The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series resumed with the Cup of China in Beijing, the third of six qualifying events. The competition took place at the Capital Gymnasium from Nov 6-9, 2003. Sixty-six skaters from 13 countries and regions participated in the first senior ISU Grand Prix Figure Skating event to be hosted by China.
The new judging system – Code of Points (CoP), showed it’s teeth when Elena Liashenko from Ukraine jumped from seventh to first place to seize the gold. Japans’s Yoshie Onda won silver while her compatriot, Fumie Suguri, won the bronze.
Liashenko earned a total segment score of 51.18 points for her short program to Raul di Blasio’s Otonal. Though the program was riddled with errors, the 27-year-old from Kiev earned 26.64 points for her program components score.
Onda, who skated last in the short, nailed a solid triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, a triple flip, and a double Axel. The 20-year-old also displayed fast, well-centered spins in her program to Three Preludes by George Gershwin, earning a total segment score of 56.48 points.
Suguri, skated to a classical version of Paint it Black by the Rolling Stones for her short program. The Japanese champion landed a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, a triple flip, a double Axel, and showed strong spins. The student from Waseda University scored 60.28 points, winning the overall short.
Liashenko bounced back her long program to the Frida soundtrack by Elliot Goldenthal with a stronger performance. The Ukrainian exectued a triple lutz-double toeloop combination, four triples (flip, toeloop, Salchow, and Lutz), a double Axel, and nice spins. The 1995 European bronze medalist scored 102.36 points.
“I’m just thrilled,” a very happy Liashenko said. “Skating first in the first group, I never would have thought that I could win the event. Today, the new judging system was great for me. Under the old system, it would have been highly unlikely for me to move up to first. With this new system, more athletes have a chance to win.”
Performing to God Moving over the Face of the Waters by Moby, Onda hit a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination and four triple jumps (flip, loop, Salchow, and Lutz). Though Onda dazzled with fast spins, she two-footed a triple toeloop towards the end of her routine. The second triple toeloop didn’t count, as it was not in a sequence (with the first triple toe) as planned by the skater. Onda’s last and eighth jump, a double Axel, wasn’t counted as only seven jump elements are allowed.
“I didn’t do my best, I had some problems,” Onda commented. “This is the first year for us with the new system, and it’s a bit difficult to understand.”
At the beginning of her long, Suguri attempted a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination, but under-rotated and two-footed the second jump. The two-time World bronze medalist fell on her triple flip, singled a triple Salchow, and doubled a triple loop. Suguri later landed a triple Lutz and a double Axel in her program to Symphony No. 40 by W. A. Mozart. The 22-year-old received 83.39 points for her performance, but it wasn’t enough to defend her lead.
“I panicked after I fell on the flip,” Suguri admitted. “I’m disappointed. I was well prepared for this event. But this is not the end of the season, and I will practice hard.’
USA’s Ann Patrice McDonough, who was in second after the short, finished sixth in the long. She was fourth overall followed by Russia’s Tatiana Basova (fifth) and USA’s Amber Corwin (sixth).
Onda earned 9 points for the event while Suguri scored 7 at this event. It was not a scoring event for Liashenko who will meet Onda and Suguri again at the Cup of Russia and NHK Trophy.
The 2003 European bronze medalists, Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov, won their second Grand Prix event of the season. The Russian dance team led the entire event, placing first in the Compulsory Dance (CD), the Original Dance (OD) and the Free Dance (FD).
Ukraine’s Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov captured the silver while Isabelle Delobel Olivier Schoenfelder of France won bronze.
Navka and Kostomarov defended their overnight lead after the CD with an expressive OD set to Blues and Rock’n’Roll. Their routine included a demanding side-by-side footwork line, mostly on one foot, and two rotational lifts, capturing the different mood of the rhythms very well.
“We were calmer and more confident than at Skate Canada last week,” Kostomarov commented. “It was better than at Skate Canada, because we now did it for the second time in competition,” Navka added. “When you skate a program for the first time, you don’t really know what to expect.”
Grushina and Goncharov performed their OD to an upbeat Swing and Blues medley of Sing, Sing, Sing and Summertime by Robert Kraft. The dance included an interesting lift with Goncharov going into a crouching position and lifting one foot. The husband-and-wife team from Odessa earned 56.72 points which put them in third overall after the OD.
Delobel and Schoenfelder, who stood in third place after the CD, moved into second after performing a ‘Boogie Woogie and Blues’ routine that featured intricate diagonal and side-by-side footwork line. “We got into the dance right away,” Delobel said. “We enjoy these rhythms, they are fun.”
