by Alexandra Stevenson
|1||Tatiana VOLOSOZHAR / Maxim TRANKOV||RUS||204.55||1||2|
|2||Vera BAZAROVA / Yuri LARIONOV||RUS||201.60||2||1|
|3||Qing PANG / Jian TONG||CHN||192.81||3||3|
|4||Meagan DUHAMEL / Eric RADFORD||CAN||187.09||4||4|
|5||Kirsten MOORE-TOWERS / Dylan MOSCOVITCH||CAN||180.45||5||6|
|6||Yuko KAVAGUTI / Alexander SMIRNOV||RUS||178.72||6||5|
|1||Meryl DAVIS / Charlie WHITE||USA||183.39||1||1|
|2||Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR||CAN||179.83||2||2|
|3||Nathalie PECHALAT / Fabian BOURZAT||FRA||170.18||3||3|
|4||Anna CAPPELLINI / Luca LANOTTE||ITA||165.64||5||4|
|5||Ekaterina BOBROVA / Dmitri SOLOVIEV||RUS||158.09||4||6|
|6||Elena ILINYKH / Nikita KATSALAPOV||RUS||156.36||6||5|
|1||Lina FEDOROVA / Maxim MIROSHKIN||RUS||161.11||1||1|
|2||Vasilisa DAVANKOVA / Andrei DEPUTAT||RUS||155.96||3||2|
|3||Maria VIGALOVA / Egor ZAKROEV||RUS||153.56||4||3|
|4||Margaret PURDY / Michael MARINARO||CAN||149.94||2||5|
|5||Xiaoyu YU / Yang JIN||CHN||149.20||5||4|
|6||Brittany JONES / Ian BEHARRY||CAN||145.89||6||6|
|1||Alexandra STEPANOVA / Ivan BUKIN||RUS||149.57||1||1|
|2||Gabriella PAPADAKIS / Guillaume CIZERON||FRA||139.21||2||2|
|3||Alexandra ALDRIDGE / Daniel EATON||USA||136.19||4||3|
|4||Anna YANOVSKAYA / Sergey MOZGOV||RUS||129.31||3||4|
|5||Valeria ZENKOVA / Valerie SINITSIN||RUS||124.19||6||5|
|6||Evgenia KOSIGINA / Nikolai MOROSHKIN||RUS||120.05||5||6|
(9 December 2012) Sochi, Russia.
One of the hardest jobs in skating is that of the Technical Panel. It isn’t easy to get this position which requires a genius for exactness and great stamina for long days. There is very little appreciation shown because contact between the skaters and these very necessary “determiners” is limited. Not many applicants survive the training, and when they do, a lot find the pressure just too exhausting.
In Sochi, the Pairs Technical Specialist was Simon Briggs, who is probably the best and most knowledgeable coach in Britain. His Assistant was American David Kirby, who is widely acknowledged for a lifetime devoted to the sport. The Technical Controller, who supervised and steps in if these two don’t agree, was Pekka Leskinen, who was the Finnish national champion for many years.
These people really know the sport. So how come these respected, dedicated, well -meaning people are pushing the Russian President, Vladimir Putin towards World War III?
The Russians are super excited and very keen that their athletes do well in the first ever Winter Olympics in their country. With full support of their President, who has been a friend of Evgeni Plushenko since he won the 2006 Olympic gold medal (and 2002 & 2010 silvers), the whole country is looking forward to their athletes winning medals. They are expecting a lot of gold medals. But in skating, that may NOT be the case.
Putin turned up on Saturday, and watched Davis & White beat Virtue & Moir in the ice dance final, with the Russian couples finishing in the last two places. When is the last time a top politician from any country gave ice dance that much attention outside of the Games and World Championships?
He obviously is thinking, “Why aren’t the Russian skaters on top?” as they were not so long ago. A lot of money is being channeled in the direction of the athletes, but gold alone does not guarantee success.
There are also some strange aspects emerging. The International Skating Union prides itself that this current judging system is far fairer than the old system, and, undoubtedly, it is.
However, there is a distinct problem with the Levels. To set the requirement so high, that the sport’s leading exponents aren’t making the grade, is to ask for trouble.
