Stéphane Lambiel scored 232.36 points to easily win the Nebelhorn Trophy this weekend in Oberstdorf, Germany. In the process, he earned an Olympic spot for Switzerland in what was his first competition in 18 months.
“It was a tough week. I felt the pressure,” Lambiel said. “I think this is my first competition in September since I was in juniors that I’ve worked [this] hard to be ready.”
The overnight leader, the two-time World champion (2005-06) scored 154.91 points in the free skatie to seal the victory. Performing to Astor Piazzolla’s Tango “Otono Porteno,” the 24-year-old nailed a solid quadruple toe loop-double toe loop-double toe loop and a triple flip-triple toe loop combination. He also landed three additional triples. His only error came when he singled a Lutz.
Lambiel showed off his creativity in his footwork and spins, which were all awarded level three and fours.
Ivan Tretiakov of Russia and Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic finished second and third, respectively. Neither skater was competing for an Olympic spot as each of their countries already qualified two men for the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
Tretiakov, who stood in fifth place following the short program, pulled up to second with a strong performance to the soundtrack of “Charade” that featured a seven triple jumps. He also landed a shaky quadruple Salchow. The Muscovite earned 206.23 points to narrowly claim the silver medal.
Brezina, second after the short, compiled a competition mark of 205.34. The 2009 World junior silver medalist's free program to “An American in Paris” had several key errors. Though he landed a triple Axel-double toe loop as well as four clean triples, he popped a planned quad Salchow and singled the second Axel.
Viktor Pfeifer (AUT) came in fifth with 194.66 points to qualify a spot for his country as well as Stefan Lindemann (GER/8th place/178.88 points), Song Chol Ri (PRK/11th place/173.14 points), Zoltan Kelemen (ROU/13th place/164.72 points) and Ari-Pekka Nurmenkari (FIN/14th place 164.67 points). In case further spots become available, the first three substitutes will be, in the following order, BLR, EST and GRB.
TWO IN A ROW FOR CZISNY
Alissa Czisny (USA) earned her second consecutive gold medal at the Nebelhorn Trophy ahead of Kiira Korpi (FIN) and Yan Liu (CHN). While the USA and Finland already have qualified two entries for the ladies event, Liu assured China a spot for Vancouver.
Czisny led after the short program with an elegant and solid technical performance to “The Mask of Zorro.” However, the 2009 U.S. champion struggled with some jumps in the lyrical free program “Dr. Zhivago.” She stepped out of her triple Lutz and her triple loop, flip and toe loop were downgraded by the technical panel.
Czisny scored highly for her difficult spins that were all graded a level four. The American received 91.02 points for her free skating and was ranked sixth in this segment but overall held on to first place at 151.40 points. “I love coming to this competition,” Czisny said. "My short was good, but my long was just OK. I'll look at the protocol and see what I have to work on.”
Korpi, who competed for the first time in Oberstdorf, had skated first out of 33 ladies in the short progam on Friday morning but put out a solid performance to finish second. The 2007 European bronze medalist landed a triple Salchow-double toe loop combination, a triple loop and two double Axel, but singled two other jumps. A triple Lutz was cheated and downgraded. Korpi scored 91.67 points in the free skating and remained in second place with a total of 150.01 points.
Liu was ranked fifth in the short program with a good performance and topped that with her long program set to the Chinese movie soundtrack “Why are the Flowers So Red.” Liu reeled off six triple jumps to win the long program portion with 99.69 points and to moved up to third place at 147.87 points.
The other ISU members that qualified an entry for the Olympic Winter Games are HUN with Julia Sebestyen (4th place/146.76 points), SLO with Teodora Postic (5th place/139.97 points), AUT with Miriam Ziegler (6th place/132.38 points), ESP with Sonia Lafuente (8th place/130.30 points) and BEL with Isabelle Piemann (11th place/123.74 points). An additional, seventh, spot became available for ISR (Tamar Katz/12th place/121,49 points) as Georgia officially returned their second entry.
The first three standby entries are, in the following order, CZE, UZB and AUS.
