The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series continued with the the sixth and final event (before the Grand Prix Final) November 27-30, 2003. The event took place at the Asahikawa Taisetsu Arena in Asahikawa, Hokkaido – Japan.
Fumie Suguri of Japan won her first Grand Prix event of the season with a total score of 165.52 points. Ukraine’s Elena Liashenko placed second with 163.14 points, while Japan’s Yoshie Onda took the bronze with 154.42 points.
In the short program, Liashenko opened with a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, but missed her triple flip. The 27-year-old rallied back to perform strong spins and a double Axel, earning 58.20 points for her routine to Otonal by Raul di Blasio.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t a clean program,” Liashenko commented. “When I do the flip alone in practice, it’s fine, but it just doesn’t work in the program. I’m upset about this mistake. But I think the rest of the program was good.”
Suguri fell on her opening triple Lutz combination, but landed a triple flip, a double Axel, and showed nice spins in her performance to Paint it Black by the Rolling Stones. The two-time World bronze medalist scored 57.94 points (0.26 points behind Liashenko).
“This is a difficult year for me,” Suguri said. “I prepare for each competition, but then not everything works. Maybe it has mental or physical reasons. I have to find out. I did a lot better in practice, not only the jumps were better but the overall performance.”
Skating to George Gershwin’s Three Preludes, Onda delivered a solid short program that included a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, a triple flip, a double Axel, and fast spins. The 20-year-old received the highest technical score (30.10), and placed third with a total segment score of 56.38 points.
” It was a good performance, all my jumps were clean,” Onda said. “The Axel was a bit small, usually I jump higher, so maybe I didn’t get so many points for it.”
Hungary’s Diana Poth finished fourth after the short with a total segment score of 52.24 points, while USA’s Jennifer Kirk came in fifth (51.36 points).
In the long program, Suguri skated to Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, producing four triple jumps including two Lutzes (one of them in combination with double toeloop), a double Axel and good spins. The 22-year-old’s only mistakes came on the edge jumps loop and Salchow which she doubled and two-footed. When the 2003 Four Continents champion hit her final jump, a triple flip-double toeloop combination, a huge smile lit up her face. Suguri received a segment score of 107.58 points and an overall event score of 162.52 points.
“I’m relieved,” stated Suguri. “After the Cup of China, I practiced very hard for this competition. Today I skated like in practice. The performance was about 70 percent of what I can give.”
Liashenko was a strong second. The Ukrainian started off strongly with a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, a triple flip and a triple toe. She popped the second flip and two-footed her triple Salchow, but her spins featured good positions and she finished on a high note with a solid double Axel. The two-time European bronze medalist earned 104.94 points for her program to the Frida soundtrack, for an overall score of 163.14 points.
“It’s the goal of each athlete to be on the podium, so it’s nice to be there,” Liashenko commented. “I’m not entirely satisfied. But considering that I just came from another event (the Cup of Russia) and did two Grand Prix events in a row, it’s ok. Both competitions were scoring events for me, so it was important to skate well. I did my job and qualified for the Final.”
Onda hit a triple Lutz-double toeloop, a triple flip-double toeloop as well as two other triple jumps and a high double Axel, but stumbled on her first (doubled) flip and as well doubling the Salchow. The two-time Four Continents bronze medalist remained in third place with 98.04 points for her program, and a total event score of 154.42 points.
“First I was surprised to be in third after my program, then I was relieved, ” said Onda. “There were mistakes, but I could recover. I have still a lot to learn to improve.”
Finland’s Susanna Pöykiö jumped from sixth to fourth place overall with 147.04 points, while Poth dropped to seventh. Kirk remained in fifth place with a total score of 140.08 points.
This was a scoring event for all three medalists, with Suguri earning 12 points, Liashenko 9 points, and Onda 7 points. All three ladies are now among the top six contenders heading for the Grand Prix Final later this month.
Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria captured their second Grand Prix gold medal at this event with an overall score of 207.51 points. Ukrainians Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov claimed the silver medal (205.73 points), while Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski of Israel won the bronze (194.08 points).
The Compulsory Dance (CD) of the NHK Trophy was the Yankee Polka. This fast-paced dance consists of two sequences. The Yankee Polka was created by James Sladky, Judy Schwomeyer and Ron Ludington. It was first performed in 1969.
Denkova and Staviski took the lead in the CD with a very strong performance, earning a total segment score of 39.59 points. Grushina and Goncharov were second with 37.93 points – only 0.75 points ahead of Germany’s Kati Winkler and René Lohse (37.18 points).