The pride and joy of the Russians fans are their superb pair skaters. Way back, the legendary Ludmila & Oleg Protopopov, enchanted the world with their artistry winning the 1964 & 1968 Olympic golds. Then came the matchless Irina Rodnina and her two partners, who introduced previously unknown speed and technical elements. They dominated the sport for a decade.
Their pairs are still extremely successful. But they feel they are being “dissed”.
In this competition, all three Russian pairs were saddled with Level 1 for their back outside death spiral, a move all but the very novice competitors learn to execute. The lowest Level the Technical Panel can give for a death spiral which is correctly done is now “B” for basic.
To get Level 1, a “feature” must be added. Others must also be included to get the higher levels which go up to “4”.
Here in Sochi, in the Pairs initial round, none of the Russians gained more than Level 1, a situation which has upset the top Russians, including the twice World Championship runners-up, Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov, who both have had many years of top competitive experience with other partners, and have done this move for more than a decade.
The younger Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov and the veterans, Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov, who won the 2008-2010 Russian championships, were also puzzled by this low award.
What was surprising is that the two Canadian entries managed to elude this problem.
Both received Level 3 for their back outside death spiral in the Short Program. Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford, the current Canadian Champions, who were fifth in the past World Championship, were fourth throughout the Sochi event. They also were the only competitors to get Level 4 for their forward inside version of the death spiral in their Free Skate. That was amazing since it was performed at a time they must have been emotionally distraught.
Just before they executed the death spiral, Radford had a major, distressing problem. He could not get his partner up into the overhead position for a lift, which is an element which earns a lot of points and an area in which Canadians are known to be particularly skillful. They received no points at all for the move.
Their teammates, Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch, the 2010 Canadian Champions, who were 8th in the 2011 World Championships, were ranked fifth in the Short Program, for which they used music from the opera, “La Boheme.” That was ahead of the Russians, Kavaguti & Smirnov, in part because the Canadians were awarded Level 3 for their back outside death spiral, one of the Short Program’s seven required elements.
Moore-Towers & Moscovitch managed to hold onto fifth place overall, although they were sixth in the Free Skate, despite receiving a Level 3 cal” for their forward inside death spiral.
Canadians played a major role in developing the current system. So, it is not surprising that they are able to appreciate and use each facet to their benefit. But the Russians and their top ranked coaches are surely equally adept at analyzing what is needed.
So why is that not working?
Today, Sunday, the Exhibition Program brings to a conclusion the official tryout of the state-of-the-art facility, the “Iceberg” Skating Palace, in which the world’s top seniors and juniors battled it out and gained experience in the location which will be spotlighted around the world in February 2014 in the Olympic Games.
The last actual competition was for Senior Pairs. The event caused some grumbling amongst the competitors, especially the winners Max Trankov and his partner, Ukrainian Tatiana Volosozhar, who have earned silver medals for Russia in the last two world championships.
But their complaints had nothing to do with the facilities, or with their gold medal win. They just don’t like getting “dissed” by the Technical Panel’s award of Level 1 for their death spiral in the Short Program. They went into the Free Skate only 3.32 points ahead of their main rivals, their Russian teammates, the younger Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov.
After the Short Program, which they skated to the Love Theme from “The Godfather”, the 29-year-old Trankov explained, “We got some very low levels. I do not understand this because the elements felt great. The lift was only Level 3 and the death spiral Level 1.”
“Naturally we wanted to set a new season's best today, but we failed by a pretty small margin. Overall, we are pleased with our performance, but we will have to find time to sit down and figure out all the nuances, because we got some very low levels," Volosozhar commented.
Bazarova & Larionov, who interpreted Liszt’s “Liebestraum”, to take second place in the Short Program, also received only Level 1 for their back outside death spiral. Their other four elements, which are given Levels earned the maximum 4.
Volosozhar & Trankov’s overall winning margin was only 2.95. They stayed ahead of their teammates, although Trankov fell twice in the Free Skate in which they finished second. The reason they were able to do that was in part because they received very high marks for their opening move, a soaringly, breathtakingly high Level 4 triple twist, which earned the maximum, +3 Grade of Execution from all nine judges. They were also rewarded by the judges with four other +3 GoEs. Two were for their forward inside death spiral, which was only Level 2, and the others were for their choreographed step sequence.
