The 2009/2010 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating continued Saturday with the Ladies, and Pairs Free Skating and the Free Dance at the Samsung Anycall Cup of China in Beijing. The Samsung Anycall Cup of China is the third of six events in the series. The skaters compete for a global prize money of US $ 180, 000 per individual event of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating and receive points according to their placements. The top six skaters/couples in each discipline advance to the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Tokyo, Japan, in December.
Ladies, Free Skating
Akiko Suzuki of Japan claimed the gold in a turbulent Ladies event. Kiira Korpi of Finland took silver while Canada’s Joannie Rochette surged from seventh to capture the bronze medal.
Suzuki stood in fourth place following yesterday’s Short Program and put out an excellent performance to “West Side Story” that featured six clean triple jumps as well as a double Axel-double Axel sequence and three level-four spins. Suzuki posted a new personal best of 117.14 points (64.58 element score/52.56 program component score) and totaled 176.66 to take home her first Grand Prix gold medal. The 24-year-old had won silver at the NHK Trophy in 2008. “I am very happy that I have won, but I am even happier with my performance today. I am totally surprised that I have won the gold medal!” Suzuki commented.
Skating to “Crooked Room” and “Passenger to Copenhagen”, Korpi doubled her opening Lutz but pulled herself together to land a triple Salchow-double toeloop combination, a triple loop, triple loop-double toe-double toe and two double Axels. She only popped the second Salchow. The Finnish Champion was awarded a level four for her spins and earned a new seasons best of 102.07 points (49.51 element score/52.56 program component score) which added up to 163.27 points overall. Korpi was ranked third in the Free Skating but remained in second place overall to win her first medal on the Grand Prix.
Rochette stood only in seventh place after a sub-par performance in the Short Program but rallied back in the Free Skating. The reigning World silver medalist completed a triple Lutz, triple flip, triple Lutz-double toe combination, triple toe-double Salchow sequence and a triple Salchow in her elegant and mature routine to “Samson and Delilah”, but she fell on a double Axel attempt. Two of her spins were graded a level four, while the combination spin was a level three. The spiral sequence and the circular footwork were a level two. Rochette picked up 111.06 points (53.42/58.64) and jumped on to the podium with 163.18, missing the silver by just 0.09 points.
Overnight leader Mirai Nagasu dropped to fifth after several jumps were underrotated and downgraded (155.38 points).
Pairs, Free Skating
Xue Shen/Hongbo Zhao of China celebrated a successful comeback by winning the Samsung Anycall Cup of China, their first competition since the ISU World Championships in 2007. Dan Zhang/Hao Zhang (CHN) pulled up from fourth place to take the silver medal. Tatiana Volosozhar/ Stanislav Morozov of the Ukraine earned the bronze medal.
When Shen/Zhao took the ice, the crowd greeted them with a loud applause. The three-time World Champions opened their routine to “Adagio” by Tomaso Albinoni with a side by side triple toe, but he two-footed the jump. A double Axel-double Axel sequence followed, but she stepped out of the second jump. Then the couple seemed to gain confidence as the program continued and made no further error, reeling off a triple twist, a throw triple loop and Salchow as well as difficult lifts with innovative positions. However, they didn’t get credit for their pair spin as it didn’t meet the requirements. At the end of the program, the husband-and-wife team hugged each other tightly and a big smile lit up their faces. Shen/Zhao earned 128.69 points (62.13 element score/66.56 program component score) and accumulated a total of 200.97 points. “We are very pleased to have followed our plan since May. Our program is a love story. It was good, but not yet perfect”, Zhao said. “It is a good feeling to have come back.” Shen added: “We didn’t get any points on our pair spin, we underrotated it. We could have had a higher score if not for this mistake.”
Zhang/Zhang stood in fourth place following the Short Program but came back strong in the Free Skating to “Sheherazade”. They almost run into each other on their double Axel-triple toeloop combination and struggled to hold the landing of the second jump, but hit a good triple Salchow right after. The current World and Olympic silver medalists went on to produce a high triple twist, a throw triple Salchow and loop and were awarded a level four for their spins, the spirals and two lifts. Zhang/Zhang scored 124.57 (64.77/58.80) to come in second at 186.49 points.
Performing to “Pearl Harbour”, Volosozhar/Morozov went for a triple toe-triple toe sequence, but he doubled the second jump and then popped the next jump, the side by side Salchow. Volosozhar crashed on the throw triple loop, but the couple showed impressive lifts and was awarded a level four for the pair combination spin, the spiral sequence and the side by side spin. The Ukrainians received 107.81 points (54.41/54.40) and slipped to third with 170.70 points total.
Ice Dance, Free Dance
Tanith Belbin/Benjamin Agosto (USA) danced to victory with Jana Khokhlova/Sergei Novitski of Russia and Italians Federica Faiella/Massimo Scali coming in second and third.
Belbin/Agosto performed a lyrical, classical dance to “Ave Maria” and “Amen” that had good flow in spite of the difficult technical content. The reigning World silver medalist completed a beautiful serpentine lift, a curve lift and a whirling rotational lift. Their dance spin and the circular footwork were graded a level four, and the only element to receive a level three was the diagonal step sequence. Belbin/Agosto collected 95.85 points (48.10 element score/47.75 program component score) and claimed the gold with 194.51 points. “We are very happy to stand on top of a podium once again. We weren’t able to do that in the Grand Prix last year. We are very happy to kick our season off with a win here in China”, said Belbin. “This is a very good start for us, because this is probably the most difficult program that we’ve ever had for a free dance and the original dance probably as well. It felt great to come here and to be able to perform our elements pretty well and to perform the dance not just to trying to walk through the elements,” added Agosto.
Khokhlova/Novitski put out a powerful dance to “Meadowlands” that was highlighted by their acrobatic lifts including a straight line-rotational and a curve lift. The European Champions also produced level-three footwork and got a level four for their twizzles. However, they received a deduction of two points for extended lifts. The Muscovites scored 87.79 points (45.40/44.39) and were ranked third in the Free Dance, but overall they held on to second place at 180.57 points.
Faiella/Scali told the story of immigrants to music by Nino Rota and felt especially connected to it as they have moved from Italy to the USA for training. The European silver medalists delivered a fluid performance that included a straight line lift in a low position, a curve-rotational lift and curve lift with him skating backwards on one foot. The Italians got a level four for all their lifts, the twizzles and the spin while both step sequences were graded a level three to pick up 89.96 points (46.80/43.16). They were second in the Free Dance but overall remained in third at 179.92 points.
For full results please refer to www.isu.org. An extended version of this report will be available on the website later today. The Samsung Anycall Cup of China concludes Sunday with the Exhibition Gala. The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating continues next week with the NHK Trophy in Nagoya, Japan.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS