2011 Grand Prix Final

Pairs Event

by

Alexandra Stevenson

 
Standings
Place Team Country SP FS
1 Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy GER 2 1
2 Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov RUS 1 2
3 Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov RUS 4 3
4 Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang CHN 3 4
5 Megan Duhamel & Eric Bradford CAN 5 5
6 Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran JPN 6 6

Short Program

Planned Program Content

 
Starting Order - Short Program

Warmup Group 1

1. Megan Duhamel & Eric Bradford, CAN
2. Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran, JPN
3. Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang, CHN

Warmup Group 2

4. Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov, RUS
5. Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy, GER
6. Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov, RUS

Start Time: 20:00

 

Short Program Placements

Place

Team Country
1 Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov RUS
2 Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy GER
3 Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang CHN
4 Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov RUS
5 Megan Duhamel & Eric Bradford CAN
6 Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran JPN

Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov


1.SP 71.57 (36.83+34.74) Tatiana Volosozhar, 25, and Maxim Trankov, 28, look like a couple on and off the ice. They smile at each other. They consult each other about everyday activities before making decisions and, yes, they appear happier than they have been at any other period in their lives. But, yes, their on-ice relationship is only part of their lives. She still is in a long-term relationship with her former partner, who was instrumental in setting up her current partnership which began after the Olympics. And he is also in a steady ongoing situation, complete with an adorable dog.

"It was very hard at the beginning," Trankov explained. "We had been trained by different schools, Tanya in Ukraine and me in Russia. At one point, we couldnít even match our double jumps. Our coach was about to give up on us. Then over the summer I had injuries. But now things are coming together."

Skating to Bring Me Back to Life by Evanescence arranged by Alex Goldstein, they began with a triple twist in which he threw her what may have been a record distance into the air before catching her and gently placing her back on the ice. The element was so good eight of the nine judges punched in the maximum Grade of Execution, +3, while the other gave +2. No other pair received a +3 for this element.

All of their seven required elements gained positive GoEs, although Trankov was puzzled that their last element, the pair combination spin, was given only the basic Level 1 by the Technical Panel. He complained, "We havenít had that problem before." The Technical Panel comprised the Specialist, Briton Simon Briggs; his assistant, American David Kirby; and their "Controller" Canadian Sally Rehorick.

Trankov continued, "Today it was very hard to skate last. We were somewhat nervous. We made several small errors and we are not happy about that. We are very pleased with our program component score. It was very hard to skate last for the short program as it is the first time we did that this season and we were a little bit nervous. There were small mistakes, but we will fight for the free program."

2.SP 69.82 (36.13+33.69) Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. Performing to "Angels and Demons", the Germans, who have won the world title three times in the past four years, chose not to try the throw triple Axel they experimented with earlier this season. But the throw triple flip, which used to be such a secure element for them, was flawed. She landed and was forced to put her other foot immediately on the ice and turned forward.

Szolkowy said, "Overall we are quite pleased. The throw went wrong and I am glad that Aliona stayed on her feet. The throw was too good. It was extremely high, too high to comfortably control." Nevertheless Szolkowy said he felt their showing was a little bit better than their previous Short Programs this season. "We improved step by step for this competition." They did get three +3s, one for their side-by-side triple toe loop jumps, and one for their Group 3 Level 4 lift and one for their Level 4 straight line steps.

3.SP 63.43 (63.43+34.43) Dan Zang and Hao Zhang gave a solid performance with no negative GoEs and three +3s for their spectacular opening throw triple loop. Their performance was set to A Transylvannian Lullaby but they leave room to develop more expression. She said, "We had a little problem with our twist because the shoulder strap of my costume had slipped, but all the other elements went quite well. We didn't compete last year and we still make some errors in the performances, but we are happy to be back in the Final."

He addeed, "There were two lifts we did not practice because I had an injury to my leg and arm, and tomorrow we will try these.

4.SP 61.37 (29.85+31.52) Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, former three-time Russian champions, twice world bronze medalists and 2010 European Champions, did not skate well to Joe Santrianiís All Alone. Right from the start it appeared something was wrong. She doubled her planned triple toe loop and their final pair spin was only Level 2. It has been rumored that she has dislocated her "other" shoulder. Last season, they lost much practice time, when she had shoulder surgery to correct a frequent dislocations and he had a groin problem.

She said, "We are a little tired from doing three Grand Prix events. However, today we lacked concentration." (This year, the worldís top six competitors may take part in three events instead of the previous maximum of two, which means they can earn more prize money and more venues get to see the top skaters compete.)

5.SP 61.04 (32.70+28.34) Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who teamed up in 2010, performed to Rodriquez Ďs Concierto de Aranjuez. Duhamel, who turned 26 on Thursday, said they were thrilled to be at this event. "This is an unknown experience for us since itís our first Grand Prix Final. During our first practice here, we did not know whether to feel excited or nervous. We got our highest component score here so we are excited about achieving this goal." They received a Level 3 for their and the maximum Level 4 for their death spiral, pair spin, straight line steps and their lift. She put two hands on the ice in their side-by-side triple Salchows and the throw triple flip was landed a little shakily.

