It was a performance that could change pairs figure skating at the 2012 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. Chinese national champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han showed a new level of technical mastery by attempting and completing both a split quadruple twist and a throw quadruple Salchow.
Both elements were completed with such speed, that they almost appeared to be triples to the naked eye.
“We feel very excited. Maybe tonight we can’t sleep,” Han said. “I think later in the program there were a little nerves, but we feel we adjusted to our program. The throws were successful and we are very pleased. This is our first time to win a senior competition and we are happy and excited.”
In just their first season of ISU Championship eligibility, Sui, 16, and Han, 19, made the transition from two-time World Junior Champions to World medal hopefuls look like a piece of cake. The duo presented a more mature Flamenco program this afternoon, earning a new personal best of 201.83 points—and the gold medals.
The you team has a very aggressive competition schedule in the coming weeks, but are eager to take on the challenge.
“We will go to Junior Worlds and senior Worlds,” Han explained. “We are excited for this chance.”
Finishing in second place were American champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, who performed well under the pressure of skating in front of a hometown crowd.
“It felt great,” Denney said. “Right before they called our names out, I was sort of taking it in the environment. It felt awesome.”
“We had a great time out there,” added Coughlin. “I was talking to Rockne and we could feel the American presence in the crowd. It was fun to skate at home.”
Denney and Coughlin, performing to Nessun Dorma, opened with a giant split triple twist lift and a strong throw triple loop. The audience was behind them from the start, giving the local kids the biggest welcome of the afternoon, staying with them through a mistake on an early program double Axel combination.
“We felt strong. Like we said in the short, we took a step in right direction to build toward Worlds,” Coughlin said. “We still left points on the table. We don’t want to lose what I call ‘fool proof’ points. We will get to work on our levels and performing together. We had fun and are happy with how it turned out.”
The program ended with what started out as a fantastically executed carry lift, but the exit was a little scary for the audience.
“I wasn’t tired really at all going into our carry, I think I just was excited and I was a little quick,” Coughlin explained. “She didn’t even get a chance to jump, so I ended up doing it by myself, which is less than ideal.”
Denney and Coughlin carry the momentum of their personal best score of 185.42 points from this competition into next month’s World Championships.
Another American team, Mary Beth Marley and Rockne Brubaker captured the bronze medals—and stood on the podium for only the second time in an international competition together.
“We are trying to take a stand and be a world power as far as pairs goes,” said Brubaker. “This is a good start. Before we went on the ice, I saw the American flags in the crowd. I told Mary Beth, ‘We’re competing for the U.S. today.'”
Though the team got off to a rather shaky start—Marley fell on the opening triple toe sequence—they salvaged their Rachmaninov program with strong lifts and spins. Their total of 178.89 points is also a new personal best, and gives them confidence heading into their first World Championship competition.
“Overall we were just really happy to be here. We’ve come a long way since last year,” Brubaker noted. “Mary Beth kind of jokingly said our season best was 88 at Skate America and today it was 116. There are some points we know we can easily get back. Our jumps and throws are usually pretty solid. We’re ready to get to work for Worlds.”
Finishing in fourth place were Canadian champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who pulled up from eighth place after the short program. Like most of the others, their program was far from perfect, but they did have some highlights. Their opening split twist lift was strong, and they attempted side-by-side triple Lutzes. Last year’ silver medalists finished with 171.89 points.
The Japanese team of Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran struggled on the jumps and throws this afternoon, and slipped from fourth after the short program to fifth place overall.
American bronze medalists Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig finished in sixth place.
“Of course it wasn’t our best skate, but we did fight out there,” said Evora. “It was interesting. The lights kind of turned off on us in the middle of the program, but we didn’t let that affect us,” Evora said.
“We could tell that we were a little shaky going out there, but we fought throughout the whole thing,” Evora explained. “Knowing when you’re trained you’re allowed to do that. It had some good and some bad. What’s interesting is some of the things we usually don’t do so well we did well this time and some of the things we usually do well we didn’t do so well, so experience, always.”
Canadian bronze medalists Paige Lawrence and Rudy Swiegers bettered their teammates Jessica Dubé and Sebestien Wolfe once again, finishing in seventh to the silver national silver medalists’ eighth place.
Two Chinese teams—Yue Zhang and Lei Wang and teammates Huibo Dong and Yiming Wu rounded out the top ten in ninth and 10th place, respectively.
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