Belbin and Agosto upset Russians in China

USA’s Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto upset Russia’s Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, who had been holding onto first place throughout the competition, winning the gold by a 14 point gap.

“Whatever result came through, most importantly we were very pleased with the progress that our free dance has made in just one week at home between our first Grand Prix at Skate America and this one,” said Belbin.

Italy’s Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali held onto third place, winning their second consecutive grand prix bronze this season.

Performing to selections of music by Chopin, Belbin and Agosto opened with a beautiful serpentine lift with Belbin in a catch-foot position, followed by synchronized twizzles, and a very good circular step sequence.

The U.S. champions went on to produce four more lifts and a good midline step sequence. All eight of their elements were awarded a level four, and the team placed first in the free dance with 98.41 points.

With a total score of 195.11, the Americans edged out the Russians to win first place overall.

“I think that this free dance has a lot of potential,” shared Belbin. “Hopefully now we can raise the original dance and compulsory dances to match it. But hopefully we’ll have many more performances like this.”

Faiella and Scali put out a solid free dance to selections of music from the Yentl soundtrack which featured four level four rotational lifts, a level four midline step sequence, a difficult level three serpentine step sequence, and synchronized twizzles.

The Italian champions placed second in the free dance (90.62 points) and third overall with 181.10 points.

“We did a great job,” commented Scali. “Not just today, but in all the [dances]. We felt very confident. We had a little mistake at Skate America, but today everything was good, and we’re especially happy about our second place in the free dance.”

Skating to Waltz from Masquerade, Domnina and Shabalin opened with good synchronized twizzles, followed by a level two midline step sequence with twizzles, a curve lift, and a curve-rotational combination lift.

During a spin, however, Shabalin accidentally lifted his partner off the ice which resulted in the spin being scored as a level one stationary lift. As a result, their final level four reverse rotation lift was not counted, and the Russian champions received a one point deduction for an extra element.

“Oksana wobbled in the spin and I held her tighter,” explained an upset Shabalin. “I didn’t even notice that her feet left the ice. We just had changed the entry into the spin and it had been going very well.”

Domnina knew immediately that they had made a mistake and wouldn’t get credit for the final lift.

“An error like this happened in practice before, but never in competition,” said Domnina. “We are quite upset about it. We were able to give the best on the first two days of the competition, but today we just couldn’t pull ourselves together.”

The defending champions placed third in the free dance with 87.69 points, and with a total score of 188.66, slipped to second place overall.

Israel’s Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski delivered a good dance which featured four level four lifts and synchronized twizzles, but the brother-and-sister team received a deduction for an extended lift. They finished fourth in the FD (78.79 points) and overall (161.86 points).

Ukrainians Anna Zadorozhniuk and Sergei Verbillo placed fifth in the free dance with 75.63 points, maintaining sixth place overall with a total score of 150.18 points.

Sinead Kerr and John Kerr of Great Britain received a deduction for an extra element when they performed a second curve lift (not scored). They placed sixth in the FD, but with a total score of 152.99, maintained fifth place overall.

Xintong Huang and Xun Zheng of China finished seventh.

With two Grand Prix wins under their belts, Belbin and Agosto have qualified for the Grand Prix Final next month in Italy

Domnina and Shabalin, who earned 13 points, will in two weeks in their home country at Cup of Russia.

Faiella and Scali, who had 11 points from Skate America, now have a total of 22 points.

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