Saturday, 20/1/2018 | : : UTC-8
Skate Today

Home Ice Advantage Serve Canadians Well

Home advantage seemed to pay off in dividends for the Canadians as they took to the ice today at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.

The Four Continents Figure Skating Championships kicked off with a stellar showing for the Canadians.

It is the tenth anniversary for the prestigious competition which has been designated as the test event for the upcoming Olympic Games in 2010.

There are approximately 105 skaters representing 16 countries on hand to delight Canadian fans with their wizardry on ice.

The Canadians took charge in the opening event when World silver medalists Tessa Scott, 18, and Scott Moir, 21, claimed the top spot in their Finnstep compulsory dance which earned the duo a top score of 36.40 points.

They retained their edge over their American training mates and friends Meryl Davis, 22, and Charlie White, 21, who sit second with 35.23 points. World junior silver medalists Vanessa Crone, 18, and Paul Poirier, 17, of Canada, captured the third spot with 32.43 points and their long-time rivals Junior World Champions Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates of the United States are fourth with 31.41 points.

The Finnstep is a relatively new dance created by Finnish ice dancers Susanna Rahkomo and Petri Kokko with the help of their coach Martin Skotnicky. Rahkomo and Kokko first performed the dance in 1995 at the European Championships in Dortmund, Germany.

The dance is a quick and fun dance which requires quick steps and precise timing. It should be as fun to watch as it is to dance for the performance to be considered successful.

The reigning Four Continents Champions executed a lively dance packed with quick steps and strong interpretation.

The World silver medalists showed their lack of training in this dance when Tessa who sat side-lined after her surgery last fall (for chronic exertional compartment syndrome) suffered a slight slip during the first phase of the second pattern.

Despite the miscue the Canadian Champions skated with confidence exhibiting strong unison and great flow.

“You have to take your hat off to Tessa,” Moir stated on the rapid recovery of his partner. “I don’t think very many people could have come back as fast as she has. It’s (been) a battle every day.”

Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White looked dapper as they took to the ice for their Finnstep. The Four Continents silver medalists delivered the dance with great expression and speed but had a small mistake on a twizzle.

“In the moment, there are always things that could have been better,” Charlie told the media of their second place performance. “Overall we couldn’t be happier.”

Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier did themselves proud in their first-time performance at the Four Continents Championships and set themselves in contention for a medal here in Vancouver.

The young Canadians delivered a well-timed dance which looked smooth with nice edge quality. Their posture was superb. Their only problem came on the twizzle segment where Vanessa lost her balance but managed to stay upright.

“It’s hard to skate perfectly,” Poirier stated of the mistake. “It happens. It’s our job {just to try) and cover it up. In general it was a really good dance for us,” Crone added. “We didn’t know what to expect since it’s a new dance. Overall we’re really happy with it.”

Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates produced a free-spirited dance which displayed good speed and unison. The duo struggled on the second pattern when it looked liked Emily had a misstep and Evan struggled on the twizzle as well.

“We might be the last team to compete the Finnstep,” Bates joked about the possibility of the elimination of the compulsory dances after 2010. “I’m excited about that!”

Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje currently are fifth after a compulsory dance worth 30.82 points. Weaver suffered a knee injury after a training accident during yesterday’s practice.

“It’s not bothering me when we skate…stitches are pretty simple,” Weaver stated.

Americans Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre captured the sixth spot with a Finnstep worth 30.59 points.

“We wish we could show you our ideal Finnstep, but we haven’t really done full justice to the dance because our focus is divided amongst our other dances,” Navarro explained. “I don’t think anybody has had enough time to properly prepare.”

The dance event will continue tomorrow with the original dance.

Pairs-

In the pairs event Canadians Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison slid into second behind Grand Prix Champions Qing Pang and Jian Tong, from China. The Canadians had a near-perfect performance that some thought should have been first. Olympic silver medalists Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang took third and Canadian silver medalists Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin are currently in fourth.

The 2006 World Champions Qing Pang, 28, and Jian Tong, 29, had a rough start to their program when they doubled their opening move — a planned triple toe and lost unison on the side-by-side combination spin. Despite the mistakes the Chinese wowed the crowd with a powerful triple twist and a huge throw triple loop which were just outstanding.

“It was not perfect today and we hope to do better tomorrow”, Pang told the press. “I was hesitating on the toeloop. The ice surface is more narrow and I hadn’t quite adjusted to that.

