Golden Skate

Denkova and Staviski win second consecutive World title

Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria perform their "Seven Deadly Sins" routine for the Free Dance at the 2007 World Figure Skating Championships.

The 2007 ISU World Figure Skating Championships continued Friday with the Free Dance.

The podium in the ice dance discipline mirrored that of last year’s.

Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria won their second World title, while Canada’s Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon took the silver. USA’s Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto won the bronze.

Denkova (32) and Staviski (29) interpreted their program to “The Seven Deadly Sins” with riveting dramatic intensity that held the audience spellbound. Skating with speed and flow, the choreography highlighted their wonderful matching lines and soft knees as they performed to an ethereal arrangement of music by W. A. Mozart and selections from the modern Romeo and Juliet soundtrack, receiving a level 4 on all elements except for a dance spin.

The husband-and-wife team also received +GOEs on all their elements by all judges except for one “base” mark (95 of 96 marks).

Donned in white costumes with gold trim, the team opened with synchronized twizzles, followed by a curve lift in which Denkova is standing Staviski’s hand which was behind his back before changing positions to the front. Their intense circular footwork flowed with the music and transitioned nicely into a serpentine lift in which Denkova was vertically upside down before changing to a horizontal position.

During their midline step sequence, the music took on a more celestial tone in which you could hear a baby laughing and gurgling while the team interpreted”good against evil” in their intricate footwork. The defending world champions ended their program with a beautiful combination straight line-rotational lift, followed by an equally sublime straight line lift.

The Bulgarian Champions won the FD with 102.09 points, and with a total score of 201.61 points, maintained first overall to win their second consecutive world title.

“We fought for it,” said Denkova. “We worked very hard. We are very happy we can perform like that. I feel great. Our coach (Natalia Linichuk) cried.”

“This is the brilliant end for us,” said Staviski. “It was a wonderful feeling. I want to thank everybody. It is a wonderful end for us with a second world title.”

“It is wonderful for us to be here and to have won the second gold medal,” added Denkova. “I never thought this is possible. We’ve fought for it since the beginning of the season. We were strong in practices here, we fought every moment. The Japanese crowd was wonderful and supported us.”

“I want to thank our competitors, Marie-France and Patrice,” continued Staviski as he presented Dubreuil with flowers. “They are a very strong team, and it they weren’t, we wouldn’t be as strong.”

When asked to compare the difference of this year’s win from last year, Denkova responded: “Last year, I didn’t understand what happened and that we were first. We had a great response back home in Bulgaria. This year I understand each step I make on the ice. I understand that I fight for it. I feel happier than last year. After winning last year coming from a small country like Bulgaria, I thought it would be very hard for us to win again. Marie and Patrice are strong competitors.”

“We cannot say for a 100% yet now,” Denkova said on their future and possible retirement. “We enjoy performing in shows and in competitions. It is a difficult step to take. Competitions are to much stress when you fight for the podium. We also want to have a private life.”

“I want to have a rest,” said Staviski, “but she’s the president (of the Bulgarian skating federation). She decides. I’m just a skater.”

Skating to At Last by Etta James, Dubreuil (32) and Lauzon (31) set a romantic mood even before the official start. With a long look at each other as their names were announced, Lauzon kissed Dubreuil’s hand before they glided to their opening pose.

With transitions seamlessly linking the elements, the Four Continents Champions began their nostalgic program with two magnificent lifts, a dance spin, and a circular step sequence – all of which were level 4 with +GOEs from all the judges. The straight line lift had Lauzon leaning back in an extreme reverse arabesque position with Dubreuil suspended horizontally above him, and their reverse rotation lift began with Dubreuil in a vertical position supported only by one out-stretched arm.

An almost unnoticeable loss of synchronization on their level 4 twizzle sequence was the only flaw in the program. The 20006-07 Grand Prix silver medalists also impressed with their final spectacular level 4 lifts – a rotational lift and a straight line-curve combination lift, which also received +GOEs from all the judges.

With a score of 100.96, the Canadian Champions placed second in the FD and overall (200.46 points) to win their second consecutive World silver medal.

