Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr. of the United States won their first Grand Prix gold medal in the pairs event, while teammates Naomi Nari Nam and Themistocles Leftheris also won theirs – the bronze. Poland’s Dorota Siudek and Mariusz Siudek won the silver in what was their first Skate America event.
Performing to Steve Fisk’s Soul of Spain, Inoue and Baldwin, attempted to open with side-by-side double Axels, but Inoue stepped out of hers. The 2006 Four Continents champs also attempted the throw triple Axel, but Inoue put her hand down on the landing. Despite the two mistakes, the team overcame with a double twist, and a difficult lift to earn 59.28 points for a first place finish in the short.
“First time out, we had some flaws,” said Baldwin. “But we accepted the challenge of coming to Skate America and doing the first event of the Grand Prix series.” Inoue added that they were not on top of their game. “We have a lot of stuff that we can improve next time,” she said. “It was really hard for us to come into this season after such a huge [Olympic] season for us.”
Teammates Nari Nam and Leftheris nailed their side-by-side triple toeloops, as well as a throw triple loop and double twist in their routine to La Cumparasita. The Americans also delivered a good pair spin, lift and spiral sequence – all level four – to earn 57.32 points for a second place finish after the short.
“This is our first Grand Prix event as a pair and we skated really well,” offered Leftheris. His partner Nari Nam added: “I think we both felt really confident and calm out there. We just performed like [we did] in practice all week.”
Canada’s Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay opened their routine to Irving Berlin’s Mr. Monotony with side-by-side triple toeloops and a double twist. The team then attempted a throw triple Lutz, but Langlois two-footed the landing. The new team earned 55.86 points (personal best) for a third place finish after the short.
“This is our first competition of the season and our second year together,” said Hay, who paired up with Langlois after her partnership with Patrice Archetto was dissolved. “It felt a lot more comfortable.” The attempt at a throw triple Lutz was a first for them in competition. The team was attempting a throw double Lutz in practice just for fun. However, when it worked, they decided to go for the triple – and landed it. “It has become my favorite throw,” added Langlois.
Siudek and Siudek (husband-and-wife team) placed fourth overall after the short with a score of 50.34. Mariusz missed the triple toeloop and Dorota had problems with the combination spin.
Russia’s Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov earned 49.02 for a fifth place finish after the short, followed by teammates Elena Efaieva and Alexei Menshikov who were awarded 48.68 points.
Siudek and Siudek, who were in fourth after the short, opened their long with a side-by-side double Axel-double toeloop sequence and a good triple throw, however, Mariusz missed the side-by-side triple toeloops again – doubling his. Dorota stumbled on the landing of the throw triple Salchow, but the team otherwise produced three excellent and difficult lifts in their routine to selections by Chopin, earning a score of 111.13 for a first place finish in the long. With a total score of 161.47, the two-time Olympians jumped from fourth to second place overall.
“It was a great pleasure for us to be here at Skate America,” said Mariusz. “We came to this competition for the first time in 16 years of skating together.” He added that they put the short out of their minds. “Today was much was better. The first competition is done [and] now we’re ready for the season.”
Skating to selections by Puccini, Inoue and Baldwin had a bad start when Baldwin fell on the opening side-by-side triple toeloops. Inoue also took a hard fall on the throw triple Axel and Baldwin later stumbled on the side-by-side double Axels. However, the US National champs executed a good throw triple loop in addition to very good difficult lifts and spins and were awarded 110.62 points to place second in the long. With a total score of 169.90, they finished in first overall.
“The first [competition] is always tough,” said Baldwin. “This is our first time performing this program. When I fell on the first element, I felt a little bit discouraged because I knew I had another four and a half minutes to go.” The 33-year-old added: “We got almost all level fours on everything we did. That was a good accomplishment for us.”
Nari Nam and Leftheris, who were second after the short, impressed with a triple toe-triple toe sequence in the opening of their routine to Khachaturian’s Gayaneh. The team went on to perform side-by-side double flips, a double twist, a throw triple Salchow, but then Nari Nam fell on the throw triple loop. Despite the mistake the team exhibited three difficult lifts, earning 104.00 points for a third place finish in the long and overall (161.32).
“It feels amazing!” exclaimed Nari Nam when asked about medaling at their first Grand Prix. “We’ve worked very hard to get ready for this competition, and it paid off.”
Langlois and Cody, who stood in third after the short, experienced problems with their throw triples and side-by-side jumps. The Canadians placed fourth in the long with with 97.77 points and subsequently dropped to fourth overall (153.63).
Mukhortova and Trankov maintained fifth place overall (141.31), while USA’s Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent rose from seventh to sixth overall (131.19).
Inoue and Baldwin (15 points) are scheduled to compete next week at Skate Canada, but it will be a non-scoring event for them. They will compete for points at the Trophee Eric Bompard in three weeks.
This was not a scoring event Siudek and Siudek. They are scheduled to compete for points at Cup of China and Cup of Russia.
Skate America was the only Grand Prix event in which Nam and Leftheris (11 points) were slated to compete.