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Savchenko and Szolkowy strike gold again

Aljona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy at 2012 Skate Canada

Germany’s Aljona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy perform to “Flamenco Bolero” at 2012 Skate Canada.

Favorites Aljona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany struck gold at Skate Canada International in Windsor in the Pairs figure skating event. Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford pocketed the silver, while the bronze went to Italians Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek.

Savchenko and Szolkowy skated to their 12th Grand Prix gold medal and their fourth Skate Canada title with 201.36 points. The Germans have competed on the Grand Prix circuit since the fall of 2004 and have stood on the podium each time, collecting a total of 18 medals thus far.

Skating to Montesano’s Flamenco Bolero, the team and coach Ingo Steuer once again proved that they don’t shy away from taking risks. The second skin costumes were even more colorful than in the short program.

The four-time World Champions produced a triple twist, throw triple Salchow and picked up a level four for all six non-jumping elements in their routine. However, Savchenko two-footed the throw triple flip and Szolkowy doubled the first jump in the triple toe-triple toe sequence.

Overall, the performance appeared somewhat tentative. This is understandable as Savchenko was still fighting her cold and wasn’t even sure in the morning if she would be fit to compete. Nevertheless, the team scored 129.10 (61.59/67.51) points for a first place finish in the long.

“I didn’t even know if I could do the short program,” said 28-year-old Savchenko. “I am really proud of myself that I was able to push through. It never has been so bad.”

“It was a quite good performance,” Szolkowy, 33, offered. “It was our first competition with new programs and new costumes. There were a few shaky moments.”

“We’ll have to improve our elements that were not clean today like the jump sequence,” he added. “The twist could have been better and the the second jump (in the side by side Salchow) was just a double. It was a working version of our program and there are not so many emotions yet.”

The costumes were discussed by the media and fans, there were lots of comments in the internet, some positive, some negative although the majority of observers seemed to embrace the originality of the body suits. There is an ISU rule that forbids tights for men, but the Germans received no deduction as the majority of the judges didn’t give one.

Duhamel and Radford skated to the music from the soundtrack of the French movie Angel, and put out the most technically difficult program. They pulled off a triple twist, a side by side triple Lutz, and a triple Salchow-double toe-double toe combination, but Duhamel stumbled on the throw triple loop and Lutz. Their lifts, death spiral and pair spin merited a level four.

The Canadian champions earned a new personal best of 126.00 (64.00/62.00) points for a second place finish in the long, and maintained second overall with 190.49 points.

“We are really happy with how our program went,” commented Radford. “What we might be the most happy about was the second mark going up, one of the most challenging things we try to accomplish in skating. We may have ups and downs on the technical side, but to get that second mark up like that is an accomplishment.”

Berton and Hotarek turned in a solid performance to the Flamenco piece Poeta en el viento, made popular by Stéphane Lambiel, to earn the second Grand Prix medal of their career. The routine featured a triple twist, a throw triple loop and Salchow, but she fell on the side by side triple Salchow. The Italians picked up 112.24 (58.44/54.80) points and totaled 172.03 points.

“We improved our personal best, but there are still some things to work on,” Hotarek shared. “We are looking forward to making the improvements and skate better in our next competition.”

Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers of Canada finished fourth in the long (105.45) and overall (158.33). Skating to the War Horse soundtrack, they impressed with their difficult and original lifts, but had some trouble with the solo jumps. Lawrence went down on the triple toe, while Swiegers singled the second jump in the sequence consisting of two double Axels. Their triple twist received only the base value.

France’s Daria Popova and Bruno Massot came in fifth with 149.37 points. Their program to Cohkka and Faraway by Apocalyptica included a nice triple twist, a throw triple loop and Salchow, but Massot wobbled on the triple toe-double toe sequence and Popova crashed on the double Axel while Massot singled his.

USA’s Tiffany Vise and Don Baldwin skated to last season’s Legends of the Fall and Time to Say Goodbye. The highlights of their program were a triple toe-double toe combination, a throw triple loop and the Axel lasso lift. On the other hand, Vise missed the throw triple flip and Baldwin doubled the Salchow. Their pair spin didn’t receive a level as they had a flawed change of foot. They moved up to sixth with 141.21 points.

Teammates Lindsay Davis and Mark Ladwig struggled with most of their elements in their program to Angels and Demons, finishing seventh (122.28) in their grand prix debut.

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