2011 Grand Prix Final
Planned Program Content
Meryl Davis & Charlie White
Standings are as expected after the Short Dance, but Scott Moir's rear end is redder than normal after the Olympic Champion slams down hard traveling backwards during his and partner Tessa Virtue's routine. For Scott is was an embarrassing and very rare occurrence.
1.76.17 (38.50+37.67) Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the current and first ever American World champions, skated last, in the place honor in this Final, because they had qualified with two wins (in the US and Russian Grand Prix). Their rivals, the Olympic champions, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, also won two Grand Prix events (in Canada and France) but with a lesser total score. Both train in Canton with the same coaches and so are very in touch with each other’s current abilities.
So, when Davis & White heard unusual sounds coming from the ice, they knew something untoward had happened. White knows the feeling of an embarrassing fall all too well. He has fallen several times in competition, generally because he was putting too much effort into a move. All skaters make slips in performance. But Moir has had years without this happening to him in competition. (His partner had a particularly bad competition in the 2009 Skate Canada international when she made two bad slips and only Scott’s swift action kept her from hitting the ice on both occasions.)
Moir’s fall led to the three times US champion gaining more of a lead that expected after their performance to two Sambas, Batucadas by Mitoka Samba, and On the Floor by Jennifer Lopez, which were divided by a Rhumba Life is a Carnival. They lead by 5.16. White said, "A bigger lead is always nice, but I don’t think it’s going to affect our mindset very much. We have the same idea going into every skate and that is just to do like in practice."
Davis added, "This score was indeed our season’s best. We’ve been working on our Short Dance a lot since Skate America and Cup of Russia. I think we’re feeling much more solid and confident with the dance and feel like we really get our feet under us. So we’re really pleased with it."
Davis and White were the only couple to earn the maximum Level 4 for all five of their required elements. The nine judges each give a mark for the five elements. Eleven of those 45 marks were +3 the maximum Grade of Execution. Virtue and Moir received only six +3s, and their non-touching circular steps were only Level 3.
Moir explained that he believed the fall was caused, "by my catching Tessa’s skate. It happened so quickly that, by the time I noticed (I was in the wrong position) my back was on the ice. We’re pretty good at recovering from that kind of incident." Indeed, Moir improvised several little tippy-toe steps to get back into position which were perfectly in keeping with the music showing not only his spontaneity but very advance music sense. Maybe he should have got a point added instead of subtracted for such a show.
2.Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir 71.01 (35.36+36.65 -1). Virtue said, "Artistically and technically the performance was a step up from last season. We have trained so hard and we are looking forward to the Free Dance which is my favorite program we are well prepared for it." For their Short Dance, they are also using two sambas with a rhumba center section. The sambas are HipHip ChinChin by Club des Belugas and Mujer Latina by Thalia. The rhumba is to Diana Krall’s Temptation. It is a reworking of their Free Dance music from last season, which, because of her injury, they only got to present the once, in Worlds in Moscow. "All the moves are new this season, but the music was so fitting, it was a shame to waste it."
3.Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, France, 68.68 (34.85+33.83). This is the first time the French veterans have competed against the Shibutani siblings since the World championships in Moscow in April. In that event, the US 20 year old brother and 17 year old sister were competing for the first time at that level. Pechalat and Bourzat were lying third going into the Free Dance and expected to gain bronze with an amusing Charlie Chaplin routine. The Shibutanis were some distance behind.
However, in a freak fall, Bourzat pulled his partner down with him. The deducted points allowed the Americans to get the bronze medal, an incredible achievement in their debut. The French team was devastated and determined that should not happen again, especially since the world championships will be in their own country, in Nice, next year.
Their third place here, a significant 4.63 marks ahead of the Shibutanis indicates they are on the right trail. They skated to three Sambas, Mas Que Nada by Ben Jorge, Batacuda by Abacaxi, and Real in Rio by S. Mendes, J. Powell and C. Brown. Like Virtue and Moir, the French partnership received "only" Level 3 for their non-touching steps. He said, "After the Grand Prix in our country, we worked hard to improve our physical condition and to improve our consistency and gain more confidence." She added, "This program is very physically challenging, with really difficult steps. There is no time to rest. We have now moved to train at the Detroit Skating Club, so we’ve been hearing nothing but English, so it is so pleasant for us to hear the French language again. It feels like home. We really feel a link with the Quebecois, so it gives us a comfortable feeling.
4. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, Canada, 66.24 (34.28+31.96) are a fast improving couple. They finished fifth in the world championship and to be ahead of the Shibutanis, even if it is only by a minuscule 0.67, is a psychological encouragement. Skating to a Rhumba, Historia de un Amor by Perez Prado and a Samba to Batacuda by DJ Dero.
They also got a Level 3 for their steps, along with Level 4 for the other four required elements which include two sequences of the Rhumba Pattern Dance. She said, "We feel we did the best we could do. We got a personal best score, so we can’t complain. Our second Rhumba pattern here went great, so after that we were able to let it go and enjoy the performance. The crowd was going wild and it helped to maintain the energy and the performance. You feel like you can touch the audience in this (small) arena and we can see people’s eyes. It’s our 4th competition in seven weeks and it is a little daunting, but as the season goes on, the standards get higher. That pushes us to work on the Levels."
He said, "We feel this is our break-through season. It started at the end of last season with our placing at Worlds. That helped us to build our confidence then and over the summer going into the season, we began to believe we belong here. Now, we let the program go and see where it takes us, rather than concentrating on the elements. The arena has a cozy feeling with a low ceiling so it feels more like a theatre. It feels like we are performing on a stage and acting out our performance."
5. 65.53 (34.15+31.38) Maia and Alex Shibutani gained the same levels as the couples, apart from the leaders, received. Maia Shibutani explained, "Last year, we were first alternates for the Final, so this year we’re just soaking it all up and it is great." Her brother said he felt, "This was the best skate of our year and the best score. We felt very confident and relaxed. It really helped that we had a warm up with Meryl and Charlie. We did a lot of changed after NHK (which they won). We changed the circular steps and transitions in the second half of the program. We’re still working on connecting with the audience and on Latin movements. We feel we’re moving in the right direction."
They performed to three Sambas, Batuca by DJ Dero, Skip to the Bip by Club de Belugas, and Jazz Machine, by Black Machine.
6. 64.05 (31.72+32.33) Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev are the top ranked Russian ice dancers who train in Moscow. Skating two Sambas with a Rhumba in the middle. She said, "We are very happy with our skate. I think we did the maximum we could do and we enjoyed this performance a lot." Obviously disappointed their score wasn’t higher, he said, "We have our marks and the judges have their marks. We need to work on their marks, I guess. The performance felt really good but apparently we have some technical issues. We’ll look into that after the competition. There is no reason for us to be upset. There is still the free dance to come the day after tomorrow."
Planned Program Content
Meryl Davis & Charlie White
1.Overall 188.55; Meryl Davis & Charlie White; 1.FD 112.38 (54.43+57.95) The three-time US champions, who became the first Americans ever to win the world ice dance championship earlier this year, gave a superb, dynamic performance to the overture to Johann Strauss’ beloved operetta, Die Fledermaus, which earned them 44 out of a possible 72 award of the maximum +3 Grade of Execution from the judges. Their main rivals, three time Canadian champions, 2010 world champion and Olympic gold medalists, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, received "only" 29 of these ultimate accolades.
However, only the Canadians earned Level 4 for all eight required elements from the Technical Panel, which comprised Controller Gilles Vandenbroeck, Technical Specialist Ayako Higashino and her assistant Galit Chait-Moracci.
Davis & White were given "only" a Level 3 for their mid-line steps. "It’s very important that we find out why that was the case," said Davis. "That’s hugely important. The difference is 1.5 points. That can make a significant effect on results."
They have now won nine consecutive events. Their last losses were in the Olympic season when they won silver in Vancouver and silver again in the world championship behind Virtue & Moir. White said, "It’s fantastic. The consistency of our training, coming every day to the rink with a good attitude and bringing it over to competition with the same sort of idea is what we do. We control ourselves and so far we’re doing a good job of that."
Davis said, "The closeness of the points in this event will drive us even more. We work very hard every day but having Scott and Tessa there right next to us pushes us that much more. We’re really excited to get back home and keep working and improving."
Davis & White have now won three straight Grand Prix Finals. He said, "That’s a testament to our hard work, our coaches and our parents, who are always helping us. I wish we could take all the credit, but it’s everyone that helps us. Of course our partnership is a key, having been together for so long and being able to rely on each other. At this point, in senior, it’s something you get used to, but at the same time you can’t take it for granted."
Davis added, "We feel really good about where our skating is. It’s nice to be rewarded for it with the points. I think we can feel the growth of both programs from competition to competition. We’ll stick on that upward trend throughout the season."
2.183.34; Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir; 2.FD 112.33 (54.65+57.68); were the only couple to earn all Level 4s for their FD in which they play Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire from the movie Funny Face. That helped give them a slight edge of 0.22 over their American rivals for the element score in this section. However, Davis & White had better component marks but only by 0.37!
