Kawaguchi and Smirnov win gold at Russian Nationals
Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov defended their title, while Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov slipped to second place. Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze moved up one spot to capture the bronze.
Kawaguchi and Smirnov delivered an almost perfect performance to I Pagliacci by Leoncavallo. Their only mistakes were a flawed catch on the triple twist and a slight touchdown with hand and free foot by Kawaguchi on the landing of a throw quad Salchow.
All other elements, including their side-by-side sequence of two triple toe loops, solo double Axels, and throw triple loop were clean. Compared to their performance at Cup of Russia in Moscow, the team was more inspired and their interpretation of the theme became more coherent and apparent through their moves. The couple posted an impressive 135.91 points in the long program and 201.09 overall.
“We did all the elements today, so on the technical side everything was fine,” said Smirnov at the post event press conference. “We tried to hold back a bit on choreography, not to get carried away to avoid slips on the easy elements or transitions like we had at Cup of Russia, but I think it was the best performance of the season.”
The team has not set any goals for the European Championships except to skate both programs clean and to enjoy it. “I’m a bit worried about our short program,” admitted Smirnov, “because at the beginning of the season we were skating it well, but in the last competitions we kept making mistakes during it. We have to work on it.”
Mukhortova and Trankov once again failed to deliver a clean long program. The 2008 European silver medalists modified the layout of the elements after the Grand Prix Final in Korea in order to maximize their chances of landing all jumping passes, but so far their efforts were for naught.
Trankov fell on the opening triple toe loop (in combination with a double toe) and later doubled a planned triple Salchow. Mukhortova slightly two-footed the landing of a throw triple loop and put a hand down on a throw triple Salchow. The couple impressed the audience with their playful routine to The Lady and Hooligan, and they are obviously more comfortable with its complex choreography than they have been since the beginning of the season.
However, the numerous mistakes prevented last year’s silver medalists from recapturing the title they won in 2007. With 117.63 points for the long program, they only accumulated 185.66 overall to finish a distant second.
“I’ve lost 6 kilograms since the Grand Prix Final in Korea,” explained Trankov. “It’s a funny feeling. I never felt so light. Everything is so easy now. I am just not accustomed to it.”
The couple also changed their costumes before the Grand Prix Final. “Well, I’m portraying a young lady,” explained Mukhortova, “and the lady usually has more than one dress. I actually have another one as well.”
“As a hooligan I just have one [pair of] pants and a torn short,” added Trankov.
Iliushechkina and Maisuradze won the first Senior medal of their career – the bronze, however their performance in the long program was far from perfect. Iliushechkina fell on an underrotated triple toe loop and later missed the landing of a double Axel. The 2008-2009 Junior Grand Prix Final Champions landed both their throws and performed intricate in-between moves, but the second part of their program once again felt somewhat rushed and insecure. The team received 109.86 points for the long and 167.44 points overall.
“We are constantly changing our long program from Senior to Junior format and back,” explained Iliushechkina. “It’s difficult for us. I cannot be satisfied with my performance today, but my partner did well. You see, it works for us like this: at one competition when we miss one element, next time we concentrate on doing it well. Then something else falls apart. But it’s ok, we are still learning.”
“I promise you we will do better next time,” added Maisuradze.
When asked about the upcoming European Championships, Iliushechkina confessed that they do not have any particular goals set in terms of placements. She is, however, looking forward to sharing the ice with her hero, Aliona Savchenko of Germany.
Ksenia Krasilnikova and Konstantin Bezmaternikh were not able to secure a medal. The reigning World Junior Champions opened their performance to music from the Pirates of Caribbean soundtrack with nice side-by-side double flips and a triple twist with slightly flawed catch, but made mistakes on both throw jumps. Krasilnikova also stepped out of the first double Axel and singled the second one in sequence, and the pair had some problems executing their complex straightline step sequence. They scored 100.44 for the long program and 160.12 points overall for fourth place.
Anastasia Martiusheva and Alexei Rogonov finished fifth (96.06 points) in the long program, but sixth overall (147.33 points). The couple executed all the transitions in an intricate and well choreographed routine to Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, but made mistakes on most of the jumping passes. Martiusheva put a hand down on a throw triple loop, fell on a throw triple Salchow, and stepped out of the second double Axel in sequence.
Sabina Imaikina and Andrei Novoselov opened their Mask of Zorro routine with a nice triple twist and landed both throw jumps, but Imaikina underrotated the throw triple Salchow and later had to fight for the landings of both jumps in the double Axel-double Axel sequence. The couple received 94.07 points and placed fifth overall with 149.42 points.