Golden Skate

Kavaguti and Smirnov win second gold of the season at NHK Trophy

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia won their second consecutive Grand Prix gold this season at NHK Trophy.

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia rallied from fifth place to win the Pairs title at NHK Trophy Saturday, their second consecutive gold on the Grand Prix this season. Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran of Japan took the silver medal, while three-time World Champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany dropped to third after a disappointing performance.

Kavaguti and Smirnov did exactly what the Germans had done at Skate America – they came back strong in the free skating and won the event. The Russians nailed a triple toe, triple twist, triple throw loop and Salchow in their routine to Clair de Lune. The only mistake came when she stepped out of the double Axel. The 2010 European Figure Skating Champions scored 122.49 points and racked up 177.51 points overall.

“We feel great about our performance today and I am glad that we were able to pull ourselves together after the unfortunate Short Program yesterday,” said Smirnov.

“Yesterday I was too excited that I had the chance to skate in Japan,” the Japanese-born Kavaguti explained. “Today I was able to calm down and I relied on my partner Sascha. He helped me a great deal.”

With two victories, the 2010 European Champions now lead the Grand Prix standings and are qualified for the Final next month.

Takahashi and Tran turned in a decent performance to the elegant Concerto de Québec. They produced a triple twist, level four-spins and lifts, as well as a throw triple Salchow. However, Takahashi underrotated the triple toe and the triple Salchow and stepped out of the throw triple toe. The World Junior bronze medalists earned 114.20 points and remained in second place at 172.09 points.

“We were able to show some strong skating, but I know that there are errors that we want to fix,” noted Takahashi. “So I will work on those areas as the season progresses.”

“This was probably the best free skate we’ve ever done and I am happy we did it in Japan,” Tran added.

The Japanese-Canadian duo now has to wait and see if a second and a fourth place from Skate Canada will be enough to get them to the Final.

Savchenko and Szolkowy had an off-day. The first element, the big throw triple flip, was strong, but things went downhill from there. Szolkowy doubled both triple toes and both skaters singled the Axel. They also ran out of energy and had to abort the final lift. In addition, Savchenko stumbled on the throw triple Salchow. Their innovative program to Pina still got deservedly the highest component scores. The three-time World Champions scored a mere 112.45 points and had to settle for third with 171.68 points overall.

“We are not very happy,” said Szolkowy. “We wanted to skate better than yesterday, but it turned out the other way round. Sometimes there are days like that and it happened to us. There was no real problem, nothing was hurting or anything like that, but sometimes it is just not working. Yesterday and today were such days.”

At least Savchenko found her smile again. With a first and a third place in the Grand Prix so far, the Germans have qualified for the Final as well. They will meet Kavaguti and Smirnov again at the Cup of Russia.

Italians Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek gave a solid performance to Albinoni’s Adagio that featured a triple toe-double toe-double toe combination and a throw triple Salchow, but they risked only a double twist and throw double loop. The couple slipped one spot to fourth at 163.83 points, but they weren’t upset.

“The important thing is, that in both the short and the long program we fight from the beginning to the end,” shared Berton. “The audience was with us. We were ready to fight and we fulfilled that goal. It wasn’t an easy competition and we are glad to do the exhibition.”

USA’s Caydee Denney and John Coughlin skated well with only one big error when she went down on the throw triple loop. However, they shouldn’t smile all the way through Nessun Dorma as the opera Turandot is rather dramatic. The Americans came fifth (163.75 points).

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