by Alexandra Stevenson
|1||Tatiana VOLOSOZHAR / Maxim TRANKOV||RUS||65.78||1|
|2||Qing PANG / Jian TONG||CHN||61.96||2|
|3||Caydee DENNEY / John COUGHLIN||USA||60.75||3|
|4||Vanessa JAMES / Morgan CIPRES||FRA||55.76||4|
|5||Marissa CASTELLI / Simon SHNAPIR||USA||55.67||5|
|6||Danielle MONTALBANO / Evgeni KRASNOPOLSKI||ISR||40.66||6|
|7||Gretchen DONLAN / Andrew SPEROFF||USA||40.54||7|
|Denney and Coughlin|
The opening events of the 2012 Skate America competition were held Friday, October 19, at the ShoWare Arena before an audience of about 2000 (unofficial estimate). The evening began with the Pairs Short Program, followed by the Men's Short Program. Ten men and seven pairs performed their routines before an enthusiastic audience.
Record Broken in Brilliant Showing by Young Japanese
1.SP 95.07 (51.71+43.36) Skating last, Yuzuru Hanyu, the 17-year-old earthquake survivor from Sendai, Japan, who now trains with Brian Orser in Toronto, performed an absolutely brilliant routine to conclude the first day’s events at the Skate America Grand Prix in Kent on Friday evening. He earned a record score which slightly increased the mark previously set by another Japanese skater, Daisuke Takahashi, The 17-year-old earned 95.07 points, surpassing Japan's Daisuke Takahashi's record of 94.00 points set at the ISU World Team Trophy in last April.
Hanyu said modestly, “I was so happy with my quad (a toe loop which he performed as his first of the seven required elements.)” The jump was done so well, two of the nine judges gave the maximum +3 Grade of Execution while five punched into their computers +2 and one gave +1. That meant two full points were added to its base value of 10.30 so he banked 12.30 points.
He said afterwards, “Ninety-five is an extremely high score and I wasn’t expecting it. I’m very surprised. I was so happy with my quad but it’s only the Short Program. I’m hoping to continue to skate well tomorrow. I want to concentrate on the Free Skate now. This is only part of the event and I want to control my thoughts until the very end.
“I see the quad as very important. It used to be that people felt it was a very special jump and not many people wanted to take the risk and land it. But now you must take the risk and land it. I was focused on my technical score, but now I see that my performance score was high as well. I am surprised. I have been doing well in practice, so I’m pleased.”
He also credited his coach, a twice Olympic silver medalist, with taking advantage of the new rule which has extended the ten percent bonus points given for a jump executed in the second half of the routine, from only applying to the Free Skate to including the Short Program as well.
While some of the competitors did the three jumping elements straight off, before going into the three spins and a footwork sequence, Hanyu did his combination of jumps, a triple Lutz to triple toe, as his fifth move. It earned a total of 12.11 points.
All seven of his moves received positive Grades of Execution, with his triple Axel getting an extra +2.14 points. Two of his three spins received the maximum Level 4 while the change foot sit spin and his straight line steps were Level 3.
He interpreted a very bluesy number, Parisienne Walkways by Gary Moore, with great feeling. Many competitors, including Hanyu, fell while trying quads in the afternoon practice, but even then, the youngster had a soft fall and there was laughter after he reacted to the awkward position, sliding towards the barrier.
2.SP 85.32 (45.57+39.75) Lying second is his teammate, Takahito Kozuka, who skated to music from Exodus. The 23-year-old has had a checkered career, competing in five world championship. But, although he gained the world silver medal in 2011, he was only 11th this past season. In last year’s Skate America he won bronze.
Kozuka also began with a quad toe but it was slightly flawed and he lost -0.71 from its base value. His triple Axel and triple Lutz to triple toe were fine but he received no Level 4s. His three spins were all Level 3 and his steps Level 2. He said, “I am very happy that I was able to skate clean today. The 85 point score was my Personal Best and is good to build on. I’m hoping to do that tomorrow. Doing a quad in the Short Program is so important. A clean quad is worth 10.30 points where a triple flip is only five points. That shows why it’s so important.”
