2003 Skate Canada: Highlights

The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series continued with Mastercard Skate Canada International, the second of six qualifying events. The event was held from October 30 to November 2 at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. Current World Champions and World medalists headlined the event.

Men

The reigning European and World champion, Evgeni Plushenko, headlined and won the men’s event. To the delight of the home crowd, Canada’s Jeffrey Buttle, who lives and trains in the area, came from fourth after the short program to capture the silver medal. Japan’s Takeshi Honda, who won the silver at Skate America last week, finished third.

Plushenko dominated the short program by only 3.71 points over Honda. Skating to a selection of Tango and Flamenco music, he landed a quadruple-triple toeloop combination, but later doubled a triple Axel. The 20-year-old recovered to land a triple Lutz and wooed the crowd with his footwork. “I’m so happy that I did my quad-triple combination today,” Plushenko told the press. “I came here and I couldn’t do it (in practice), I did only a triple toe or I fell. But then I’m not so happy that I did only a double Axel.”

Skating to Romeo and Juliet by Nino Rota for his short, Honda completed the quadruple-triple toeloop combination and did the triple Axel, but missed the triple Lutz. “Last week at Skate America, I was disappointed. I made two mistakes. I missed the quad toeloop and the Axel. I’m a bit tired. This is the first time for me to do back-to-back Grand Prix events,” stated the two-time World bronze medalist.

Plushenko debuted a new long program dedicated to the famous Russian ballet dancer Vaclav Nijinski (1889-1950). The piece was was arranged for him by composer Edvin Marton who performs on a 1698 Antonio Stradivarius violin. Plushenko landed a quadruple toeloop at the beginning of his program, followed by six triple jumps (including a solid triple Axel) and displayed innovative spins. However, his only combination was a triple Salchow-single toeloop as he barely saved the landing of the first jump.

“It was ok, it wasn’t the best but not bad,” Plushenko said. “I’m injured right now and I was sick before coming here. We planned to do one triple Axel and one quad tonight, and that’s what I did. I will skate seven, eight more times this season and I can skate much better than this.”

Buttle, who was in fourth after the short, was the last to skate in the long. Using excerpts from Samson and Delilah by Camille Saint-Saens, the Canadian started with a triple flip, but then fell on an under-rotated quadruple toeloop attempt. He recovered to land two triple Axels (one in combination with a double toeloop), and two more solid triples. As the 21-year-old finished his program with excellent spins, he was rewarded by a standing ovation from the crowd. “All week practices have been quite consistent,” Buttle said. “So basically it was just a matter of going out there and competing just like I have been practicing, and that’s what I did.”

Honda struggled in his long program to Warsaw Concerto by Richard Addinsel, missing his quadruple toeloop twice. The 22-year-old completed four clean triple jumps including a triple Axel-double toeloop combination to score 130.24 points for his free skate. “My parents and my friends are here, but I wasn’t too nervous,” Honda said. “I focused on my skating. I’m not really happy, I missed two quads.”

Canadian Champion Emanuel Sandhu, who stood in third place following the short program, dropped to fourth after some mistakes. Kevin van der Perren of Belgium jumped from 11th to 5th place with an inspiring performance to selections from the Robin Hood soundtrack. Included in his clean program, was a rare triple Salchow-triple toeloop-triple loop combination.

Plushenko did not accumulate points at Skate Canada as his first scoring event will be at Trophée Lalique. Buttle pocketed 9 points and will score again at the NHK Trophy event in Japan. Honda, who has 7 points, and will share the ice with Buttle again in Japan.

Ice Dance

The Compulsory Dance (CD) at Skate Canada was the Ravensburg Waltz, created by Angelika and Erich Buck from Ravensburg, Germany and Betty Callaway. Its first performance dates back to the 1973 (West) German Figure Skating Championships.

Russia’s Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov were in first, followed by the World bronze medalists, Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria. Israel’s Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski finished third while Canada’s Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon placed fourth.

The ice dance competition continued with the Original Dance (OD) using the Swing Combo where couples can choose any two of three from the following rhythms: Jive, Rock’n'Roll, Blues, Swing, Jitterbug and/or Boogie Woogie.

Navka and Kostomarov excited the crowd with their sultry Blues and their fast paced Rock’n'Roll which featured a strong side-by-side footwork line, mostly on one foot, and two rotational lifts. Their performance earned them 18.70 points for the element score and 42.40 points for program components. “We skated our OD for the first time in competition, and we’re happy with it,” Navka said.

Denkova and Staviski were a close second. The reigning European silver medalists danced a very expressive Blues to It’s a Man’s, Man’s World that included a spin in a difficult low position and a lift with Staviski in a spread eagle position. The Swing part of their dance was highlighted by the intricate side-by-side footwork line. “In our OD, we prefer the Blues, because it’s sensual,” Denkova explained. “The Swing is ok, but we don’t like Rock’n'Roll so much, therefore we chose the other rhythms.”

