The pairs competition at Skate Canada this weekend seemed a bit star-crossed. Marchei/Hotarek were favored to medal, but had to withdraw after Ondrej sustained a concussion in practice. Several other pairs had subpar showings, and the level of competition wasn’t the highest. However, the event was redeemed by two wonderful performances from World champions Duhamel/Radford, a reminder of what pairs skating is all about.
Coming into the event, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Duhamel/Radford. They had an uncharacteristically shaky performance at the Autumn Classic Senior B event a few weeks ago, missing both quad throws in their LP. But Meagan/Eric skated very well in Lethbridge and showed everyone why they are reigning World champions.
Meagan/Eric’s “Your Song” SP opened with a very high triple twist that earned level 4 (one level higher than usual). Eric put a hand down on the SBS 3Lz, but next came a gorgeous death spiral. The throw 3Lz was tilted but saved. There were some slightly awkward exits from both their choreo lift and Level 4 lift, and overall, they weren’t at their best technically. But they held it together and kept the performance level really high. I like this short program for D/R. It’s simple but effective. The music soars, and the choreography matches the crescendos really well, building excitement. I think it’s a great choice for them. Their score of 72.46 seemed a tad high, considering they had a few minor miscues, but they were deservedly in 1st place.
Meagan/Eric followed with a very strong LP to Adele’s “Hometown Glory.” Their SBS 3Lz was good, and then they landed the throw quad Salchow. I thought this quad was one of their best so far. It had great height and a low, but smooth, landing. The quad earned +1s/+2s. Meagan/Eric then decided not to try their new throw quad Lutz, going for throw triple Lutz instead in hope of a clean program. Meagan did have a slight problem on the SBS 3T/2T/2T combo, popping it into 3T/1T/1T. But the final two lifts and closing death spiral were excellent, earned all positive GOE, and made for a strong finish.
After last season, I wasn’t sure if Meagan/Eric could top their Muse LP, which was so popular and well-suited to them. But I think “Hometown Glory” is even better. It has more emotion and depth and maturity. The choreography is seamless and uncluttered, and Meagan/Eric performed it with wonderful freedom at Skate Canada, delivering great elements as if it were no effort at all. They just looked so secure and relaxed out there, and cruised easily to a 24+-point win.
I can’t wait to see these programs again at their next event!
Next: NHK Trophy
Tarasova/Morozov put out some nice-quality programs at Skate Canada to win silver, as expected. But although they had a solid performance, there is still much to work on.
Evgenia/Vladimir started their Warriors SP with a soaring triple twist that earned +2s/+3s. However, Evgenia doubled the SBS 3T, which earned less than 1 point. The throw triple loop was very high but two-footed. Their closing step sequence was well done. Overall it wasn’t a bad performance, but certainly not their best. They scored 64.00 and were 2nd.
Evgenia/Vladimir had a similar performance in the long program. Again, they started with their incredible triple twist, which is surely the best in the world right now. So high and easy, this element earned almost straight +3s for 8.60 points. However, as in the SP, Evgenia/Vladimir had minor errors on the SBS jumps, and both throw jumps were huge but two-footed. They have a new group 5A lift this season, which is interesting but still not quite perfected yet in terms of the positions/transitions. It was a good performance. But overall at this point, Tarasova/Morozov are a little behind where I expected/hoped they would be this season (due probably to Evgenia’s shoulder injury this summer).
Although I’m a big fan of this beautiful pair, I’m disappointed with their programs this season. I like the Celtic music for the Warriors SP, but the choreography is a little empty. It needs more exciting, Irish-style footwork and more flair. The Celtic theme doesn’t come to life until the step sequence at the end. And the Chopin LP is lovely, but bland. The choreography doesn’t sing, and there aren’t many memorable moments. T/M perform it with elegance, but I’d like to see them bring more intensity and passion.
Tarasova/Morozov have 2 weeks until their next Grand Prix. I hope they can fine-tune and improve the programs a bit before then, and generally gets tronger. With their silver at Skate Canada, they have a great shot at making the Grand Prix Final. But they’ll need to perform better at TEB.
Next: Trophee Eric Bompard
Kirsten/Mike earned a surprise bronze medal, rebounding from a disappointing showing at U.S. International Classic earlier in the season.
They had a solid performance in the short program. Their SBS 3Ts were well synchronized and had good runout. Their death spiral was particularly strong, with a good low position from Kirsten. All of their elements earned positive GOE except the twist, and I thought they did a nice job capturing the bluesy rhythm of the music (“If I Can’t Have You” by Etta James). They placed 3rd.
Kirsten/Mike’s long program to Romeo & Juliet was a bit up-and-down. Their first lift failed and received no points; their triple twist was only level 1 and got negative marks. However, their jump elements were pretty strong. Their SBS 3T/2T/2T combo was right on, and the throw jumps were pretty good. Mike’s carrying position in lifts has improved from last season, although he still leans forward a bit too much. The closing death spiral was, again, a highlight. Their Romeo & Juliet program isn’t very distinctive, but they performed it much better than at U.S. Classic and with more chemistry. They placed 3rd LP/overall.
Next: Rostelecom Cup
Marissa/Mervin’s Grand Prix debut in Lethbridge followed the same pattern set in their early-season events: Strong programs overall, compromised by weak jump elements.
Their Summertime SP included a very good throw 3S and nice group 4 lift. Their step sequence, the highlight of the program, earned level 3 and +1s/+2s. However, Mervin stumbled out of the SBS 3S, and their triple twist was a little crashy. They were 4th.
Marissa/Mervin’s Journey LP was actually quite strong … except for those darn jumps! The opening triple twist was high and got positive GOE. Their lifts have improved a great deal since the early season; they were all level 4 and earned a majority of +2s. Spins and death spiral were good as well.