Moir said, "It felt great. Tessa and I were excited to bounce back with a great skate today (after his fall in the Short Dance). It was definitely our season’s best and every element felt strong. It is not where we wanted to finish, but we were honest with our goals this week and came out a little short. It was a great start to the season and we will go home and re-evalute to see where we can get some points.
Virtue said, "We will take a look at the point break down and talk with the judges to see where changes need to be made. At this point we are where we want to be in the season. We are looking forward to building into the championship season. I think the nuances and details of the program are starting to come through. This comes with comfort and through the characters of the program. We have been training harder and can only go up from here. The program has lots of room to grow."
3.169.69; Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat; 3.FD 101.01 (49.32+52.69 -1); The European champions were, by far, the oldest competitors. She is about to turn 28 (December 22) and he is about to turn 31 (December 19). They showed off that maturity in their Free in which he plays the Pharaoh and she his mummified wife who comes back to life in his dream and they have one last dance. The music uses several pieces: Peter Gabriel’s Passion; In the Garden of Souls by Narada Wood; Le Retour de Punt by Bernard Becker; and Alf Layla Wa Layla by Ahmad Sidqi.
She is dressed in a minimum of bandages. He is in a flesh colored top and blue pants. They begin with a lift in which she is upside down with her head on a level with his. It was an interesting program with many unique features. They earned Level 4s for all but their step sequences.
4.166.07; Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje; 4.FD 99.83 (49.50+50.33); At the end of their Free, set to music sent to them anonymously by a fan, Weaver, who turned 22 on December 4, couldn’t control her e
motions. She’s come a long way from Houston. As a teenager in 2006, she moved to Canada seeking an ice dance partner and there have been plenty of ups and downs since then. This year, taking fifth place in the worlds, and making the Final have clearly validated that her efforts have been all worthwhile. She admitted, "Everything just came out at the end, but it shows how connected we are to the program."
Poje, 24, said, "This performance has definitely been special. This is the first time we’ve competed this program in a French speaking city and for them to appreciate that we are skating to a French Song (I am Lovesick) by a Belgian woman who has lived in Quebec City for many years is quite satisfying for us." They earned Level 4s for all but both step sequences and their final lift.
5.160.55; Maia & Alex Shibutani; 5.FD 95.03 (47.78+47.24); The siblings, who train alongside Virtue & Moir and Davis & White in Canton, Mich., gave a smooth showing of their Glenn Miller medley – In the Mood, Moonlight Serenade, Chattanooga Choo Choo. In an earlier practice, when they went into the Choo Choo section, which was a highlight of Sonja Henie’s most famous movie, Sun Valley Serenade, both Virtue & Moir and Davis & White formed a line Choo-Chooing their way behind the Shibutanis, to the huge delight of those who were in the audience at that point.
On Sunday, after their performance, which earned Level 4 for all but the two step sequences, Maia Shibutan, 17, explained, "We feel really good. This was a good competition for us. We made a lot of improvements in our programs since the Grand Prix events. I think we have been really excited to be here. It’s our first Grand Prix Final and, hopefully, the first of many. We’re really happy because within this competition, we see a big increase in our levels. That shows that we are going in the right direction. We’ve done a lot of hard work in order to improve everything about our programs."
Alex Shibutani added, "We have tried to soak it all in as much as possible. We’re going to go home and work really hard. We are always going to make corrections and keep pushing the bar for ourselves so by the year we’re as good as we can be."
6.157.30; Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev; FD 93.25 (45.80+48.45 -1); The Russian champions gave their version of Walpurgis Night, music by Charles Gounod. Soloviev, 22, explained, "She’s the devil and she’s out to get me. She succeeds!" Wearing a couple of black ribbons designed to look like horns in her blonde hair, and a long-sleeved black outfit with ragged hem, Bobrova, 21, gave an energetic showing to start the event. All eight elements received positive GoEs. Five elements gained the maximum Level 4 including their initial straight line lift which earned unanimous +2s from the judging panel. But there was a certain sloppiness about their execution. In Cup of China they had decisively beaten the Shibutanis.
Soloviev agreed, "This wasn’t an error-free program. It was definitely the worst we performed it this season. Something did not feel right from the very beginning as we stepped on the ice. But things happen. We were pleased with how our twizzles and circular steps went (Level 4 with +0.86 and Level 3 with +1.43 respectively). We will continue working on technique going into Russian Nationals."
Prix Final Dance Medalists
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