Radford said, "We started off with a great twist and then fought until the end. The crowd here is great and we feel the tremendous support of skating in her home country. We wrote down what goals we wanted to achieve at the beginning of the season and one-by-one we are achieving them."

6.SP 59.54 (32.53+28.01) Narumi Takhashi, who is Japanese, and Mervin Tran, a Canadian who is of oriental but not Japanese descent, are the twice Junior and twice senior Japanese champions, although they train full time in Montreal. They gave one of their best showing ever, gaining Level 4 to four of the five of the seven required elements which receive this standard from the Technical Panel. Their triple twist gained Level 2.

The program was set to John Lennonís Imagine despite his fall on their initial move, a side-by-side triple Salchow. "I love this program," Tran claims. "The music is beautiful and I feel very good when we are skating. Today we skated very well except for my fall. This jump has been more consistent and so we made the change from the triple toe loop we originally tried earlier in the season."

They have no problem representing Japan in International Skating Union events. However, because of extremely restrictive rules, it is extremely unlikely that he will get a Japanese passport necessary to represent that country at the Olympic Games, although Japanese skating officials would like them to be a part of the new team event, scheduled to make its debut in Sochi.

She said, "Last year, we had two chances, both junior and senior to come to the Final and we made it to the Junior Final. But this year, we had only one chance (because she turned 19 before July 1 and so aged out of Juniors) to attend the Senior Final and we made it. It is very honorable to attend the Grand Prix Final for four years in a row, and we would like to continue that in the coming years."

 

Free Skating

Planned Program Content

 
Starting Order - Free Skating

Warmup Group 1

1. Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran, JPN
2. Megan Duhamel & Eric Bradford, CAN
3. Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov, RUS

Warmup Group 2

4. Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang, CHN
5. Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy, GER
6. Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov, RUS

Start Time: 20:15

 

Free Skating Placements
Place Team Country
1 Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy GER
2 Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov RUS
3 Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov RUS
4 Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang CHN
5 Megan Duhamel & Eric Bradford CAN
6 Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran JPN

Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy



1.Overall 212.26 Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy 1.FS 142.44 (70.80+71.64) The event was a practical tie but the German current world champions claimed gold with a unique, complex program, a tribute to the famous late German choreographer, Pina, which has developed considerably from their initial showing in Ontario, CA, at Skate America.

Szolkowy commented, "Of course it feels good to win. It is now our third time that we have won the Grand Prix Final but it has never been so close like today." Savchenko said, "It was not so perfect today but I am very happy. It was very hard to skate. My legs felt heavy. I am still disappointed about the SP (in which they were second). I am very pleased that we skated clean today. It is very nice to win but it was very close. This gives us motivation to work even harder. It is exciting if the competition is this close. I watched the mens and ladies and I think they skated better."

They opened with a great throw triple flip which so pleased the judging panel, seven of the nine awarded +3s. A sequence of two triple toe loops was followed by the choreographed spirals. Then came the flying change foot combination spins. The move earned Level 4 but was a little out of synch when they changed feet. Their back outside death spiral was Level 4, but their triple twist was only Level 1. One judge also gave +3 for their rock solid Axel Lasso lift. Everything else went well and their coach, Ingo Steuer, looked very pleased at the end.

Steuer is a very Ďhands oní coach, and he handles everything they do. He explained, "I told Aliona and Robin many times that I wouldn't mind if they got their programs from someone else. But they firmly believe that I do what is best for them. For me, it is a very big additional work and responsibility, but if thatís what they want, thatís what I will provide.

"Originally, when Max teamed up with Tatiana, they were going to train with me, but then Aliona and Robin decided to stay in for another four years and the two teams are too close, now, not to be fierce rivals. In any case, I believe the Russians wanted Max to train in his own country."

There does appear to be some tension between the two pairs, with Trankov making faces on the podium.

2.Overall 212.08 Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov 2.FS 140.51 (69.22+71.29). Dressed in black and white, Volosozhar & Trankov presented an apparently flawless, fiery routine to Tchaikovskyís Swan Lake which begins with some very dramatic acting as he, the wicked wizard, hypnotizes the doomed maiden he has kidnapped.

They began with their Level 1 triple twist, which earned unanimous +3s. They also received five +3s for their throw triple loop, two more +3s for their Axel Lasso lift. Nevertheless, the Germans were slightly ahead on both the elements (by 1.58) and components (by 0.35) scores, which was enough for them to make up the deficit from the SP with 0.18 to spare.

Trankov admitted, "Today it was very difficult to skate because we were first after the short program and we had some pressure. It is very difficult to skate in Canada because the audience has a very good understanding of figure skating and you want to be good for the audience.

"Today was very hard because we both have some injuries, but we are very happy to finish this competition with good results. We beat our Seasonís Best for both short and free programs. We hope we will have more power for next time and win. It is step by step that we are stronger. If we want to win we have to increase our level of elements.