3.SP 77.71 (37.81+40.90 -1.0) Jeremy Abbott, the U.S. Champion for the three of the past four years, has a brilliant routine to Spy by Nathan Lanier. He absolutely gets under the skin of his character and the excellent choreography, which was done by Buddy & Benji Schwimmer from the reality show, So You Think You Can Dance. But he fell on his first move, the quad toe. He said, of the fall, “I’m just going to keep pushing the technique that I’ve been working on (for the quad) and make sure that I do everything in the Free, count my spin rotations and hit the levels on everything else.
“This year we totally reworked the technique on the quad. It’s been a process and it’s starting to come along. It hasn’t been consistent in training, but I wanted to at least put it out in the short and the free skate here. I wanted to fight for it no matter what and also make sure I hit everything else, hit my levels and keep everything else up. I didn’t want one mistake to do in the whole program. This was the first step. I got a pretty good score, better than a lot of my scores last season, so I’m proud of myself for that. I just need to keep working on my consistency and keep building up from there.”
He had planned for the quad to be combined with a triple toe. He was smart enough to do that jump after his second element, the triple Lutz, and that gained a whole point over that combination’s base value of 10.10. His triple Axel gained its base value. Two of his spins were Level 3 and the third, along with the footwork, was only Lever 2.
The 27-year-old, who started skating at the advance age of two, was inspired to compete by 1980 Olympic champion Robin Cousins, a very artistic skater. Abbott has been on the Grand Prix circuit since the 2008 season. Last year, he won the Cup of China in Shanghai. He had previous won this Grand Prix in 2009 season. He has won bronze in the past two Cup of Russia GP events, and took silver in Japan in the 2010 season.
4.SP 75.78 (38.65+37.13) Tatsuki Machida, 22, is a Japanese competitor with little international experience because his country has so many talented skaters. He was second and seventh in the 2010 and 2012 Four Continents championships, and he has competed in three Grand Prix events, in the past two seasons. He presented an interesting routine choreographed by Stephane Lambiel to F.U.Y.A by C2C. He brought off an excellent triple Axel but got an “e” for the first jump of his combination, triple flip to triple toe. His triple Lutz from steps earned +0.40 over its base value. His spins were all Level 3 and his footwork Level 2.
5.SP 73.32 (39.72+34,60 -1) Konstanin Menshov, from Russia, at 29, the oldest of the 10 men from five countries, performed to Lilies of the Valley by Jun Miyake. The blond won the Russian title unexpectedly in 2011, but was not sent to the world championship because he was beaten by another Russian in the European championships. This is the fourth Grand Prix event of his career. Apart from his entry to the last two Cup of Russia Grand Prix events, he competed in last year’s Japanese GP, placing 6th.
He began well with a +0.86 triple Axel and then came a sensational quad toe to triple toe combination which earned him a total of 16.11 points. But then he doubled and fell on his Lutz. Two of his spins were Level 4 and the other, Level 3. His steps were Level 2. He did not take advantage of the new ruling giving extra marks for jumps done in the second half of the routine.
6.SP 69.26 (33 93+37.33 -2) Michal Brezina, Czech Republic, had a bad fall on his opening move, the quad Salchow, and then went down again half way through the routine on his combination which turned into a single flip to triple toe. He did a good triple Axel. He presented one Level 4 spin, and the other two were Level 3. The steps were Level 2.
7.SP 68.27 (37.41+31.86 -1) Armin Mahbanoozideh, whose last name means, ‘Born of a woman as beautiful as the moon’, is the replacement for the reigning Olympic champion, Evan Lysacek, who withdrew after suffering an aggravation to a right groin muscle pull.
