Skate America International was held at the World Arena, October 25-28, 2001, in Colorado Springs, Col. This premier international event, conducted annually by the United States Figure Skating Association, begins a new and exciting season of figure skating as the 2002 Winter Olympic Games draw near.
North Americans dominated all four events at Skate America. Reigning World Champion Michelle Kwan won the gold medal over U.S. teammate Sarah Hughes in a 5-2 split decision that did not go over well with the crowd. Both Kwan and Hughes landed six triple jumps, but Hughes had two double Axels to Kwan’s zero, as well as a triple-triple combination. Nevertheless, a majority of judges put Kwan ahead on both the technical merit and presentation marks, giving her the win, the $30,000 prize money, and 12 points in the Grand Prix Series. She will meet Hughes again next week at Skate Canada, where arch rival Irina Slutskaya will also be competing.
Russian Viktoria Volchkova took the ladies bronze medal with a five-triple performance, narrowly edging out Japan’s Shizuka Arakawa, who joined Hughes as the only woman in the competition to land a triple salchow-triple loop combination. American Sasha Cohen’s hopes of being the first woman to complete a quadruple jump unraveled along with the rest of her program, dropping her to fifth overall.
Reigning champion Timothy Goebel defended his title with three quadruple salchows over two programs. The bigger breakthrough, however, is Goebel’s presentation marks. Increased attention to posture and line leave him a formidable challenger for an Olympic medal in February.
Japan’s Takeshi Honda took second with two strong triple Axels and a two-footed quad. Russia’s Alexander Abt dropped to third after making mistakes late in the program. Former U.S. Champion Michael Weiss pulled up to fourth place, while the third U.S. entry, Matt Savoie, took sixth.
Canada’s Jamie Sale and David Pelletier claimed the pairs title for the third consecutive year with a near-perfect program marred only by Sale’s doing a double toe to her partner’s triple. Their program to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, done with the theme of a stem and an orchid, was a hit with audiences and judges alike.
Americans Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman narrowly edged Russians Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin for the silver medal. Ina and Zimmerman earned 9 Grand Prix points and put themselves in strong contention for a spot at the Grand Prix Final in December.
Canadians also took the dance title, with Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz winning with an energetic Michael Jackson medley despite a few mistakes. Israel’s Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovsky upset Lithuania’s Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas for silver. The highest ranked Americans in this competition, Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, placed fifth.
Skate America is the first of six events in the ISU Grand Prix Series, which continues next week at Skate Canada in Saskatoon.