In ice dance, USA’s Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto won their second consecutive gold medal in this event, while Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski of Israel won the silver. Canada’s Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe won the bronze, their first senior Grand Prix medal.
Compulsory Dance (CD)
The Compulsory Dance for Skate America was the Golden Waltz. The dance was invented by Natalia Dubova, Marina Klimova, and Sergei Ponomarenko and was first performed at the 1987 Moscow Cup.
Belbin and Agosto placed first in the CD with a score of 43.71 points. “It felt strong and we were comfortable with the dance,” said Agosto, adding that he thought it was it an interesting dance. “It’s more fun and not boring.” His partner agreed. “This dance challenges you and shows the abilities of the couples. It was a good way to start the competition.”
Chait and Sakhnovski were second with 40.98 points. “It was a good crowd,” acknowledged Chait, “we had good support.”
Wing and Lowe were third with 36.65 points, followed by Russia’s Svetlana Kulikova and Vitali Novikov who scored 33.89 points.
Original Dance (OD)
The event continued with the OD in which the dance for the 2004-2005 season is the “Rhythm Combination”. Couples can choose any two or three of the following rhythms: Slow Foxtrot, Quickstep, and/or Charleston.
Belbin and Agosto utilized all the rhythms, delivering a solid routine which included a midline step sequence with twizzles in both directions, a difficult combination curve line-rotational lift, a diagonal step sequence, a level 4 rotational lift, and combination spin. The 2004 U.S. champions earned 63.40 points for their Cabaret/New York, New York dance, for a total event score of 107.11, maintaining their overnight lead.
“We feel like we’ve skated it better technically at home [in practice], but performance-wise, this was really good,” said Belbin. “The crowd really got into it,” her partner added. “We give it more emotion when the crowd is behind us.”
Chait and Sakhnovski displayed difficult side-by-side footwork in their Quickstep to Sing Sing Sing. The Israeli team also executed a good combination spin, a diagonal step sequence, and nice lifts to earn 60.48 for the OD. With an overall event score of 101.46, the two-time Olympians trailed the leaders by only 5.65 points.
“It was a good performance considering that we changed our steps just two days before our departure,” said Sakhnovski.
Wing and Lowe began their dance with a Slow Foxtrot with Just in Time, displaying a nice rotational lift, diagonal step sequence, and combination spin. The team performed a midline step sequence during the Charleston rhythm to That’s A Plenty and ended with a nice rotational lift to earn 51.66 points. With an overall event score of 88.31, the Canadian veterans maintained their third place position.
Wing had had to have surgery after she tore a ligament at the 2003 World Championships and has been battling tendonitis in her knee, however, she currently feels more trained and on schedule. “And it is a mental relief not to have to come back from an injury,” she said.
Kulikova and Novikov gave a good performance with their OD, but received a one point deduction for a time violation. In their second season together, the 2004 Russian National bronze medalists maintained their fourth place position with an overall event score of 84.54.
Sinead Kerr and John Kerr suffered a fall during their OD but held on to fifth place overall, ahead of Ukraine’s Julia Golovina and Oleg Voiko.
In their first senior Grand Prix event, USA’s Kendra Goodwin and Brent Bommentre moved up from ninth to seventh place after their OD.
Poland’s Alexandra Kauc and Michal Zych were in sixth place after the CD, but had three falls in their OD and dropped to 10th overall.
Free Dance (FD)
Performing to a Russian Gypsy routine entitled Shadritsa, Belbin and Agosto produced a nice spin, straight line lift, clockwise circular step sequence, and combination spin. The reigning Four Continents champions also executed a serpentine lift followed by synchronized twizzles, two curve lifts (one in combination with a rotational lift), a spirited diagonal step sequence, and a nice rotational lift. The judges awarded them a score of 105.76 points for an overall score of 212.87 to win both the FD and the gold.
“We were very excited about this Skate America,” said Agosto. “It feels really great to be here to defend our title. Our energy felt really good.” He added that it was a fun performance for them and looks forward to rest of the season. Belbin agreed, saying, “The performance was really good for us tonight. We had a few little bobbles here and there. I wouldn’t call them big mistakes. We have to go home and work on our levels [of difficulty].
Chait and Sakhnovski put out a dramatic routine to Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, opening with a straight line and rotational lift. They went on to perform a clockwise circular step sequence, combination spin, diagonal step sequence, and difficult twizzles and lifts. With a segment score of 102.86 points, the 2002 World bronze medalists finished second in the FD and overall with a total score of 204.32.
“We have two days to fix whatever mistakes we had before Skate Canada,” Chait noted. When asked about the choice of their program, she explained, “It’s like a story of our career – the ups and downs. It’s very special to us and very emotional.”
Dancing to Zorba the Greek, Wing and Lowe put out an entertaining performance, scoring 90.29 points in the FD for an overall score of 178.60. The two-time and reigning Four Continents bronze medalists maintained their third place position throughout the event, winning the bronze, their first senior Grand Prix medal.
“That is a huge accomplishment for us,” said Wing. “We’re really happy with our performance and we can build on that for the rest of the season.”
Kulikova/Novikov and Kerr/Kerr maintained fourth and fifth place respectively.
Skate America was a scoring competition for Belbin and Agosto (12 points) as well as Wing and Lowe (7 points). The Americans will compete next at the Cup of China, while the Canadians and Chait and Sakhnovski will participate at Skate Canada next week. This was not a scoring event for the Israeli team.