AMERICANS WIN ICE DANCE
Reigning U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA) danced to an easy victory. “It was perfect timing to start the season with this competition," White said. "We still have a long way to go, but we felt very comfortable here.”
The reigning Four Continents champions started off with a solid Tango Romantica compulsory dance. For the “Folk/Country Dance” in the original dance, the Americans chose an Indian theme. They earned a level three for the circular and side-by-side footwork and a level four for their curve lift and the sequential twizzles.
Performing to “Phantom of the Opera,” Davis and White gave a captivating performance. They showed terrific speed and spectacular lifts ,including a straight line-rotational lift that covered almost the whole ice surface from one end of the boards to the other. The couple was awarded a level four for two lifts, the twizzles and the combination spin and a level three for both step sequences. Only the last rotational lift was graded a level one.
Davis and White picked up 100.76 points for this performance and took the gold with 200.46 points.
“Obviously this in an important year, being the Olympic season. We’ve put in a lot of work in the off season and we are picking off where we had left off last year," White said.
Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski of Israel came in second. They had picked a Jewish Dance with “Hava Nagila” for the OD. Their free dance to “Schindler’s List” featured three level-four lifts, and level-four twizzles. The circular footwork was graded a level three, but the combination spin and the diagonal step sequence were a level two.
The brother-and-sister team go 84.54 points for their Free Dance and accumulated a total of 169.59 points.
Lithuania’s Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas ranked fourth in the Tango Romantica but placed third with their Lithuanian Polka OD and their "West Side Story" free dance to claim the bronze.
The three top couples who stood atop the podium weren’t competing for an Olympic spot.
The following ISU members earned a spot: CHN with Xintong Huang and Xun Zheng (5th place/149.85 points), CZE with Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak (6th place/148.47 points), HUN with Nora Hoffmann and Maxim Zavozin (7th place/148.43 points), EST with Caitlin Mallory and Kristian Rand (8th place/143.49 points) and GEO with Allison Reed and Otar Japaridze (12th place/ 130.76 points).
There is only one standby entry, GRE.
SAVCHENKO AND SZOLKOWY VICTORIOUS
Germany’s World champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy claimed victory in the pairs event ahead of Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov of the Ukraine and Canadians Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay. The top three couples were not in the qualifying process. Savchenko
The Germans struggled with some elements in their long program to “You’ll Never be Alone.” Their program had several errors but not enough to derail their victory train. Savchenko doubled the triple toe loop and Salchow and also stepped out of the throw triple flip.
“The Nebelhorn Trophy was a test event for us, but we had in the back of our minds that we have to win,” Szolkowy said. “We won and we tested, and we know now what to work on. There were a few crucial points in our program, but I I think we can sleep calmly tonight.”
The duo hit the throw triple Salchow at the very end of the 4.30 minutes routine. The two-time World champions earned a level four for their lifts and spins and scored 113.19 points for the free skating. Overall they got 185.99 points.
Volosozhar and Morozov had a few problems with their side-by-side jumps as well. Both missed a triple toe loop and their triple Salchows were not clean. But the Ukrainians impressed with their huge triple throws and difficult spins. They picked up 106.29 points for the free skate and remained in second place at 165.75 points.
Langlois and Hay came back to competition after missing the past season (Langlois had broken her ankle in July 2008). Their free skating routine to “The Grand Canyon Suite” included a throw triple Salchow, side-by- side triple toe loops and difficulf lifts. Hay fell on the triple Salchow and the throw triple Lutz. The Canadians scored 155.61 points overall.
The following countries qualified a pairs team each for the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver: SUI with Anais Morand and Antoine Dorsaz (5th place/151.95 points), EST with Maria Sergejeva and Ilja Glebov (9th place and 134.56 points), POL with Joanna Sulej and Mateusz Chruscinski (10th place/131.29 points) and ITA with Marika Zanforlin and Federico Degli Esposti (11th place/120.46 points). The first three standby entries are in the following order PRK, TPE and GRE.