by Alexandra Stevenson
A Royal Performance
1. Overall 181.03; 1.FD 107.88 (51.42+57.46 -1 for an extended lift); Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, Canada’s national treasures, gave a stunning performance which earned a thunderstorm of the maximum +3 Grades of Execution, but was not perfect, and still left clear room for improvement. Not all their elements gained Level 4, and their marks were five points lower than those earned by Davis & White the previous week.
They began the four minute nearly ten second routine with Glazunov’s “Petit Adagio” which then went into “Waltz in Concerto No.2”. The Russian Composer is well loved by those whose taste runs to classical music. That should be a definite selling point with the Sochi audience. The chosen pieces are musically stirring and lead to a climax.
They begin with an innovative straight line lift. He is a ship with the weight on his left foot, leans backwards while going forwards. She, as the ship’s masthead, stands on his right thigh, leaning forward with her arms outspread, embracing the future. Moir explained, “We have made significant improvement over our performance at Finlandia. That’s why we went there, to get the routines out there, and discover where work is needed.”
Five of their elements received Level 4 from the judging panel. The circular steps and their last lift, in which they missed the final variation, received Level 3 and the diagonal steps received only Level 2. Their final move was the choreographed section has only Level 1. Bob Horen was the Technical Controller and Jennifer Mast the U.S. judge.
They earned at least one the maximum +3 Grades of Execution for all their elements except their final lift, a rotational which received seven +2s and a +1 from the eight judges. Their sixth element, the first of two successive rotational lifts, was spectacular and earned seven +3s and one +2. Three other elements, the initial straight line lift, the curve lift and their twizzles (which they had been having problems with), got six out of a possible eight +3s. Their component marks included highs of four 10.00 down to six 9.25s.
Both partners stress that they are NOT repeating the ethereal masterpiece which won them gold in the Vancouver Olympic Games. Virtue said, “We don’t copy from anyone, not even ourselves. Everything has to be newly inspired, not something we’ve done before, even if that was incredibly successful. Marina (Zoueva) has great vision. It’s been a joy to work with her for the last 17 years. The music is very powerful. It’s important to show the changes of seasons, Glazunov’s seasons, but also to relate to our story.”
The “story” they tell in this routine is of their own lives. They start out carefree, loving the sensation of gliding around the rink. But then, as they start to win events, they learn about the pressure and people’s expectations, and it becomes very hard work. The ending, Moir explains, is them “triumphing and achieving our goal in Sochi.” What they don’t talk about is the acknowledged situation in which it is far easier to win in the first place, when there are fewer expectations on you, than it is to repeat as a gold medalist.
Moir was asked if he tear-ed up on the rostrum while singing along with their anthem. At first he joked, “Yeah, I was thinking about the (Toronto Maple) Leafs’ score (hockey team), but added, “It’s emotional. Having the anthem played in your own country - That’s very special. You get misty. We’re lucky to have these great moments and we savor them fully, smelling the roses, if you will.” They won’t come out and say this will be their last season, but that is the expectation, after all they are 24 & 26. He does say, “It really depends on what opportunities come along.”
Zoueva explains, “Last year (their) Carmen (Free) routine was drama, conflict between man and woman and I used contemporary, very rough and understated choreography. This program had to be a huge contrast, and it is super elegant and super classical and very emotional.”
They are totally fed up with being asked how they manage to practice every day with their main rivals, who are also coached by Zoueva. “We have done that for so long. We don’t know how Marina comes up with such good programs that are so different for both of us (them and Meryl Davis & Charlie White), but she does. She treats us both equally. But, we are not on the ice all the time together. The time is staggered.”
And they still have work to get the lift, which went marginally overtime, shortened so they don’t get a point deducted again. That is not easy to do without losing the complete features which are absolutely essential to get the maximum Level 4. However, whatever happens in Sochi, undoubtedly they will remain icons all their lives in Canada, just as Barbara Ann Scott was after winning the 1948 Olympic gold until her demise in September 2012.
