Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia were the winners in the ice dance event, edging out USA’s Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto by 1.26 points, who settled for silver. Teammates Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski easily won the bronze, their first medal at a Grand Prix event.
Compulsory Dance (CD)
The Compulsory Dance for Skate Canada was the Rhumba. The dance was invented by Walter Gregory and was first performed in 1938 at the Westminster Ice Rink in London.
Domnina and Shabalin showed good edges and extension in their CD, placing first with a new personal best of 36.86 points.
“We think we had a good performance today and we’re pleased with the way we skated,” said Domnina, adding that they weren’t too excited about being first because it was jut the Compulsory Dance.
Belbin and Agosto came in at a very close second with 36.75 points.
“[The Rhumba] is a pretty good dance for us and we felt like we did a decent job with it tonight,” said Agosto. “We’re looking forward to the Original Dance tomorrow which is going to be even better. I think and we’ll have fun with it.”
Khokhlova and Novitski also produced a good CD, earning 31.61 points for a third place finish.
“Overall, we liked everything here. The ice quality is great and it was easy to skate,” said Khokhlova said. “We skated well, but it’s just the beginning and we can’t say much now.” Her partner Novitski added: “The Rhumba is not our favorite dance. I can’t say that I really dislike it, but it’s just not my dance.”
Israel’s Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski placed fourth overall in the CD with 30.20 points, while Anastasia Grebenkina and Vazgen Azrojan of Armenia were fifth (29.19).
Original Dance (OD)
The event continued with the OD in which the dance for the 2006-2007 season is the “Tango”. Couples can choose one to three tango rhythms. If two rhythms are used, one can be repeated. Vocals are permitted.
Belbin and Agosto, who stood in second after the CD, began their sensuous dance to Concierto para Quinteto with a very good mid-line twizzle and midline step sequence. The 2006 Olympic silver medalists also delivered two level four lifts, a good dance spin, and a very good level three diagonal step sequence, earning 58.90 points for a first place finish in the OD. The current World bronze medalists moved up to first place overall with 95.65 points.
“We felt pretty good about it,” said Agosto. “This is actually our second time competing it because we did it at the Campbell’s event, so it was nice to have that confidence after that event and we’ve been working a lot on it.” He added that this was an exciting competition due to the close scores of the Russians Domnina and Shabalin. “It’s good when anything can happen in this sport. Whoever skates better is going to win.”
Belbin agreed, adding: “I think it’s quite natural for the two of us to be head to head right now. We were juniors together, we made the jump to seniors together, it makes perfect sense that we would be reaching our potential around the same point and I expect they will continue to be our competition for the next four years.”
Performing to a tango by Astor Piazzolla, Domnina and Shabalin also produced a very good mid-line twizzle and midline step sequence, as well as two excellent level four lifts. The two-time and reigning Russian National silver medalists also performed a very good dance spin, and a very good level three diagonal step sequence to earn 58.42 points for a second place finish in the OD and overall (95.28 points) – only less than one point behind Belbin and Agosto.
“We have contradicting feelings,” said Shabalin. “We felt this wasn’t our best performance. It was good, it was emotional, but we felt that we were lacking technically. However, people around us, including our coaches, said it was a great performance and that they hadn’t seen such an emotional performance from us in a long time.” Domnina added: “[Belbin and Agosto] are such an accomplished couple. They won a medal at the Olympic Games and it’s a big step forward for us that we’re battling with them.”
Khokhlova and Novitski delivered a good routine to Tango Jalousie by Jacob Gade which included a very good dance spin, two very good mid-line step sequences (one with twizzles), two good lifts, and a good diagonal step sequence. The Olympians earned 53.98 (personal best) to place third in the OD and overall (85.59 points).
“This probably was one of our best performances of this new program,” said Novitski, “but we’ll continue to work on it to make it even better. For tomorrow, we’ll show everything [that] we can do.” Khokhlova added: “We’ll work on the step sequences, although we were surprised to get a level three. Usually we get only a level two or so in the first competitions because it’s not yet completely ready.”
Zaretski and Zaretski placed fourth in the OD (48.64) and stood in fourth overall (78.84), followed by France’s Pernelle Carron and Mathieu Jost, who finished fifth in the OD (47.61) and moved up from sixth to fifth overall (75.86).
Free Dance (FD)
Domnina and Shabalin opened their routine to Polovetsian Dances by Alexander Borodin with a good dance spin, followed by a good diagonal step sequence, a very good straight line lift, and an excellent straight line-rotational combination lift. The Russians also produced good synchronized twizzles, a very good serpentine and rotational lift, earning 93.13 points for a first place finish in the FD – despite receiving a one point deduction for an extended lift. With a total score of 188.41, the Olympians subsequently edged out Belbin and Agosto to win the gold.
“We’re very pleased with our first place,” said Domnina, adding that they didn’t expect it. “This first place is something we’ve waited for a long time, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us.” “This is our first [Grand Prix] gold medal and I think we made a big step towards more mature skating,” Shabalin added. “We know in which direction we have to go, and this was just the beginning.”
Belbin and Agosto debuted their new FD to the overture from That’s Entertainment, beginning with a diagonal step sequence and a level four curve lift. The three-time and reigning Four Continents Champions went on to produce a circular step sequence, level four synchronized twizzles, and a very good curve-rotational combination lift. The three-time and reigning US National Champions produced two more lifts and a dance spin to earn 91.50 for a second place finish in the FD and overall (187.15) to win the silver.
“As far as our personal performance goes, obviously we could do a much better job,” said Belbin, “but it’s a good place to start from. I think we just need more time with this program to become more solid and more confident. We don’t have very much time now between this event and the Cup of Russia, so I think that we just will try to stay focused on what we need to do.” She added: “Our result here doesn’t change our plans for the season and the growth that we need to make to this program. We’ll just keep our heads high and continue on training. We’ve been skating together for nine years now, and this isn’t a bump on the road that we can’t overpass. We certainly can move forward from this point.”
Khokhlova and Novitski’s dance featured good synchronized twizzles, as well as five very good level four lifts (one in combination) and two level three step sequences. The two-time and reigning Russian National bronze medalists earned a new personal best of 88.27 points for their routine to Aranjuez Mon Amour by Joaquín Rodrigo, placing third in the FD and overall (173.86).
“We’re excited about our first Grand Prix medal. It was a long way and it worked out, but there are no limits and we hope to continue improving,” said Novitski.
Zaretski and Zaretski placed fourth in the FD (79.53 points) and overall (158.37), while Carron and Jost finished fifth in the FD (75.60 ) and overall (151.46 ).
Domnina and Shabalin earned 15 points and will compete against Belbin and Agosto (13 points) again in two weeks at Cup of Russia. Khokhlova and Novitski (11 points) are scheduled to compete in three weeks at NHK Trophy.