Pairs skating is a more powerful form of figure skating. We now have one week for medical recovery of injuries because I cannot skate anymore with my injury. As for Russian Nationals, I think we will not be competing due to our injuries. Volosozhar added, "We have appointments to find out exactly what is wrong. I have a muscle injury on my leg and Maximís injury is a groin injury.

3.Overall 187.77 Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov 3.FS 126.40 (61.77+64.63). The former three-time Russian champions presented a beautiful routine set to Debussyís Claire de Lune skating much better than they had in the SP. They carried out all but two of their elements very well. She struggled in the mid-section, singling the second of their sequence of two double Axels and stepping out of the landing of their second throw, a triple Salchow.

He said, "We are pleased with our skate today. There were only little errors. Today, I didnít skate for a placement. I only skated for Yuko, for myself and for the audience. Judging by the applause we got, I think we were able to transmit emotion of our program pretty well. We were almost unable to prepare for this event as I have an injury. I feel pain in my right leg. Now we have to find out what is wrong."

Kavaguti: (on free program) We are very happy to be in the final and in Canada. The audience is very warm and welcoming. We love to skate in Canada; thank you. (sickness) It just looked that way. (Europeans) We are going to come home and we are going to buy a Christmas tree.

4.Overall 182.54 Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang 4.FS 119.11 (61.04+58.07). The Zhangs, who are not related, did not compete last year due to his left shoulder injury. They won, for China, silver at Worlds in 2006, 2008 & 2009 but were only fifth in both the 2010 Olympic and world championships. They presented a routine to Franz Lisztís Totendanz, choreographed by Lori Nichol, with Dan in a lilac dress and Hao in black.

Their routine went very well until their last element, an Axel lasso lift, where he appeared to reinjure the left shoulder. That meant he couldnít maintain the overhead position and brought her down prematurely. The grimace on his face showed he definitely was going through a lot of pain. The lift was given the base Level 1, and they dropped from third to fourth.

5.Overall 170.43 Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford 5.FS 109.39 (55.32+55.20 -1). Duhamel & Radford began their presentation, set to Viva la Vida by Coldplay, with a Level 2 triple Lutz twist on which she had a rather hard landing. Afterwards, Radford explained to journalists, "Something you guys probably didnít see on the catch of that twist was Meagan actually hitting me in the mouth with her elbow."

Duhamel said of their current mistake, "It didnít go up as high as in the Short Program, so when I came down I was just finishing the rotation more in his arms than usual." In their first world championship together in Moscow in April, where they finished 7th, she broke his nose on the same move. Although they completed the routine, his face was a bloody mess and she had blood on various parts of her dress.

The punch in Quebec City may have unsteadied him. He fell hard on their next element, side-by-side triple Lutzes which was meant to be combined with two double toe loops. "But we nailed the next move (their side-by-side triple Salchows)," Duhamel said.

Worse was getting no points in Quebec City for their back outside death spiral because Duhamelís head bobbed up and so was not lower than her hip throughout the whole rotation, as is required.

She explained, "We knew right away that it wasnít done well. But we hoped to get something! Thatís a five point loss right off the bat, so thatís a big miss." However, even with those extra marks, their placing would not have changed.

6.Overall 164.42 Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran 6.FS 104.88 (51.68+55.20 -2). It was not a great performance for this unlikely pair who train in Montreal with Richard Gautier. She doubled her side-by-side triple Salchow which she landed awkwardly, and fell on both her triple toe loop and the throw triple toe. But she is a tough cookie and kept fighting. The program, set to Andre Mathieuís Concerto de Quebec, had a lot of redeeming features including lovely lifts.

He said, "We did not feel anything different or special from other competitions. The only exception is that we have no jetlag so we have slept well. Musically, we were on time and that is what we were hoping for. The second mark was not high. We are not skating as strongly as we should. The important thing is that we are learning from this experience."

Gauthier was responsible for putting them together. Tran was a boy from Regina, (the relatively backwater Prairie city which is the capital of but not the largest city in Saskatchewan), and she was a very determined young Japanese girl, who was already a cosmopolitan traveler and knew exactly what she wanted.

Gautier said, "She approached me in Beijing, where I was with a Canadian pair who was competing there. Her family is Japanese but her father had a job there. She had tried pair skating with a Chinese boy but that hadnít worked out and she wanted me to find her a partner. She was willing to come to Canada. She was very determined and persistent and so I made the connection."

Though they can skate in the world championships, it is unlikely they will be eligible for the Olympic Games. She will not give up her Japanese citizenship to become Canadian (as her fellow competitor Yuko Kavaguti did to become Russian) because, "Our (skating) Federation has been so supportive of me. I could not be disloyal." And it is almost impossible for Tran to get a Japanese passport because their requirements are extremely stringent, requiring applicants to be of Japanese descent and Japanese speaking. (His parents came to Canada from Asia, his mother from Cambodia and his father from Vietnam and he speaks very little Japanese.)


2011 Grand Prix Final Pairs Medalists

Return to title page