Skating second, he performed to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. The 21-year-old sprained his ankle the day before so his performance was not what he would have wished for. He fell on his quad toe but got credit for the full rotation. His triple Axel earned +0.43 over its base value as did his first spin. Two of his spins were Level 4. The other spin, and the steps, were Level 2. On the combination of triple Lutz to triple toe he received an arrow for slight under-rotation. He left the ice a bleeding finger. He explained, “I’m OK. I have a little battle wound, but I’m fine.
“It’s been a rough few days for me. With the sprained ankle, I’ve been constantly trying to get back on my feet. I had a fantastic warm-up today. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate into the performance. But, overall, I’m happy with it. I don’t anticipating changing anything in the Free because of the injury. I was feeling really prepared coming into this even though it was as an alternate. The ankle thing kind of threw a wrench into things but it’s kind of taken my mind off the pressure.”
Mahbanoozideh made the Grand Prix Final twice as a Junior, winning bronze in 2008 & silver in 2009. This is his sixth Senior Grand Prix and third consecutive Skate America. He finished third in 2011 but only was only tenth in Ontario, CA, last season.
8.SP 60.48 (29.70+30.78) Alexander Majorov, 21, who was born in St. Petersburg, was brought up in Sweden. His father was 2002 Olympic champion Alexei Yagudin’s first coach, and is hoping his son will pursue a similar successful career in the sport. Majorov performed a sinuous routine to Ray’s Blues by Dave Grusin. This is his third Grand Prix event. Last year he placed 9th in Skate Canada and 6th in Paris in the Bompard Trophy.
Skating fifth of the ten men from five countries, he had small negative GoEs on the first five of his seven elements. He opened with a triple Lutz to triple toe and triple Axel but his third jumping element was only a double flip. He received Level 4 for his final move, the combination spin but his other two spins were Level 3 and Level 1, and the steps were Level 2.
9. SP 58.79 (23.94+23.94) Tomas Verner, from the Czech Republic, 26, presented a routine to the Dracula soundtrack. But, although he didn’t fall, he made two major mistakes. His quad toe was not fully rotated and he got an arrow and he singled the first jump on what would have been his combination, triple Lutz to triple toe. He did accomplish the triple Axel and had one Level 4 spins but the other two spins were only Level 2 and Level 1 and his steps were Level 3.
10.SP 57.06 (29.27+29.79 -2) The first performance of this Skate America was given by Douglas Razzano, who turns 24 on Monday. Unfortunately, although his routine has potential, it started badly. He fell on his first two elements, the quad toe and triple Axel which were each given an arrow for under-rotation. Because of that, he changed his combination from triple Lutz to triple toe, to a combination of two triple toes. Coach Doug Ladret explained, “At that point, with two falls, it was just necessary to make sure there wasn’t a third fall and so he tried the simpler combination.” He did get a Level 4 for his last spin. The other two were Level 3 and the straight line steps Level 2
He performed to Rachmaninoff’s famed Piano Concerto No.2 and Allegro Scherzando. After five appearances in the U.S. Senior championships, Razzano achieved his best placing last January of 5th, up five slots from his previous best of 10th. He was seventh in his first Grand Prix, which was this event last year in which he finished 7th.
He said, “Physically, I felt okay. This program hasn’t been going as well in practice as my free skate has been. We changed the order of the first two elements to try to be more successful with the quad. I’m not sure I’m totally comfortable with it yet. My Axel is usually very reliable and I like having that one done and out of the way. We’re going to have some evaluations to do when we get home. This was an improvement over Golden West because nothing was popped and everything was rotated. It’s October. This is not a make or break competition. I’m happy to be here, but I want to be my best in January and beyond. That’s when it counts.
“To be honest, right now, I’m pissed off, which is good, because I usually skate better when I’m angry. I’m going to take it one element at a time tomorrow, and it will be what it will be. I’ve done good programs at home, so if I do skate well tomorrow, it won’t be a surprised because I’ve done it at home. I’m taking everything one day at a time, one element at a time, one competition at a time. I just have to pace myself.”