Currently training under Navka’s husband, Alexander Zhulin (and Elena Tchaikovskaia), Navka and Kostomarov entertained the crowd with their funny FD to music from the soundtracks of Pink Panther and Austin Powers. They exhibited interesting lifts and fast-paced footwork, scoring 109.46 points.
“We’re very pleased with our second Grand Prix gold medal,” Kostomarov commented. “We skated better than at our first competition, Skate Canada. We only changed one (rotational) lift since last week. We made it more difficult to achieve a level three. Our program was funny and happy, and I think the crowd enjoyed it.”
In the FD, Grushina and Goncharov set quite a contrast with their emotional program to Hanging Escape by Alexander Golshtain. The dramatic routine included strong lifts including a nice change of edge lift and good twizzle sequences. The Ukrainians, who train in Newington, Conn. under Nikolai Morozov, received 99.62 points to overtake Delobel and Schoenfelder, who were in second after the OD.
For the FD, Delobel and Schoenfelder, who now train under Muriel Boucher-Zazoui, skated to a lyrical piece entitled Merlin. They showed intricate footwork, but slipped and almost fell on a transition move. “The beginning was good, but then we lost our balance on this figure. I felt that Olivier lost the balance, and I said: Hold on!” Delobel said. The judges awarded them 92.81 points.
Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov (USA) placed fourth followed by Canadians Josée Piché and Pascal Denis who finished fifth.
Navka and Kostomarov, who took 12 points at this event, are now in the lead in the Grand Prix standings. Their second scoring event will be the Cup of Russia. This was an additional non-scoring event for Grushina and Goncharov who will compete for more points at the NHK Trophy. Delobel and Schoenfelder got 7 points and will compete again at Trophée Lalique in Paris next week.
In pairs, reigning World Champions Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao of China won the event with 189.28 points ahead of their teammates Qing Pang and Jian Tong who finished second with 179.70 points. World bronze medalists Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov of Russia came in third with a total of 165.58 points.
Shen and Zhao opened their dynamic short program to Kismet with a high throw triple loop followed by side-by-side triple toeloops and a difficult lift with changes of position. The team executed a high double twist, but almost fell on the entry into the pair combination spin, the last element of their program. The Chinese recovered instantly, and were awarded 63.46 points for the total segment score.
The current Four Continents silver medalists, Pang and Tong, were first to take the ice in the pairs short program. Skating to Illumination by Secret Garden, they completed solid side-by-side triple toeloops, a throw triple loop as well as an interesting lift and a double twist. The Chinese team received 60.64 points for their performance.
Petrova and Tikhonov had to overcome a shaky start in their short program when Tikhonov stepped out of the landing of the triple toeloop. The couple didn’t let this mistake affect the rest of their performance and they landed a double twist, a nice throw triple loop and showed a very synchronized side-by-side spin.
Going into the long, Shen and Zhao looked confident. Skating to The Nutcracker by Peter Tchaikovski, the two-time World champions opened their performance with a side-by-side double Axel-triple toeloop sequence, a throw triple Salchow and another side-by-side triple toeloop. They also completed a throw triple loop and an interesting lift, but their triple twist wasn’t the best as Zhao caught his partner late. Overall, the program appeared more polished than last week at Skate Canada, earning them a total segment score of 125.82 points.
“We’re very happy with our performance tonight, especially under these circumstances,” Zhao told the post event press conference. “We just came back from Canada. We made some changes in our program, and we’re very happy with them. It was a challenge.
Skating first in the final flight for the long, Pang and Tong performed to Variations on a theme of Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninov. The 2003 Skate America gold medalists hit a triple toeloop-double Axel sequence, a triple twist, a high throw triple Salchow, side-by-side double Axels, a throw triple loop, as well as good lifts. The judges awarded them with a total segment score of 119.06.
“We skated better than at Skate America, and we’re very pleased,” Tong commented. “We were just a bit tired at the end.”
Petrova and Tikhonov performed their long to The Circus Princess by Emmerich Kalman. Their routine included a double Axel-triple toeloop sequence, a throw triple loop and Salchow as well as triple twist. Their only major mistake came during the second side-by-side double Axel; Petrova singled it and Tikhonov put his hand down. They received 107.66 points for their total segment score.
Petrova and Tikhonov were happy with their performance. “We’re glad to be here and to compete against the Chinese couples. They are our friends,” Tikhonov said.
