Golden Skate

Savchenko and Szolkowy defend Grand Prix pairs title

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy

German's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy perform to music from the "Pina" soundtrack.

In what was a high level Pairs event, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany clinched the title in a tight “photo finish” at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, edging out Russia’s Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov by just 0.18 points. Russia’s Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov captured the bronze medal.

Savchenko and Szolkowy were nearly perfect in their wonderful Pina program, opening with a huge throw triple flip followed by a triple toe-triple toe sequence, double Axel, and the throw triple Salchow as the last element. Only the triple twist could have been better.

The three-time World Champions earned a level four for most elements, including two lifts and the spins. They posted a season’s best 142.44 points and won the gold with 212.26 points overall. They also picked up one perfect 10.00 from a judge for choreography.

“My legs were heavy today, it was hard,” Savchenko commented. “It was very close, but this gives us motivation to work even harder. It is exciting if the competition is so close.”

Volosozhar and Trankov gave an excellent performance to the dramatic Black Swan soundtrack that was highlighted by their huge triple twist, side by side triple Salchow, triple toe-double toe, and three level-four lifts. The World silver medalists improved their season’s best by nearly t ten points (140.51) and racked up a total of 212.08 points.

“We are happy that we were able to skate well even though we skated last again,” said Volosozhar. “We are getting used to it. It was very close, but that makes it interesting. We still have to work on the second half of our program. Maxim had an injury and we couldn’t prepare a 100 percent.”

Volosozhar is also suffering from a leg injury. The team will now see doctors in New York and most likely will skip Russian Nationals in order to get healthy for the second half of the season.

Kavaguti and Smirnov came back from their disappointing short program with a strong free skate to Clair de Lune. The 2010 European Champions completed a solid triple toe, a triple twist, and throw triple Salchow, but Kavaguti singled a double Axel. The team from St. Petersburg picked up 126.40 points and collected 187.77 points overall.

“We are pleased with our skate today, there were only little errors,” said Smirnov. “Today I didn’t skate for a placement, I only skated for Yuko, for myself, and for the audience. Judging by the applause we got, I think we were able to transmit the emotion of our program pretty well.”

Skating to a modern arrangement of Totentanz, Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang produced a triple toe-double toe-double toe combination, triple Salchow, level-three triple twist, and throw triple loop and Salchow, but Hao Zhang had to abort the last lift due to pain in his left shoulder. The Chinese team dropped to fourth at 182.54 points.

“I have an injury to my left shoulder, so I could not practice lifts for a month,” explained Hao Zhang. “That led to our mistake today.”

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford missed their triple Lutz and did not receive a level for the death spiral, however, their program to Yellow by Coldplay included a triple twist, throw triple Salchow, and a side by side triple Salchow. The Canadians placed fifth with 170.43 points.

“This was definitely not our best performance,” admitted Duhamel, “but we fought until the end. It is hard to regroup after making a major error on the first element and to continue onto the next ten elements. It becomes a mind game. We nailed our second jump, which shows our good training.”

“We are still learning and growing as a team,” Duhamel added. “We did not feel any pressure competing at home. We love competing with the top skaters.”

Japan’s Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran finished sixth at 164.42 points as Takahashi struggled with the solo jumps and also fell on the throw triple Salchow.

“We did not feel anything different or special (training close to home),” said Tran. “The only exception there is no jet lag, so I can sleep well. Musically, we were on time, which we were hoping for. The second mark was not high. We are not skating as strong, but it is not too big of a problem because we are still up the curb. The important thing is learning from this experience.”

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