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Rochette Roars to the Lead at Skate Canada

Canadian Joannie Rochette skated a superb program Friday at Skate Canada in Ottawa, Ont., scored a personal best (64.74) and topped a field that included several World medalists.

Rochette, 22, performed a near flawless program to George Gershwin's "Summertime" and earned a standing ovation. “I felt really relaxed. ... I trust my training which has been better than ever. My main goal for this season was to improve my component score, to be more calm on the ice, and I think we achieved that,” Rochette said. “I made a little mistake on my flip, but I’m happy that the performance was still good.”

Rochette landed a triple Lutz, a double Axel and a triple flip-double toe loop combination, although she did a three-turn out of the flip. The four-time Canadian champ was awarded a level four for the flying sit spin and the combination spin as well as a level three for the layback spin and the footwork.

Shae-Lynn Bourne, the 2002 World ice dance champion with Victor Kraatz, choreographed the piece. The jazzy adaptation of “Summertime” is an exhibition number Rochette used last season. “It has the same feel of a show program,” Rochette told IFS before the competition. “When I get to competitions, sometimes I feel stiff and feel the stress of competing. I wanted to be able to skate like I do in a show, just skate more freely and use my upper body more.”

As Rochette said after she finished her routine: Mission accomplished.

Fumie Suguri, a three-time World medalist, of Japan was second with 57.92, while Caroline Zhang, the 2007 World junior champion, of the United States was third with 53.28 points.

Suguri opened her program to “Fanfan” with a triple Lutz-double toe and landed a solid double Axel. The five-time Japanese champion (1997, 2001-03, 2006) showed two-level four spins, but two-footed the triple flip and got only a level one for her wobbly layback spin. The 2006 World silver medalist scored 57.92 points (33.52/24.40).

“I didn’t skate in Canada since 2006, and I was very happy that I could come back here. These past two years I had a tough time with my jumps. I’m pretty happy with how I did tonight. But I had some points where I had mistakes. During the season, I want to improve on them,” Suguri said.

Zhang missed her first jump, a triple flip, that was planned to be in combination, but rallied back to add a double toe to her triple loop and made no further mistakes, hitting a double Axel and excellent spins. Her layback spin drew extra applause from the crowd at Scotiabank Place as the 15-year-old showed off difficult positions. “I could have done a lot better today. I fell on my triple flip, but I added a double toe to my loop, so that was OK,” she said.

Jenna McCorkell (GBR) placed fourth place after a good performance that contained a triple Lutz, triple flip-double toeloop combination and a double Axel (51.64 points). Bebe Liang was fifth after she fell on her triple flip attempt. Alissa Czisny was sixth and reigning World silver medalist Carolina Kostner was seventh.

Kostner fell while stroking just before her double Axel and then added the jump at the very end of her program, but went down again. She compiled 48.56 points.

The Men

In the men's discipline, Yannick Ponsero of France scored a 78.05 to win the short program with Canadian Patrick Chan a close second with 77.47 points.

American Ryan Bradley was third with 72.50 while Evan Lysacek was fourth with 71.40 points. Lsyacek, the two two-time U.S. champion, missed a jump combination but was still in striking distance of the podium.

Performing to a modern arrangement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 named “Ice 5,” Ponsero nailed a strong quadruple toe loop-double toe loop combination, a triple Axel and a triple Lutz. The Frenchman got a level four for his three spins and a level three for the straight line step sequence. Ponsero's point total of 78.05 broke down to 44.70 element score/33.35 program component score. His mark here was a significant improvement of his previous personal best of 69.05 points, established two years ago at Skate Canada.

“I’m pretty happy with my short program, with my jumps. I’ve worked a lot on my choreography and it wasn’t easy for me to dance like a Hip Hop man, because I was more a classical skater, the Frenchman said. “I chose this program, because I wanted to change my style. I asked a friend to rearrange Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I really like this program, it’s a different style for me and people are looking at me differently.”

Chan’s routine to “Tango de los Exilados” featured a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, a triple Lutz, a level four flying sit spin and level three footwork sequences, but he put his hand down on the triple Axel and stumbled briefly at the very end of the straight line steps. The 2008 Canadian champion's 77.47 points (44.70/36.05) was a npersonal best by 4.66 points

“Today was pretty intense for me. Going into the program I was pretty nervous. I think this is because this is the first competition of my season and it’s with two new programs. It was quite of a challenge mentally,” the 17-year-old said.

Bradley put out an entertaining performance to an Elvis Presley medley. He stumbled on his opening quadruple-triple toe loop combination, but recovered to land a triple Axel and a triple Lutz. His flying camel and combination spin were both graded a level four, but the 24-year-old touched down with his hand on the combination spin.