Chait and Sakhnovski were in fourth place with 35.69 points, followed by Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe of Canada who scored 32.18 points.
The event continued the next day (Friday) with the Original Dance (OD) – the “Swing Combo” being the theme. The couples can choose any two or three of the following rhythms: Blues, Jive, Rock’n’Roll, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie and/or Swing.
Grushina and Goncharov skated first of the leading couples. The husband-and-wife team produced an entertaining Swing (Sing, Sing, Sing) and Blues (Summertime) that featured two nice lifts and a dance spin with a change of position. However, the Ukrainians were out of synch on a twizzle in the side-by-side footwork line, but recovered instantly. The judges awarded them a total segment score 61.24.
“We tried our best,” Grushina said. “We’ve changed some of our steps (in the midline step sequence) and the spin, so we really had to think about it when performing.
Winkler and Lohse delivered an inspiring performance to a Swing, Blues and Jive routine which included Musical Swing (by Casey MacGill and Michael Gruber) and Stuff Like That There (by Livingston, Evans, and Goldsen). They completed a dance spin in a low position with a difficult entry, a synchronized side-by-side footwork line and two good lifts to earn a total segment score of 60.32 points.
“So far, we’ve skated a strong competition,” said Lohse.”We haven’t yet reached our limit, we’ve strength left. I think that I did my part better than at the Cup of Russia. I was more nervous in Russia.”
Denkova and Staviski danced to an intense Blues (James Brown’s It’s a Man’s Man’s World) and a lively Swing (Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s Big and Bad). They showed intricate footwork, nice lifts, and a difficult spin, but their side-by-side step sequence was a bit wobbly. With 60.63 points for their OD, the World bronze medalists finished second to Grushina and Goncharov in the OD, ranking third overall.
“We had some minor mistakes, I don’t know really why,” a disappointed Denkova commented. “Our training has been going well, but then in competition it didn’t work. It happened for the second time already. Maybe we’re trying too many difficult steps.”
Chait and Sakhnovski remained in fourth place with a total segment score of 54.90 points, followed by Wing and Lowe who earned 48.82 points.
The Ice Dancing event concluded with the Free Dance (FD) with Denkova and Staviski defending their overnight lead. The Bulgarians produced an innovative dance to Händel’s Suite No. 4 in D-Minor that featured difficult transition moves, lifts and two original dance spins. However, the straight line step sequence and the optional twizzle series were wobbly. The 2003 European silver medalists received 107.29 points for their total segment score, narrowly beating the Ukrainians.
Grushina Goncharov skated to Hanging Escape by Alexander Golshtain (telling the story of a soldier in war and an angel). The team completed interesting lifts and two good dance spins, earning the highest technical score (40.10 points), but received less than the Bulgarians in program components (66.46 points). Their total segment score added up to 106.56 points for an overall total of 205.73 points.
Chait and Sakhnovski delivered a lively dance to The Clowns (from the Fellini Rota soundtrack) that featured several rotational lifts and fast-paced footwork. The 2002 World bronze medalists scored 103.49 points for their FD and an overall score of 194.08 to claim the bronze again (they were third at last year’s NHK Trophy).
Winkler and Lohse fell to fourth place after receiving a total segment score of 95.51 (Winkler fell on a twizzle) for an overall score of 193.01 points (only 1.07 points behind the Israelis). Wing and Lowe earned 86.44 points for their FD and remained in fifth place with an overall score of 167.44 points.
This was not a scoring event for Denkova and Staviski, who have already qualified for the Grand Prix Final with 21 points. Grushina and Goncharov earned 9 points at this event, earning the fourth spot for the Grand Prix final. Chait and Sakhnovski earned 7 points – not enough to qualify, but making them the first substitutes in the event a team should withdraw from the Grand Prix Final.
Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov of Russia, captured their second gold of this season’s Grand Prix series with a total score of 181.96 points. Canada’s Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto won silver with 169.06 points, while Dorota Zagorska and Mariusz Siudek of Poland won the bronze with 164.04 points.
In the pairs short program, Petrova and Tikhonov opened their routine with a side-by-side triple toeloops, a double twist and a throw triple loop. However, the reigning World bronze medalists were stopped by the referee when a strap on Tikhonov’s boot came loose. He fixed the problem quickly, and the Russians continued from the point of interruption, completing the remaining elements which included a well synchronized side-by-side combination spin, a pair combination spin with many changes of position, a one-armed lift, the footwork sequence, and a backward outside death spiral. The judges awarded them a total segment score of 63.24 points.
