Consistent and steady, Canadians Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau claimed their first Grand Prix gold medal at Skate America with a heartful and romantic free program set to music from the Cinema Paradiso soundtrack.
Element by element, the team executed their high-risk tricks, including side-by-side triple toe-double toe- combination jumps and a throw triple Lutz woven by authentic and expressive choreography. The team placed first (130.82) in the free program, and with a total score of 197.31, shot up from third to first place overall.
“We are really happy with what we did today,” said Bilodeau, 23. “We have been able to focus on the long program even with the mistake in our short program. We got the gold so it’s amazing.”
“First we need to like it,” Séguin, 19, said of their music choices. “We don’t have any particular way to choose our music. We just want to feel something when we’re listening to it.”
In their return to competitive skating after her knee injury, Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier performed a near-perfect long program to music from Somewhere in Time. Their sublime silver-medal-winning skate was highlighted by a throw triple loop and Salchow, however, Denney singled her planned side-by-side double Axel and their combination jump was under-rotated. They earned 125.36 in the free skate for a combined total score of 192.65.
“We are pleased with our performance,” said Frazier. “For the outcome, we’re pleased to be back on the podium. I told Haven earlier this week that it was just great to be able to come to this arena where we came in second two years ago and had a strong performance in the free skate.”
Despite the compelling theme and musicality of their “Music” routine, Russians Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov opened their routine with a fall on the planned quadruple twist and struggled to recover with mistakes on both side-by-side jumping passes. The team earned a total of 185.94 with 110.70 in the free skate to and slipped from first to third overall.
“Today we have a mistake on the quad,” said Morozov, adding that he had a temperature in the morning. “It was not our best and we had a lot of other mistakes.”
Vanessa James, 29, and Morgan Ciprès, 25, of France placed seventh in the free skate with 108.87 points. They had a good start with a triple twist and solid side-by-side triple Salchows, however their soulful routine to “Sound of Silence” was otherwise marred by several mistakes. Nevertheless, the four-time French champions maintained fourth place overall with 174.65 points.
Russians Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov were fifth overall with 174.52 points.
Skating to a playful techno swing, Tarasova, 21, and Morozov, 23, opened their short program with a soaring throw triple twist. As the program unfolded, the two-time European bronze medalists executed each element – highlighted by side-by-side triple toe loops and a throw triple loop – with precision, unison and confidence. The program’s character and exuberance, including great personality in the transitions following the death spiral, were rewarded with a personal best score of 75.24.
“Today we have a short program where we did well,” said Morozov. “We have a personal best and were glad to have this moment.”
Denney, 20, and Frazier, 23, were tentative in their routine to music from Don Juan. While Denney struggled on the side-by-side triple Salchows, their routine was otherwise clean. The national silver medalists collected 67.29 points for a second place finish.
“It felt really good,” said Frazier, who finished fourth earlier this month at 2016 Nepela Trophy with his partner. “It wasn’t our best performance, but it was by far the best program we have been able to put out since our return to competition. I’m proud of my partner. She’s truly a warrior. I’m very blessed with every day I get now to be back on the ice.”
Canadians Séguin and Bilodeau skated an animated short program to “Skokiaan” by Louis Armstrong featuring difficult side-by-side triple loops, but he doubled and struggled on the loop jump. Despite the mistake, the 2016 national silver medalists produced a throw triple Lutz and earned a level 4 on all other elements, earning 66.49 points for third place.
“Even if I missed my jump, the rest was alright,” said Bilodeau. “The score was higher than our last competition at the Autumn Classic, so it proves that even with a mistake, we are able to score higher.”
With new coaches, a new training site, new short program and new throw jump element, James and Ciprès impressed with their routine set to “Earned” It by The Weeknd. Now coached in Florida by John Zimmerman, the team skated cleanly apart from her two-footed landing of the throw triple flip with her arms above her head. They finished fourth (65.78).
“It’s still new so it wasn’t perfect, but it’s getting there,” said James. “We’re risking something with the short, but we’re putting it out there. The big elements were good.”
The routine replaced a previously-planned number to The Mask just a month ago that James said “didn’t show our lines.”
“It’s not like a normal throw at all,” said James of the team’s new trick. “The timing is so precise that if it’s off, I go completely upside down, to the left, to the right, upside down, belly flops, hips. So, it’s hard. But when it’s perfect, it’s going to be plus threes.”