“We skated with a lot of love and joy,” said Dubreuil. “We just felt really free out there, which felt great. This championship has been great for us. It was our first world championship coming in as medalists from last year, so being the “chased skater” instead of the one “chasing” was a little bit different, but it was a great experience.”

Both skaters enjoyed competing with the Bulgarians and congratulated them.

“They were good competitors,” said Lauzon. “It was good to fight against them for this place. It’s very disappointing to lose a competition with good skating for just 10 hundredths of a second in a lift.”

“We kind of had the gold medal in the corner of our mind,” confessed Dubreuil. “We trained and tried to be the best we can be.”

“Last year the worlds were in Canada,” Dubreuil recalled. “It added to the pressure. After the accident in Torino my body was not 100%, and to get back on that ice after Torino, it was overwhelming and was very hard to skate. When it was all finished, it was like a big dream. We were so happy to be on the world podium for the first time. This year we wanted to be on the podium again. We skated this competition very well with no pain and much less stress. I think I’ll remember more what happened this year than last.”

Belbin (22) and Agosto (25) exhibited a sense of wonderment in their charming dance to music from the Amélie soundtrack. The elements of the program were connected with light and lilting choreography. Though Belbin had a slight stumble during their level 3 twizzle sequence, the 2006 Olympic silver medalists quickly recovered to produce an impressive level 4 lift and a level 4 circular step sequence which was timed perfectly with the music.

A combination curve-rotational lift and a serpentine lift were both highlighted by Belbin’s beautiful positions, receiving +GOEs from all the judges. The team’s level 4 diagonal step sequence demonstrated the playful aspect of the music, and they concluded the program with a level 4 rotational lift with Belbin in catch-foot position.

Despite a deduction for an extended lift, the US Champions earned 96.41 points for a fourth place finish in the FD and were ranked third overall with a total score of 195.43 points.

“Obviously it wasn’t our best,” said Agosto, “but the crowd has been amazing all this week. I think it has been a good season for us. We learned a lot about ourselves and about skating.”

Belbin agreed, adding that is was mostly because of her mistakes.

“I messed up on the twizzle and the lift at the end and went over time so [we] got a deduction for that,” she said. “but we’re very happy to put an end to what feels like a two-year season.”

“I guess we dodged a bullet on that one,” said Agosto on winning the bronze. “We’ve been working hard on this program. Although we didn’t skate very well I guess we did enough.”

“Unfortunately it’s very much in our track record to be low in the compulsories, pull up in the OD and hang onto it in the free dance,” added Belbin. “That seems to be our routine that we follow, but today I just didn’t attack the program with enough confidence, and that’s where mistakes happen. I think the roller coaster is finally at a stop, and we’re really looking forward to having a nice summer to train and finally get our basic skating to another level. I really expect more from us in the future and I think that we can really step it up from this point forward.”

Isabelle Delobel (28) and Olivier Schoenfelder (29) of France became Bonnie & Clyde in their contemporary FD to Les Incorruptibles by Maxime Rodriguez, opening with a one-arm rotational lift, followed by an expressive circular step sequence. The silence of the crowd was broken with applause for each element as they moved through their twizzle sequence, serpentine lift and spin. The level 3 curve lift was the only element not graded a level 4. The French Champions ended their routine with a straight line-rotational combination lift in which Delobel was in a ‘back-bend’ position with Schoenfelder in a spread eagle for the straight line portion. She then grasped her feet as they started to rotate.

The team earned 99.17 points for a third place finish in the FD, but with a total score of 195.19 points, placed fourth overall – missing the podium by a mere 0.25 points.

“We’re happy with how we skated,” said Delobel. “We were beaten by the Americans. Oh well. We have had a good season. We skated some very good programs and we have the victory at the European Championships. We performed better than in the past, so we are pleased with our progress.”

“We skated better here than at Europeans,” added Schoenfelder. “We had more energy. Since we weren’t in the same position (leading), it was mentally not the same. We knew that we had to do a program with no errors to win a medal. We had two small errors that cost us the points we needed.”