Bradley's 72.50 points (42.70/29.80) was a personal best. His previous personal high was 68.83 points. “I was pretty happy with how things turned out today. They weren’t perfect, I left a lot of room for improvement, but (it’s good) just to start, to get my foot in the door for tomorrow. It’s a little tough to skate in that first group, then have to sit there. Everything is out of my hands. There were a lot of good skates, especially for so early in the season. It was really cool to be part of it,” Bradley said.

Lysacek stepped out of his triple Lutz before adding the triple toe and subsequently didn’t get credit for a combination. Sergei Voronov (RUS) placed fifth with 70.45 points. He nailed a quad toe-double toe combination and a triple Axel, but the triple loop was shaky.

The Pairs

In the pairs competition, Russia's Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov were consistent, placing first in both segments of the competition and winning the gold.

Canadians Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison at 60.14 rallied from third after the short to win the silver while American champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker dropped a spot after the short program to claim the bronze.

Kawaguchi and Smirnov skated attempted a triple toe-triple toe sequence right at the beginning of their dramatic program to “I Pagliacci” by Leoncavallo, but Smirnov doubled the first jump. The Russian champions reeled off a triple twist, throw triple Salchow and loop as well as difficult lifts and a double Axel. However, Kawaguchi did a three turn out of the landing of the Axel.

The couple from St. Petersburg was awarded a level four for their pair combination spin and a level three for the death spiral, step sequence and side by side spin. Kawaguchi/Smirnov earned 111.95 points (54.99 element score/56.96 program component score) for this performance and were ranked second in the free skating, but overall remained in first at 176.97 points.

“We are very happy to be in first place for the first time (at a Grand Prix event),” Kawaguchi said.

Smirnov added, “It was hard to defend our first place and to skate last. We felt a lot of responsibility, but I think we managed. Our coach Tamara Nikolaevna (Moskvina) made a tactical move and took out the quad (throw Salchow). We decided just before we went out to skate. So we skated almost without any major errors, I just didn’t do the first jump, but then I coped with the second jump.”

Performing to lesser known selections from “Carmen” by Georges Bizet, Dubé and Davison landed a double Axel-double Axel sequence, a triple Salchow, big throw triple Lutz and an impressive Step-In Lasso lift with great speed and ice coverage. The team earned a level four for the pair combination spin and a level three for the others spin, steps and the death spiral.

Their only errors were a flawed catch on the triple twist and a two-footed throw triple loop. The reigning World bronze medalists scored 116.40 points (60.16/56.24) and won the free skating portion. They accumulated a total score of 176.54 and moved up from third to second in the final standings.

“We skated the free program better than we thought almost. We did a good job, coming back and learning from what happened yesterday, attacking our long program and going out and just having fun and skating our new program the best we could,” Davison said.

“I was a little nervous," Dubé added, "but overall it wasn’t bad. I think we have a beautiful program.”

McLaughlin and Brubaker opened their dynamic “Westside Story” program with a strong triple twist and hit a throw triple loop and Salchow. However, the 2007 World junior champions struggled with the side-by-side jumps. McLaughlin popped the Salchow into a single while he doubled the toe loop. She did a triple, but stumbled out of it.

They also made a costly error on the pair combination spin that received no value when he put down his second foot during the change of foot. McLaughlin and Brubaker received 100.85 points (47.49/53.36) and slipped to third with a overall competition score of 161.51 points.

“Every competition is a learning experience," Brubkaer said. "We’re going to take what we learned, go home and rest and hopefully our 2nd and 3rd place will be good to make the Final. We lost a lot of points on both our jumps and we didn’t get any points on our pair spin. We just kind of collided (in the spin) and as we were switching positions our feet hit and once a partner put both feet down, the pair spin is negated.”

Mylene Brodeur and John Mattatal (CAN) moved up from sixth to fourth with a performance that included a side-by-side triple toe, a double twist and throw triple Salchow (149.14 points).

Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent (USA) went for a quadruple throw Salchow, but it was underrotated and she fell. They were ranked fifth (148.52 points)

Kawaguchi and Smirnov earned 15 points from their win and will compete again in three weeks at the Cup of Russia in Moscow. Dubé and Davison have 13 points and are scheduled to skate again at the NHK Trophy in Japan. McLaughlin and Brubaker now have 24 points from their two events and are currently on top of the Grand Prix standings.

Ice Dance

In the ice dance event, Meryl Davis and Charlie White built up a nine-point lead after the compulsories and original dance over the French team of Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat. The Americans compiled 90.65 points to the French team’s 81.27. Kimberly Navvorro and Brent Bommentre were in third place with 80.35 points.