Wearing colorful costumes, Chait and Sakhnovski skated to a fast Rock’n'Roll and Blues routine. Sakhnovski whirled his partner around in the lifts, and the couple also completed the side-by-side footwork line and a dance spin with a change of position. They were awarded 16.10 points for the element score and 39.72 for program components. “The Swing Combo is very exciting, and we like the Rock’n'Roll a lot,” Chait commented.

Canadians Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon were not far behind in fourth place. The home crowd enjoyed their Jive and Blues program.

The leading couples were only separated by a few points heading into the Free Dance (FD). Navka and Kostomarov were in the lead with 101.14 points, Denkova and Staviski had 97.32 points while Chait and Sakhnovski’s accumulated points were at 93.52.

Opting for a fun program versus last season’s dramatic FD to The Feeling Begins, Navka and Kostomarov skated a fun program set to the Pink Panther and Austin Powers soundtracks. The Russian Champions demonstrated strong lifts and a nice dance combination spin, albeit a slip by Kostomarov on a twizzle. Their overall score of 207.45 won them their first Grand Prix gold medal. “We’re very happy to finish the competition,” Kostomarov said. “The audience was great and helped us from the beginning.”

The first Bulgarians to medal in an ISU World Championship, skated to an emotional performance to Georg Friedrich Haendel’s Suite in D minor. Their routine featured innovative spins, difficult lifts and moves which earned them 107.13 points. They won the FD, but with an overall event score of 204.45, they were not able to overtake the Russians. “We skated well throughout the competition, but of course we will skate better in the future,” Staviski said. “We’re happy to be on the podium, but we would have liked to win.”

Dubreuil and Lauzon danced to a selection of Tangos, impressing with their lifts and intricate circular footwork sequence. However, during a straight line sequence, Dubreuil tripped and fell. “I don’t know why I fell, it never happened before on that particular step,” Dubreuil commented. The Canadians recovered and completed the rest of their dance strongly. With a total segment score of 103.22, they moved up one spot. “I think, we were awarded eight level three elements,” said Dubreuil. “We worked really hard on elements this summer and tried to make the program as hard as possible.”

Chait and Sakhnovski debuting a lively routine to Clowns from the Fellini soundtracks, but slipped from third to fourth overall, followed by Canada’s Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe (fifth) and Russia’s Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin (sixth).

Skate Canada was a scoring event for Denkova and Staviski (9 points) and for Dubreuil and Lauzon (7 points). Navka and Kostomarov didn’t compete for points at this event, but will do so at Cup of China.

Ladies

USA’s Sasha Cohen won the ladies’ short program ahead of Japan’s Yukina Ota and Shizuka Arakawa. Skating first to last season’s Malaguena, Cohen set the standard for the event. She landed a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, a triple flip, a double Axel and produced amazing spins to score 71.12 points for the first part of the ladies’ competition. The 19-year-old (who celebrated her birthday at Skate America) was happy that she had skated a clean program and improved on her points total (for the short program) since last week’s event in Reading, Penn.

World Junior Champion Yukina Ota made a real statement in her first senior Grand Prix event. The 16-year-old from Kyoto sparkled in her program to Picasso’s Dance, reeling off a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, a triple flip, double Axel and good spins. The crowd gave the young skater a spontaneous standing ovation, and the judges awarded her program 63.90 points.

Arakawa stepped out of her opening triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, but she recovered to land a triple flip and a double Axel in her routine to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The current Four Continents silver medalist was in third place after the short, followed by the European bronze medalist Julia Sebestyen of Hungary.

Cohen, who won gold at Skate America last week, secured her second Grand Prix victory after skating to Swan Lake by Peter Tchaikovski. Tarasova’s protégée produced four good triple jumps and a double Axel, but she struggled with her Lutz and failed to do a combination as required. “It’s tough going from one competition to another and not having really any time to train,” the reigning Grand Prix Champion said. When asked why she didn’t include a combination, the skater explained: “I was kind of hanging on to the landings of the jumps that were supposed to be in combination. I wanted to do a combination, but I haven’t really practiced too much adding on combinations at the end of the program. I knew that hurt me a lot in my total score.”

Arakawa opened her program to Turandot with a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination followed by a triple Salchow. However, she stepped out of the landing of the triple flip (to which she added a single toeloop) and touched down with her hand on the loop. Nevertheless, the Japanese finished on a high note with a double Axel, triple Lutz, triple toeloop and a nice spin combination. The 21-year-old received the highest technical score of the ladies free skate. “Finally I landed my triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination, and I’m very happy about that,” she told the press. With an overall event score of 123.99, Arakawa moved up one spot to capture the silver.