Performing a dynamic routine to Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances, Russia’s Oksana Domnina (22) and Maxim Shabalin (25) displayed close holds and matching twizzles in their level 3 diagonal step sequence which flowed with the music, followed by excellent straight line and straight line-rotational lifts. The European silver medalists also produced good synchronized twizzles and a very fast rotational lift with Domnina in a ‘split’ position for which they received +GOEs from all the judges. All of their lifts were level 4 while both their step sequences were level 3.

The Russian Champions earned 95.81 points, placing fifth in the FD and overall (193.44 points).

“We skated very well,” said Shabalin. “It probably was the best performance of the season. We were at 120%. We did our job.”

Canada’s Tessa Virtue (17) and Scott Moir (19) delighted the audience with their enchanting dance to Valse Triste. Even if skated without music, one would have known they were waltzing by observing their light and lyrical steps – true ballroom dancing at it’s finest. Highlights included the intricate and musical circular and diagonal step sequences as well as the combination lift for which they received +GOEs from all the judges.

In their first appearance at Worlds, the Canadian silver medalist received a level 4 with +GOEs for all their elements, earning a new personal best of 95.38 points for a sixth place finish in the FD and overall (183.94 points).

“The energy in the crowd was amazing and it was a blast,” said Virtue. “We were really prepared going into this competition, and feel like we were able to perform as well as we have been practicing.”

“It was certainly a good time to get our personal best,” added Moir. “It was a harder run-through than usual. Maybe it was because of the pressure. We really wanted to make a splash on the senior circuit, and hopefully we have made a great impression.”

USA’s Meryl Davis (20) and Charlie White (19) expressed both power and softness in their performance to Polovetsian Dances by Borodin. Skating with controlled freedom, their program was highlighted with the team’s ability to twizzle in both directions and White’s theatrical leaps.

The US National bronze medalists exhibited speed and attack in their footwork sequences which were done in extremely close holds. The team also received a level four for seven out of their eight elements with +GOEs on all eight, and despite receiving a deduction for an extended lift, earned a new personal best of 92.35 points, placing seventh in the FD and overall (179.14 points).

“We had a personal best even with a deduction!” said a surprised White. “I don’t think we’ve done a run-through this good all year. We have accomplished our goals by skating our best. We had a personal best in both the OD and FD. We’ve been excited all week.”

Russia’s Jana Khokhlova (21) and Sergei Novitski (25) also produced an incredibly well done and magical dance to Aranjuez Mon Amour which featured good synchronized twizzles, as well as four innovative level 4 lifts. The Russian silver medalists earned 89.09 points, placing eighth in the FD and overall (178.29 points).

“The pressure was high,” said Khokhlova. “The competitors are strong and we needed to skate flawlessly. We had some small technical issues.”

“We survived,” added Novitski. “The jet lag hit us tonight and we almost didn’t sleep, therefore it was quite hard. Apparently there was no possibility for us to come earlier to Japan. The jet lag usually hits the hardest on the fourth or fifth day, and today was the fifth day. We’re satisfied with the performance, but it was difficult.”

USA’s Melissa Gregory (25) and Denis Petukhov (28) placed ninth in the FD (86.10 points) and tenth overall (170.08 points).

Highlights of their ‘Adam and Eve’ routine to Preliator and Sarabande by Yoav Goren included a spread-eagle serpentine lift and the circular footwork sequence. The program flowed with the music and six of the elements were graded level 4 while the combination lift received level 4 for the curve and level 3 for the rotational. The only -GOE was on the twizzles when Gregory lost her balance.

“We thought we skated really strong till the end,” said Gregory. “We had a little mishap right before the twizzles, but other than that everything was really strong and solid.”

Federica Faiella (26) and Massimo Scali (27) of Italy placed 11th in the FD, but maintained ninth place overall with a total of 170.75 points.

Faiella was sporting a bandage on her right hand after their performance.

“I cut my hand in the Biellmann position during the first spins but it is not serious,” she said.

“I feel good about our performance today,” said Scali “We skated well, but the scores were not what we expected. This season is over, but I will ask the judges why the levels of some elements were lower today, and we will come back stronger next season.”

Sinead Kerr (28) and John Kerr (26) of Great Britain finished in 11th place overall, followed by France’s Nathalie Pechalat (23) and Fabian Bourzat (26) who were 12th.

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