“Some of our elements were good today, but we made two mistakes,” Tong added.

The Four Continents Champions were ranked only second on the element score with 36.36 points behind Dube and Davison who earned a seasons best with 37.80 points. What they lost on the technical mark though was made-up on the components with the highest component score (29.24) of the event. They earned level four on all non-jumping elements except for the double twist which was graded level two.

“Before we came to this event we were very excited about it, especially knowing it’s going to be the venue for the 2010 Olympics,” Tong stated. “We tried to live up to the expectations and we were able to do that, and we’re very happy with our performance.”

The judges seemed equally as impressed awarding GOE’s as high as +3. The team, who placed ninth in the 2002 Olympics and fourth in 2006, had a slow start to their season as Tong has been struggling with Achilles tendon injury and Pang a thigh injury.

Pang and Tong earned a segment score of 66.60 points and will enter the free skate in first place.

Canadian Champions Jessica Dube, 21, and Bryce Davison, 23, produced a near-perfect performance thrilling the home crowd with spectacular elements set to the music “Fix You” by Coldplay.

The World bronze medalists rocked their side-by-side triple Salchows, and the throw triple loop that followed was simply outstanding. Their non-jumping elements were equally as strong receiving positive GOE’s on all their elements except for the triple twist. The triple twist is a new element for the team, and it has been improving steadily with each competition this season. The duo came out late on the pair spin which cost them a one-point time deduction.

Dube and Davison pocketed a season’s best score of 64.35 points.

“We’re looking at a podium here. That’s our goal,” Davison stated with confidence. “We are happy with our performance. It was the best short program of the year. We’re looking forward to carry this performance momentum into the long program tomorrow.”

Olympic silver medalists Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang gutted out a powerful short program and currently sit third with 63.20 points. Their program skated to “Riding on the Wings of Songs” appeared effortless and their opening elements a triple twist and a throw triple loop were sensational. However, the duo struggled on their third element when Dan popped a planned triple Salchow into a single.

“Technically there was some problems,” Hao explained about popping the Salchow. “There were not any problems in practice and we’ll pay more attention next time.”

Nipping at their heels Canadian silver medalists Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin produced a fourth ranked short program which earned a seasons’ best score of 62.08 points.

They skated aggressively in their short program set to the music “4 Lamentations” by Marimuz . They exhibited great speed into a high flying double twist lift and then nailed their side-by-side triple toes. Their throw triple Lutz was huge and was so outstanding that the couple received +2 GOE’s from three of the nine judges. Their unison was impeccable and their chemistry on the ice has improved substantially this season.

“Our biggest asset is our passion and our drive and desire,” Buntin stated emphatically. “I think that comes out in our skating. We’re such a young team and we’re developing so fast. Next year we’ll come out with something much, much better.”

American bronze medalists Rena Inoue and John Baldwin edged Canadian bronze medalists Mylene Brodeur and John Mattatall by 1.62 points for the fifth spot with a segment score of 56.76 points. American Champions Keauna Mc Laughlin and Rockne Brubaker finished seventh after a messy short program worth 54.16 points.

The pair event concludes tomorrow afternoon with the free skate.

Ladies-

In an evening packed with surprises World bronze medalist Yu-Na Kim of Korea skated a performance for the ages separating the two-time Grand Prix Champion (2006, 2007) from the rest of the pack. She sailed through a two-year-old short program record with a segment score of 72.24 points. The previous score of 71.95 points was also set by Kim at the World Championships in 2007 – where she claimed bronze. Four Continents silver medalist Joannie Rochette, Canada’s five-time ladies champion, also skated a strong program and claimed the second spot with 66.90 points. 2004 Canadian Champion Cynthia Phaneuf turned heads with a comeback performance that was so stellar it placed her in third with 60.98 points. The expected battle of Mao vs. Yu-Na came to an early halt when World Champion Mao Asada tumbled to sixth place with an event score of 57.86 points.

Kim looked composed as she took to the ice last for her short program set to Camille Saint-Saens “Danse Macabre”. The two-time World bronze medalist reeled off an opening triple flip/triple toe combination and then hit a triple Lutz and double Axel which appeared effortless.

Her non-jumping elements were strong as well earning all positive GOE’s for those elements.