“I realized right away that the strap was loose. It happened after the jump (triple toe),” Tikhonov explained. “But it didn’t bother me, so I thought, we’d just go on.” Petrova said this was the first time an incident such as this had happened to them. “I thought the referee would blow the whistle immediately,” she continued. “I was ready for him to stop us. But while we skated, I didn’t think about it. Of course, it would have been better to skate through the program without an interruption. It was a little break, but you don’t need that in the short program. It’s a different story in the long!” she laughed.
Zagorska and Siudek’s routine to the Legend of 1900 soundtrack included a throw triple loop, a difficult lift with variations, and a double twist, but Zagorska missed the side-by-side triple toeloop. The husband-and-wife team received 57.68 points.
“Dorota’s fall on the triple toe came as a big surprise,” Siudek said. “After the Cup of China, she landed it (the triple toe) in every run-through we did. She also did it in practice. Except for the toeloop, it was the best short program we’ve done this season.”
USA’s Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr. hit the side-by-side triple toeloops, throw triple loop, and a double twist in their dynamic program to Murder at the Cotton Club. They received 57.28 points for their performance.
“I thought it went really well,” Inoue commented. “My partner Johnny and I are very happy with the way we skated tonight. We just skated the way we’ve been skating at home, so that’s all we could do, and we’re very satisfied with [the] performance. We made a couple of changes after the Cup of China, because we just wanted to get more points on each element. We did a throw triple Salchow at Cup of China, but we did a loop in this competition, because it’s [worth] more points. We also changed a little bit our death spiral.”
Inoue, who is originally from Japan, is especially enjoying this event. “It’s wonderful. My mom is here, my grandparents are here. It’s very nice to be back
Langlois and Archetto finished fourth with 55.62 points (Langlois fell on the throw triple Salchow), followed by their teammates, Utako Wakamatsu and Jean-Sebastien Fecteau, who were fifth (51.00 points).
In the long program, Petrova and Tikhonov were the first to skate in the final flight. Petrova was unable to practice that morning due to a upset stomach, but she didn’t let it show in the evening. The 2000 World Champions nailed the side-by-side double Axel-triple toeloop sequence, the throw triple loop, the triple twist as well as the side-by-side double Axel, and produced good lifts. The only error in their Princess of the Circus program came when Petrova doubled the throw Salchow. The Russians scored 118.17 points for their routine with an overall score of 181.96 points to claim their second NHK gold medal since 1999.
It was also a nice early birthday present for Petrova, who turned 26 on Saturday. “It’s always difficult,” she told the press. “I felt good in the warm up, that is, my legs felt good. But overall, my condition wasn’t too good. I ate something wrong. The fact that I missed practice this morning didn’t affect me.”
Skating to Lawrence of Arabia, Langlois and Archetto produced a throw triple Salchow, solid side-by-side double Axels and a triple-double toeloop combination (Archetto two-footed the second jump). The 2002 Four Continents silver medalists also completed difficult lifts, but Langlois put her hands down on the throw triple toeloop. The Canadians received 113.44 points for their performance and moved up two spots to second place with an overall event score of 169.06 points.
“Last year we medalled here, too,” Langlois said. “We were third, and we’re happy to be second. It wasn’t good enough yet. There are a lot of things to improve. But we’re back on track. At the beginning of the season we were way off track.”
Zagorska and Siudek were last to skate. The Poles struggled with their side-by-side toeloops, with Siudek falling first followed by Zagorska. Their program to Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto contained good lifts, a triple twist, and a throw triple Salchow, but Zagorska stepped out of the landing of the throw triple loop. It was not enough to hold on to second place. With a score of 106.36 points (164.04 overall), the two-time European silver medalists slipped to third.
“We like to skate in Japan, but today wasn’t our day. We did mistakes and we’re not happy with our performance tonight,” Siudek commented.
Inoue and Baldwin dropped one spot to fourth after receiving 101.60 points for their long program. The Americans attempted a rare side-by-side triple Lutz but missed it. Wakamatsu and Fecteau remained in fifth overall with a total score of 141.46 points.
The outcome of the NHK Trophy determined the final Grand Prix standings. Petrova and Tikhonov took 12 points and are top qualifiers for the Grand Prix Final with 21 points. Langlois and Archetto earned 9 points and grabbed the sixth and last available spot with 14 points overall. Zagorska and Siudek have a total of 14 points, but lost in the tiebreaker to the Canadians, and as a result, are the first substitutes for the Grand Prix Final.
