Mirai Nagasu; Hubbell and Donohue - Golden Moments

At Nebelhorn Trophy

Elene Gedevanishvili, Mirai Nagasu and Joshi Helgesson
Zachary Donohue and Madison...

The Nebelhorn Trophy is named after a local mountain in Oberstdorf, the southernmost town of Germany situated in the middle of the Bavarian Alps. The cable car to the mountaintop runs over the roof of the ice rink.

It was the 43rd anniversary of this competition, which has a history of well-known skaters.

California’s Mirai Nagasu won the ladies competition with 167.46 points - margin of 19 points over the second-placed skater. In both programs she earned a lot of plus points for her spins, steps and the majority of her jumps. In the short program to the Tango “Danzarin,” the loop and double Axel were brilliant, but the combination Lutz was slightly under-rotated. She fell on her first combination (triple loop-double loop) in the free program to “Spartacus,” but recovered and performed the rest of program, although three jumps were under-rotated again.

“It is the first time I have skated to a tango. My goal was to do as well as I could to gain back my confidence. I lost a lot of confidence last season – especially after I was injured,” she explained. “Missing the World team was a big disappointment for me. Don’t laugh, I think the best part of my free was the fall. I was really nervous, but when I fell it shook me a little bit and I thought that I needed to be sharper. That was when I got my feet back under myself.”

Elene Gedevanishvili from Georgia, who now trains with Brian Orser in Toronto, earned 146.92 points and won the silver medal. The highlights of her programs were three triple Lutzes, but she missed two other triples in the long program. The petite skater lost some weight in the summer and can now jump with more ease. “My goal for the season is to be more consistent,” she said.

The two Helgesson sisters from Sweden were third and fifth. Joshi, the younger one, won the bronze medal because her jumping repertoire was more complete and she made fewer mistakes than her sister Viktoria.

Ksenia Makarova from Russia withdrew after the short program due to a hip injury that was aggravated after a fall in the short. Canada’s Adriana Desanctis made many mistakes resulting in a 14th place finish.

Yuzuru Hanyu Steals the Show

Yuzuru Hanyu from Sendai, Japan won both sections of the men’s competition with a total of 226.26 points. The 16-year old stumbled out of his quad toe loop in the short, but all other elements were executed well. He got three +3 from the Canadian judge, Jeff Lukasik, for his spins and steps. “I was nervous and my legs were shaking,” Hanyu later said.

In the long he again stepped out of his quad and popped the triple Lutz, but seven triples were clean, including two Axels. Because he makes his jumps look easy and interpreted them well he got components as high as 8.0. “I missed a few things and I’m looking forward to make improvements now. I will try to skate better at sectionals,” he said.

Michal Březina from the Czech Republic, a crowd favourite as he often trains in Oberstdorf, fell on the quad toe loop in his “Kodo Drums” short program, because it was under-rotated. All other elements received plus points. In his new long to the soundtrack of “The Untouchables” he did a three turn on the quad toe loop and doubled the planned quad Salchow, but six triples were completed cleanly. He moved up from fourth to second (215.00 points).

“I have to do more run-throughs of my program,” Březina said. “There was a lot of talk about the quad at Worlds and there will be even more quads this year.”

Stephen Carriere, who now trains with Suna Murray in Boston, won the bronze medal (207.54) without a quad. After a clean short program that included a triple Axel, he had problems with the jump in the free program twice. “I am happy with what I can do now in September and my injuries are gone,” he said. “There is a lot of testerone in the men’s competitions now. Everybody wants to land the quad. I will see.”

Javier Fernandez from Spain was fourth after making three mistakes in the short and not having tried a quad in the long. Max Aaron of Colorado Springs fell on his quad Salchow in the short, but moved up from eighth to fifth thanks to a long program with an under-rotated quad Salchow and eight triples, six of which were clean.

Moscow’s Zhan Bush was the only one in the short program to land a clean quad (toe loop), which was in combination with a triple toe loop. “This was my first quad in competition,” he explained.

But in the free program Bush missed the quad and the triple loop and dropped from third to sixth place. His countryman Konstantin Menshov was the only skater to complete a clean and even brilliant quad in the long program (in combination with a double toe loop), but he made other mistakes and ended up seventh.

Brian Joubert and Tomáš Verner withdrew from the competition citing back problems.

Rules Changes Cause Problems

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov from Moscow, second at Worlds in April, won the pairs competition with 183.65 points after a poor start in the short. In that portion of the competition, he was unable to lift his partner from the difficult position they had chosen to earn a level 4 (a new rule). She touched the ice with her hand during the triple throw flip and stepped out of the triple toe loop. In spite of these three mistakes they were first. This was an incorrect judging decision.

