China’s Qing Pang and Jian Tong won the pairs event, while teammates Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang took the silver. Canadians Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin captured the bronze.
Pang and Tong opened their short program with side-by-side triple toeloops, but Pang slightly stepped out of the landing on hers. The team then executed a a high throw triple loop followed by a good lift, and nice side-by-side spins. The 2004 Chinese national champions earned marks ranging from 5.2 to 5.8 for their routine to Illumination by Rolf Lovland, placing first after the short.
“It was a little accident,” explained Pang on stepping out of the triple toeloop. “I didn’t quite have the rhythm when going into the triple toeloop. The best element today was the throw jump, I guess.” Tong agreed on the reaction of the crowd on their high throws, adding, “Every time we do an element well, we’re waiting and hoping for the reaction of the crowd. There is always a lot of pressure when we compete, but we try to overcome these difficulties.”
Skating to All Alone by Joe Satriani, Zhang and Zhang set the mood well, beginning with a nice lift followed by solid side-by-side triple toeloops. Though their triple throw loop wasn’t high, it covered a lot of distance. The entrance into their pair spin was unique and the backward outside death spiral made for a nice ending. The two-time and reigning Four Continents bronze medalist earned marks from 5.3 to 5.7 for a second place finish after the short.
“The performance today was at the normal level for us and we have been skating well in practice and have been consistent so we were confident going in to the competition today and are happy with how we skated,” said Hao Zhang. “The technical elements were slightly cleaner today compared to any of the other competitions this season so it felt better.”
The Chinese haven’t yet had the time to celebrate Chinese New Year today. “At that the moment we are in competition so all we are thinking about it is our performance and the competition. Perhaps when it is over, and if we do well, then we will go back to China and have a big party,” Dan Zhang added with a smile.
Marcoux and Buntin were the last pair to take the ice. They opened their short with solid side-by-side triple toeloops followed by a double twist. Though the throw triple loop didn’t have a great deal of height, it had good distance. Their routine to Caravan by Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington earned marks ranging from 5.0 to 5.8 for a third place finish after the short.
“It’s the best short program we’ve done all year, so it’s very exciting for us,” Marcoux said. “It’s what we wanted to do, and it worked for us tonight. It was a
lot of fun. We didn’t have a lot of time to think, ‘Oh, we’re Canadians Champions’, it was more to go home and train.”
“Our goal this week is to be just a little bit better than last week at Canadians,” commented Buntin. “I think that’s what we did here. The triple toe was better. And Richard (Gauthier) has been telling me the smile and the footwork lately was a little bit better. We haven’t had time to feel it (pressure). We had the time to wash our clothes and come here,” he added, referring to the fact that the Canadian National Championships took place just ten days ago.
Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr. (USA) placed fourth after Inoue fell on the throw triple loop (she pitched forward on the toepick to fall on her stomach). The team otherwise had a great skate and earned marks ranging from 4.5 to 5.7.
“Nothing really went wrong,” said Inoue, about the fall. “it was a perfect throw and at the end it just fell apart suddenly. I leaned a bit too far forward and lost it.”
“We felt great out there today and enjoyed ourselves,” added Baldwin. “Coming in as national champions gave us more confidence and it is great to skate as champions and we have to perform to that level. I really don’t know what went wrong,” he said, referring to Inoue’s fall. “I was celebrating and then ooops.” On having one week between Nationals and now, he said, “Thank goodness this event is in Canada. That is really all we can say, ‘thank goodness’. The marks were fantastic considering the missed element and we are thrilled.”
Canadians Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto placed fifth after Langlois fell on the side-by-side triple toeloop.
“It didn’t feel bad at all,” said Langlois. “In the warm up I did a little mistake on my triple toe. I went too swingy on my three turn. It’s a habit of mine – even in practice – to overcorrect. I knew what I had to change, but I overdid it. So when I went into the program, I did it too much in a straight line. I have to work on that. Other than that, the program felt good. We love to perform it, it’s so fun to do. Even if there are a couple of mistakes, we really just try to go out there and make the crowd enjoy it.” On putting the fall behind themselves, she added “You have to do it. You can’t keep doing the program with a sad face. You have to carry on and make sure the rest is even better.”
Archetto added, ” The program suffered because of the mistakes. We weren’t able to give what we usually do, and I think the marks suffered from that, too. There were just little mistakes, it never happens, and so it’s just disappointing.”
China’s Yang Ding and Zhongfei Ren finished sixth after the short, followed by Kathryn Orscher and Garrett Lucash (USA), who placed seventh.