The first ISU Grand Prix of the season began Friday night at 7pm Pacific time with three pairs removing their skate guards and taking the ice for their six-minute warm-up for the first group at the new ShoWare Arena in the revitalized downtown area of Kent, WA, before a reasonable audience of 2,128.
1.SP 65.78 (32.87+32.91) The order of skating in a Grand Prix is pre-determined on world standings so the ranking competitors, twice world runners-up, Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov, Russia, who train in both Moscow and Hackensack, NJ, skated last of the seven pairs from five countries. They performed to the Love Theme from The Godfather by Nino Rota. This is a very sexy, sad trombone piece, portraying an avalanche of emotions since the main character falls in love with a 16-year-old, who is blown up in a car explosion. The U.S. judge for this division was Todd Bromley and the Canadian Lorna Schroder. There were nine judges but only seven countries’ competitors were entered. (Canadians Dube & Wolfe withdrew.)
Trankov, who turned 29 on October 7, and Volosozhar, 26, are mature enough to do such a beautiful, poignant piece justice, but this was definitely still an early version and they made several mistakes. He explained, “We were told our programs last season were so good, we should keep them for another year. But we continue to look for new material and each new program gets better. It’s exciting to develop them. Of course, at this stage in the season, they aren’t finished. They will continue to improve in the build-up to the next Worlds.
“We also have to work on new elements because we want to get all Level 4s. and it becomes harder and harder to do because they keep putting up the requirements. It’s sometimes frustrating.”
They begin with a wonderful triple twist in which he tossed her to an incredible height. They received Level 2 with +0.50. But, then came their side-by-side triple Salchows. He stepped out of his and almost went into the barrier. Then she two-footed the landing of their throw triple loop. Their back outside death spiral was Level 2 with +0.70. (Level 2 in a triple twist isn’t bad, but Level 2 in a death spiral is below their capabilities.) Their lift was a very good Level 4 with a complicated change of direction towards the end and they received a full point Grade of Execution extra. Their final elements were both Level 4, with the step sequence earning an extra +1.10 and their flying change foot combination spin getting +0.57.
Trankov said, “We have to think about this poor performance because we had the same problem at the World Championships last year. We’re scared of our short program. We’re very nervous. We never feel this way about our free skate. We have to find out why we skate bad short programs. It was a very bad skate for us. We never skate that bad even in practice. We need to talk to our coaches and figure out what we can do.”
He also pointed out that the practice here has a schedule that is not what they normally get at Grand Prix events. The amount of time is the same, but it’s not scheduled in the usual order. This situation was confirmed by Dalilah Sappenfield, who coaches the US champions in Colorado Springs, although she elaborated, “It isn’t something that has troubled us, but we’re not suffering from jet lag and we’re very adaptable and used to changes.”
Trankov continued, “We had a hard time today because of the very strange schedule here. We only had two hours at the hotel after the practice. We don’t know when to eat or when to rest. We also have an 11 hour time difference from Russia.”
2.SP 61.96 (31.50+31.46 -1) Qing Pang, 32, & Jian Tong, 33, are definite icons. If this Chinese duo make it to Sochi in 2014, they will be taking part in their fourth Olympics. They finished ninth, fourth and second in the past three Games. In their 14 appearances in the world championships they have won the title twice (2006 & 2010), gained silver in 2007 and received bronzes in 2004 & 2011. “Our first worlds was in 1999,” Pang explains with a smile. “Our performances then were not so good!” (They finished 14th.) “We have skated so long that we have many injuries. My knees are always hurting, and Jian has a shoulder problem but we love to skate and want to continue as long as we can.”
They performed next to last to Scott & Fran’s Paso Doble by Mark Williams, dressed, of course, in red, black and gold with Tong in a very authentic looking matador costume. Earlier, towards the end of their afternoon’s practice, they uncharacteristically spun out of their back outside death spiral and both ended up sitting on the ice. In the evening’s performance, their bad luck continued. He fell on their first element, the solo triple toe loops. Their triple twist was good, and earned Level 2 with +1.30 GoE. But then, in their throw triple loop, after landing she put her free foot down. They completed their back outside death spiral gaining Level 3 with a full point added. Their lift, which included a very difficult change of direction, was an excellent +0.86 Level 4. Their steps were also Level 4 with +0.70. The routine concluded with a Level three flying change foot combination spin.