Dorota Zagorska and Mariusz Siudek of Poland had problems with with their side-by-side jumps in both the long and short program. They finished fourth overall followed by USA’s Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr. (fifth) and Nicole Noenning and Matthias Bleyer of Germany, who were sixth.
Shen an Zhao took 12 points at the Cup of China and now have 21 points which should be enough to proceed to the Grand Prix Final in December. Pang and Tong picked up 9 points and will score again at the Cup of Russia. This was not a scoring event for Petrova and Tikhonov who are slated to compete at the NHK Trophy in Japan.
The Men’s event started with a surprise when relatively unknown Song Gao of China took the lead ahead of World silver medalist Timothy Goebel (USA) and Chengjiang Li (CHN). Gao was unable to hold onto first and dropped to fourth after the long program. France’s Brian Joubert came from fourth after the short to second to claim the silver while Li of Beijing maintained his third spot and won the bronze.
In his short program to Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Goebel nailed a quadruple-triple toeloop combination, but fell on his triple Axel. The two-time World silver medalist recovered to land a triple flip and showed nice footwork in his routine, earning 67.70 points.
“I was happy with the overall performance,” Goebel commented. “I was just disappointed with the mistake on the triple Axel. “I was very happy to come here and to skate so well despite the problems I had,” the 23-year-old added. “I think it was really a big step for me to pull it together at the last minute. I’ve really struggled with equipment problems up until the last few weeks. That’s why I pulled out of Skate America.”
Brian Joubert of France stepped out on the landing of his quadruple toeloop (in combination with double toeloop) in his short program to Time by Pink Floyd. He was in fourth place with a score of 65.67 points.
Li produced a quadruple-triple toeloop combination, but he barely held on to the landing of his triple Axel. The 2001 Four Continents Champion interpreted his
program to the native American music Global Spirit by Karvnesh well, but fell in his finishing pose. He received 67.30 points for the total segment score.
“This performance was so so,” said the 24-year-old of Beijing. “It started well, but then in the second half, I made a lot of smaller mistakes, and of course the big mistake at the end.”
In his long program to The Queen Symphony by Tolga Kashif, Goebel reeled off a triple Axel-double toeloop-triple loop combination. He followed up with a triple flip, a quadruple-double toeloop combination – all in the first minute of his routine. The 23-year-old missed his second triple Axel but recovered to land three more triple jumps (toeloop, Lutz, and Salchow). The two-time World silver medalist, who received a -1.00 deduction for a time violation, earned a total segment score of 137.60.
“I felt good coming here,” Goebel told the press. “I was just glad to be coming to competition, and when I got here, I felt comfortable. I’m obviously disappointed not to be doing both quad Salchow and quad toe, but I think the new system worked to my benefit.”
Joubert wasn’t far behind his competitors going into his long program. Skating to excerpts from the Matrix soundtrack, the European silver medalist opened with a high quadruple toleoop followed by a triple Salchow, triple Axel, triple toeloop, and loop. Towards the end of the program, the 19-year-old ran out of steam, doubling his Lutz (in combination with a double toeloop) and falling on a triple flip. Nevertheless, it was enough to move him up from his fourth place to second to win the silver.
“I think this is a positive result for me,” said the French champion. “I was a bit afraid of the second mark, the program components, as the second mark is not my strong point. But I got good scores. Of course, I can still improve on them, but I’ll be working on that.”
Skating to The Legend of the Glass Mountain by Nino Rota, Li completed an excellent quadruple-triple toeloop combination and a quadruple Salchow, but the latter was two-footed. Li singled a triple Axel, but stayed in the game with a triple Lutz and a triple Axel-double toeloop combination, a triple loop, and a triple Salchow. With 128.94 points for this performance, the Four Continents bronze medalist place third in the long program and remained third overall.
“I’m pleased with my performance and result,” said Li. “I didn’t have much time to practice in between the two competitions (Skate Canada and Cup of China), and I have a new program. Overall, I’m happy with the technical aspects and the presentation of my performance.”
Overnight leader Song Gao dropped to fourth place overall after his long program to The Man in the Iron Mask. Although he hit a quadruple-triple toeloop combination, he struggled with jumps through the rest of his program. His total score of 185.90 caused him to drop from first to fourth place.
Emanuel Sandhu of Canada finished fifth followed by Ilia Klimkin of Russia who placed sixth overall.
The Cup of China was a scoring event for Goebel and Li. Goebel took 12 points and is currently leading the Grand Prix standings. Li pocketed 7 points and now has eight points overall.
The Grand Prix series continues next week with the Trophée Lalique in Paris, France.