2. Overall 175.23; 2.FD 104.88 (51.67+53.21); Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje are the second ranked Canadians, although she was born in Houston, and they now train in Bloomfield Hills, outside Detroit, which has become a mecca for skaters from around the world (as are the relatively nearby Canton and Novi rinks).
Weaver explained, “We have wanted to do a Tango routine for some time. It’s a theme we’ve been thinking about for a few years. But this is not just a typical tango. Shae Lynn (Bourne, the 2003 ice dance world champion) brought us this music. It’s more lyrical.” They use three Tangos, “A Levare”, “Yo soy Maria” and “Milonga”, which the skaters call, “Life, Death and Tango”, all composed by the famed Astor Piazzola.
Weaver & Poje say they are not upset they are in Virtue & Moir’s shadow. Weaver, who received her Canadian passport in 2009, said, “We’ve grown up with them. For the past six years, we’ve been on the international circuit with them. Every time we get to share the ice with them, I feel like we get stronger because they’re everything we strive to be.”
Poje said, “Being in the same sentence as Scott and Tessa is an extreme honor for us. It helps us that we don’t have to be in the limelight as much as they do. There are much more demands on their time. That can be stressful and distracting.”
The judges definitely appeared to agree that the music suits the couple. For the technical mark for their Free Dance, Weaver & Poje earned 0.25 more than the champions. That may be small, but it’s an indication of their growth. They have competed again Virtue & Moir since they placed third in the Canadian championships, winning bronze in 2007. But, it has been an up-and-down trail and last season she had a bad injury.
The Technical Panel gave them the maximum Level 4 for six of their elements. Their opening circular steps and their mid-routine diagonal steps both earned Level 3. They also received 18 +3s given over five of their elements. Their components ranged from a high of one 9.50 down to six 8.50s.
3. Overall 153.20; 3.FS 92.28 (45.33+46.93); Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, USA, had an unfortunate moment when his left elbow hit her head accidentally in practice. “It was the last straw,” Hubbell said. “We all have aches and pains. But, because I had a concussion a while ago, I must be very careful about my head. But when I was crying my eyes out after we learned we would get the bronze, that was with joy that we earned our first Grand Prix medal! It was hard for us at first because I was so used to skating with my brother, and, initially, it seemed an enormous undertaking. There was so much we both had to relearn. Winning in Oberstdorf (in 2011, shortly after they teamed up, and then again this summer) taught us a lot, and doing well here, and actually making the rostrum, makes it all worth-while ”
The Americans, who were third in their debut in the U.S. nationals, but only fourth earlier this year, gave an excellent showing, set to “Nocturne into Bohenian Rhapsody” by Luci Micarelli. They opened with a Level 4 rotational lift with earned unanimous +2s. That was followed by Level 3 circular steps which received four +2s and four +1. Their curve lift was Level 4 with five +2s and three +1s. Their combination spin was Level 3 with “only” three +2s and five plus +1s. Their straight line lift received four +2s and four +1s. However, their diagonal steps received only Level 2 with one +2 and seven +1s. Their Level 4 twizzles were rewarded with five +2s and two +1s along with a single 0, which still means acceptable in every aspect. Their second curve lift gained three +2 and the rest +1s. They finished with their “choreographed short lift” which earned two +2s, five +1s and a 0. Their components ranged from a high of six 8.25s down to one 7.00.
They did not perform in the Exhibition. It turned out that she also had a hip injury, and had fallen on it during practice. When they got home, she went for treatment. Since they do not have any other competition coming up in the immediate future, she will take some time off to rest it.
4. Overall 145.56; 5.FD 85.77 (41.82+43.95) Ekaterina Riazanova, 22, & Ilia Tkachenko, 26, Russia, stayed fourth although they were beaten in the Free by Paul & Islam. The couple, who have competed in the last two world championships placing 9th and 11th, skated to Phantom of the Opera. They train in Moscow but also in Novi with Igor Shpilband. They got off to an unpressive start, getting -0.17 removed from the base value of their Level 3 twizzles. Their diagonal steps which followed received +0.83 over the base value for Level 3. Their Level 2 combination spin earned a minimal extra -0.08. Their first lift, executed in a straight line, received the maximum Level 4 with an additional +0.50, which came from seven +1s and one 0 GoEs.
