Savchenko and Szolkowy capture gold at NHK
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany maintained their overnight lead after the long program, winning the gold with more than 24 points total.
USA’s Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker rose from fourth to capture the silver, while Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison of Canada won the bronze.
Savchenko and Szolkowy, who are competing in their third grand prix event this season, scored a seasonal best of 120.32 (58.64/61.68) points in their long program to L’Oiseau by René Dupéré.
The German champions opened with a solid throw triple flip which earned the team +1.12 GoEs. They followed up with a side-by-side triple toeloop-double Axel sequence, a level two triple twist, and a level four lift.
Once again, however, they experienced problems on their side-by-side triple Salchows when Szolkowy stumbled on his landing. Savchenko also popped a throw triple Salchow – their final element.
“It is just a second and then it’s gone,” explained Savchenko of the popped throw jump. “I did a mistake,” added Szolkowy. “I was too fast (early). This is something I need to improve for the next competition.”
The 2007 Skate Canada champions otherwise produced two more level four lifts, a level four spiral sequence, and a level three straightline footwork sequence – all of which received positive GoEs. With a total score 190.64 points, the team easily distanced themselves from the rest of the competitors to win the gold.
McLaughlin and Brubaker placed second in the long with a new personal best of 110.82 (60.18/50.64) points, finishing second overall with a total score of 166.48 points.
“It was one of our best skates this year,” said Brubaker, “but that’s what we train for every day. Today we found ourselves in kind of a different place for the long program. We learned a lot from [Cup of China]. Today we just went out and did what we do in practice every day and it kind of fell into place.”
The U.S. Junior champions opened with a solid level one triple twist, but then McLaughlin put her hand down on the landing of a throw triple Salchow. The team also struggled with their landings on the side-by-side double Axels, but recovered to land side-by-side triple Salchow-double toeloops and a clean throw triple loop.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to make the Final,” said Brubaker. “We knew we were coming up against some great teams, so coming here, our goal was to stay in the top four to ensure a slot.”
Dube and Davison, who are also competing in their third grand prix event, earned 102.05 (53.17/50.88) points for their routine to an instrumental version of Blowers Daughter by Damien Rice.
The 2007 Skate America champions opened with a level two double twist, but then Davison popped his second jump o a side-by-side double Axel-double Axel sequence. Dube later fell on her jump on the side-by-side triple Salchows, as well as a throw triple Lutz.
Despite the mistakes, the Canadian champions otherwise produced a throw triple loop, three level four lifts, a level four spiral sequence, and two level four spins.
“Competition is what we do,” said Davison when asked about competing in non-scoring event. “It’s not necessarily the points (for the Grand Prix standings) that motivate [us] the most. We love to come to Japan. Even if it’s a non-scoring event, it’s a good opportunity to go out and try a few new things before the Final.”
Ukrainians Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov, who stood in second after the short, placed fifth in the long (90.67 points), and slipped to fourth overall (150.81 points). The team struggled throughout their program, making mistakes on all their jump elements (including both throws), as well as aborting their final lift.
Teammates Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay placed fourth in the long with 91.09 points, but with a total score of 145.33 points, remained in fifth overall.
All three medalists from this event have qualified for the Grand Prix Final (GPF) which will be held Dec. 13-16, 2007, in Torino, Italy.
They will compete against China’s Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang, Qing Pang and Jian Tong, and Russia’s Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov.
Should one of the top six pair teams withdraw, Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov of Russia are currently next in line to fill the slot.