Golden Skate

Kavaguti and Smirnov win gold

Russia's Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov perform to DeBussy's Claire de Lune for the Long Program at Cup of Russia.

Russia’s Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov maintained their overnight lead to win gold. Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran of Japan took silver, while USA’s Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig captured the bronze.

Heavy favorites Kavaguti and Smirnov almost succeeded in producing a perfect birthday present for Kavaguti, who turned 29 on the day of the long program. In many ways the debut of their new program to Claire de Lune could not have been better: clean jumping passes, a powerful and emotional performance, and an overwhelming reception from the enthusiastic crowd.

The only fly in this ointment was the final lift, which Smirnov has described as “the most beautiful in the program”, that received no points at all. While it did not affect the overall outcome, the skaters were at loss to explain what went wrong at the press conference.

“You know, I have just gotten an idea of what might have happened, but if I am right, I think the penalty was too hard,” said Smirnov. “Well, it is not my birthday, I guess.”

Otherwise everything went well.

“It was the first time we skated the new long choreographed by Peter Tchernyshev,” he continued. “There were so many spectators and such a great support! We made all the hard elements well enough, but there is some work to be done. But we are thrilled to win here in Moscow on Yuko’s birthday.”

Despite the long break from skating, the team was not surprised to skate a good program in competition.

“We have been aiming at skating at least as good as we did with clean jumping passes and strong elements,” explained Smirnov. “We have been skating together for four years and we have a lot to show for it.”

“It was our only Grand Prix event this season,” explained Kavaguti. “So our main goal was to show everyone that we are back. I think we have succeeded at that.”

Their future plans and the strategy of preparing for nationals remain in their coach hands.

“We will do as Tamara Moskvina tells us to do,” said Smirnov. “We trust her judgment explicitly. Our job is to skate like she tells us to.”

Takahashi and Tran remained in second place overall despite finishing third in the long. The highlight of the Japanese skaters’ performance was the intricate choreography of their El Dia Que Me Quieras routine. However, even though they have set a new personal record with that skate, technically it was far from perfect. Takahashi fell on her opening triple Salchow and later stumbled out of the landing of the first double Axel in sequence.

“The long program was not easy for us, it was quite difficult,” said Tran. “I don’t know what to say.”

His partner, whoever, had a couple of words to add: “Today it wasn’t a great skating, but we skated like at home, so there is not much to say about it. We got second place and the silver medal so we are very happy. This is all I can say.”

Despite their young age, the team was attempting to treat their Argentine tango-inspired program with maturity.

“It’s all about passion, ups and downs,” explained Tran. “There are times we are together when it’s a bit rougher, and then we are happy together and then there are points when we are not happy. It’s all about relationships.”

Evora and Ladwig pulled up to the third place to win the first Grand Prix medal of their career. The Americans once again ran into trouble with their side by side jumps: a triple toe loop on which Evora fell was downgraded to a double, and a double Axel was marked as underrotated. On the positive side, however, they were the only team to receive level two for the triple twist. All other elements gained good levels and grades of execution.

“Overall we are very happy with the way we skated today,” said Evora. “Getting a bronze medal here is a bonus. Our main goal was to improve on our performance at Cup of China. Today we got 10 points more for our long program, so we have definitely achieved this goal, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.”

Her partner agreed and thanked their coaching team for brining them to this level. “They brought us up and things are getting better and better,” he said.

“This medal is a dream come true,” admitted Evora. “We have been at the Grand Prix circuit for a while and it has always been our aim. It is an improvement over the last season. It is our first press conference and also the first time we competed in Russia. We love it here.”

The students of Jim Peterson and Lyndon Johnston performed to Nessun Dorma by Puccini and said that their program is a story of courtship.

“It’s about a gentlemen who goes to win the lady’s heart and he finally won her over,” Evora explained. “The slow part is where the love story really begins to develop.”

Russia’s Katarina Gerboldt and Alexander Enbert failed to secure a Grand Prix medal at their first attempt. Ironically, it was not pair skating elements that let the students of Tamara Moskvina down, but the side by side jumps. Gerboldt stepped out of the opening triple toe loop and was unable to complete the three-jump combination, and later stumbled out of triple Salchow and two-footed the landing of throw triple flip.

Nevertheless, a fourth-place finish is a good result for the team which has only been together for six months.

“The mere fact that we compete here is already a success,” said Enbert. “Our coaches congratulated us. We have tried to do our best and we kept fighting till the very end.”

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