Skate America was the first of six events of the Grand Prix series and was held at the Mellon Arena, October 21-24, in Pittsburgh, Pa. Over 60 skaters from 15 different countries competed for points and/or monies totaling $180,000 in U.S. dollars. The points go toward qualification for the Grand Prix Final, to which the top six competitors in points standings from each discipline will be invited. The Grand Prix Final will be held Dec 16-19, 2004, in Beijing, China.
Brian Joubert of France was the winner in the men’s event, reaping his second Skate America title. USA’s Ryan Jahnke rose from fourth place after the short program to win the silver, while teammate Michael Weiss took the bronze.
Joubert, who was fourth to skate in the short, opened his new program with a quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop combination followed by a triple Axel. Despite falling out of a triple flip, the two-time and reigning French champion scored 72.10 points for a first place finish after the short in his routine to music by the Blue Men. “It was stupid,” said Joubert, on falling out of the flip.
Still, Joubert appeared satisfied with his program. “It’s the beginning of the season,” he said. “Everything is new. New program, new judging system. It was difficult, but I did my job. It will get better.”
Weiss earned 64.82 points for a second place finish after the short with last season’s Henry V program.
After stepping out of the landing on a quadruple toeloop combination, the defending Skate America champion landed a solid triple Axel and triple Lutz. However, Weiss experienced some uncharacteristic problems on two of his spins. “I’ve been working with a spin specialist to add difficulty,” the 28-year-old shared. “It is difficult to get a Level 3 spin, but we’re adding difficulty with change of edges and change of feet. Anything that adds difficulty adds value to it in the new system.”
“It’s the first event of the season,” he continued, adding that his goal was just to get off to a good start. “I landed the quad on one foot even if I stepped out of it. The rest was pretty good.”
Despite appearing somewhat thinner to some, Weiss claims he has not lost any weight. “Thanks!” he laughed. “I’m the same weight as I was at worlds [last year]. Maybe it’s just the costume?”
Roman Serov of Israel, who competed for Russia until the 2001-2002 season, opened his classical program with a triple flip-triple toeloop combination. The 27-year-old followed up with a triple Axel, a triple Lutz, and a nice change foot camel spin to earn 62.24 points for a third place finish after the short.
“I just tried my best,” said Serov, “but I didn’t try a quad because it’s not ready yet. It’s my second competition of the year and I wasn’t supposed to be at this Grand Prix [event].” Serov, who sat out a season after changing nationalities, added, “I was glad I skated cleanly after a two year break.”
Jahnke fell on his triple Axel, placing fourth after the short. “After that happens,” he said of the fall, “you can decide to continue scared or rise up. I decided to go out there after that and attack it.”
Teammate Evan Lysacek had a shaky landing on his triple Axel and fell on his triple flip, placing fifth.
Nicholas Young of Canada popped a triple Axel and doubled a flip for a sixth place finish, while teammate Ben Ferreira struggled with the landing on his triple Axel and doubled a flip to place seventh.
Jahnke earned a score of 125.88 despite deductions for two falls on triple Axels, placing first in the men’s long. He was somewhat disappointed in his long, and explained that it was his belief that “there is a little bit of perfectionist in all of us”. He pointed out that [despite the falls] he concentrated on doing each element well, noting that maximizing the rest of the elements still add up the points. “By my standards, I expected to drop a place.”
After falling on the opening triple Axel, Jahnke recovered to land a triple toeloop-double toeloop-double loop combination followed by a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination. The 26-year-old landed four additional triple jumps in his routine to Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, and with a total score of 186.71 rose from fourth to second place overall.
Joubert stumbled out of his quadruple toeloop in the opening of his routine to Vangelis’ 1492: Conquest of Paradise. The 2004 World silver medalist displayed shaky landings on a triple Axel and triple flip and stepped out of the landing of his second triple Axel as well as a triple Lutz. The reigning European champion earned 121.36 points to finish second in the long for a total score of 193.46 and a first place finish overall.
“I had a good short program,” Joubert pointed out, “but the free program was difficult. I know what I have to work on. For the beginning of the season it was very good.”
Weiss, who was in second after the short, debuted a new long that included ballads by Led Zeppelin and Metallica. The 2004 U.S. National silver medalist had two quadruple jumps planned (one in combination with a triple toeloop), but two-footed the first one and played it safe by doing a triple instead on the next. Weiss was also hesitant on two triple Axels, both of which only got credit for a double. The two-time Olympian was awarded 114.74 points for a total score of 179.56, dropping from second to third place overall.
Earlier in the competition, Weiss explained that he had broken his right boot and blade during practice on Oct 18 and therefore was skating with an old boot and blade on the left foot and new boot and blade on the right.
When asked what change(s) he would like to make before the next Grand Prix event, Weiss chuckled. “Well,” he responded good-naturedly, “I think I would like to change the color of my medal.”
Serov skated an inspiring program to Beethoven’s Last Night, but he had problems on the landing of a triple Axel and doubled a flip. His straight line step sequence was flawed and the Russian-born skater also received a deduction for a time violation. He earned 112.18 points for the long for a total score of 174.42, slipping from third to fourth overall.
Lysacek finished fifth overall after placing eighth in the long, followed by China’s Lu Song, who rose from ninth to sixth overall.
Germany’s Stefan Lindemann was fifth in the long and pulled up to ninth overall.
Skate America was a scoring event for all three medalists. Joubert (12 points) will compete again at the Trophée Eric Bompard next month, while Jahnke (9 points) competes next week at Skate Canada. Weiss (7 points) is scheduled to compete at the NHK Trophy in Japan.