A Wild Ride at the Grand Finale

Susan D. Russell
Patrick Chan

The Grand Prix Final put a defining exclamation mark on the end of the first half of the season.

Canada’s Patrick Chan put down the performance of his life and ran away with the men’s title. His overall score of 259.75 was almost 17 points higher than second-place finisher Nobunari Oda of Japan (242.81). Teammate Takahiko Kozuka skated into third with 237.79.

“It is kind of like a dream to win this title,” said Chan, who placed fifth at his two previous appearances at the final. “I was so happy to win in China. I think it marked the beginning of a great career and a great season.”

Oda won the short program at both of his assignments but placed second overall each time. He repeated the pattern in Beijing. After falling on a jumping pass, Oda completely lost his concentration, missing half of his footwork section. “Even though I was not satisfied with my performance, I achieved a good result as the silver medalist,” he said.

While Kozuka was happy to claim the bronze medal, he confessed that he still felt guilty about the collision he had with teammate Daisuke Takahashi during a practice session. “I apologized to him many times. He always smiled and said ‘OK’ every time,” Kozuka explained. “I promised him that it will never happen again.”

Takahashi, the odds-on favorite, fell twice during his free skate and looked completely exhausted halfway through his program. He landed in fourth, almost 40 points behind Chan.

American Alissa Czisny won both the short and long programs and claimed the first major international title of her career. The 23-year-old earned the highest score recorded in the ladies event this season (180.75).

“I was so nervous before the free, I was shaking,” Czisny admitted. “I dreamed about winning this competition, and it happened.”

Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who considered quitting the sport at the end of last season, was thrilled to claim the silver medal (178.60), albeit by the slimmest of margins. Kostner edged out Japan’s rising star Kanako Murakami by a mere .01 of a point.

“I was happy just to qualify and am even happier to medal,” Kostner said.

Murakami earned 178.59 points and captured the bronze. “It was an honor to stand on the podium at the Grand Prix Final, especially since it was the first year that I competed on the senior circuit,” the reigning World Junior champion explained.

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany continued their winning ways in Beijing. The two-time World champions and reigning World silver medalists captured their second Grand Prix Final title with a score of 210.72 points.

Second place went to hometown heroes Qing Pang and Jian Tong (189.93 points), and teammates Wenjing Sui and Cong Han skated into third (179.04 points).

“We are very happy and excited to have skated the way we did. To win the final in China was the icing on the cake,” Szolkowy said.

It was a disappointing result for Pang and Tong, the reigning World champions. The Chinese duo experienced technical issues in the free skate. Pang doubled the toe loop, Tong singled an Axel, and their pair spin received no points.

“We were very disappointed and dissatisfied,” Tong admitted. “There was a lot more pressure skating in China, because the audience had very high expectations of us.”

Sui and Han qualified for both the junior and senior finals but opted to concentrate on the senior comp-etition. The reigning World Junior champions were excited to capture the bronze medal at their senior Grand Prix Final debut. “To be on the podium in front of a home crowd is a surprise for us,” Han said.

America’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the only U.S. team in history to ever win the Grand Prix Final ice dance title. The duo cemented their place in history by winning their second consecutive title.

The 2010 Olympic and World silver medalists earned a combined score of 171.58 points. “It feels great that we are being rewarded for the hard work we’ve put in,” White said.

Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat captured silver with 162.10 points. Canadian rising stars Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier danced into third with 139.74 points overall.

Originally published in February 2011