“To us, this is just another competition, but it is a good warm-up for Worlds and gives us another chance to compete which is nice,” said Lucash, who is competing at the event for the third time with his partner. “We have some time now before Worlds to relax and start again.”
Orscher added, “The coach seems happy so I guess we skated ‘OK’ today. Nationals was only our third competition this season and there was only a week between them and here so we just tried to stay at the same level, stay healthy and focused.”
Teammates Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn were in eighth after the short, followed by Canada’s Elizabeth Putnam and Sean Wirtz.
“The skate felt great,” said Putnam, “but there were a few little glitches. Overall it was a good program. We are more prepared this year. We have had a strong year on the Grand Prix circuit.”
Wirtz agreed. “It felt great,” he said. “We skated well. We had a couple of minor problems in the program. We’re happy with the way things are going.”
There were no changes in placements after the long program in the pairs event.
Skating to Variations on a Theme of Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninov, Pang and Tong executed side-by-side triple toes (Tong doubled hers) followed by double Axels. The team executed a very high lateral triple twist as well as a throw triple Salchow that covered a lot of ice. The team had great speed and unison in their side-by-side spins, continuing with side-by-side double Axels and a throw triple loop that again, covered a lot of distance. The 2003 Four Continents silver medalists earned marks from 5.5 to 5.9 to win the event.
Teammates Zhang and Zhang skated to Csardasfürstin by Emmerich Kalman, executing a high lateral triple twist followed by side-by-side double Axels and triple toes that were very close together and in synch. Their throw triple loop covered a lot of distance. The 2004 Chinese National silver medalists also executed side-by-side triple Salchows and a throw triple Salchow to earn marks ranging from 5.6 to 5.8 and a second place finish.
Marcoux and Buntin executed a high triple twist followed by a throw triple loop and side-by-side triple toes followed by double toes. Buntin fell on his side-by-side triple toe, but the side-by-side Camels had great unison and were close together. Marcoux landed the throw triple Salchow but then fell near the end of a fast and detailed straight line footwork sequence. The 2004 Canadian National champions earned marks ranging from 5.3 to 5.8 for their performance to Rockin’ Gypsies by Willie & Lobo and Canción Triste by Jesse Cook, for a third place finish.
The 2004 US National champions, Inoue and Baldwin, finished in fourth with marks ranging from 5.0 to 5.6.
Langlois and Archetto earned marks ranging from 5.0 to 5.6 for a fifth place finish.
“We’re done,” said Langlois. “We have 2 months before worlds. With this performance, I was out of focus, I just want to go to bed and get out of here. It’s hard for me and Pat. When we’re very tired, he takes a step back and I take one forward. Because I was so tired tonight, I tried to take a step back and stay focused. The elements were good. We were so focused on the risky ones, and not so much on the easier moves. But, I think we salvaged it pretty well. We can’t wait till we can go home now and train.”
“We’re really tired,” said Archetto. “We’ve only had four days to train between competitions since Canadians Nationals.”
Orscher and Lucash, the 2004 US National silver medalists, were sixth.
“Well,” said Orscher about their performance, “there is always room for improvement. It was a really good, solid performance. We haven’t performed our program to its best yet, we’re saving that for Worlds.” Orscher took a fall on a throw triple Salchow in the long, and said, “But I got up again very quickly!”
Lucash added, “Now we’re feeling good going into worlds. We’re going to take a couple of days break, and then we’ll work our butts off for worlds.” On the fall on the throw salchow, he added, “She’s never missed the throw before, so we both were surprised, and we don’t know what happened.”
Teammates Scott and Dulebohn, the 2004 US National bronze medalists felt fine about their performance.
“It felt good,” said Scott. “We went into the performance with nothing to lose. I fought for all the elements – the throw triple loop went very well.”
Dulebohn agreed, “Definitely better than nationals, but I was more fatigued tonight.”
The 2004 Canadian bronze medalists, Putnam and Wirtz, finished ninth.
“It felt pretty good out there,” said Putnam. On tripping before the throw triple Salchow, she said, “I knew it was going to be okay. We’ve done a lot of training, it’s something we never miss.” She added, “There were some little stumbles. I think it was the best performance this season and a good way to end our year. It was the performance we felt the most comfortable with.” Putnam didn’t know her partner had doubled a Salchow.
On the trip Putnam made, Wirtz said, “I tried to relax her, by talking to her. We were in our own world. ‘Okay, let’s just do this’. It’s tough to do an element after you trip like that.” He then said with a grin, “Yes, I did double my salchow.”