat turned in an entertaining American Country Dance to “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy” and “It’s Not Over Now.” They completed a difficult straight line lift with changes of position and smooth steps, picking up a level three for both the circular and the side-by-side step sequences.
“Each year we want to bring some fun into our programs,” Bourzat explained. “Last year we had the Circus free dance and this year our free dance is more serious, so we chose a lighter theme for the original dance. We fell in love with that music the first time we’ve heard it. Although we had a level four for the circular footwork at Trophée Bompard and had a level three here, I think we overall had more energy today and skated better.”
Weaver and Poje danced to a Flamenco like Virtue/Moir and effectively used a fan in the routine. The couple that had gone to Spain to study the Flamenco was awarded a level four for the straight line lift and a level three for the footwork, but the twizzles were a level two. The Canadians earned 51.18 points (26.10/25.08), a new season's best. They were ranked fourth in the Original Dance but held on to third place at 83.36 points.
"The first thing we noticed when we stepped on the ice was the overwhelming reception from the crowd. We really enjoyed it and it was electric on the ice. That was a great way to start. We felt relaxed today and we felt confident," Weaver said. "We had a couple of minor technical issues that will be ironed out when we go home. But we feel like we put on a great emotional performance today and it was a great improvement from our previous Grand Prix."
Poje is from Kitchener-Waterloo and enjoyed skating before a home crowd. "I love skating at home," he said. "It's great to see so many familiar faces in the crowd."
2008 World junior champions Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates were ranked third in the segment with a funny Dixie Chicks medley but overall remained in fourth place. At 82.96 points they are within striking distance of the podium. Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (RUS) interpreted the Russian Sailors dance. She fell in the circular footwork and the couple placed fifth (76.01 points).