After the program Volosozhar was so upset that she ran into the dressing room without giving any commentary. The next day Trankov said that the mistakes may have happened because they trained the short program to a vocal version of the music and got the non-vocal version only two days before leaving from home. “I had a shoulder injury in the summer and we could not train the lifts for several weeks,” he explained. However, he still blamed the new level rule for their mistake on the lift.

The free program to Tchaikovsky’s sections of the “Black Swan” was excellent, especially the huge triple twist, the two side-by-side triple jumps and the two triple throws. Only the last lift was a disaster - again. “I am relieved, today it went much better,” Trankov said.

All top four male pairs skaters criticized the new level rules for the lifts that require not only a difficult entry and exit from the lifts but also changes of position of the lady in the air, and a direction change of the man. These lifts are very dangerous.

“Good young pairs will learn to circle in both directions while carrying the lady in the air and doing risky changes of positions,” Trankov said. “However, experienced skaters like myself have major problems. I have talked to other pair skaters, they feel the same way.”

America’s John Coughlin agreed. “The lifts do not look as nice and fluent any more, but a bit ugly and slow. The pairs cannot use the whole surface of the rink any more, but have to be very slow and careful,” he explained. The unanimous consensus of the skaters would be to go back to last year’s rules.

The silver medal that was awarded to the second Russian pair, Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov (165.23 points) was controversial as well. The team made three serious mistakes – one in the short and two in the long.

In the short program, Bazarova went down on a double toe loop and her partner fell over her. In the long she fell on the triple toe loop and on the triple throw loop (after already having landed it a second prior). And the judges gave -1 or -2. Her presentation was not top quality.

The new U.S. team of Caydee Denney and John Coughlin would have merited the silver medal instead of the bronze (162.73 points). Their short program to the soundtrack of ”East of Eden” was error-free and had a spectacular triple twist. “I thought that we had a good skate our first time out internationally together,” Denney said. “We can learn a lot when we get home to improve even more, especially on the steps where we only got level 1.”

Their long program was not that spectacular, and a fall on the throw triple loop was the only serious mistake. “We were very happy with our short, but our long program wasn’t our best,” Denny admitted.

The German team of Maylin Hausch and Daniel Wende was ranked third place in both sections, but fourth over all (159.30 points). They had some problems on the lift in an otherwise very good short program, and most of their other elements in the long were rated good or better. Their style has improved very much after having worked with Pasquale Camerlengo for a few weeks in the summer in Detroit.

Both Canadian teams made many errors and therefore were more than 20 points off the podium.

Hubbell and Donohue Dance to Gold

The ice dance competition ended with a surprise. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, the new U.S. team who have trained together for only four months, won their first international competition (139.01 points). They were second in the short dance to a Mambo, Rhumba and a Samba. Their strongest element was the twizzle sequence and their presentation was excellent.

In the free dance they overtook the German couple because of their higher component scores to a sexy blues number. “The music is mainly based on Joe Cocker's "I Put a Spell on You," a very bluesy, sensual program to try to show our connection with each other," Donohue commented.

They really put a spell on the judges getting components as high as 8.25 and 6.8 as the average. Most elements had level 4, only the steps level 2 and 3, all looked easy. “We came here without any expectations for placements,” Hubbell said. “We were just focusing on strong performances at our first international and we did that.“

Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi from Germany, 11th in Moscow, skated the best Latin short dance and collected points for very strong elements, including the compulsory Rhumba part.

Their romantic free dance to the modern soundtrack of “Romeo and Juliet” had the highest technical value earning level four on six elements and level three on the two step sequences.

However their components were a bit lower than those of the Americans, so that they had to settle for the silver medal (137.66 points). “We skated clean and we are pleased with this season debut,” Zhiganshina said. “We are not sad to have lost, but there is room for improvement. The competition was very strong.”

Canada’s Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill won the bronze medal with 133.94 points. They danced with a lot of energy in the Latin dance as well as in the Tango free dance. “We are really excited about our first international medal,” Ralph said. “We weren’t really thinking about placing per se, we were more focusing on giving a clean performance and getting the judges’ reaction.”

Cathy and Chris Reed, who skate for Japan but train in Hackensack, N.J., were fourth with an aggressive oriental dance. Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas, dancing for Lithuania, were fifth after an energetic rock ’n roll free dance. The second U.S. team, Anastasia Olson and Jordan Cowan placed sixth with their James Bond medley.

Originally published in October 2011