Trankov’s first fall, on a solo triple toe loop jump, was just a glitch, but the second, when he collapsed just as he was hurling his partner into their second throw, a Salchow, was very strange. He pulled himself off his feet. She came down almost on top of him but was able to stay upright.
He explained, “I fell very bad on the triple toe. I hit my hip but I didn’t feel anything then. But when we went for the throw, I felt something in my leg and started to feel pain.” In addition to the Level 2 for their Forward Inside Death Spiral, they were displeased with the Level 2 for their pair combination spin.
“Things can happen," Volosozhar said. "We don't understand (how it happened), but we will look into it, to try to prevent it (from happening again). But it was our choice to do this very hard long program.” “We cannot be completely happy because we skated not so good. It was my fault, I made two very big mistakes, fell two times again,” admitted Trankov.
Their Free music is “Violin Muse” by Ikuko Kawai, based on Bach’s “Partita for Violin No.2” and Tomaso Vitali’s “Chaconne”.
Bazarova & Larionov’s Short Program was arranged to Liszt’s “Liebestraum”.
She was smiling at the end of their Free Skate, performed to Khatchataturian’s “Spartacus”. She said, with an infectious smile, “This was our best skate this season. We didn’t miss anything. We weren’t tight and were skating freely.” She added, “We got 70 (points) for the first time in our lives. It's amazing and we are very happy with our skating. Now it's important to continue in this way.”
“For us the second place on the final of Grand-Prix is an astonishing result. We’re happy! We were practicing so strong and didn’t let ourselves relax till the very end. And today we did it! There were no mistakes”, she said.
Nevertheless, their initial moves, side-by-side triple toe loops and a sequence of two double Axels received -0.10 and -0.43 off their base values. Their back inside death spiral earned Level 3 but their final move, a pair combination spin was only Level 2.
The former World Champions, Qing Pang & Jian Tong, from China, were third throughout the contest.
After the Short Program, which they performed to “Scott and Fran’s Paso Doble” by David Hirschfelder, Tong, 33, said, as he has earlier this season, “Our old injuries keep bothering us and, because of them, we can’t train the jumps really well. But we are now working with a doctor and hopefully we can improve our condition and will perform better in our next competitions.”
“The performance was not our best. I had a fever and was lacking energy. There was one mistake on the jump, but the other elements were good,” Tong said. “Because of the traffic jams, we decided to come early to the ice rink. So we had to wait for a long time and were a little tired. Hopefully tomorrow we'll skate better in the free skating,” Pang added.
Pang will turn 33 on December 24. In the Short Program, they had a huge throw triple loop, but their lateral triple twist, which was also spectacular, was only Level 2. They earned the maximum Level 4 for their lift, steps and spin.
In their Free Skate, which they did to Elgar’s “Variations on Enigma, an Original Theme”, they only received a “B” for basic for their forward outside death spiral, which no one else tries because it is so difficult.
For most of pair skating history, skaters have done a back outside death spiral. The Russian legends, who now live in Lake Placid, Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov, who were at the top of the sport from 1964-8, invented death spirals on the three other edges. But almost no one ever attempts this forward outside version. The Chinese seem to be penalizing themselves by doing so because they receive such few marks for it.
"We were a little slow today," Pang commented. "We felt tired and we need some rest. We were lacking energy. Considering the circumstances we are pretty happy with how we performed today. Our next event will be the Four Continents Championships.”
Yuko Kavaguti, 31, & Alexander Smirnov, 28, finished last, although they were fifth in the Free Skate. Their Short Program, set to Strauss’ immortal “The Blue Danube Waltz” was very flawed. She put her hand down on their side-by-side triple toe loops and fell on their throw triple loop. Their back outside death spiral, as was the case with the other Russian pairs was only Level 1. However, their lift and steps were Level 4 and their triple twist Level 3.
Missing from the Final were the four-time World Champions, Germans Aliona Savchenko & Robin Skolkowy, who did not qualify for the event because she was prevented by illness from taking part in their second Grand Prix.