2023 Grand Prix Espoo: Pairs
Minerva Fabienne Hase and Nikita Volodin of Germany were golden in their Grand Prix debut in Espoo, Finland, in the Pairs’ event. Italy’s Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii pocketed the silver, while Maria Pavlova and Alexei Sviatchenko of Hungary rose from fourth to clinch the bronze.
Minerva Fabienne Hase and Nikita Volodin
Hase and Volodin posted the second highest technical score in their short program to “Stay.” Their routine featured a very good level-three twist and solid side-by-side triple Salchows. Unfortunately, she took a fall on the throw triple loop, but the lift, spin and death spiral were all graded a level four. They scored 63.59 points for third place going into the free skate.
“We have mixed feelings on our performance today,” said Hase. “A mistake on the throw loop, really? That’s usually a very secure element for us. Competing this season made me a bit calmer, but I have to admit, I am still a bit more nervous compared to the past. But we’re getting there. Nikita is such a strong competitor, and it helps me a lot.”
Their free skate to “The Path of Silence” and “Power of Mind” featured a level-three triple twist and three level four lifts. They landed a side-by-side triple toe-double Axel-double Axel sequence, but Volodin put his hand down on the last jump after landing it on the quarter. He also doubled his triple Salchow, but the throw triple loop and throw double Salchow were clean. They placed first with 129.13 points and moved up two spots to first overall with 192.72 points.
Hase admitted to being extremely nervous and was not pleased with their performance.
“Getting on the podium here feels very lucky,” she said. “The result was very surprising for us today. We had some mistakes today. It’s a special moment for both of us as it’s the first time we won a Grand Prix. It’s very motivating for the future as we know that once we can put it all together, we can skate very well.”
The team is grateful for the opportunity to compete in Finland, and they are now in good position going into the Final if they do well next week at NHK Trophy.
They will fly straight to Japan from here on Monday.
“Right now, it feels like it’s good to keep going,” said Hase. “We want to show right away that we can do better!”
Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii
Conti and Macii lost a level on triple twist, and she stepped out of the throw triple loop, but the 2023 World bronze medalists silver medalists were otherwise solid. The side-by-side triple Salchows were clean, and the level-four lift was awarded with positive GOEs. They placed second with 65.00 points.
“We did another mistake on the throw, but overall, we feel better than in France,” said Macii. “We are 0.25 points away from the top. We will do it tomorrow!”
“Since France, we worked with a sports phycologist as it’s really mental,” he added. “We still need to believe in ourselves the way we did last year. We are physically very ready and prepared; we do a lot of clean run-throughs. “Last year the short was super easy for us and in the legs as we skated it the third season. This program now is a little bit more difficult and faster. But we will get more secure with it as the season progresses.”
“It’s great but also strange to come back to this venue that gave us so many great memories,” said Conti. “But I keep telling myself, this is a new season!”
The 2023 European champions placed third in their free skate after Macii took a fall on the triple toes. While the triple twist had a low catch, the three lifts and pair spin garnered a level four. They also landed good side-by-side triple toes. The scored 123.60 for the free skate and maintained second overall (188.60).
“I am happy that I did the best on my part,” said Conti. “Nico is not very happy because of his mistakes.”
“We had other mistakes than usual,” said Macii. “Seeing the positives, I think it’s better than always being stuck with the same mistakes. I never missed at toe in three months. I don’t know what happened. I am happy Sara was that strong and she pushed me through today. We will take some days off. We didn’t skate up to our potential yet this season and we want to work on that, but first, rest!”
The team was also very relieved that their skate is probably enough to qualify for the Final.
Maria Pavlova and Alexei Sviatchenko
Maria Pavlova and Alexei Sviatchenko of Hungary finished fourth in the short with 61.53 points. The judges were conflicted on the level four lift, with the GOEs ranging from -1 to +2. The twist was graded a level four, as was the death spiral and spin. The 2023 Skate Canada silver medalists also landed good side-by-side triple toes, but she turned out the landing of a throw triple flip.
“We had a very untypical mistake on the throw,” said Pavlova. “That makes me very upset right now! We achieved level four on the death spiral, which we are happy about. In general, we are not happy with our scores though. We really don’t like them!”
“We didn’t come here with any goals or expectations,” she added. “We just want to enjoy the competition!”
The 2023 Budapest Trophy silver medalists finished third in the free skate (124.66) and moved up onto the podium with a total score of 186.19. Their routine featured a level-four triple twist, three level-four lifts, a throw triple flip, and throw triple loop. The second jump in a triple toe-double Axel-double Axel was slightly underrotated by Sviatchenko. He also stepped out of the triple Salchows.
“We are happy with the skate and the third place, despite some little mistakes,” said Pavlova. “We are happier with the scores today. We usually don’t understand why we are graded the way we are.”
“We are working really hard on the second mark and worked a lot with our choreographer,” added Sviatchenko. “We also worked a lot on the smaller elements like the death spiral.”
Cheng Peng and Lei Wang
Cheng Peng and Lei Wang of China put out a good short program which featured side-by-side triple toes, throw triple loop and level-two triple twist. The death spiral, lift, steps, and spin all received a level four and the throw jump received 1.14 grades of execution (GOE). The 2023 Cup of China bronze medalists posted a new personal best of 65.25 for first place.
“It was tough for us to come here after competing at the Cup of China last week,” admitted Wang. “But we tried our best, it’s important to eat and sleep well. We are super happy and proud of our performance today! We came here without a specific goal. We just want to enjoy the competition!”
Their free skate to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was awarded 120.91 points for fourth place. Peng underrotated her jump on the triple toes and later put a foot down on a throw triple Salchow. Those were the only mistakes in their routine which featured a very good throw triple loop. The lifts were all graded a level four while the triple twist received a level two.
“We are happy with our skate today,” said Peng. “We are leaving with a smile on our face.”
“We are not as tired anymore today,” added Wang. “We will now have a national competition and then the Four Continents. “It’s a bit too far in the future to think about Worlds.”
Rounding out the top eight