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Sui and Han bounce back for sixth Four Continents title

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2020 Four Continents

Pairs’ Free Skate

Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China bounced back after a subpar Short Program to defend and claim their fifth title at this event in Seoul, South Korea, on Saturday night. Teammates Cheng Peng and Yang Jin maintained second to win the silver, improving on their third place from last year, while Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro pocketed the bronze.

Sui and Han immersed themselves in their dramatic routine to “Rain, In Your Black Eyes,” producing a very good level 4 triple twist, triple Salchow-double toe-double toes, a throw triple Salchow and throw triple flip. All lifts were very well executed and earned a level 4, as did the death spiral and spin. The only mistake was when Sui doubled the triple Salchows. The 2018 Olympic silver medalists scored 144.34 for a first-place finish in the free skate, and with a total score of 217.51, rose from third to first overall.

“It was pity because I was able to land  it almost every time in training recently,” said Sui of the double Salchow. “But maybe because it went too well in the training, I got a little bit relaxed. A little bit of overthinking too much when in the program, then you do a double. We were very happy that we were able to get all level 4 on the elements. This never happened before and that shows the result of our recent training.”

“To be honest, recently it’s a bit difficult to train and to focus because we were concerned if we could go abroad to take this competition,” she added. “But thanks to our association, and thanks to our country that really protect us from the virus so that we can train and don’t have to worry about not participating in this competition.”

“We are quite satisfied with our performance today,” said Han. “We showed a good level of skating. After we go home, we’ll work on the problems we have figured out at this competition and make some adjustments as we prepare for the World Championships. It is a good transition to the World Championship.”

“Every time it is very special and very different,” he said, regarding their sixth title. “It gives us more confidence and trust. It is dear to me, because we lost the short program, but then we caught up with the long program and that is very special to me.”

“This time we had some problem with the short program dress and also with the level of the death spiral,” responded Sui of their preparation for Worlds. “We also had some problem today in the long program with the triple Salchow. Last month, we had been training very hard and everything was very good, but this time there were some problems. We should fix those things, keep working, help each other, and enjoy skating.”

Peng and Jin only had one major mistake in their eloquent routine to music from Cloud Atlas, and that was when she stepped out the throw triple loop. The 2019-20 Grand Prix silver medalists were otherwise clean, producing triple Salchows and triple toe-double toes, as well as a throw triple Salchow. They also earned a level 4 on all elements, except for the twist and death spiral, and placed second with a season’s best of 137.33 in the free skate and overall (213.29).

“I was very happy with the performance today,” said Jin. “We were able to do what we can do in the training. And especially consider what is happening in China, so many doctors and medicals are fighting in front of the virus and they are fighting so hard, so there’s no reason for us not to fight. We went for the difficult solo jumps because there is no excuse not to fight, so we wanted to do our best.”

“Our training before these Championships was not as solid as we would have liked it, but today we did our best, so there was some progress,” added Peng. “Hopefully, we can train well and have good performances. Now we want to train hard and prepare for the World Championship.”

“We need to focus in both programs on details,” said Jin on their preparation heading into the World Championships. “The death spiral was a level three in the short and free program, and the footwork in the free was also a level three. We need to figure out how to get a level four. We need to focus on the details to get the time. Our training is hard and we enjoy the competition.”

Moore-Towers and Marinaro produced nice lifts, a throw triple twist, throw triple loop, and throw triple Salchow in their expressive and well-presented routine to “Carry You.” However, mistakes were made on the side-by-side jumps and Marinaro tripped after during a non-element part of the program for a one-point deduction. The defending silver medalists scored 125.44 for fourth place and slipped to third overall (201.80).

It was a little bit rough for us today,” said Moore-Towers. “We don’t perform like this today as we do in training, so it was a bit of a head-scratcher. I think we’ve been practicing really well and it’s become apparent that we need to translate what we do in training into how we perform at competitions.”

“We just need to keep on doing what we’re doing at home,” agreed Marinaro. “Our training is right on point. Now we just need to figure out the mindset and translate that into competitions and put down that program that we are extremely capable of doing at Worlds in five weeks.

“Luckily we have a few weeks, and Worlds for us is at home,” added Moore-Towers, “so we won’t be dealing with jet lag and the other trickier aspects that come with doing a big event in close proximity to Nationals that is very far away. It is definitely no excuse. We were very prepared to lay down a good performance today. So we will just do more of the same when we get home. We are training well and won’t adjust our training at home. We will just adjust how we translate that into competitions.”

USA’s Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson showed good flow in their routine to “You Are the Reason,” producing an exception a level 4 triple twist, throw triple Salchow, and throw triple Lutz. The 2019 CS Warsaw Cup champions also landed triple toe-double toes, and the only major error came when Johnson popped the triple Salchows. The national silver medalists placed third with a new personal best of 128.39 in the free skate and fourth overall (196.15).

“I feel pretty good,” said Johnson. “There’re two things I could have done better, but overall, it was a really good skate. We are happy with it.”

“We’ve been together less than two years, but already we are in the last group at the Four Continents with Olympians,” he said of their progress this season and competing in an ISU Championship. “I have nothing but hope for the future. It feels great. It’s great to be in a last group skating with all the great skaters including Olympic medalists. We are on the right path. We are just going to keep doing what we are doing.”

“I feel like that all the hard work I’ve been putting in during our practice time is really showing,” said Calalang. “It’s really exciting. It’s been a pretty exciting season for us. Because I feel like I am getting improved at every competition little by little. It’s our final competition in this season, so we are going to look forward to getting back the next season.”

Teammates Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea struggled on the side-by-side jumps and had a step out on the throw triple Lutz, but displayed good level 4 lifts, death spiral, and spin to finish fifth (123.55) in the free skate. With a total score of 186.20, the 2018 Four Continents champions moved up from seventh to fifth overall.

“I feel pretty good about this program,” said Kayne. “Last season we ended on kind of on a low point, and this season, I think we both feel a lot better about ourselves and the state of progress we are skating. This program gives us something we can build on for next season.”

“Yes, I agree with Tarah,” said O’Shea. “I think that we put out a strong performance. There were errors, but we showed a good overall skating performance, not just element to element and nothing in-between. I think that’s something we’ve improved on and want to continue to show about our skating. So I am happy to show off that today.”

The 2020 U.S. national bronze medalists will now return home to start preparing for next season. Their goal is to come back with stronger technical elements.

Canada’s Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud and Liubov Ilyushechkina and Charlie Bilodeau finished in sixth (177.58) and seventh (171.32), respectively.

USA’s Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Christopher Knierim withdrew from the event due to family illness. They stood in fifth place following the Short Program.