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Stellato-Dudek claim Four Continents title

Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps claim Four Continents title

(L-R) Riku Miura/Ryuichi Kihara (JPN), Deanna Stellato-Dudek/Maxime Deschamps (CAN) and Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea (USA) pose with their medals at the 2024 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

2024 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships: Pairs

Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps of Canada claimed the Pairs’ title at the 2024 Four Continents on Saturday in Shanghai, China. It was their third consecutive appearance at this event, and they upgraded from a bronze from last year. Defending champions Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan settled for silver, while USA’s Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea rose from fourth to snatch the bronze.

Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps

Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps were off to a strong start in their demanding routine to “Oxygene.” The 2023-24 Grand Prix Final champions delivered a level-four triple twist that scored +1.63 grades of execution (GOE). Then Deschamps went down on the side-by-side triple toes. The team quickly recovered and produced a solid throw triple loop and picked up a level four for the spin, steps and death spiral. They placed first in the short with 69.48 points.

“I am a little bit disappointed with my mistake, but I am happy about the rest of the performance,” said Deschamps. “We have been working super hard going into this event.”

Stellato-Dudek agreed, adding, “Max has been working really hard on his jumps at home and they have been going really well. It doesn’t always translate into competition, but we hope it will show on Saturday.”

“I am running on three hours of sleep a night,” she added. “There have been super early and super late practices and competitions. And now it’s after 11pm. I am hoping to catch up on some sleep until Saturday. But overall, we love competing in China. We have been here a few times. The Chinese federation does a great job and maybe because we have been here so much, we got some extra cheering on our sides now.”

The two-time Canadian champions had a rocky start in their free skate to Interview with a Vampire. The twist was only graded a level two and Stellato-Dudek singled the last jump in a triple toe-Axel-double Axel sequence. Deschamps then turned out his jump on the triple Salchows, but the rest of the program was solid. All lifts and the pair spin were graded a level four and she fought for the landing on a triple Salchow which received positive GOE. The bronze medalists from last year finished first in the free skate and overall (129.32/198.80) with eight points to spare.

“We’re very pleased with the result but we’re not thrilled with our skate,” said Stellato-Dudek. “We know we can do a whole lot better than that. I really hurt my arm on the twist, and it was tingling and hurting really bad the whole program. So, it’s not a fun way to begin. It was a bit of a fight. But at least we fought through it and we’re able to complete everything.”

“For sure, we’re trained, so considering the mistakes, thanks to all the training we’ve been able to carry on for the rest of the program,” Deschamps added. “We struggled a bit this week and we are looking forward to the next month coming, working on the details and being ready for Worlds.”

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara

Miura and Kihara, earned a season’s best (65.61) for second place after their uplifting short program to “Dare You to Move.” The triple twist was only graded a level two and she doubled her jump on the side-by-side triple toes. The level-four lift and steps earned positive GOEs, but the landing of the throw triple Lutz was slightly two-footed.

“Our goal was to get 65 points, so we are glad,” said Kihara. “At the start of the season we got 59 points, and before the competition, the two of us talked that we would be able to get 65. Of course, I think there were frustrating parts for both of us, but we had a realistic goal and think that it will benefit us in the future. I think if we keep practicing like this, the elements will come back to us. And I think it’ll be important to make sure we will get our levels in big competitions like this. We will make sure of it tomorrow and the day after as well and hope to lead it into the World Championships.”

“We don’t have a specific goal for the free skate,” he added. “For starters, we just want to do what we are able to. Of course, we want to get a good ranking, and aim for a good score, but because of my injury we weren’t able to progress in trainings much. We hope to do our best.”

“Last year I had an injury, and at that time I felt the loneliness of Ryuichi being alone a lot,” said Miura. “This year, we had the same situation with his injury, but both of us have really positive personalities and just thought we’ll do our best with rehabilitation. I think it helped both of us become really mentally strong.”

While not at their best, the 2023 World champions put out a good third-place (125.16) free skate to “Une chance qu’on s’a” and “Amour infini.” She doubled the first jump in a triple toe-double Axel-double Axel sequence while he put a hand down on the triple Salchows. The throw triple Luz was huge, receiving +1.36 GOE, however, she went down on the throw triple loop. Only one lift out of three was graded a level four given his back injury. With a total score of 190.77, however, they were able to maintain second place overall.

Miura shared that they had very little time to prepare for this event, but that they were happy to have delivered a full program.

“Actually, last December we made the decision to attend the Four Continents,” said Kihara. “The final decision was made on the second week of January this year and it was the last two weeks that we started the training for the short program. Last week, we started training for the free.”

“Our free program is very difficult in terms of the technical elements, so we have to overcome a lot of difficulties during that program,” he added. “The coach once told me that you may as well have a little bit of rest during free skating. So, I’d like to admit that for one moment in the program I’d like to it to continue.”

Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea

Kam and O’Shea showed good unison in their side-by-side triple Salchows in their endearing routine to East of Eden. Kam went down on the throw triple loop, but the national champions went on to earn a level four for the spin, lift and death spiral. The placed fourth with 60.72 points.

“It was pretty good!” said O’Shea. “We missed a couple of levels and of course the fall, but we keep growing as a team and gain experience.”

“Winning nationals hasn’t really sank in yet,” added Kam. “It’s been such a quick turnaround.”

“After nationals, we left right away the next morning at 6 am after quickly hugging our parents goodbye,” shared O’Shea. “It was never an option for us to withdraw as some other American athletes that will perform at worlds. As a new team we want to use every opportunity and the Four Continents is a great competition.”

