For the first time this season we had the opportunity to see all the top pairs teams square off on the same ice. It was a bumpy ride for some.
China’s Wenjing Sui and Cong Han skated the performance of the afternoon, and head into the free ahead of the pack. Despite their size, the diminutive couple skated big, showcasing the technical prowess reminiscent of their coach Hongbo Zhao. From start to finish, Sui and Han packed their “Spanish Romance” program with high-flying tricks that earned the duo positive grades of execution for every element. The duo captivated the audience with fierce choreography, and were rewarded with a standing ovation and a personal best 80.85 points.
“We both very happy that we did a perfect program today,” Han said. “This is what we can do in training, and I am very happy to be able to have shown it to the audience here. We are happy that we’ve done the best we can, but we don’t want to think too much about the placement or the score. We just want to focus on our performance, and do it again in tomorrow’s free skate.”
In second place are defending champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford from Canada. The duo shook off the demons that had plagued their “Your Song” short program all season long, and finally put out a performance that quenched their competitive thirst. Although Duhamel and Radford were not perfect — the twist was not up to their normal standard, and Duhamel struggled to hold on to the throw flip, they still recorded a season’s best 78.18 points.
“It’s been a rough season, internationally we have not done that program clean,” Duhamel said. “That was the main focus coming into this World Championships, to finally come and do it the way we know we can. It feels so good. It’s the first time we are trying to defend our title, and we felt nervous. It‘s the best feeling when the music ends and you know you have done your best program. I was sick and tired of ending programs feeling frustrated. Eric and I told each other that tonight, we’re going to feel proud.”
Radford added: “Coming into this short program we were a bit nervous, but centered. That was the difference between tonight and the rest of the season,” he explained. “Our performance today gives us so much confidence for tomorrow. Our goal for tomorrow is to be in control, to go out and perform without losing ourselves.”
Finishing in third with 77.13 points were Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, who are competing in their first World Championships in three years. “It wasn’t our very best, but many elements we did very well,” Trankov said. “(Volosozhar) two-footed the throw — maybe she played it safe, because she didn’t feel comfortable skating last. It’s been a while since we skated last. This is also our first Worlds in three years and it feels a little bit like the first time.”
The usually ambivalent Trankov seemed pleased with the team’s performance even with an error on the throw triple flip. “That wasn’t our best score, but I’m really happy with the way that we skated,” he said. “We were surprised by the levels because it was the first time that we lost levels on the twist, which was a big surprise for us. We are a little disappointed by this, but we are happy with the way we skated. We skated with a good mood, we felt the music, and we saw the standing ovation of the audience which is sometimes more important.”
In their World Championships debut, four-time champion Aliona Savchenko and her new partner Bruno Massot, are in fourth place. Despite some a little bobble on the throw flip, the German team looked confident and well-prepared to fight for a place on the podium. “There were some mistakes, and if you know me, you know that I don’t like to make mistakes,” Savchenko said. “It’s great to be back at the World Championships because it is something that I love to do.” Savchenko and Massot are still within striking distance of the title with 74.22 points.
Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia, second in 2014, are in fifth with 73.98 points, followed by teammates Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov who are in sixth with 72.00 points.
2016 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS