Capping off a string of successes this year, Woetzel and Steuer won the pairs event by winning the long program on a majority of seconds. They skated a lovely program whose only error was a fall by Woetzel on a double Axel. They both landed triple toes and the throw triple toe and throw double Axel were both excellent.
Taking second were Eltsova Bushkov. They gave a capable performance but Bushkov fell on triple toe and their two throws - triple Salchow and triple toe - were not a strong as those from some of the other teams. When their marks came up the panel was booed by the audience which felt they had placed the team too high, however there was no question in my mind that they had been correctly placed by the panel.
Placing third in the long and third overall were Kazakova and Dmitriev. They gave a lovely expressive presentation but Dmitriev singled his triple toe and they skated too slow. If Dmitirev expects to land the triple toe he better lose a few pounds. You would think after being back so long he would be in better shape.
After a good start in the short program, Meno and Sand again caved in the long. Sand doubled his triple toe and singled a double Axel. They looked old and slow tonight. Ina and Dungjen, on the other hand, came on strong. Their only technical error was Dungjen stepping out of a double Axel. They skated fast and strong and presented their program about as well as could be expected. By placing fourth in the long and fourth overall they moved ahead of Meno and Sand for the first time in international competition. Now if they could only develop some emotion between each other and the audience they might be able to contend for a medal next year.
Stiegler and Zimmerman had another tough skate with Stiegler doubling her triple toe and singling a double Axel, and Zimmerman falling on his double Axel. Mid-way through the program Stiegler hit her face hard on the ice, falling on throw triple toe loop. There presentation was fast and furious but was not enough to overcome the technical errors and, even worse, the panel seemed singularly unimpressed with the program. It is ironic that after concentrating on presentation at the expense of technical preparation for the past 18 months this team received neither good technical marks nor good presentation marks. They dropped to 15th place, placing behind several distinctly less talented teams, a situation for which you must ultimately hold the coach responsible.
With a combined placement of 24 for the three US teams, the US will get to send only two teams to the Olympics and Worlds next year.
Woetzel and Steuer won the short program on a majority of seconds, with the top three teams splitting the first place marks. They skated clean and with passion, both landing their triple toes. Eltsova/Bushkov skated far better than they did at the Champions Series Final, skating clean in their typical restrained (a.k.a. boring) style. They also landed their triple toes, but both were on the sloppy side. Third was taken by Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze. She is back at Worlds for the first time since her serious head injury last year. She looked good, and the team skated a clean classical program with grace and style. Both skaters also landed their triple toes.
Meno and Sand skated the best we have seen them in the past month. They skated clean and both landed their triple toes. The program was bit on the slow side, however, but well presented. Ina and Dungjen also skated clean and controlled, also getting their triple toes. Stiegler and Zimmerman had a bit of a tough time in their first appearance at Worlds. Zimmerman doubled his triple toe loop and stumbled coming out of a pair spin, while Stiegler fell at the start of their circular step sequence. They ended up 13th in the sort, but a have a chance to move up in the long. With their current places, the US would get to send only two teams to Worlds and the Olympics next year, so they are under some pleasure to move us at least one place. With three strong teams now sitting in the top three spots Meno/Sand and Ina/Dungjen have their work cut out for them to move up.
Rounding out the top six were Kazakova and Dmitriev, who got the only deductions of the top six teams with Dmitriev doubling his triple toe. Nevertheless, they are still in the running for a medal. Things are likely to change in the long program; but based on tonight, the top three teams look like they are going to be difficult to displace.
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