In the orginal dance, Davis and White, the reigning Four Continents silver medalists, opened with fast twizzles followed by a smooth diagonal step sequence, that was graded a level three . They also completed the side by side midline steps, the dance spin and a straight line lift with changes of position for Davis. The Americans collected 56.36 points (29.10 element score/27.26 program component score) and have accumulated 90.65 points so far to lead by a wide margin.

“We went out there with the thought in mind that we really wanted to put a lot of expression but also a lot of attack into the program today. I think we came away pretty pleased with that. There are a lot of little things obviously that we want to improve upon, but overall we are pretty happy with the direction we’re headed, especially in the beginning of the season,” White said.

Davis said they have had a lot of fun with the era and the theme of the orginal dance this year. "Our coaches brought in a lot of different music choices for us, and we had a lot of fun playing with them and seeing what suits us best," she said. "We are pretty excited to get into the theme.”

Pechalat and Bourzat chose a blues and a Lindy Hop named “It don’t mean a thing.” The French couple showed a nice curve lift, but they got very close to each other in the twizzles and then Pechalat fell in the side-by-side footwork. The couple earned 47.37 points (23.00/25.37) and was only ranked sixth in the OD, but held on to second place overall with 81.27 points.

“It was a really bad day for me. I fell in the midline step sequence, but I think this is just part of the life of a high level athlete. You have to use it as a lesson and to work at home and there is a new day tomorrow,” Pechalat said.

Bourzat added. “The level of difficulty is the spice in the sport. If you are not aware of each step you can go from the top place to fifth, sixth. You have to work and to focus on the technical elements one by one.”

Navarro and Bommentre’s routine to a Swing (“Hey Pachuco”) and Slow Foxtrot (“Why Don’t You Do Right”) featured a whirling rotational lift and a difficult dance spin. Bommentre touched down with his free foot in the twizzles series. The reigning Four Continents bronze medalists scored 48.68 points (25.20/23.48) and finished fourth in the original dance, but remained in third place at 80.35 points.

“I made a mistake on the twizzle. It’s one of those things that happen. We recovered from it and we are looking forward to going out tomorrow and skate,” Bommentre said.

Skate Canada is the second of six events in the 2008-09 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series. Skaters are competing for a global prize money of $180,000 (U.S.) per individual series event and receive points according to their placements. This is the 35th edition of Skate Canada International.

STANDINGS

LADIES

1 Joannie ROCHETTE CAN 64.74
2 Fumie SUGURI JPN 57.92
3 Caroline ZHANG USA 53.28
4 Jenna MCCORKELL GBR 51.64
5 Beatrisa LIANG USA 49.92
6 Alissa CZISNY USA 49.66
7 Carolina KOSTNER ITA 48.56
8 Nana TAKEDA JPN 45.14
9 Cynthia PHANEUF CAN 45.06
10 Jenni VAHAMAA FIN 44.90
11 Elena GLEBOVA EST 41.18 11
12 Myriane SAMSON CAN 40.42 12

MEN

1 Yannick PONSERO FRA 78.05
2 Patrick CHAN CAN 77.47
3 Ryan BRADLEY USA 72.50
4 Evan LYSACEK USA 71.40
5 Sergei VORONORUS 70.45
6 Brandon MROZ USA 67.03
7 Shawn SAWYER CAN 64.20
8 Anton KOVALEVSKI UKR 64.06
9 Yasuharu NANRI JPN 63.36
10 Vladimir USPENSKI RUS 56.17
11 Jeremy TEN CAN 50.93

PAIRS

1 Yuko KAWAGUCHI / Alexander SMIRNOV RUS 176.97
2 Jessica DUBE / Bryce DAVISON CAN 176.54
3 Keauna MCLAUGHLIN / Rockne BRUBAKER US 161.51
4 Mylene BRODEUR / John MATTATALL CAN 149.14
5 Tiffany VISE / Derek TRENT USA 148.52
6 Rachel KIRKLAND / Eric RADFORD CAN 141.66
7 Amanda EVORA / Mark LADWIG USA 138.14
8 Huibo DONG / Yiming WU CHN 127.17

ICE DANCE (After Two Segments)

1 Meryl DAVIS / Charlie WHITE USA 90.65
2 Nathalie PECHALAT / Fabian BOURZAT FRA 81.27
3 Kimberly NAVARRO / Brent BOMMENTRE USA 80.35
4 Kristina GORSHKOVA / Vitali BUTIKOV RUS 80.32
5 Vanessa CRONE / Paul POIRIER CAN 80.24
6 Ekaterina BOBROVA / Dmitri SOLOVIEV RUS 76.25
7 Jennifer WESTER / Daniil BARANTSEV USA 72.41
8 Andrea CHONG / Guillame GFELLER CAN 69.533


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