Pechalat and Bourzat dance off with Nebelhorn gold

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France perform to Charlie Chaplin at the 2010 Nebelhorn Trophy.

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France made up for the disappointing short dance and came from behind to claim victory in the dance event at Nebelhorn Trophy on Saturday. Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte slipped to second, while Russia’s Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko dropped from second to third. Team Russia won the “Fritz Geiger Memorial Trophy” ahead of Team USA and Team Canada.

Pechalat and Bourzat put out a charming program to music from Charlie Chaplin that was highlighted by their beautiful lifts. The footwork looked smooth. However, one straight-line lift was graded a level two and the two step sequences got a level two as well. They won the free dance portion and the event at 147.18 points.

The program is an excellent vehicle for the French couple. The mood changes from romantic and melancholic to light and happy. The French Champions were obviously relieved to have won, but they were not satisfied with themselves.

“It was a painful debut,” Bourzat admitted. “Now we have to think through everything again and we need to talk to technical specialists to improve our technical content.”

Our score wasn’t so great,” Pechalat added. “We still have to work a lot.”

The couple also felt it was difficult to compete without a coach. They were all by themselves as there were no other French skaters and no team leader. Coach Oleg Volkov didn’t receive his visa for Germany in time.

Cappellini and Lanotte had opted for two romantic Jazz pieces, Our Love is Easy and Goodnite by Melody Gardot. They earned a level four for their difficult lifts and combination spin, but the step sequences were graded a level one and two only. The Italians finished only fourth in the free dance and had 143.28 points overall.

“We are happy with the way we skated, because it was the best we could do right now,” noted Cappellini. “But the components are pretty low. Now we have to look at the papers and work on the levels. We especially need to work on the second half of our free dance as we lacked energy.”

Riazanova and Tkachenko’s powerful dance to symphonic Mexican music featured a level-three diagonal step sequence, a reverse rotational lift and a nice stationary lift out of the combination spin. The circular step sequence received a level two. The program still lacked flow as it is fairly new. The dancers had to change the program in August after Tatiana Tarasova didn’t like their original choice.

“It was very hard to skate the free dance today as it is new and doesn’t have enough mileage yet,” admitted Tkachenko. “Now we will get home and work on our errors. We’ll think of some new lifts and transitions. We’ll do a lot of run-throughs, and we still have some time before our Grand Prix.”

Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi of Germany portrayed figurines on a musical box and performed to Liebestraum and Four Seasons. They finished fourth. Like in the short dance, the Germans achieved the highest technical score of the 16 teams. They earned a level four for the lifts, the spin and twizzles, and a level three for the two step sequences.

“We are very happy with this result and we are thrilled to have the highest technical score,” Zhiganshina said. “We did all elements clean. Now it is a quick turn around as we’ll compete again next week at the Ondrej Nepela Trophy.”

USA’s Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani recovered from their faulty short dance and were ranked second in the free dance. Their dance was set to Smile and Let’s Face the Music and Dance. The lifts and steps looked effortless and smooth and gained mostly +2 and +1 grades of execution from the panel of judges. The spin and the lifts were a level four, the twizzles a level three, but the two step sequences garnered only a level two and one.

The brother-and-sister team moved up from eighth to fifth in the final standings.

“Today was definitely a personal victory for us,” said Maia. “The short dance obviously wasn’t ideal, but we’re going to work hard and improve on that. For our first (senior) event, I think we’re really happy.”

“It was great to get our feet wet before the Grand Prix season,” added Alex. “We came here for the experience and to understand what it felt like to be at a senior competition and to show our programs. We’ve gotten great feedback this week and we are very encouraged by the result of our free dance.”

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