Jeffrey Buttle of Canada was the winner in the men’s event with an overall total score of 211.00 points, taking home his first gold medal in a Grand Prix event. USA’s Timothy Goebel won the silver with 205.51 points, while China’s Song Gao claimed the bronze with 192.89 points.
in the short program, Goebel nailed his opening quadruple-triple toeloop combination but then faltered on the next element, a triple Axel. The two-time World silver medalist recovered to land a triple flip in his routine to Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. The 23-year-old earned a total segment score of 73.65 points.
Unfortunately, Goebel wasn’t feeling well and actually passed out for a few seconds in the hallway following his performance. He was taken to the hospital. “He had sashimi in the hotel – the same dinner the Russian girl (Maria Petrova) had, and it affected him more in a neurological way,” coach Frank Carroll explained. “He felt shaky, numbness. It might be a toxin in the fish.”
Performing to Brubek’s Take Five, Buttle missed his quadruple toeloop, but he completed a triple Axel and a triple Lutz, and his excellent spins. The 2003 Canadian National silver medalist earned 71.70 points for his routine.
“I’m really pleased. I actually didn’t feel very good today in practice. I felt a little
uncomfortable going into the program,” Buttle revealed. “To go out there and compete ok – I was happy with that. I have a cold. It’s not very bad right now. I still don”t feel a hundred percent. I feel very good going into the long in second place.”
Abt excited the crowd with his dynamic short program to Glière’s Yablochko (Russian Sailor Dance from the ballet “The Red Poppy”), but he struggled with his jumps. The 2003 Russian National champion under rotated his quadruple toeloop attempt (which counted only as a triple) and two-footed it (in combination with double toeloop), his triple Axel was big, but then he doubled the Lutz. The 27-year-old was able to pick up extra points for his good spins and circular footwork, earning a total segment score of 67.46 points.
“I tried my best, but it didn’t work,” Abt commented. “Sometimes this is just the way it goes.”
France’s Brian Joubert finished fourth with 64.80 points after the short, followed closely by Song Gao of China who earned 64.29 points.
For the long program, Buttle performed a classical and elegant routine to excerpts from Samson and Delilah. The 2002 Four Continents champion opened with a nice triple flip, followed by a triple toeloop, and a triple Axel-triple toeloop combination. He executed two more good triples (loop and Salchow) and entertained the audience with his fast and difficult spins. Although he stepped out of his second triple Axel and fell on the triple Lutz, he was awarded a total segment score of 139.30 points, winning the free skate as well as a spot on the center podium.
“I’m really pleased,” said Buttle. “I was coming into this competition with the possibility of the Grand Prix Final. To be on the podium was definitely something I wanted. I put out a pretty decent performance, so I feel I was where I belonged.”
Goebel hit a triple Axel-triple toeloop early in his program to The Queen Symphony, but he went down on his flip and quadruple toeloop. He recovered to complete three triple jumps (loop, Lutz, and Salchow) and a double Axel. The Olympic bronze medalist scored 131.86 points for his program, placing him second in the free skate and bringing him down from first to second place overall.
“I was surprised to be on the podium this afternoon, because I definitely didn’t skate my best,” Goebel admitted. “I was disappointed. I feel I skated the program well, but I made a lot of mistakes.” He said he didn’t feel affected by the illness that handicapped him yesterday. “I really don’t think it was a factor. When I woke up this morning, I felt normal.”
Skating to The Man in the Iron Mask, Gao earned the highest technical score (68.00) after landing a quadruple-triple toeloop combination and a triple Axel-triple toeloop combination (but he had to fight for the landing of the second jump). Although he executed four more triples, he two-footed the landing on the Axel and doubled a loop. The judges awarded him 128.60 points, placing him third in the free skate and moving him up from fifth to third place overall.
Abt dropped from third to fifth overall (188.86 points) after he placed seventh in the free skate, while Joubert maintained fourth place (191.16) despite being fifth in the free skate.
Buttle earned 12 points to add to the 9 he won at Skate Canada and will be among the six contenders at the Grand Prix Final, along with Gao, who earned 7 points at this event. Though this wasn’t a scoring event for Goebel, his 12 point win from Cup of China was enough for him to quality.
The Grand Prix series concludes Dec. 12-14, 2003, with the final in Colorado Springs, Col.