Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov won the gold at 2021 Guaranteed Rate Skate America, their second gold at this event, on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nev. Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan captured the silver in the second Grand Prix event of their career, while Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii settled for bronze.
Tarasova and Morozov, who had a five-point lead going into their free skate, had a few bobbles on the side-by-side jumps when Tarasova doubled her Salchow and Morozov stepped out of the triple toe-double toe combination. However, the throw triple flip and throw triple loop were solid and the two-time World silver medalists also earned a good deal of positive grades of execution (GOE) for their lifts and spins. The team scored 142.14 points for their performance to “Lighthouse” and maintained first place overall with over 14 points to spare (222.50).
“Today was a long and hard day,” said Morozov. “Here we did a good competition in the season. We skated a result and this competition was not perfect, but a good step for us so I think we need to work more hard and to show better performance on ice at the next competition.
“It’s a good feeling,” he added, regarding winning their first grand prix event in three years. “In the last three years we have had many, many changes and it was hard to always concentrate one hundred percent. For this season, fortunately, we started to work at home in Moscow with a great team and great coaches and that’s why we started again getting good results.”
Miura and Kihara, who stood in third after the short (72.63), also placed third (135.57) in the free skate, but with a total score of 208.20, managed to snag second place overall. All three scores were new personal bests for the 2020 Japanese Champions who took gold at Autumn Classic earlier this season. The only major error in their free skate to “Woman” by Shawn Phillips was a fall by Miura on the throw triple Lutz in which she slid off her blade and hit the boards. She also put a hand down on a throw triple loop, but the team otherwise landed good side-by-side triple toe-double toe-double toes and triple Salchows while garnering positive GOEs on their lifts and spins.
“For this competition, we really were not hoping or aiming for a medal,” said Miura. “We were just trying to show what we had been doing in training, so we are absolutely surprised that we came in second in this competition.”
“We had our best score today and we are very happy, but it is more regrettable that on the throw jump we made a mistake and I fell,” said Miura. “I really concentrated on not having that mistake linger on my mind and I just tried my best not to let it bother me and I regrouped.”
Now that they have reached the “200-mark” along with winning a medal, their goal is to continue to aim for another medal at their next event at NHK Trophy with over 210 points. Miura looks up to the Chinese pair skaters Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, while Kihara admires Shen Xue and Hongbo Zhao.
Boikova and Kozlovskii took two falls in their free skate to “Malaguena” when Boikova went down on the side-by-side triple Salchows-Euler-triple Salchows and a throw triple flip. The Russian silver medalists otherwise showed a level-four triple twist, throw triple loop and difficult lifts to finish fourth in the free skate (130.10). The 2021 World bronze medalists, who were in second (75.43) after the short program, slipped to third overall (205.53).
“Not everything worked out, but it was a huge experience for us and it was very interesting,” said Kozlovskii.
USA’s Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, who stood in fifth after the short program, gave a moving performance to “Fix You” and “Redemption Through Love” and finishing second in the free skate. The national champions opened with a throw triple twist and side-by-side triple Salchows, but Knierim put a foot down on the throw triple loop and two-footed a triple flip. Nevertheless, the team posted a new personal best in both the free skate (136.60) and total score (202.97) and moved up to fourth overall.
“We can do so much better,” said Knierim. “That program was just the beginning of what we are capable of. That program was just scratching the surface compared to what we do without adrenaline and nerves at home. At home we skate stronger, faster and cleaner, but it was great to get the job done today and check off each element. We are happy that we put out a good performance, but we can skate much better.”
“I made the basic error as a top level competitor and did too much thinking yesterday instead of doing,” said Frazier regarding the fall on the side-by-side triple toes. “Yesterday I was thinking. Today I was doing.”
“We were pretty discouraged after the short; it was hard to look at the levels so low,” said added Knierim. “We have to go back home and really clean that up. I think it’s a privilege to be in any warm up group at a grand prix, but we all know it is really satisfying to be in the last warm up group and we were a bit discouraged not being in that warm up group. I think today we wanted to make a statement that that is where we belong.”
Teammates Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson took two falls in their free skate to “Who Wants to Live Forever” when Calalang fell on the side-by-side triple toes and Johnson on the side-by-side triple Salchows. The defending silver medalist otherwise showed a good throw triple Lutz and throw triple Salchow to score 128.55 in the free skate and 197.42 total—both scores topping their previous personal bests from 2020 Four Continents—to finish fifth overall.
“It wasn’t the program we wanted to skate,” said Calalang. “Knowing that we can achieve that high score with the two big errors says something about the work we have been putting in over the past year. With the two mistakes at the beginning, we just put it aside because it’s like, ‘Okay, it’s done and over’ and we wanted to achieve those high GOEs.”
The team kept their free skate from last year but tweaked it.
“We added a different lift from last year and also we changed around the order a little bit and improved some of the transitions,” said Johnson. “We are really trying to work on our speed in our skating and our connection with each other and connection with the audience.”
“We have never skated this program to its full potential and we know that it is a great vehicle for us for this Olympic season,” added Calalang. “It showcases our speed and strength as well as our musicality, so we felt like there was still more left to give in this program.”
They will compete next at the Challenger Series Warsaw Cup next month and then start ramping up for U.S. Nationals in January.
In their Grand Prix debut, Russia’s Alina Pepeleva and Roman Pleshkov finished sixth (183.12), followed by USA’s Chelsea Liu and Danny O’Shea (175.40) who are also making their debut as a team. Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud of Canada finished eighth (147.61).