Golden Skate

2005 World Figure Skating Championships: Pairs Highlights

The 2005 ISU World Figure Skating championships took place Mar 11-20 with over 180 skaters participating from 44 countries. Marking the first time this event was ever held in Moscow, Russia, the competition took place in the Luzhniki arena beginning March 14 with the Men’s Qualifying Round and the Pairs Short Program.

Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin of Russia defended their World title, winning their second consecutive gold medal. Teammates Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov won silver, while China’s Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang captured the bronze – their first World medal.

Short Program

Totmianina and Marinin delivered a solid short to Ave Maria, which included a good level three back-inside death spiral, spiral sequence, and pair combination spin. The reigning World champions also executed a good throw triple loop, solid side-by-side triple toeloops, and a double twist. The crowd cheered throughout the program and the three-time and reigning Russian champions received a score of 70.12 (personal best) for a first place finish after the short.

“We are happy with the way we skated today,” said Marinin, adding that it wasn’t perfect, but good. “We made a small mistake on the side-by-side spin [flying Camel] because we have recently upgraded this element and did not have enough time to practice it,” he explained. “And if you do not have enough practice, you sometimes simply forgot what is coming up next.”

The 28-year-old continued: “We feel more comfortable this season, more relaxed. Before, we felt we had to prove that we could beat the Chinese pair [Shen and Zhao] and now we can simply show our best skating.”

Totmianina doesn’t really see a difference between the old and the new judging system. “In any case you have to skate your best,” she said. “Our job isn’t to judge the judging system but to skate.”

Being from St. Petersburg but competing in Moscow doesn’t bother Marinin. “Of course, it’s very nice to compete in Russia, even if it’s in Moscow and not in St. Petersburg. However, there were not so many spectators here, although we were told that the event is sold out. There were a lot more spectators in St. Petersburg for Russian Nationals than there are here for worlds. If you compare Moscow and St. Petersburg here, Moscow is lagging behind St. Petersburg. Of course that’s just my personal opinion.”

Petrova and Tikhonov, who drew last to skate, also gave a good, clean performance in their Tango routine. The 2004-05 Grand Prix Final silver medalists executed side-by-side triple toeloops, a double twist, a throw triple loop, and a level three lift to receive a score of 66.94 for a second place finish after the short.

“It was a bit difficult to skate last,” admitted Petrova, “because we had to wait very long. We did all our elements cleanly. It was for sure one of the best performances of the season.” The 26-year-old also confessed that skating in her home country of Russia made her nervous. “There are so many people rooting for you. But if you do well, it’s very rewarding. I really felt the support of the crowd.”

Her partner Tikhonov added: “I wasn’t nervous at all. Not like in Turin [at the European Championships]. We changed our lift and got a higher level for it, so it was worth changing it. I had to stay calm and to take the energy from the audience.” Tikhonov was still happy with the performance, but is undecided on the new judging system. “We’re still checking the new judging system and sometimes it seems good, and sometimes not so good. We still have to wait to find out if it’s good or not so good.”

Performing to Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy, China’s Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao opened with side-by-side triple toeloops (Zhao had a shaky landing) followed by a level two lift, a good throw triple loop, and a double twist . The 2004 World silver medalists had unison problems on the side-by-side spin (flying camel combo), as well a slip in the pair combination spin. The 2004-05 Grand Prix Final Champions earned a score of 66.00 for a third place finish after the short.

“It wasn’t perfect today,” noted Zhao. “We had some little mistakes. Most of the problems are due to my foot injury which is still bothering me. Today was just the short program. We hope to do better in the free skating.”

On the new judging system, Zhao commented: “We have used this new system for one season now and it doesn’t affect our skating so much. We are trying to do our best with the new system – to do some new elements and other new things.”

When asked how they felt about competing against two strong Russian teams on their turf, Zhao replied, “We would like to congratulate the two Russian couples because they skated really well today. The Russian audience is very enthusiastic and we are happy to compete here in Moscow.” He added jokingly, “We can also say that we were at our best when we skated in Beijing [at the Grand Prix Final].

Teammates Zhang and Zhang also produced a solid program, landing side-by-side triple Salchows, a throw triple loop, and a double twist to earn 64.19 points (personal best) for a fourth place finish.

“It was quite good!” said Hao. “But we felt a bit tired. It has been a long season and this is the last competition of the year. For next year, we’re thinking of changing our short program as we’ve skated it for two seasons.”

Comrades Qing Pang and Jian Tong were close behind with 64.02 points. The two-time and reigning Four Continents silver medalists produced side-by-side triple toeloops, a huge throw triple loop, and a high double twist.

“We felt very well out there today,” said Pang. “We’re very satisfied as all our elements were clean. We want to perform even better in the free skating and feel more satisfied.” Pang changed boots a few weeks ago. “It’s [discomfort] improved a lot, but it still affects my jumps.”

Julia Obertas and Sergei Slavnov of Russia finished sixth (61.14) followed by Poland’s Dorota Zagorska and Mariusz Siudek (60.02).

Long Program

Shen and Zhao, who were third after the short, withdrew after the warm-up. Zhao, 31, is still suffering from his achilles tendon injury that kept them out of the Four Continents Championships last month. As a result, 17 pairs moved up one spot overall.