Pang explained, “We think it is a good start for us. At the beginning we had some trouble, but we’re happy to be at this competition.” Tong confessed it was very difficult to continue because, “We have been through so many troubles and sickness. But we want to pass on our experience to younger generations. We want to teach them to learn and figure out how to make their sports life last as long as possible.”
Tong says he’s not sure whether they can continue. “The biggest trouble that I have is my knee hurts when I skate. When I bend my knee, when I skate, it is very painful and doesn’t have the flexibility. I used to train 5-6 days a week, but now we’ve reduced it to four days, and sometimes even less.”
3. SP 60.75 (33.14+27.61) Skating to Rodriguez’s Concierto de Aranjuez, the twice US champions, Caydee Denney, 19, & John Coughlin, 26, performed fifth of the seven couples from five countries. She was in a black creation with silver trim. He was all in black. They gave a very promising performance, opening with a great Level 2 lateral twist, which was awarded an extra 1.0 by the panel of judges. Their triple toe loops got a small 0.10 extra.
Their throw triple flip was worth an extra 0.50 and their flying change foot combination spin got +0.14 over its base value. Their remaining three elements all received a full half point extra. Their lift and steps were Level 4. The blonde Denney held a high kick position going into their last element, the back outside death spiral, which gained Level 3.
Coughlin said, “We like the size of this arena, narrow and long (standard NHL as opposed to the Olympic requirements). It lets us build up speed going into the lifts.” Asked about the supportive fans in the afternoon’s practice, he added, “We’re used to fans in the stands during practice in Colorado Springs. We sometimes get a rowdy bunch in (of hockey players enjoying the pretty girls). We’re used to being watched. So that’s no problem. It’s good preparation for the competition.”
When skaters spin, they do not “spot” on each turn as do ballet dancers because skaters revolve much too fast for that. Coming out of a spin, skaters immediately focus on a pre-arranged spot. But when the pair skaters come out of elaborate triple twist, how do they refocus? Denney thought about the question for a moment and came to the conclusion that, “I just do.” What a wonderful thing the mind is. It can do what we can’t even explain!
The Americans were asked what they thought of the Chinese pair’s longevity. Coughlin said, “As he was talking and the translator said how much they want to teach youth, we were thinking how much we would love to know how to do that. They are definitely role models, not only for consistency, but in class. If we were to skate together for that long, we would definitely model ourselves after them. We’re always excited to compete at our home Grand Prix, Skate America. This season, we’re excited to have a full season under our belts and it gives us a lot of confidence.”
4.SP 55.76 (30.28+25.48) Vanessa James, 25, & Morgan Cipres, 21, teamed together in 2011 after she split with her former partner, Yannick Bonheur, with whom she won the 2010 French national title. Cipres had never done pairs before trying out with James. They train in Paris with Claude Peri-Thevenart.
They skated first after the second warm-up group, to Safri Duo’s interpretation of Rhumba d’Amour. (This sultry piece of music was made famous by Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean when they returned to the Olympics ten years after they earn gold in Sarajevo in 1984. T&D gained 6.0s, the marks of perfection, and won this section but finished only third overall in Norway in 1994.)
She was dressed in a magenta sleeveless backless outfit with lots of silver including a neckband. He was in black with lots of silver. They now have a very impressive lateral triple twist. They had done one of these complicated elements for the first time in competition only three weeks ago in Oberstdorf, when they just beat out Gretchen Donlan & Andrew Speroff for the bronze, mainly because, in the Short Program, the Americans got no marks for one of their elements, the death spiral, because her head had not got down low enough and stayed there long enough to get Level 1.
