The ice dance event proved to be tough, exciting, and somewhat unpredictable as the top three teams were on each other’s heels throughout the competition.
USA’s Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto edged out Russia’s Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin by less than one point to win the gold, while Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France settled for bronze.
Compulsory Dance (CD)
The Compulsory Dance (CD) for the event 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.
Domnina and Shabalin delivered a smooth and confident CD, emphasizing holds and displaying good expression to place first with a new personal best of 37.99 points.
“I think we showed a good Waltz today,” said Domnina. “It’s actually harder to skate at home [in Russia] because you feel more responsibility. Everybody is supporting us and wants us to skate well.” She added: “The Golden Waltz is a difficult dance technically and physically. You can compare it to the Original Dance, so it’s not easy to skate.”
Belbin and Agosto were confident and displayed good character in their CD, earning 36.56 points for a second place finish.
“I think that we did a good job for what we’re capable of with our training of this dance,” said Belbin. “We felt pretty calm, which is good. I think that we’ve made an improvement over our compulsory dance performance in China. That’s all we want to do here – show improvement.”
Delobel and Schoenfelder produced a sound CD which had excellent glide and flow over the ice, finishing less than tenth of a point behind the Americans with 36.50 points for third place.
“I’m disappointed,” Delobel admitted. “We skated well and we had to skate first, but this shouldn’t play a role. The component score was good. We lost more on the technical mark. I don’t have an explanation.”
Sinead Kerr and John Kerr of Great Britain were fourth with 32.25 points, while Azerbaijan’s Kristin Fraser and Igor Lukanin and Hungary’s Nora Hoffmann and Attila Elek placed fifth (30.35 points) and sixth (30.25 points) respectively.
Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer of Russia had to withdraw from the event as Shefer is still recovering from having his appendix removed (a week before Skate America).
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, displayed good character in their dance to Concierto para Quinteto, opening with a good level four midline step sequence with twizzles and a good level three midline step sequence. The 2006 Olympic silver medalists also delivered two good lifts, a good level four dance spin, and a good level three diagonal step sequence, earning 58.02 points for a first place finish in the OD. The current World bronze medalists moved up to first place overall with 94.58 points.
“I think that one of the most exciting things about this new generation of ice dancers is that we never know how the results will be throughout the competition,” said Belbin. “They change so much, and in my mind the three of us are in a three-way tie right now and anything can happen tomorrow. So we try to stay calm and to focus on what we need to do. Today is already forgotten. We can move forward and hopefully give a good performance tomorrow as well.”
Performing to Tango Volver by Maxime Rodriguez, Delobel and Schoenfelder appeared determined and serious, producing two good level three midline step sequences, two very good level four lifts, and a good level three diagonal step sequence. The French National Champions earned 57.83 points for a second place finish in the OD and overall (94.33 points).
“For today, we’re happy to have shown a good performance of our Tango,” said Delobel. “But as Tanith said, this is forgotten already and there’ll be another competition tomorrow and we’re very close. We have to do well tomorrow to hopefully please the Russian audience.”
Domnina and Shabalin had a bad start when Shabalin fell on the second twizzle during the midline step sequence (which was subsequently given a level one) in their performance to a tango by Astor Piazzolla. The two-time and reigning Russian National silver medalists went on to produce a midline step sequence, two very good level four lifts, and a good level three diagonal step sequence, earning 52.36 points for a third place finish in the OD and overall (90.35 points).
“I fell,” said Shabalin with a sigh. “Everybody saw it. It’s a mystery to me as well. it never happened before and I hope it will never happen again. Obviously it’s not easy to pull yourself together after such a fall, knowing that it costs dearly. But this is a situation that happens in practice. If we make a mistake in the beginning, we always skate our program to the end.” Domnina added: “It was an accidental mistake and tomorrow we want to skate well for ourselves in the first place. We’ll try to do all the elements and to perform our dance and we’ll focus on that.”
The Kerrs placed fourth in the OD with 51.88 points (personal best) and remained in fourth overall (84.13 points), while Hoffmann and Attila Elek placed fifth in the OD (48.89 points) and stood in fifth overall (79.14 points).
USA’s Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin, who stood in eighth after the CD, placed fifth in the OD (50.46 points) and moved up to sixth place overall (78.30 points).
Free Dance (FD)
Domnina and Shabalin opened their routine to Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances with a good dance spin, followed by a diagonal step sequence, a very good level four straight line lift, and an excellent level four straight line-rotational combination lift. The Russians also produced good synchronized twizzles, a very good level four serpentine and rotational lift, and a level three circular step sequence, earning 94.99 points for a first place finish in the FD. With a total score of 185.34, the Olympians, who were third last year at this event, missed the top position of the podium by less than a point to settle for silver.
“We skated well for ourselves after what happened yesterday,” said Domnina, referring to the fall. “It’s a shame that it went that way, but we’ll draw our conclusions from it.” Shabalin added: “It wasn’t easy for us to pull ourselves together after yesterday’s fall, [but] we did it.”
Performing to the overture from That’s Entertainment, Belbin and Agosto began with a diagonal step sequence and a very good level four curve lift. The three-time and reigning Four Continents Champions went on to produce a good level three circular step sequence, very good synchronized twizzles, and a very good curve-rotational combination lift. The three-time and reigning US National Champions also produced two more good lifts and a good dance spin to earn 91.75 points for a second place finish in the FD. With a total of 186.33 points, the team took first place overall to win the gold.
“We’re extremely happy with our free dance this afternoon,” said Belbin. “We think we’ve made some big steps forward over [Cup of China]. A lot of the things we’ve worked out at home and we were very happy with how they worked out here. We’re going home and preparing ourselves for the Grand Prix Final, but we really feel we could not have done a better job with the free dance.”
Delobel and Schoenfelder performed their FD to Les Incorruptibles by Maxime Rodriguez, opening with a good level four rotational lift followed by a very good circular step sequence. However, Schoenfelder stepped out of a twizzle during the synchronized twizzles, and as a result, it was graded a level one. The team went on to produce a very good level two serpentine lift, a dance spin, a very good curve lift, a good midline step sequence, and an excellent level four straight line-rotational combination lift. The two-time Olympians received a score of 89.20, placing third in the FD and overall (183.53 points).
“Of course we’re disappointed with the result today,” said Schoenfelder. “Except for my mistake on the twizzle, we skated a good program with a lot of energy. We hope to do much better in two weeks at the Grand Prix Final, and we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
The Kerrs placed fourth in the FD with 84.40 points and remained in fourth overall (168.53 points), while Hoffmann and Attila Elek placed fifth in the FD (82.43 points) and stood in fifth overall (161.57 points).
Matthews and Zavozin finished in sixth place overall with 159.07 points.
Belbin and Agosto (15 points) and Domnina and Shabalin (13 points) now both have a total of 28 points and will meet each other again at the Grand Prix Final (GPF) in a few weeks.
Delobel and Schoenfelder, who had 13 points from Trophee Eric Bompard, earned 11 points at this event. It may be enough to advance to the GPF, but the team will have to wait to see how the top three teams fare at NHK Trophy next week.