Tuesday, 20/3/2018 | : : UTC-7
Skate Today


Yuka Kavaguti+Alexander Shmirnov went to a dark place with their interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony and emerged with a shiny gold medal.

“The story is that I love her, and I lose my mind because of the unfulfilled love,” said Smirnov.

The team used spectacular elements – 3T+3T+SEQ, a quad throw Salchow, and all Level4 lifts – to present their 140-point personal best gothic-themed drama.

Peter Tchernyshev originally choreographed the program for the 2014 Olympics, but Smirnov’s ruptured ligament kept them off ice for the entire skating year.

“Last season we had a program that we really loved, so to finish the season without showing it made us very sad. That’s why we continued this season,” explained Kavaguti.

Smirnov had another special inspiration for his performance this week – the October 16, 2014 birth of his son.

“I was skating for him and he helped me to focus,” smiled the proud parent.

Haven Denney+Brandon Frazier (USA) captured the first US Skate America silver medal since Keanu McLaughlin+Rockne Brubaker in 2008.

Renee Roca choreographed the Disney, Lion King free program.

The Florida based team opened with a Level4 triple twist, 3LoThrow, and 3S, and then closed with two Level4 lifts.

“I had a lot of fun out there. It was how we practiced, and how we trained, so I was really proud of that.” Smiled Denney.

“Both programs took a lot of work in the offseason.  It’s good to come out here and see all that hard work pay off,” said Frazier.

Looking down the road, Denney added, “This program still has a lot more room to grow and get better because it’s still early.”

Ingo Steuer, former coach of Olympic and World medalists, Aliona Savachenko+Robin Szolkowy, assisted John Zimmerman at the boards. The 1997 World Champion has joined the South Florida staff.

“He’s helped make us more mature, and that’s very important for us,” commented Denney about the recent training addition.

Denney only giggled when asked if there was sibling rivalry now that she had a Skate America silver medal, but sister, Kadee (with partner John Coughlin) just had a bronze.

The 2013 World Junior Champions earned a personal best score in each area: Short – 61.08, Free – 122.76, and Total – 183.84

Cheng Peng+Hao Zhang (CHN) won bronze with the Lori Nichol choreographed program to “Allegretto from Piano Trio” by Dmitri Shostakovich.

The team opened their program with a huge quad twist, but falls by Peng on the next two jumping passes drew negative GOE marks. Both throws had solid landings and two lifts earned Level4.

The team received a 62.40 Component score, the second only to the gold medalists.

“We performed a nice program, really focusing on the performance aspect this time,” commented Zhang. “Lori Nichol did our programs and we spent months working with her. It was really a big help for us,” he added.

We also worked with other specialists, including acting and ballet coaches, which helped us a great deal,” said the newly married Zhang.

Alexa Scimeca+Chris Knierim (USA) were very disappointed with their 4th place finish to An American in Paris.

The Colorado Springs based team opened with a huge triple twist, but the jumps and throw landing resulted in falls and under rotations. However, the two combination spins and Lasso Lift earned Level4.

“I’m not really sure what went wrong. I don’t think we’ve ever been more prepared for a competition and to skate with errors was very discouraging. We were in the right mindset going into it.  It’s just frustrating,” said Scimeca.

Madeline Aaron+Max Settlage (USA) placed 5th with a character driven program to the King & I, choreographed by Julie Marcotte.

“When we have characters to become while we’re skating, it helps us feel the music more and helps us express ourselves,” said Aaron

Settlage added, “It allows us to be different people.  I’m not arrogant, but the King is like, I’m the best.”

The reining US National Junior Champions were pleased with their senior Grand Prix debut performance.

“I think we had a very good first experience.  I thought we came in and did what we wanted.  We skated like how we’ve been training,” commented Settlage.

The Colorado based team earned personal best scores in all areas: Short – 58.41, Free – 101.63, and Total – 160.04.

The teams’ next Grand Prix competition:

  1. Kavaguti+Smirnov – NHK Trophy
  2. Denney+Frazier – Rostelecom Cup
  3. Peng+Zhang – Cup of China
  4. Scimeca+Knierim – Trophee Bompard
  5. Aaron+Settlage – Skate Canada

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Skate Today was created in November 2004 to showcase the people of the skating world, skaters and coaches and others, who make figure skating and ice dancing a pleasure to watch for fans from around the world. The goal was to create a site that would give viewers an insight into the personalities of the people involved in this sport and to give you a more personal connection when watching them live at an event or on the television. Our staff knows how much time and dedication is put into this sport and that's why Skate Today was created.

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