2004 Skate America: Pairs Highlights

Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China were the gold medal winners in the pairs event while Julia Obertas and Sergei Slavnov of Russia were second and Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr. of the United States were third.

The pairs event ended on a scary and solemn night. Russia’s Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin were in first place and last to take the ice for the free skate.

During a lift, the team lost their balance and took a terrifying fall to the ice in which Totmianina landed head first. After laying motionless for several minutes, Totmianina’s neck and body were mobilized and she was carried off the ice on a stretcher and taken to a trauma center.

Amazingly, and to the relief of so many, Totmianina was later diagnosed with a only a concussion. CT scans, X-rays and neurological tests were all negative, revealing that there were no other serious injuries. The reigning World pairs champion was kept overnight at Mercy hospital for observation and was released the next day.

On Sunday, speaking from a required wheelchair with a bruised and swollen right eye, Totmianina stated she had no memory of the fall and even joked with the press about the move that led to her injury. ”Actually, it wasn’t something unusual – but it wasn’t successful,” the two-time and reigning Russian pairs champion said. “How it happened, I don’t remember. Yesterday, I don’t remember almost anything.”

Totmianina also said that she was anxious to return to the ice as soon as possible. “I wish to go tomorrow,” she said. “Just wait, me and Max will come back – of course. What do you think, I’m going to die?!” It was apparent that at this time, the 22-year-old had not viewed the replay of her fall.

Her coach, Oleg Vasiliev, said the fall occurred because of a technical error. He also said that while she would be resting for the next week at home in Chicago, the team would probably resume training in 10 days if all went well and she recovered fully.

Marinin, who also fell, suffered no injuries, but was visibly shaken and distressed after the accident. While the 27-year-old is depressed about the incident, Vasiliev emphasized that, “It was not his fault.”

Short Program

Totmianina and Marinin performed an elegant routine to Ave Marie which included a solid throw triple loop followed by solid side-by-side triple toeloops and a double twist. Despite a unison problem in a side-by-side change foot combination spin, the 2003-04 Grand Prix Final Champions earned a score of 64.98 points for first place overall after the short.

“I don’t really know what happened on the spin,” Marinin commented. “Sometimes if you’re too confident on an element, it goes wrong. I lost control on that spin.” Totmianina added, “We made our spins more difficult to adapt them to the new system and we worked hard on them.” The team revealed that they had wanted to use Ave Maria before, “but our coach and choreographer told us that we weren’t ready yet for this music. But now we are and so we decided to do this program.”

Teammates Obertas and Slavnov nailed their side-by-side triple toeloops and executed a rare throw triple flip, but lost their balance on an Axel lasso lift which wasn’t completed and resulted in an awkward dismount. The 2004 Russian National bronze medalists finished five seconds after the music was over, receiving a one point deduction for exceeding the 2:50 time limit. They received 57.58 points for their routine to Les Rois du Tzigane for a second place finish overall after the short.

“I’m really pleased,” Obertas said, adding that the problem on the lift was “unexpected”. “They are working to bring the programs to a higher level of difficulty,” said coach Tamara Moskvina. “[We are] working within the requirements of the new system while keeping trademark elements I had with the other couples.”

Fan Zhang and Dan Zhang performed to last year’s short, All Alone by Joe Satriani, opening with a nice Axel lasso lift followed by side-by-side triple toeloops in which Dan had to hang onto the landing. Dan also appeared to have a slight bobble in the change foot combination spin, but the 2004 Four Continents silver medalists executed a clean throw triple loop and high double twist, earning a score of 56.98 points for a third place finish after the short.

“It was ok,” said Dan Zhang, of their program, “but it wasn’t our standard yet.

USA’s Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr. placed fourth overall after the short followed by China’s Yang Ding and Zhongfei Ren who were fifth.

Long Program

Skating to In the Hall of the Mountain King, Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang opened with a high triple twist followed by a double Axel-triple toeloop sequence. The 2003 World Junior champions went on to deliver a throw triple Salchow but Dan put her hands down on the landing. Despite the mistake, the team landed good side-by-side triple Salchows and a clean throw triple loop to earn 109.68 points, subsequently placing first in the long and moving up to first overall with a total score of 166.86.

“The performance was pretty good – there were only some minor mistakes,” Dan Zhang said, adding that in the future they would work on their transitions and speed.

Obertas and Slavnov opened their routine with a rare quad twist but the catch wasn’t clean. Obertas also slightly two-footed the landing in the triple toeloop-triple toeloop sequence. Their program to music from The Truman soundtrack and Secret Garden also included a nice throw triple flip and throw triple loop, but Obertas had problems again on a lift, stumbling forward out of the dismount with assistance from her partner. The Russian team earned 108.68 points, placing second in the long. With an overall score of 166.26, they finished in second with only less than half a point behind the Chinese team.

“Today, we had bad luck with our lift,” said Obertas. “My hand slipped, and when I started to fall, I saw the ice coming near and thought, ‘Oh my God, I have to hold on something or I’ll hit my head’.”

Julia Obertas was shaken by the accident of her teammates. The 20-year-old had fallen herself from an overhead lift at the 2000 World Championships in Nice when skating with her former partner Dmitri Palarmachuk. “I was able to turn and hit with my side on the ice, not with my head,” she recalled. “I was lucky tonight. Unfortunately Tatiana wasn’t so lucky.”

Skating to selections of music from Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Inoue and Baldwin attempted sided-by-side triple Lutz’s in which Inoue two-footed the landing, followed by an underrotated triple twist. The throw triple Salchow as clean, as was a double Axel-double toeloop combination and throw triple loop. The reigning U.S. champions earned 101.58 points for a third place finish in the long, scoring a total of 158.10 to win the the bronze.

Elizabeth Putnam and Sean Wirtz of Canada, who were in seventh after the short, attempted side-by-side triple Lutz’s, but Putnam put her hand down on the landing. The 2004 Canadian bronze medalists placed fourth in the long and moved up to finished fifth overall.

In fifth place after the short, Ding and Ren attempted a brave throw quadruple toeloop in which Ding fell on the landing. The 2003 World Junior silver medalists placed fifth in the long, and with a total score of 139.42, moved up for fourth place overall.

USA’s Kathryn Orscher and Garrett Lucash finished in sixth place overall, followed by teammates Jennifer Don and Jonathon Hunt who dropped two places to seventh.

Overnight leaders Totmianina and Marinin were in first place after the short and were the last couple to skate. The three-time and reigning European champions opened their new routine to Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade with side-by-side triple Salchows followed by a triple toeloop-double toeloop combination in which Marinin stepped out of the landing. The team went on to execute a triple twist and a throw triple loop. It was during a one-handed lift when the Russians experienced the fateful fall.

Due to the severity of the incident, medal ceremonies were postponed until the next day during the exhibition.

This was a scoring event for all the pair competitors. Zhang and Zhang (12 points) will compete next at the Cup of China, while Obertas and Slavnov (9 points) will compete at Cup of Russia. Inoue and Baldwin (7 points) are slated to compete at the NHK Trophy in Japan.

It is unknown at this time when Totmianina and Marinin will compete next. The team was scheduled for Cup of China next, an additional (non-scoring) event, while their final scoring event prior to the Grand Prix Final was to be Cup of Russia.

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