But the throw 3S was their only clean jump element. Marissa doubled the SBS 3S; Mervin spun out of the SBS 3T.
Marissa/Mervin tried the throw 2A as their second throw jump at this event, two-footing it. I think it was a good strategy to switch throws; they’d been using the throw 3F, but had yet to land it successfully, despite many attempts. The throw 2A is not very commonly seen these days in high-level pairs competition, but its base value is only 0.5 less than throw 3S or throw 3T. Obviously Marissa/Mervin will need to eventually get a higher-value second throw in place. But until they can achieve that, the throw 2A is a sensible option.
The good news for Mervissa is 1) They were only 1.45 points out of the bronze despite the jump mistakes, and 2) They earned +5.68 points overall in positive GOE, good for a new team. Clearly, the judges like what they’re doing and respect the quality of their elements, as shown by the positive GOE. I’m just hoping the jumps will start to come together for this talented pair.
Next: Trophee Eric Bompard
Vera had an injury this fall. As a result, Bazarova/Deputat missed their early-season event, Mordovian Ornament, and looked tentative and not fully competition-ready in Lethbridge.
Their Chopin No. 2 short program was very elegant, but marred by technical errors. The opening SBS 3Ts were downgraded, and the landing on the throw 3Lp was hesitant. The triple twist had very little height, and Andrei barely caught Vera in time. They placed 5th.
Their long program is a medley of Beatles music from The White Album and Abbey Road. It’s a big departure for Vera, who always skated to classical warhorses with her previous partner, Yuri Larionov. The music cuts feel more coherent than in most Beatles programs; there’s not too many songs, and the songs are all late-era Beatles, so they have a similar sound. I like this program for Vera/Andrei, but unfortunately their skating was so tentative that it was difficult to really appreciate the program. They popped both SBS jumps, fell on the throw 3F, and almost had to put a hand down on throw 3Lp. The twist was again very low. The only upside was their lifts, which look much stronger this year. All 3 lifts gained level 4 and positive marks. Vera/Andrei finished 6th LP/5th overall.
They now have a 4-week break before NHK Trophy. Hopefully they can get in better condition by then.
Next: NHK Trophy
The Austrian team had a poor short program, but came back a bit in the LP.
Ziegler/Kiefer’s short program is set to Bjork’s quirky song “It’s Oh So Quiet.” The choreography is either whimsical or cutesy, depending on your taste. (I find it whimsical and amusing.) But it’s the kind of program that can only work if it’s executed well, and Ziegler/Kiefer weren’t able to do so. Miriam had a disruptive fall out of the throw 3F, the twist was very low, and the death spiral not good. They were a distant 7th.
Things improved a bit in their Moulin Rouge long program.They landed SBS 3Lz (hand down from Severin) and a good SBS 3T/2T/2T combo. Their SBS spins were quite nice and well-synchronized, and the death spiral was improved. However, there were errors on both throw jumps. And they need a lot of work on their lifts, which are slow and lacking in ice coverage.
Ziegler/Kiefer are in an interesting place right now. It was great to see them land the SBS 3Lz. This big element helped keep their base value high, and they pulled up to 5th LP/6th overall. Yet they had overall negative GOE (-6.12) for their elements in this competition, which is not good.
Now in their third season, I’d like to see Miriam/Severin progress a bit faster than they are currently. Right now they’re training in Germany under Knut Schubert; he did not accompany them to Skate Canada. I have to wonder if they might benefit from a move to a higher-level coaching/training environment.
It was not a great event for the Canadian team. They had quite a few mistakes and placed last in both segments.
They lost 4 points in their Por Una Cabeza SP when Vanessa singled the SBS 3T. There were also problems on the throw 3S. They landed some elements in their Don Juan de Marco LP, but there were also a lot of errors here and there. Like Ziegler/Kiefer, they had negative GOE overall for the competition (-6.31 points). I actually like this team’s programs, and I feel they have some chemistry. But their elements right now are just not clean enough to be competitive.
Next: Cup of China
Valentina/Ondrej were expected to medal, but had an uncharacteristically weak performance in the SP on Friday and placed 6th. The next day they withdrew from the competition, announcing that Ondrej had suffered an accident in practice on Thursday and had later been diagnosed with a concussion. Currently, Marchei/Hotarek are scheduled to compete in 3 weeks at Rostelecom Cup. We’ll have to see if Ondrej has recovered by then. Best wishes for him to feel better soon!
There was also a Challenger Series event this weekend: Ice Challenge in Graz, Austria.
Fresh off their silver medal at Skate America, Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim won gold by a margin of 33+ points. They continued to have some trouble with SBS jumps, but their throws, lift, and twist looked stronger than at Skate America. They now have a 4-week break to prepare for NHK Trophy.
American pair Jessica Calalang/Zach Sidhu also competed at Ice Challenge. This was Jessica/Zach’s first competition back since Zach had hip labrum surgery after U.S. Nationals. They looked in fairly good form, all things considered, and it was great to see them again. Calalang/Sidhu will also appear at NHK Trophy.
Vartmann/Blommaert of Germany and Della Monica/Guarise of Italy also skated in Graz. Both teams had a mix of good elements and misses in their long programs and placed 2nd/3rd respectively.
Up Next … Cup of China
The Grand Prix series continues next week with Cup of China, and I’m really looking forward to seeing Yu/Jin for the first time this season. Last year, the Chinese pairs had very strong performances at this event, presaging their ultimate 2-3-4 placement at Worlds, and I’m hoping for more of the same this year. There are a number of other strong pairs in the lineup as well: Iliushechkina/Moscovitch, Kavaguti/Smirnov, and Astakhova/Rogonov. It should be a good event!