Monday, 22/1/2018 | : : UTC-8
Skate Today

Savchenko and Szolkowy Soar to the Top

World Champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy blasted one step closer to their second World Title on Tuesday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles . The duo powered through an awe-inspiring performance which raised their personal best score to a new level of 72.30 points.

Her skating in pink hot pants and him in an unconventional purple and pink, the Germans electrified the audience with their short program set to the music from “The Lost in Space” soundtrack.

The crowd roared when they hit their opening side-by-side triple toe loops and followed with a huge throw triple flip which earned eight +2 Grade of Execution Marks (GOE’s) from the judges. The ninth and final judge awarded the pair a +1 GOE for that element.

The European Champions non-jumping elements were equally as strong receiving level four on all elements except for the triple twist which was level two.

“In the past two weeks, we’ve worked very hard,” Szolkowy told the press. “Today may not have been the best, but it was a season’s best and in the end it was enough to take first place. It was actually really hard for me, especially after the lift, there I was kind of breathless. My feeling is that I’m at the end of the season, and we’re very tired. I feel it especially in my legs.”

Savchenko and Szolkowy were the first German pair to capture the World title in eleven years when they did so last season in Gothenburg. Their coach Ingo Steuer won the World title with partner Mandy Woetzel in 1997.

“Our practice went well, and we were very focused on everything we had to do. In practice we never had major problems with the short program, but in competition, we get nervous.”

Russians Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov laid down an elegant and balletic skate to the music “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saens. The program featured side-by-side triple Salchows, a throw triple loop and gorgeous lifts — which showcased her flexibility and his strength.

Their gentle presentation earned the European silver medalists a second place standing and enter the free program in second place with a score of 68.94 points.

“I am very happy with what we have done tonight and the levels of our elements,” Kavaguti commented. “Now my goal is to skate our free program with no mistakes. I don’t want to think about medals now.”

“I am very happy to have become a Russian citizen; otherwise I couldn’t participate at the Olympic Games next year.”

Nipping at their heels, the Olympic silver medalists Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang dazzled the crowd with a new softer and lyrical style in their short program which is set to the music “Riding on the Wings of Song” by Felix Mendelssohn.

They nailed their opening triple twist which was so well done they earned GOE’s as high as +3 for that element. They followed with a huge throw triple loop which was equally as strong and then reeled off a triple Salchow as well. Their spins and lifts were graded level four but the spiral step sequence earned level three and the triple twist was level two.

The reigning World silver medalists spent time over the summer working with Russian coaches and choreographers Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva to assist them with ways they can connect and express the music.

“We love both our programs. They are really different in style from what we used to do. We are trying a lot of new things, and I think it is very good for us.”

The Four Continent silver medalists picked up 67.42 points and enter the free skate in third place.

“We felt really good about our performance,” Dan Zhang stated. “We did the best short program of the season. I’m still recovering (from her knee injury) but it’s must better than several weeks ago.”

Russian silver medalists Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankhov hope to improve on their seventh place finish at last year’s World Championships and currently sit fourth with 66.88 points.

This fiery team produced a solid skate to “Nobody Home” by Pink Floyd which included side-by-side triple toe loops and a gorgeous throw triple loop. They were awarded level four for all elements except for the triple twist which was level one and on the forward inside death spiral which was called level three.

“We worked on everything for the short program before coming here, but we didn’t change anything as our short program worked well for us this season,” Trankov stated. We were a little tense. We skated the short program for the last time and since we skated it well all season, we felt some additional pressure to do it clean one more time.“

2006 World Champions and reigning Four Continents and Grand Prix Champions Qing Pang and Jian Tong settled for the fifth spot after they struggled on their opening side-by-side triple toe loops and managed only level three on the flying combination spin and the spiral step sequence. They recovered nicely with a very high triple twist and a solid throw triple loop to rack up a segment score of 65.18 points.

“Today I felt a little tired,” Tong stated. “ I caught a cold before coming here so I didn’t feel so great in practices and I felt a little weak on the jumps. But we have a lot of experience, and we can deal with that. I am happy with the technical score, but the second mark wasn’t so high. I hope to do better tomorrow.”

