Golden Skate

Shibutani and Shibutani take second Grand Prix gold of the season

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani

USA’s Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani perform their free dance at 2016 Cup of China.

USA’s Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani came out strong in the free dance to claim their second Grand Prix gold medal this season at 2016 Cup of China. Overnight leaders Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada had to settle for the silver medal, while Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin secured the bronze.

The Shibutanis looked smooth and confident in their dance which is set to Arvo Pärt’s “Mirror in Mirror” performed by Anne Akiko Meyers and Akira Eguchi. The World silver medalists did not leave any points on the table, earning a level four for the lifts, twizzles and combination spin, while the footwork was graded a level three. The brother-and-sister team scored 111.90 points, not much below their season’s best, and with 185.13 points overall, they overtook Weaver and Poje.

“We love our material this year, and so we’re able to step out on the ice very confident,” said Alex Shibutani. “We were confident going into today’s free dance and were happy with our performance,”

“Last season was a huge breakthrough and step forward for us, we felt like we really grew,” said his sister when asked about their program choice. “After the World Championships, when we were looking to create both our new programs, we wanted to take what we feel is our strength. Our free dance is about how we are moving forward as a team and that’s why we call it ‘Evolution.'”

Weaver and Poje put in a strong performance to “Concierto de Aranjuez,” however, a level two in their diagonal footwork proved costly. The Canadians were ranked second in the free dance and slipped to second at 181.54 points overall.

“We just want to keep on making progress every time we’re out and we felt like we stepped up our performance from Moscow,” said Poje. “Now we go home and take the time to analyze where we could be stronger and work on those details and make sure next time we’re out, we progress even more.”

“This season is all about building,” added Weaver. “We had a coaching change and change of location. We started learning again from the beginning, building out technique from step one, and that takes time. It is not always an instantaneous result. Now we have time to go back again and keep building. We didn’t make any major mistakes here today, but everything can get better. We have to max out every single level.”

Stepanova and Bukin performed a characteristic Argentine Tango and had the same levels as the winners. The reward was a new personal best score of 105.32 points in the free dance and a total of 177.41 points.

“This is a very important result for us,” said Stepanova. “It motivates us and shows us that we are competitive with the top teams. For the first time, we got more than 100 points (in the free dance), which is very nice. This is just the beginning for us. We want to go from there and continue working.”

The tango seems to be a popular theme this year. Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia produced an excellent performance to “Tango Ballet” with top levels. Nevertheless, they remained in fourth place at 171.54 points. The crowd also enjoyed Poland’s Natalia Kaliszek and Maksim Spodyrev’s “Dirty Dancing” program in which they earned 150.78 points for sixth place.

In the short dance, Weaver and Poje surprisingly edged out Shibutani and Shibutani for the lead. The Canadians improved their levels compared to Rostelecom Cup. The twizzles were a level three, although Poje had a wobble. The Shibutanis, on the other hand, only had a level two for the partial step sequence, which is part of the Blues pattern dance. Stepanova and Bukin looked improved over Skate Canada where a few low levels had held them down. The young Russians received over 70 points for the first time.

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