Their circular steps received a full point over the Level 2 base value of 5.00. They then performed three lifts in a row, all Level 4. The curve variety received +0.67 and the other two, a straight line and a rotational, both earned +50. They finished with the choreographed short lift, for which all eight judges punched in 0, and therefore they earned only 0.20. Their components ranged from one 6.00 up to one high of 8.50, which were both given by the same judge. Both were way out of line. (There was only one other six, and that was 6.75. There were no other 8s, although there were 7.75s.
5. Overall 143.77; 4.FD 90.03 (46.76+43.27) Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam, Canada, gave a fourth ranked Free Dance performance, which advanced then two places after being seventh in the Short Dance. Theirs was a fast-moving but elegant showing set to music from W.E. by Abel Korzeniowski. (W.E. tells the story of two fragile but determined women, Wally Winthrop and Wallis Simpson separated by more than six decades, which seems to have very little to do with their skating.) They received Level 4 for six of their elements. Of the 72 GoEs given, all but 4, which were 0s, were +1s (45) or +2 (23). Their diagonal and circular step sequences were Level 3. Their components ranged from five 7.75 split between two judges down to three 6.50s.
6. Overall 138.16; 6.FD 82.25 (39.61+43.64 -1-for an extended lift); Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi, Germany, puzzled some spectators because they wore the same outfits they had for the Short Dance. She was in a green dress, and he had a nerd outfit on with old-fashioned elbow pads. It was obviously a romantic story but just what was happening no one appeared to know. The immediate thought was that something must have happened to their intended outfits. But, this was a deliberate act because they were telling a continuing story, and the Free began where the Short Dance left off. This ploy did not appear to impress the judges and they dropped a place.
Their opening move, Level 3 twizzles, lost -0.17. They gained Level 4s for all their lifts, although they lost a point because one of the lifts was too long. Their circular steps and the spin were only Level 2. Their diagonal steps were Level 3.
7. Overall 134.28; 7.FD 82.25 (40.25+42.00); Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri, Italy, were the first to compete in the Free Dance. Their Romeo & Juliet presentation ended up with the same score (82.25) as was given to the Germans, who placed above them overall. A tie in the Short Dance is broken by who has the higher technical score, but in the Free Dance it’s the second mark which is used, and so they are listed as 7th in the FD, while Zhiganshina & Gazsi are 6th.
Guignard, 24, & Fabbri, 25, who train in both Novi and Milan, were 17th in the last world championship, and 9th in Europeans. They gained six Level 4s and had no negative Grades of Execution.
8. Overall 133.12; 8.FD 77.49 (36.94+41.55 -1); Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin, Russia, who are the reigning World Junior champions and claimed gold in the Junior Grand Prix Final, dropped two places to last. He is the son of Olympic gold medalist, Andrei Bukin. Their routine, set to “Witch Hunters”, began well with Level 4 twizzles, which earned +2 from seven of the eight judges with the dissenting official giving +1. They banked a total of 7 points.
But then disaster struck. They had a point removed for a fall on their first lift, a straight line, which, for Level 2, only has a base value of 2.50. Since the judges give a fall on any move -3 Grade of Execution, which translated into -1.50 points being taken off the base value, their total score for this element was zero. A fall also affects the overall impression and the score for the components. They would have done better not to have done this move at all! They were fifth in their Grand Prix debut last season in China, so this was particularly disappointing.
Their circular steps were also only Level 2 but with +0.67 GoE. The second lift was a Level 3 rotational and their diagonal steps Level 2. Their combination spin, second straight lift and curve lift were Level 4 but with low GoEs. Experts voiced opinions that it was just a sloppy performance.
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