2023 Finlandia Trophy champions opened with a good level-four triple twist in their routine to Nocturnal Animals. The unison on the side-by-side triple Salchows was good, but Kam fought for the landing of a throw triple loop. She later fell on a throw triple Salchow, but the side-by-side triple toe-double toes were clean. The team scored a new personal best of 126.56 and finished third overall (187.28).

Kam and O’Shea felt good about their performance but acknowledge that there is still much to improve upon.

“t’s very nice to know that we’re improving, and our scores are improving,” said O’Shea. “But we skate at home even better than what we showed today, on a somewhat regular basis. So, it’s very nice to know that there’s still a lot of room for growth. I’m happy to have learned a lot from this week. It’s a happy opportunity to be here again. The whole feeling is gratitude, honestly.”

Kam said she felt what mattered most was that they trusted in their training.

“There wasn’t any time to change anything,” she said. “So we just kind of had to believe that the path that we are on was the one that was gonna help us get the best outcome. And I think that we did a really good job with that this week. It wasn’t the easiest, it was actually pretty hard. We were pretty tired, especially when we first got here.”

Anastasia Golubeva and Hektor Giotopoulos Moore

Anastasia Golubeva and Hektor Giotopoulos Moore of Australia showed excellent side-by-side triple toes, but Golubeva fell on throw triple loop in the short program where they finished seventh (58.79).

“Today was not clean,” noted Golubeva. “We are not happy.”

“It was not horrible though,” countered Giotopoulos Moore. “We have to take it and move on from here. We are happy to finally have made it to our first Four Continents after missing last year’s. We now just want to skate as well as we can tomorrow!”

The two-time World Junior champions fared much better in the free skate, placing fourth with a new season’s best of 125. Their routine to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg featured good side-by-side jumps: triple toe-double Axel-double Axel sequence and triple Salchows. While the twist wasn’t very high and graded a level two, both throw jumps, the triple Salchow and triple loop were clean. The rose up three spots to fourth overall with a total score of 183.83.

“I think we had a better preparation for this competition,” said Giotopoulos Moore. “Between yesterday’s short program and today’s free skate, we had a good amount of time to change our mindset.”

“Because after short program, I was upset,” explained Golubeva.

“We reset, and came back, and did our job,” said Giotopoulos Moore. “And we’re really happy about that. This experience will help us greatly towards the world championships. This skate today, we proved to ourselves that it doesn’t matter what happens in the short program. Doesn’t matter what happens in the free program. Just put your mind to it and you can do it.”

“I think this year we really added a lot more dance to our program,” he added. “If you look at our transitions, there’s a lot more holds. We really wanted to incorporate it into our program, and I think we did well.”

The team is excited as they will now head straight to Montreal to train with Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps and prepare for worlds.

Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud

Canada’s Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud placed sixth (59.89) in short after Pereira took a fall on the throw triple loop. However, the side-by-side triple toes were good and perfectly synchronized.

“We are built to come back from mistakes,” said Pereira. “We train for that at home. Mistakes like today are part of the process.”

“You have to recover as a top athlete right away,” agreed Michaud. “Then afterwards you can sit down and analyze it.”

The national silver medalists finished fifth (122.16) with their free skate to music from the Gladiator soundtrack. The team lost a good six points after the second jump in a triple toe-double Axel-double Axel was popped. After this, they then opted for double loops instead of the planned triple Salchows. However, both the throw triple loop and throw triple Salchow were solid. Two lifts were rewarded a level four and they finished fifth overall (182.05).

It was an “off day” for the team who has otherwise had a successful season thus far.

“I think we handled ourselves really well,” said Pereira. “There was a bit of a disappointment after the short program, so having a day really helped us realize what we did well. Taking that into today was something that I’m proud of us for. We’re really proud of ourselves for this long program today, we really wanted to showcase our performance. We’ve really been working with our choreographers and coaching team at home to really push the performance aspect, and I think we did that today.”

Michaud added that they didn’t have normal training coming into this event. To make matters worse, Michaud sustained a back injury after nationals.

“It really cut things short training wise,” he explained. “We did a little bit of downgraded content today. I’m really thankful to my physio team at home and here. Because at one point, we weren’t even sure if we’d be coming to this event. So we’re very happy with what we did today. And showing our skating was really more of our goal anyway. I’m very happy and thankful for Skate Canada and our physio teams.”

The team will now return home and plan out the next five weeks going into the world championships.

“It’s the longest season we’ve had,” observed Pereira. “Last year, we didn’t get to do the Grand Prix series, so we have that as a different experience this year. We’re proud of that and we’re just trying to maintain our healthy bodies and healthy mindsets for the next five weeks. But it’s probably also something we’ll talk about once we get home.”

Cheng Peng and Lei Wang

Newcomers Cheng Peng and Lei Wang of China placed sixth overall (180.22).

Both Peng and Chen have had lots of injuries this season, especially her with her left ankle. All the elements except for the jumps are okay, but she needs her left leg healthy for the toe jumps. This is their first season together, so it’s all about adjusting and just learning to skate together. They want to improve the quality of the elements and make them look better and easier.

The team from Harbin hopes to get two triple jumps before the Olympics. Before worlds, they will compete at the 2024 National Winter Games of China. This is an important competition in China which typically takes place every four to five years.

USA’s Chelsea Liu and Balaz Nagy fell from third to seventh overall (175.85).

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