Skate Canada, the second in a series of six Grand Prix events, was held in Quebec City from October 31 to November 3. Many of the original headliners – such as Olympic champions Alexei Yagudin, Sarah Hughes, and Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze – pulled out with injury, but the competition featured strong a level of skating across the four disciplines.
In the absence of Yagudin, the men’s event boiled down to a battle between world bronze medalist Takeshi Honda and Canada’s rising star Emanuel Sandhu. Honda faltered in the short, missing his quadruple toe loop combination but otherwise completing his eight elements to earn scores of up to 5.7. Sandhu nailed his quadruple toe-triple toe combination, triple Axel, and triple lutz and finished to a rousing standing ovation. His marks of 5.3-5.8 for technical merit and 5.6-5.9 for presentation easily put him in the lead. France’s Stanick Jeannette stood third after completing a triple Axel-double toe combination, a triple lutz, and a double Axel.
In the free skate, Sandhu did not complete a quadruple jump, falling on his toe loop and doubling his salchow. He did, however, land six triple jumps (including two triple Axels) to earn a silver medal with marks ranging from 5.4 up to 5.9. Honda completed his quadruple toe loop and quadruple salchow, but he failed to complete a triple Axel, doubling the first attempting and stepping out of the second attempt. Lacking a combination, Honda improvised a triple loop-double toe loop near the end of his program to avoid a deduction. His marks of 5.6 to 5.8 were enough to pull him up to the top of the podium.
The surprise bronze medalist, Russian upstart Stanislav Timchenko, skated a program to “Jesus Christ Superstar” reminiscent in style to Olympic silver medalist Evgeny Plushenko. Timchenko completed a triple Axel-triple toe and five other triples to win his first-ever Grand Prix medal.
The two Americans, Derrick Delmore and Ryan Bradley, each completed a triple Axel but did not cleanly land a quadruple jump. They finished fifth and sixth respectively, just ahead of Canadian bronze medalist Jeffrey Buttle, whose complex free skate to Elgar’s Cello Concerto included just one clean triple jump.
In the ladies event, U.S. silver medalist Sasha Cohen claimed the title despite some fluky mishaps in her programs. After completing all three requiring jumping passes in her short program to “Malaguena,” Cohen fell on her footwork. Nevertheless, she was a strong first, just ahead of Japan’s Fumie Suguri and Russia’s Viktoria Volchkova, who each had problems on the triple flip.
Cohen opened her free skate strongly, with two triple lutz jumps, a triple flip combination, and a triple loop. Problems began when she fell on a triple toe loop intended to be part of a triple-triple sequence. She later singled a triple salchow attempt, leaving her with a total of just four clean triples. Despite the problems, the 18-year-old who relocated from California to Newington, Conn. to work with Tatiana Tarasova wowed the audience with her spins and spirals. She earned marks of 5.3-5.7 for technical merit and 5.7-5.8 for presentation, keeping her in first place.
Suguri debuted a new free skate to “Swan Lake” and opened strongly with a triple lutz combination and a triple flip. She ran into problems when she singled a planned triple toe loop and doubled a planned triple loop, but she fought back with a clean second triple lutz and triple salchow. Her marks of up to 5.7 retained second place.
Viktoria Volchkova of Russia had a rough free skate, marred by a fall on a triple flip and stumbles on a double loop and double Axel. Volchkova completed just three triple jumps, yet she tied for third in the free skate with Canada’s Jennifer Robinson, who completed five clean triple jumps and came close to landing a triple salchow-triple loop combination. Volchkova earned marks as low as 4.7 but as high as 5.7, winning her a controversial bronze medal.
The second American, Jennifer Kirk, finished sixth with a fall in both her short and free programs. The other Canadian ladies, Annie Bellemare and Michelle Currie, were seventh and eighth respectively. Currie landed six clean triple jumps, the most of any woman in the event.
The top three pairs from Skate America continued on to Skate Canada, and once again Russia’s Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin emerged the victors. After an uncharacteristic fall in the short program, Totmianina and Marinin landed two side-by-side triples and two throw triples in their free skate to “Cotton Club.” The world silver medalists received marks of up to 5.8 for both technical merit and presentation.
China’s Qing Pang and Jian Tong moved up from third at Skate America to second at Skate Canada. Known for their explosive moves, Pang and Tong gave the audience a scare when he nearly failed to catch her on their triple twist – a daring move in which Pang is at least ten feet above the ice. Pang and Tong completed side-by-side double Axels and triple toe loops and throw triple salchow and triple loop. Their only major error came when Pang fell on a second attempt at a double Axel.
Finishing right behind them were Canada’s Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto. Fighting an ankle injury, Langlois landed both of her throw jumps, but made errors on the side-by-side triple toe loop and salchow.
In the ice dance event, Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov of Ukraine continued the winning streak that they began at Skate America. Skating to Bond’s “Quixote,” Grushina and Goncharov earned marks of up to 5.8.
Canadian silver medalists, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, were second with a free dance composed especially for them. Skating to soft music without many highlights, the program drew a mixed reaction and mixed scores from the judges. Technical merit marks ranged from 5.0-5.6 and presentation ranged from 5.2-5.8.
In an upset, Russia’s Svetlana Kulikova and Arseny Markov, an unranked team at the world level, defeated the fifth-ranked team of Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski in the free dance. Denkova and Staviski’s original dance drew controversy for failing ot meet the ISU requirement of “Grand Ballroom,” and their free dance offered little in the way of anything new. Kulikova and Markov wowed the audience with fast footwork and excellent lifts, earning their first Grand Prix medal.
The crowd favorites, Italians Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, finished just behind Kulikova and Markov in fifth place. Their Latin-themed free dance was more traditional, with an abundance of dance holds, speed, and expression.
The Grand Prix continues next week in Gelsenkirchen, Germany with the Nations Cup.