“It is a long time injury on Hongbo Zhao’s ankle,” explained their coach, Bin Yao. “After Four Continents, he trained only every other day, and on some training days he couldn’t jump at all. He can’t do the toeloop. Yesterday he didn’t jump, and the day before yesterday was rest. He only jumped the one time in the short program. He wanted to skate today but he only did a double toeloop in the warmup.”

Performing to Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Totmianina and Marinin opened with side-by-side triple Salchows, followed by a side-by-side triple toeloop-double toeloop combination (Totmianina hopped out of the landing of the last jump). The team also executed a lateral triple twist that was crashy on the landing, but delivered a good throw triple loop, three nice lifts, and a huge throw triple Salchow. The four-time and reigning European champions earned a score of 128.37 (personal best) for a first place finish in the long, and with a total score of 198.49, won the gold.

“Mentally it was very hard to us to skate,” said Totmianina, referring to Shen and Zhao’s withdraw. “Of course we didn’t know that they withdrew. It was unexpected. People came to us and told us we are expected on the ice and we thought, ‘How could we go?’ Maxim did not even have his skates on.”

Totmianina, 23, admitted that she was nervous and felt that it was the hardest competition of her life. “But we still skated with confidence and [we] were solid and we’re happy to have defended the title. It wasn’t the skate of our lives and we hope that one is still to come. I don’t think that the competition became less interesting when Shen and Zhao withdrew. Masha (Petrova) and Lesha (Tikhonov) were in second, and the difference in points wasn’t so big. We could have swapped placements at any time.”

Her partner Marinin added: “We are not exactly satisfied with our performance. One could always do better. But we are first so we are happy. It was a very hard season for us and I am happy that it is over and that everything ended well.”

During practice earlier that day, Hao Zhang and Totmianina collided, shaking up both skaters. “I just stood on the ice, when I suddenly was turned around a 180 degrees,” said Totmianina. “It hurt a lot.”

Skating to The Circus Princess by Emmerich Kálmán, Petrova and Tikhonov opened with a side-by-side double Axel-triple toeloop sequence (Tikhonov hopped out of the landing on the triple), followed by side-by-side triple Salchows (Tikhonov doubled his). The 2005 European bronze medalists also produced a triple twist (crashy landing), a throw triple loop (Petrova stepped out), a good throw triple Salchow, and three good lifts. The six-time and reigning Russian silver medalists earned 121.27 points (personal best) for a second place finish after the long and overall (188.21) to win the silver.

“It’s great to be second,” said Tikhonov. “For a long time we’ve been fourth, and now finally we’re so happy.” The 33-year-old also felt that this was their best program of the season. “We were in excellent shape. We had a few mistakes, but that’s sport. When we show our stuff, then the results will come.”

Tikhonov also felt that his partner had skated better than him. “Today, Maria was great, I wasn’t as good, but we’re happy with the result. Now Russia and China are the superpowers in pair skating. I’m pleased that Russia won this time. The Russian audience helped us a lot. They gave us so much power. We’re looking forward to the Olympics. We’ll try to do more difficult lifts and spins.”

Zhang and Zhang performed their long to In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg, opening with a beautiful lateral triple twist. The 2005 Four Continents champions then attempted a side-by-side double Axel-triple toeloop combination, but Dan couldn’t save the landing on hers and Hao put his hand down. The team went on to produce a good throw triple Salchow, a lift, side-by-side triple Salchows, a throw triple loop (Hao almost lost his balance), and two more lifts. Hao Zhang was holding his lower back in pain when the program ended. Despite the errors, the 2005 Winter Universiade champions earned 116.03 for a third place finish in the long and overall (180.22).

“It was an accidental collision,” said Hao, referring to when he collided with Totmianina earlier that day in practice. “It hurt a lot this morning. We thought of withdrawing, but we wanted to stay in the competition in spite of me having pain. Then I got some Chinese acupuncture in the afternoon. But unfortunately, we were not able to perform our best tonight.” Despite being nervous and lacking his usual strength for the jumps, the 20-year-old was nevertheless happy to have won a world medal.

Skating to the Butterfly Lovers Song, Pang and Tong opened with a huge lateral triple twist followed by a side-by-side triple toeloop-double Axel sequence (Pang stepped out of Axel), and a high throw triple Salchow. The team also attempted side-by-side double Axels, but Pang singled hers. The 2004-05 Grand Prix Final bronze medalists also produced a throw triple loop and three good lifts, earning 113.31 for a fourth place finish after the long and overall (177.33).

“Qing Pang had a lot of problems with her skating boots after she changed them,” explained Tong. “Our program wasn’t too good. The jumps were not solid enough. But it had more flow than the day before yesterday. Maybe we’ll change our long program for next year. We don’t know yet. We’ll see after we get some feedback.”

Obertas and Slavnov produced a huge lateral quadruple twist (crashy landing) in their long to Russian Folk music, but Obertas fell on the throw triple loop. The 2005 European silver medalists earned 113.29 for a fifth place finish in the long and overall (174.43).

“I’m very tired,” claimed Obertas, “but I did all three triple toes for the first time this year in competition! This ice wasn’t so lucky for me for jumps before, but tonight it was. Overall it was ok. At the end, I didn’t have enough strength for the throw [loop]. Too bad, because I usually never miss it. Never!” The 20-year-old added that they didn’t attend practice that morning as it was too early.

Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy moved up to sixth overall (169.02) after placing sixth in the long (110.28).

Zagorska and Siudek finished seventh (107.66) in the long and overall (167.68).

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