Skate Canada, the second of six events of the Grand Prix Figure Skating series, was held October 28-31 at the Halifax Metro Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Skaters competed for points and for prize money totaling $180,000 (U.S.). 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.
In pairs, the Chinese teams dominated the event with Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao winning gold, while teammates Qing Pang and Jian Tong won the silver. Poland’s veteran team of Dorota Zagorska and Mariusz Siudek repeated their placement from last year’s Skate Canada event, winning the bronze.
In the short program, headliners Shen and Zhao earned the highest component score (32.08 points) of the evening in their routine to Debussy’s Claire de Lune. The 2002 Olympic bronze medalists opened with side-by-side triple toeloops, followed by nested spread eagles into a lift, albeit marred by a small bobble and a bit of sluggishness. The throw triple loop was enormous, as was the double twist. The two-time Four Continents champions also executed a nice pair combination spin and back inside death spiral, receiving a score of 66.48 for a first place finish after the short.
The two-time World champions were glad to be in first place, but they were not very satisfied with their performance. “We have a new program and maybe we were a bit tired,” Zhao told the press. He later added that they chose their music because they felt it was “smooth and beautiful”. Of the lift, Zhao commented: “I made a mistake and maybe the reason was [because of] the accident at Skate America. I was a little bit scared.”
Teammates Pang and Tong were the last pair to take the ice. Skating to All I Ask of You, the Chinese champions produced side-by-side triple toeloops, though the timing was off and landing a bit rough, a huge throw triple loop, and a lateral double twist that had hang time. Despite being out of sync at the end of their side-by-side combination spin, the two-time and reigning Four Continents champions also performed a nice lasso lift and pair combination spin, earning a score of 64.54 for a second place finish.
“We made some mistakes in some details of our program,” said Tong. “For example in the spin. But overall we’re pleased.”
Canada’s Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin produced a lively routine to Fever and Jump, Jive, An’ Wail, which included solid side-by-side triple toeloops that were in sync, a lasso lift to one hand with a helicopter exit, a double twist, and a solid throw triple loop from spread eagles. The Canadian champions received the highest element score (35.98 points) of all the pairs and a score of 64.02 for a third place finish after the short.
“Tonight was a great night for us,” said a happy Buntin. “We just really wanted to come out and to perform.” He went on to say that despite a few technical mistakes, they just wanted to take a step from where they were last year. “And that’s pretty much what we did. Actually, sitting here, I realized our skating is much like our Cantonese – not as good as these guys yet [referring to the Chinese teams], but we’re working on it,” he laughed.
Teammates Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto were fourth with 57.38 points after their routine to Nino Rota’s Romeo and Juliet. While the the two-time and reigning Canadian silver medalists displayed a nice lift, good spirals, and a double twist, they received a one point deduction when Langlois fell on the throw triple loop.
Zagorska and Siudek, who were ninth to skate, performed their short to music from the soundtrack Séraphin: Un Homme et Son Péché. Zagorska stepped out of the landing on the side-by-side triple toeloops, as well as the throw triple loop, but the pair had a nice lift and double twist. The two-time Olympians placed fifth with a score of 55.96.
Viktoria Borzenkova and Andrei Chuvilaev of Russia were sixth.
Overnight leaders Shen and Zhao, who were last to skate, performed their long to music from the soundtrack The Soong Sisters. They opened with a side-by-side double Axel-triple toeloop sequence, followed by a huge throw triple Salchow, side-by-side triple toeloops, a high triple twist, and a nice lasso lift. Their program also included a solid throw triple loop and two good lifts, but they encountered a problem in the forward inside death spiral. The current Grand Prix Final Champions earned 123.72 points for a first place finish in the long. With a total score of 190.20, the current Grand Prix Final Champions easily finished first overall to win the gold.
“This was quite ‘ok’ considering it was our first competition this season and a new program,” said Shen. Her partner added: “I felt we skated the long program better than yesterday’s short program.”
Zagorska and Siudek skated to music from The Mission soundtrack, sporting an interesting opening pose in which Zagorska was upside down on her partner’s shoulders. The reigning European bronze medalists opened with a side-by-side triple toeloop-double toeloop sequence, but Siudek put his hand down on the landing of the triple. Their routine also included a solid throw triple loop, side-by-side triple toeloops, a triple twist, a throw triple Salchow, and three good lifts. The Polish champions placed second in the long with a score of 114.98, and with a total score of 170.94, moved from fifth up to third place overall to win the bronze.
The husband-and-wife team were happy to be back on track after what they felt was a bad short program. Siudek also felt that the new judging system rewarded them more for their difficult lifts. “Before, it didn’t seem to make a difference whether we performed a difficult or a simple lift. We couldn’t really see a difference in the marks. But now we can,” he pointed out.
In fourth place after the short, Langlois and Archetto took to the ice skating to music from the soundtrack Séraphin: Un Homme et Son Péché. The 2002 Four Continents silver medalists landed a throw triple loop that had good distance, as well as landing synchronized side-by-side triple toeloops. The team from Montreal also executed a triple twist, a side-by-side triple toeloop-double Axel sequence, a ‘leap of faith’ into a throw triple Salchow, and two good lifts. However, Archetto lost focused on a turn during the first lift, and didn’t initiate a position change while Langlois was in the air. The 2002 Olympians received a partial standing ovation from their home crowd to go with their score of 110.32 for a third place finish in the long. With a total score of 167.70 points, they maintained and placed fourth overall.
Pang and Tong were in second after the short, but Pang had an uncharacteristic fall on the landing of a throw triple loop. She also popped her side-by-side double Axel, while her partner stepped out of his. However, their technically difficult routine to The Butterfly Lovers included a lateral triple twist, a throw triple Salchow, a side-by-side triple toeloop-double Axel sequence, and three good lifts. The reigning World bronze medalists eared a score of 107.94 to place fourth in the long, and with an total score of 172.48, maintained second place to win the silver.
“As you could see, it wasn’t too good today and we’re not satisfied,” said Tong. “However, we’re happy with the result. We still finished in second place.” The 24-year-old went on to explain that the program was still new to them and that they had some details to work out.
Marcoux and Buntin, who were in third after the short, encountered problems in their long, with Marcoux having a crashy landing on a triple twist, as well as falling on her side-by-side triple toeloop into the boards. The 2004 Four Continents bronze medalists had opened their routine with a good side-by-side triple toeloop-double toeloop sequence, but the landing on a throw triple loop was jerky and the final Axel lift didn’t go up. The team eared a score of 99.40 for their long, and with a total of 163.42, slipped from third to fifth overall.
Borzenkova and Chuvilaev remained in sixth place overall after the long, followed by USA’s Brittany Vise and Nicholas Kole who were seventh.
This was not a scoring event for Shen and Zhao, but they will they skate again for points in their home country at the Cup of China. Pang and Tong received 9 points and will compete next at the NHK Trophy next week in Japan. Zagorska and Siudek, who earned 7 points at this event, will skate at the NHK Trophy as well, but it will be a non-scoring event for them.
Langlois and Archetto will compete for points at Trophée Eric Bompard, while teammates Marcoux and Buntin hope to score points at Cup of China.