Skating to a selection of tangos, Sebestyen landed a triple Salchow, triple loop, triple toeloop-double toeloop combination, a double Axel and good spins. The 22-year-old from Budapest scored 107.60 points for her free skate and with 165.22 points overall, moved up from fourth to win the bronze medal. “This is my first (senior) Grand Prix medal, and so I’m very happy about it,” said Sebestyen. “I tried to focus on each element (in my program) and I could do almost everything. I only had one competition since the World Championships (in March), so it was a bit hard for me to skate again in front of the judges and the audience,” she added.

Yukina Ota dropped from second to fourth overall , followed by Canadians Jennifer Robinson (fifth) and Annie Bellemare (sixth).

Skate Canada was a non-scoring event for Cohen, whose next competition is Trophée Lalique. Arakawa picked up 9 points and Sebestyen took 7. All three will meet again in Paris later this month.

Pairs

In pairs, the reigning World silver medalists Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin were the first to skate of the top contenders and put out a strong short program to Variations on a Theme of Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninov. Their classical performance opened with a serpentine step sequence followed by a solid throw triple toeloop and side-by-side triple toeloops, but the exit of their one-armed lift looked labored. “The first impression was fine. We weren’t a 100 percent yet, we made a little mistake in the lift,” Totmianina commented of the scores after they placed second in the short program.

The reigning World Champions Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao of China opened the final flight of skaters. Their program to Kismet included a huge throw triple loop, side-by-side triple toeloops and a double twist, but the end of the side-by-side spin combination was a bit out of unison. “This wasn’t too good, our spin and our toeloop weren’t too good,” Shen admitted. “The ice was so white and I was almost blinded. We couldn’t skate freely,” Zhao added. Despite mistakes, the Chinese were first after the short with a total segment score of 68.76.

Canadians Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto, were the last team to skate. They completed a throw triple Salchow, a tripe toeloop and an interesting lift with an original exit in their Spanish-themed program to Leyenda by Vanessa Mae. The couple struggled at the end of the side-by-side spin. They were in third place after the juddges awarded them a score of 64.12.

After the short, standing in fourth place were Poland’s Dorota Zagorska and Mariusz Siudek, followed by Julia Obertas and Sergei Slavnov of Russia.

Totmianina and Marinin upset the reigning World Champions Shen and Zhao and skated to gold after their performance to last year’s program Cotton Club. The World silver medalists hit their opening side-by-side triple Salchow, followed by a triple twist and a throw triple loop. Their performance also featured a throw triple Salchow and two one-armed lifts as well as a triple toeloop-double toeloop combination, but Totmianina two-footed the second jump. The team scored 61.42 points for their elements and 65.36 points for their program components to claim the title with an overall event score of 194.02 points. “The first competition for us was hard, but we skated well for that. It wasn’t perfect yet,” Marinin said. “We are working on a new free program, but it’s still secret and we’ll skate it at Russian Nationals for the first time,” Totmianina revealed.

Overnight leaders Shen and Zhao debuted a new program to Nutcracker by Peter Tchaikovski and appeared nervous. The two-time World Champions completed their opening double Axel-triple toeloop sequence, a big throw triple Salchow and a triple twist, but Zhao stumbled on the second triple toeloop and later in the program, Shen fell on crossovers. The couple received 56.40 points for their elements and 66.64 points for program components, slipping to second with an overall event score of 191.80. “It was not such a good performance tonight,” Zhao admitted. “We started only in August with our training due to SARS in China. So we weren’t ready yet. But we’ll work hard for the next competition,” he promised.

Skating to Warsaw Concerto, Zagorska and Siudek, who now train in Montreal, captured the bronze medal. The husband-and-wife team doubled the side-by-side toeloops, but they impressed with their lifts and Zagorska landed the throw triple loop. With a score of 110.21 points for their free skate, the two-time European silver medalists pulled up one spot. “We skated last in the group, which is 30 minutes after the warm up, and we felt it in our legs,” Siudek explained. “We had problems with our jumps. But we’re happy to be on the podium. It’s our fifth time at Skate Canada but the first time for us on the podium.”

Langlois and Archetto, dropped to fourth, followed by fellow Canadian’s Elizabeth Putnam and Sean Wirtz, who moved up one spot to fifth.

Skate Canada was a scoring event for Shen and Zhao (9 points) and for Zagorska and Siudek (7 points). Both couples will skate again next week at the Cup of China in Beijing. Totmianina and Marinin did not skate for points in Mississauga. Their first scoring event will be at Trophée Lalique in Paris, France.

Cup of China, the next and third event of the Grand Prix series, will be held Nov 5 – 9 in Beijing, China.

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