2006 Skate Canada: Pairs Highlights

The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series continued with HomeSense Skate Canada International, the second of six qualifying events. The event was held from November 2-5 at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, BC. Over 60 skaters from 15 different countries competed for points and monies totaling $180,000 in U.S. dollars. The points go toward qualification for the Grand Prix Final, to which the top six competitors in points standings from each discipline will be invited to compete for a total purse of $272,000 U.S. dollars. The Grand Prix Final will be held Dec 14-17, 2006, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China easily captured the gold, while USA’s Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr. battled for and won the silver. Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin of Canada settled for the bronze by a mere .13 point difference.

Short Program

Skating to Spanish Caravan and Hello I Love You by The Doors, Zhang and Zhang opened their routine with their renown huge lateral triple twist followed by a throw triple loop, side-by-side triple Salchows, and a level four lift. The 2006 Olympic silver medalists also produced a good spiral sequence and spins, earning 69.54 points (personal best) for a first place finish after the short.

“It was a quite satisfying performance,” said Dan Zhang, adding that they arrived late and were only able to practice twice. “I think we just have one problem,” added Hao Zhang jokingly, “[and] that’s tomorrow’s free skating. We didn’t practice our free program [here], and I hope we will skate well tomorrow.” His partner suffered a fall during the Olympics last year, injuring her knee. Hao revealed that they only begun training in August due to the injury.

Marcoux and Buntin had a bad start in their routine to Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White when Buntin fell on the landing of the side-by-side triple toeloops. The three-time and reigning Canadian Champions recovered to execute a good double twist, a spread eagle into a throw triple loop, and a level four lift, earning 58.14 points for a second place finish after the short.

“A stupid mistake,” said Buntin of the fall. “I hope to never ever do it again. Aside from that, the performance was great. It was the first time I’ve actually been back to BC (British Columbia) to skate since moving from here [to Montreal]. Being back in front of a home crowd felt great.”

Inoue and Baldwin delivered a decent routine to Steve Fisk’s Soul of Spain, landing good side-by-side double Axels, a double twist, synchronized side-by-side spins, and a level four lift. However, Inoue stepped out of the landing on the throw triple Axel and Baldwin stumbled during the spiral sequence. The two-time and reigning US Champions earned 55.20 points for a third place finish after the short.

“It definitely wasn’t our best performance,” admitted Inoue. “For me to slip in the spiral sequence was disappointing,” added Baldwin.

Canada’s Elizabeth Putnam and Sean Wirtz finished fourth with 53.82 points. The 2006 Four Continents bronze medalists produced good side-by-side triple Salchows and a difficult lift, however, the throw triple twist was low, crashy, and short a rotation.

USA’s Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent were fifth with 49.50 points, followed by Angelika Pylkina and Niklas Hogner of Sweden, who finished sixth (47.02).

Long Program

Overnight leaders Zhang and Zhang skated to gold after their performance to last year’s program – The Offspring of Dragons by Hou De Jian. The 2006 World silver medalists hit their opening throw triple Salchow, but on the double Axel-triple toeloop combination, Dan singled the Axel and doubled the toeloop while her partner put a hand down on the toeloop. The team recovered to produce a good lateral triple twist, three difficult lifts, a huge throw triple loop, and side-by-side triple Salchows. The team also displayed good spins and and spirals, earning a score of 121.43 for first in the long and overall (190.97).

“We made one mistake on our first jump,” admitted Hao Zhang. “We didn’t have much time to get used to this ice rink [and] we only had one free skating practice here this morning. I didn’t feel secure on the jump. I hope that we can do better next time.”

Inoue and Baldwin also experienced some problems in their routine to selections by Puccini. Baldwin fell on the opening side-by-side triple toeloops and stumbled on the second jump of a double Axel-double Axel sequence. Inoue also had a somewhat shaky landing on the throw triple loop. The 2006 Four Continents Champions otherwise did well, executing a double twist, a solid throw triple Axel, and good lifts and pair spins. The Olympians earned 111.12 points for a second place finish in the long, and with a total score of 166.32, moved up from third to win the silver.

“I think the program is right there where I expected it to be at this point,” stated Baldwin. “We don’t really expect perfection right now. What we did expect to do tonight was -and we accomplished it – [was] the throw triple Axel. We were really focused on that and we knew it was going to happen tonight.”

Marcoux and Buntin debuted a new program to L’Amour by Osvaldo Montes, completing their opening triple toeloop-double toeloop sequence and a nice double twist. However, Marcoux fell on the side-by-side double Axels while Buntin landed on his toepick at a dead stop. Marcoux also stepped out of the landings on her throw triple loop and throw triple Salchow. Despite the mistakes, the Olympians displayed a good spiral sequence and difficult lifts, earning 108.05 points for a third place finish in the long. With a total score of 166.19, the team slipped to third overall to win their second consecutive Skate Canada bronze medal.

“We’re disappointed,” revealed Buntin. “We’ll sit back and analyze what happened. Right now we’re just a little disappointed because we made some really big strides this summer and the program has felt so great this whole summer and fall. I think we just expected a little bit too much of ourselves out there. We went out and tried to take too big a step.”

Putnam and Wirtz placed fourth in the long (104.89) and overall (158.71) after their routine to Tchaikovski’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The Canadians produced a good routine which featured difficult lifts and a side-by-side triple Salchow-double flip sequence, but Putnam singled her Axel on the side-by-side double Axels.

Vise and Trent attempted a throw quadruple Salchow but Vise fell on the landing. They maintained fifth place overall with a score of 150.46 points, while Pylkina and Hogner dropped from sixth to eighth overall.

Senior newcomers, Kendra Moyle and Andy Seitz of the USA, moved up from seventh place to sixth overall.

Skate Canada was a scoring event for Zhang and Zhang (15 points) and for Marcoux and Buntin (11 points). Marcoux and Buntin compete next week at COC, but it will be a non-scoring event, while Zhang and Zhang will compete again in two weeks at Trophee Eric Bompard, also a non-scoring event. Inoue and Baldwin (13 points) will also compete (for points) at Trophee Eric Bompard, along side Putnam and Wirtz (9 points).

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