Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany are the new World pairs champions. It was the first World title for Germany in 11 years. Although their program had a few mistakes, it was still enough claim the gold at the 2008 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, being held at the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Wednesday’s competition also included the ladies short program. Carolina Kostner of Italy took the lead ahead of Japan’s Mao Asada and Yukari Nakano.
In a thrilling night of pairs skating, it was Savchenko and Szolkowy of Germany who stood out. They scored 130.86 points (68.77 element score/63.09 program component score) and racked up a total of 202.86 points to take the title. It was their second medal at Worlds after they won the bronze last year. Their coach Ingo Steuer had won the 1997 World Championships with partner Mandy Wötzel.
China’s Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang earned the silver medal and Canadians Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison captured the bronze.
Savchenko and Szolkowy opened their performance to “L’Oiseau” from “Cirque du Soleil” with a throw triple flip and a triple toe-triple toe sequence, but he stepped out of the second jump. The European champions went on to reel off a triple twist, and a difficult one armed Lasso lift and a throw triple Salchow in the last seconds of the program. However, Szolkowy fell on the side-by-side triple Salchow while she stumbled out of it.
The Germans were awarded a level four for both their spins, the death spiral and the spiral sequence and a level three for the straight line footwork. “To me I was 30 percent surprised that I fell as it (the Salchow) felt quite good in the air. Then for a second I thought ‘there went our medal chance,’ but then I remembered what we’ve learned in training, that we can catch up for smaller mistakes – well, that was a major mistake – but that we can catch up with the other elements,” he explained.
Skating to “The Myth,” a Chinese movie soundtrack, Zhang and Zhang produced a huge triple twist, a big throw triple loop and Salchow as well difficult one armed lifts. The 2006 Olympic silver medalists earned a level four for all three of them and a level three for their spirals and the side by side spin, but Dan Zhang struggled with the solo jumps. She singled the Axel in the double Axel-triple toe combination and touched down with her hand on the triple Salchow.
The Chinese couple collected 123.46 points (64.15/59.31) for this performance and were ranked third in the Free Skating. Overall they slipped from first to second at 197.82 points. It was their third medal at Worlds after a silver in 2006 and a bronze in 2005.
“We made mistakes on two of our jumps, we really regret that we were not able to skate our best tonight,” Dan Zhang said.
Hao Zhang added, “I think it (the injury, a boil) probably did affect the performance a little bit, after the long program I was very tired, I was a bit slow to skate this time, especially in the second part. After this competition I will take a vacation, maybe do some traveling and sightseeing in China, trying to relax as much as I can and get rid of all the tiredness from this season.”
Dubé and Davison earned 124.12 points (66.92/57.20) and improved their previous personal best by almost 10 points. Overall their score added up to 192.76 points and they moved up from fourth to third to claim their first medal at the World Championships.
The Canadians turned in an inspiring performance to “The Blower’s Daughter” soundtrack. The Canadians completed a double twist, a side-by-side double Axel-double Axel sequence and a triple Salchow as well as smooth lifts with changes of positions. Their spins and spirals were all graded a level four.
“During the performance I said to stay calm and take our time,” Davison said. “We have had mistakes before and it was probably because we rushed and get too excited and ahead of ourselves, so we tried to stayed on our edge as our coach told us just before the competition: ‘Skate from the heart but stay cold in our heads.’”
Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov (RUS) hit a quadruple throw Salchow and became the first pair to perform this element at World Championships. However, he stumbled on the triple toe and the double Axel, and the team slipped from third to fourth (191.33), missing the podium by just over one point.
2007 World silver medalists Qing Pang and Jian Tong (CHN) finished fifth. They produced strong throws, but their side-by-side triple toe and the first Axel in the double Axel-double Axel sequence were downgraded (186.78 points).
Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin (CAN) came in sixth in what was their debut at the event (169.61 points).
Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov (RUS had to interrupt their performance as he was suffering from severe pain in his right arm and took a break for medical attention. They finished the remaining 1.20 minutes of the program then and came in seventh (166.64).
Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay (CAN) were eighth while Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov (UKR) placed ninth. Americans Rena Inoue and John Baldwin were 10th while teammates Brooke Castile and Benjamin Okolski placed 11th.
The competition kicked off with the ladies short program. The top eight ladies are separated by 5.07 points only, which promises an exciting free skating final Thursday.
Kostner scored a new season’s best score of 64.28 points (36.34 element score/27.94) to win the short program at Worlds for the first time. “I am very happy about my personal (seasons) best. I have tried the whole season to top my last season’s best, and here was my last chance to do it,” Kostner said.
Kostner opened her program to “Riders on the Storm” with a huge triple flip-triple toe combination, but then stepped out of her triple Lutz. She recovered to land a double Axel and received a level three for her step sequence, a level four for the spiral sequence.
She edged Asada only by 0.18 points. “I feel quite honored to be in this position. But I tell myself that there is always a first time, so I just try to stay calm and enjoy skating,” she said.
Asada’s lyrical routine to “Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra” by Jean-Claude Petit included a solid triple flip-triple loop combination, a double Axel and a triple Lutz. The reigning World silver medalist was awarded a level three for her flying sit spin, but the spiral sequence was graded a level one and the combination spin and layback spin were a level two.
The 17-year-old earned 64.10 points (35.22/28.88), which was a new seasons best for her “My jumps were good but my spins and spirals were not of high level so I want to improve on that for tomorrow,” Asada said. ”I didn’t feel any impact being here without my coach because coaches from the federation checked on my levels.
“I haven’t seen my video yet so I haven’t made an analysis (of the levels), but I will sit down and watch it to adjust something for tomorrow,” she explained.
Nakano delivered a solid performance to “Fantaisie Impromptu” by Frederic Chopin, hitting a triple flip-double toe loop combination, a triple Lutz and a double Axel. She produced fine spins and earned a level four for the flying camel spin and a level three for the combination and the layback. The Japanese picked up a new personal best of 61.10 points (34.83/26.27).
“I managed to get high levels on my spins and spirals and I am much honored to be in this position today. I am very surprised about that. Compared to other skaters I am quite small and my trainer always tells me to be very aggressive on the ice and today I tried to keep that in mind,” Nakano said.
The ladies ranked fourth to eight all still have a shot at a medal. Kiira Korpi (FIN) turned in a strong performance to Tango “Triunfal” to finish fourth with 60.58 points. Among the program’s highlights were a triple Lutz-double toe loop and a triple loop.
Reigning World bronze medalist Yu-Na Kim (KOR) suffered a fall on her triple Lutz which sent her tumbling into fifth place. She landed a triple flip-triple toe loop combination and scored 59.85 points for the program.
Joannie Rochette (CAN) skated well but also had a l mistake. She nailed a triple flip-double toe but stepped out of her triple Lutz to come in sixth with 59.53 points.
Sarah Meier (SUI) ranked seventh (59.49 points). She produced a triple Lutz-double toe and triple Salchow.
Reigning World Champion Miki Ando (JPN) had some problems in her program. Her triple Lutz-double loop combination was somewhat shaky and she wobbled on her flying sit spin. She was ranked eighth with 59.21 points.
Meanwhile Americans were in the nine through 11th places. 2006 World champion Kimmie Meissner compiled 57.25 points to place ninth. Beatrisa Liang (52.81) and Ashley Wagner (51.49) sat in 10th and 11th places, respectively.
To read the IFS World Championships previews, see:
Brian Joubert Meets the Press
Johnny Weir Gives His Take On
Nationals, Worlds and the Off-Season
Brian Joubert: Discusses Strategy For Worlds;
Reminisces About Past Competitions
Training Injury Knocks Lysacek Out of Worlds
Domnina and Shabalin Will Miss Worlds;
Ice Dance Race Wide Open
Tarasova, Cousins and Grafström Get the Nod
From World Figure Skating Hall of Fame