Training mates of Savchenko and Szolkowy, Ukrainians Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov took the sixth spot after Volosozhar turned out of their opening side-by-side triple Salchows and later two-footed a throw triple loop. Despite the mistakes they delivered a stellar triple twist and performed top-notch spins and spirals as well.

Volosozhar and Morozov moved to Germany last June and now train under 1997 World Champion Ingo Steuer. They were ranked ninth at the World Championships in Gothenburg last season. They pocketed a segment score of 64.10 points.

“Since we have changed coaches this summer, our practices have become more productive and there is just more quality to them,” Valosozhar stated. Ingo (Steuer) not only works on the elements with us, but on the whole package as well. Today there were a few smaller errors. I wasn’t feeling so great, maybe because of the time change. Hopefully, it will be better tomorrow.”

World bronze medalists Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison struggled on the opening elements of their short program set to “Fix You” by Coldplay. Dube stepped out of the triple Salchows and the duo collided on the triple twist that followed. They recovered with a throw triple loop and received level four on their spins, lift and forward inside death spiral.

“It wasn’t by any means perfect, but it was probably just above our average for competitions in the short (program) this year,” Davison explained. There are still a lot of positive things about our skate, like the very nice throws. Now it’s time to learn from this one and go on to the next day. You can’t go back and you can’t rely on a good short program to take you into the long. They are two different programs.”

They received a disappointing 61.80 points and will have the work cut out for them if they hope to capture a medal of any color in tomorrow’s free skate.

“We’re looking forward to coming back from this one. It won’t be the first time we’ve done a mediocre short and then come out and done a really good long,” he added.

Canadian silver medalists Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin delivered a lovely performance to the music “4 Lamentations” which earned the duo a short program score of 61.28 points. The pair skated clean and they were happy with their performance. Their only regret was cutting a change of edge on the spiral step sequence which dropped their level on the element to level three.

“We’re not such a new team anymore, and we’re really starting to feel very confident,” Buntin commented about their performance. ‘I knew I was a little short in changing the edge, but this is the rule, and we take it. We had to change our program so many times this season, it finally felt just like us today.”

Americans best hope in the pairs competition fizzled quickly when U.S. Champions Keauna McLauglin and Rockne Brubaker had a disappointing debut at their first World Championship. McLaughlin fell on the side-by-side triple Salchow and put a hand down on the throw triple loop rendering them in ninth place with 53.62 points.

“Obviously we had some mistakes,” Brubaker told the press. “We missed some levels, which hurt us pretty bad. It’s an experience, and it’s our first worlds. For the most part, we felt really comfortable out there, and it didn’t have anything to do with nerves. There were just some mistakes today. Sometimes you have to stay focused, stay present and take one element at a time.”

Teammates Caydee Denny and partner Jeremy Barrett were excited beyond belief in their World Championship debut. They skated with speed and managed a triple twist, a throw triple loop, strong spins, lift and spiral step sequence. Barrett stumbled out of the side-by-side triple toe loop, but otherwise they delivered a clean program.

“That was so much fun,” 15-year-old Denny said with excitement. “That was awesome. It was our first Worlds, and they were here in the United States. The experience has just been amazing. It’s not every day you get to go to a World Championship, so I feel extremely blessed.”

Barrett added: “After tomorrow, we’re not going to be the new team anymore. So we’re just going to go out and enjoy it. We already know what our flaws are, and we are working on them for next year, but we have to take little steps at a time. They are not going to change overnight.”

They skated with intensity and a good sense of attack and were thrilled with the outcome.

They enter the free skate in tenth place with a short program score of 52.74 points.

After not knowing if they would be competing here in Los Angeles the Canadian team of Mylene Brodeur and John Mattatall finished eleventh with 50.44 points. The couple were last minute replacements for 2008 Canadian Champions Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay who withdrew due to injury.

”It was definitely interesting out there. It was the biggest arena we’ve probably ever been to,” Mattatall commented. “It’s a great crowd.”

The duo had an uncharacteristic mistake on a pair combination spin for which they earned zero points. Nonetheless, the Canadian bronze medalsts were thrilled to be here and have soaked up experience all week.

“I don’t really know what happened,” Brodeur stated of the problem with the spin. “Maybe someone was too fast, maybe was a timing thing. It just happened.”

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