In Kent, they only received the basic 4.60 with -0.10 removed for their first element, their triple twist, but it still was impressive since their Oberstdorf showing three weeks ago was the first time they have ever presented a triple version of the twist move. They were given an extra +0.10 for their triple twist ans +0.30 for their throw triple flip. Their back outside death spiral was rewarded with the base value for Level 3. Their last three moves all gained Level 4, with +0.60 for their steps, -0.29 off their lift, and +0.07 extra for their flying change foot combination spin.
5. SP 55.67 (30.59+25.08) Marissa Castelli, 22, who is only 5’0”, & the 6’4” Simon Shnapir, 25, skated last of the three pairs in the first warm-up group to Stray Cat Strut by the Brian Setzer Orchestra and The Pink Panther by Henry Mancini. He was born in Russia but was brought to the United States when he was only 18-months old. He now lives in Sudbury, Mass. They teamed together in 2006 and have been fifth in the US nationals for the past two years. This is their fifth Grand Prix competition, and second Skate America. (They were sixth in this event in 2010. She was attired in a black backless long sleeved number with some silver trimming.
Castelli admitted, “It was a little nerve wracking because it was the first Grand Prix. We really want to do well and we really never actually trusted ourselves doing what we were trained to do. But this time we just let go and trusted ourselves. While it wasn’t our personal best, that is a great starting point for us.”
Shnapir said, “It took a little jitters to get out being the first international of the season, but we were training so hard. Just the way we were carrying ourselves beforehand it feels completely different [than last season]. It feels really great.”
6. SP 40.66 (20.83+20.83 -1) Skating second in the first warm-up group, were Danielle Montabano & Evgeni Krasnopolski, who represent Israel but train in Hackensack, NJ, with Kyoto Ina. He was born in Ukraine and she was born in Manhasset, NY. Their choreography is created by former Israeli champion and world bronze medalist, Galit Chait Moracci. They used the music Requiem for a Dream by Clint Mansell and were attired in black with blue sparkles.
Krasnopoliski has gone to jail for his love of the sport. After the 2011 World championships, which were delayed and moved to Moscow from Tokyo after the earthquake struck. When Krasnopolski returned to Tel Aviv after that competition, he was arrested and held for two weeks. He was charged with failure to appear for his compulsory military service, which was scheduled at the same time he was representing his country in Russia.
It took almost two weeks for him to be released. The Israeli Federation confessed their paperwork explaining his presence abroad had somehow not been processed by the correct government employees. “It was extremely worrying at first,” said his partner, “because we had no idea where he had been taken. But it all turned out OK in the end, and now we can laugh at it.”
7. SP 40.54 (19.37+22.17 -1) Gretchen Donlan & Andrew Speroff, who will turn 19 on November 18, & Speroff, 24, had the distinction of being the first skaters to compete in the first Grand Prix of the season. The blond Speroff wore a grey, long-sleeved, V-necked grey blouse. She was in a black long-sleeved number trimmed with silver. Their music was Nocturne from La Califfa by Ennio Morricone. Donlan is currently studying Maths and Science, a demanding course load at the Boston University. “There’s hardly a second of the day I’m not studying or skating but I’m really happy with the mixture,” Donlan said.
But they did not have a good beginning. After their triple twist, which earned only the B Level, which is for “basic”, she stepped out of their side-by-side triple toe loops, which was given an arrow for slight under-rotation. Their back outside death spiral, also only earned the “basic” Level, and she fell during their step sequence, which was given Level 1 with -0.86 removed.
However, their combination spin was Level 4 with a minimal -0.10. She touched her hand down on the landing ot their throw triple Salchow. Their final move was their lift which had an impressive dive exit. It earned Level 2 with -0.07.
Speroff said, “We missed some big points out there. I thought the twist was good. Side-by-side spins felt decent to me. And the lift felt OK, the throw felt OK and the skating felt OK. We just had falls and missed points. There’s not much to be said there. It’s easy to forget how hard the skating is. It’s weird when we fall in skating, but it happens.”