2023 Skate America: Pairs
Germany’s Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel secured the Pairs’ gold at 2023 Skate America today in Allen, Texas. Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud of Canada and USA’s Chelsea Liu and Balazs Nagy pocketed the silver and bronze, respectively, in their debut at this event.
Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel
Hocke and Kunkel placed first in both the short program (63.59) and free skate (120.64). Hocke struggled a bit with the side-by-side jumps in both programs, falling on the side-by-side triple Salchows in both routines.
“We really have been struggling with the jetlag, but it’s a learning experience,” said Hocke after the short program. “Robert is competing in the U.S. for the first time, so we will know how to prepare better the next time. We had one big obvious mistake, but we stepped it up with some levels on the other elements and this feels great!”
In their free skate to “Without You,” the 2023 European bronze medalists executed three level-four lifts and Hocke had solid landings on the throw triple flip and triple loop. They scored 184.23, enough to secure their first Grand Prix gold.
“There was a certain kind of dizziness throughout the program for me,” said Hocke. “There was a fall on the Salchow, but we are proud of our throws and how we held it together until the end. Winning a Grand Prix is all we ever dreamed of!”
Hocke recalled their first Skate America competition in 2018, stating it was where she had her “worse free skate ever.”
“I cried and was very jealous of everyone who had a good performance,” she admitted. “It’s so amazing to come back to Skate America like this and even win it!”
The German champions, who recently took silver at Shanghai Trophy, are looking forward to the Cup of China.
Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud
Pereira and Michaud, who teamed up last season, finished fourth. In Allen, Texas, the Canadian National bronze medalists placed second in both segments (63.22/119.37), trailing the Germanys by less than two points with a total score of 182.59. The new team showed good ice coverage in their performances, and the short program to “River” by Bishop Briggs was near-solid with no major mistakes.
“We came here to show what we’ve been working on, that we improved the pairs’ elements and our unity and skating skills,” said Michaud of the short program. “We think we did that, and the elements worked well. We don’t want to look like a new team anymore. Of course, we know that the door is wide open at this event, but we really just focus on ourselves and do what we do in our everyday training.”
Their free skate to music from the Gladiator soundtrack was highlighted by their level-four lifts and throw triple Salchow. Pereira fell on the triple toe-double Axel sequence and put a foot down on the throw triple loop, but the Canadian bronze medalists received a level four for the back-inside death spiral and pair combination spin.
“We are really happy and proud of ourselves,” said Pereira. “Being second after the short means a bit of a longer wait; we aren’t necessarily used to that. I was definitely surprised about the initial fall, but it’s something we train on in our regular training, to move on to the next element. We are still learning at every single event and gaining new experiences.”
“I am very grateful to have wonderful people in my life,” said her partner, “and I learned over the last years that everything happens for a reason. If you really love something, you have to keep going and something great comes around the corner. I want to thank everyone who has been a part of my journey.”
The team will compete next in France.
“The Final is something that is on our mind,” Pereira admitted. “Looking at our assignments and having placed sixth at Worlds, it is definitely something on our agenda.”
Chelsea Liu and Balazs Nagy
Liu and Nagy are also a new team. They made their international debut at Autumn Classic earlier this season where they finished fourth. At Skate America, they showed good chemistry on the ice and earned new personal bests in both programs (61.23/116.43). Liu put her foot down on the triple Salchows in their short program to “Dive” but the triple twist and throw triple Salchow were solid. The twist and level-four lift in particular, garnered high grades of execution (GOE). They scored a total of 177.66 points, also a personal best.
“We think we really stepped it up and that’s what we want, to just keep improving bit by bit,” said Liu. “We are very excited to skate in front of a home crowd here!”
Their free skate to “A Thousand Times Good Night” featured a huge level-three triple twist which was awarded +2.20 GOEs. Unfortunately, Liu stepped out of the triple Salchows and fell on a throw triple Salchow. Nevertheless, all three lifts were graded a level four, as was the death spiral and combination spin.
“We are so happy and proud of ourselves!” said Liu. “Of course, winning a medal on the Grand Prix is great, but what feels even better is that we put out a great program. We were able to deliver what we trained for. We worked a lot on the levels and tried to get a certain consistency.”
Balazs joked that the last time he won a medal was when he competed in Juniors (2019 JGP in Poland). However, he added that the “overall performance is what matters the most.”
“I am a little surprised to have won a medal,” he said. “It was a bit of extra pressure to not think about it too much.”
“We’ve skated together for half a year now, so I don’t ever think about the result,” said Liu. “We are just trying to improve every day in training.”
Rounding out the top seven
USA’s Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez finished fourth (157.08) followed by teammates Isabelle Martins and Ryan Bedard (154.66). Italy’s Irma Caldara and Riccardo Maglio (138.18) and Great Britain’s Anastasia Vaipan-Law and Luke Digby (133.84) placed sixth and seventh, respectively.
This was a solo event for Liu/Nagy, Vaipan-Law/Digby, Caldara/Maglio, and Martins/Bedard. Plazas and Fernandez will compete next in France.