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Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy: Take Five

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Seán Gillis
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy captured a fifth World title at their 10th World Championship appearance to close out a memorable career.

Fittingly enough, it was also with one of their highest scoring programs ever as the Germans accumulated 145.86 points for their free skating to finish their final competition with a total of 224.88 points. Aside from a minor mistake by Szolkowy (he singled a double Axel), "The Nutcracker" was performed to perfection with a triple flip throw and a triple Salchow throw book-ending the routine among the other exemplary elements in between.

Savchenko and Szolkowy may have departed the sport without the Olympic gold medal they so desired, but judging by the crowd's reaction tonight they will be fondly remembered for a long time to come.

For me personally, I think the retirement of the Germans is a huge loss for pairs skating. Looking back on their career, it is clear that they have been a tremendously creative team and have come up with some of my favorite pairs programs of all time. After the press conference, I asked Savchenko and Szolkowy what routines stood out for them in their 11 years together. "The Mission, Schindler's List, Pina and The Nutcracker. Every year we wanted to show something different, to show something new," Savchenko responded.

Judging by the look on Ksenia Stolbova's face at the victory ceremony and press conference, you would never have guessed that she and her partner Fedor Klimov had come to their very first World Championships and won a silver medal.

Stolbova eventually managed to crack a smile when prompted by the photographers and you would hope that she would be happy with such a fine achievement. Particularly given the fact that they scored 139.77 points for their free and 215.92 points in total.

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford did not get the perfect skate they wanted for their "Alice in Wonderland" free, but they did get a second consecutive World bronze medal. Duhamel fell on a triple Salchow, which slightly marred the performance even though they executed the rest of their program well. The Canadian champions scored 133.83 points for the free to earn a total of 210.84 points.

Duhamel and Radford actually finished behind their compatriots Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch in the free. After Savchenko and Szolkowy, I, and it seems many in the audience, felt the fourth place finishers had the best performance of the night. It certainly helped that they used "La Strada" among their Nino Rota musical selections, which the Japanese public is very familiar with as this was music Daisuke Takahashi used for his free program at the 2010 Olympics.

If ever we needed reminding that skaters are tough and skaters who do pairs are tougher, we certainly got it tonight. France's Bruno Massot had a nasty fall midway through his routine with partner Daria Popova.

Teammate Vanessa James had been skating gingerly in the warm-up with Morgan Cipres and seemed to be making an effort to keep off her right foot. Once they started their free, however, the French skated as if they had not a care in the world. That was right until the end when Cipres dropped James from a height smack bang on to the ice. Most people would cry like a baby if that happened to them. James got up, took a bow and then smiled as she left the ice.


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