“When I was preparing for the Four Continents, I tried to stay healthy because last year, I was having injuries in February. I couldn’t prepare so well,” Kim explained. “So this season I’m in my best condition and to have achieved the highest score makes me very happy. It took me a long time to clean up this program, and I’m so happy that I did it today.”

Five-time Canadian Champion Joannie Rochette took full advantage of home ice when she had the short program of her life and captured the second spot with a point total of 66.90 points – a new personal best.

Her sultry “Summertime” short program was both sassy and stunning. The twenty-three-year-old from Ile, Dupas, Quebec stepped on the ice and appeared confident and focused. Her opening jump a double Axel was extremely secure as was the triple Lutz/double toe combination and the triple flip she performed later in the program.

“Actually I wanted to do a triple/triple (combination) tonight,” Joannie lamented. After I landed the first jump I decided to do a double. My landing wasn’t good enough. My goal (here) was to do a clean program so I wanted to go for the simpler element. Achieving a career best without a triple/triple is good for me, but I still want to land it before I finish my career for sure.”

She produced three level four spins which were well-done and her footwork (level three) demonstrated a high level of musicality.

“I had the chance last year to meet with Liz Manley,” Rochette stated about learning to handle the pressure leading up to next year’s Olympic Games. “Just to be able to meet her and hear her story was inspiring. For her, the two to three months before the games was hard because no one believed in her, and she had the performance of her life. Improving the program artistically was a goal this season,” she added. “Of course, I’m doing everything I can to get on the podium this year. In the end I know I will have done everything I can, and I’ll have no regrets.”

Cynthia Phaneuf also produced a career best skate and claimed the third spot as she heads into Friday’s finals. Phaneuf showed much promise as a young fifteen-year-old when she came out of nowhere to win the coveted Canadian title in 2004.

The Quebec based skater was declared the next big one and great hopes and expectations fell onto to her young shoulders. Nature stepped in and the teen grew taller causing her to lose her triple jumps.

It was heartbreak for the young champion who continued to struggle to regain her form. Now, five years later she is skating better than ever with a new found confidence and sophistication to her programs.

The long-limbed beauty delivered an elegant program which was highlighted by her graceful presence and gorgeous flow on the ice.

Phaneuf performed a graceful program that just oozed elegance and style. The twenty-one-year-old from Contrecoeur, Quebec dazzled the home crowd with wonderful expression in her “Nocturne” short program which earned the National silver medalist a personal best score of 60.98 points.

Her opening double Axel was strong and the triple Lutz/double toe combination and triple toe were solid as well. Where she separated herself from the other top ladies were on the complexity of the spins. Her flying sit spin and layback spin were called level three rather than those above her who earned level four.

“I’m very proud of myself, and this is a big relief,” Phaneuf stated after her third ranked short program. “I was feeling so good out there, and finally it was a clean program.”

2006 World silver medalist Fumie Suguri had a strong skate as well. However, she was penalized for a wrong edge take-off on her triple Lutz/double toe combination. Her triple flip and double Axel were good and the long-time veteran managed three level four spins and a level four spiral step sequence and sits 0.80 points out of third place with 60.18 points.

2007 World Junior Champion Caroline Zhang exhibited a balletic program to “Labayadere” by L. Minkus. The newly crowned American bronze medalist under-rotated the back-end of her opening combination a triple Lutz/triple toe and struggled on the landing of a triple loop. She executed stellar spins which earned a high grade of execution en route to fifth place standing with 58.16 points.

World Champion Mao Asada suffered a disappointing performance when she tumbled to sixth place after under-rotating the back-end of a triple flip/triple loop combination and doubled a planned triple Lutz. She also managed only a level two on her flying sit spin and her final layback spin. She currently sits over eleven points out of the medals with 57.86 points.

National Champion Alissa Czisny of the United States two-footed her triple Lutz/double toe combination and under-rotated and fell on a planned triple flip but highlighted her Camille Saint-Sains program with amazing spins and a gorgeous spiral step sequence worth 55.62 points.

Teammate Rachael Flatt currently sits eighth with 55.44 points after she stepped out of and under-rotated her triple flip/triple toe combination and took off from the wrong edge on a triple Lutz.

Akiko Suzuki of Japan is ninth with 55.40 points, and Amelie LaCoste, of Canada, placed tenth with 49.78 points.

The ladies event concludes Friday with the ladies free skate.

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