The 2010/2011 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating opened Friday with the Short Dance, the Pairs and Ladies Short Programs at NHK Trophy in Nagoya, Japan. The NHK Trophy is the first of six events in the series.
Olympic silver medalists Davis/White (USA) lead after Short Dance
The Short Dance is a new format in Ice Dance that is competed for the first time this season. Meryl Davis/Charlie White (USA) danced to the lead with Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje and Elena Ilinykh/Nikita Katsalapov of Russia following in second and third.
Davis/White opted for two Waltzes from “La Boheme” and “La Traviata”. The World and Olympic silver medalists completed excellent twizzles and a rotational lift with changes of positions. They received a level 4 for the first sequence of the Golden Waltz and a level one for the second sequence to earn 66.97 points (32.28 element score/34.69 program component score). “Charlie and I are really liking that transition”, Davis answered when asked about the change in format from the Compulsory and Original Dance to the Short Dance. “We really like the Golden Waltz as a Compulsory Dance. We really like the idea of having everyone putting a different spin on one pattern of a Compulsory Dance. I think it's going to be great for Ice Dance.”
Performing to “At Last” and “Dancing Cheek to Cheek”, Weaver/Poje turned in a fluid Short Dance that was highlighted by a straight line lift and smooth footwork including a solid Golden Waltz pattern. The Canadians scored 58.69 points. “Andrew and I are are very pleased with our performance today. Obviously it is an extremely strong field here at NHK this year and we worked very hard the past couple of years to raise our performance level and also our technical ability so we are pleased that we able to show that today”, Weaver told the press.
Reigning World Junior Champions Ilinykh/Katsalapov gave a strong debut on the senior Grand Prix with an unusual Waltz piece by Alfred Schnittke. The Muscovites produced fast level-four twizzles and a straight line lift with a difficult entry. Ilinykh/Katsalapov picked up 56.89 points. “We are very happy to compete in the senior Grand Prix, with such couples as Meryl (Davis) and Charlie (White), Kaitlyn (Weaver) and Andrew (Poje).There were a few mistakes today, hopefully it will be better tomorrow”, Katsalapov commented.
Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte (ITA) came in fourth (55.68 points) and Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) were fifth after he fell in the Golden Waltz sequence (53.68 points).
World Champions Pang/Tong (CHN) win Pairs Short Program
Qing Pang/Jian Tong of China won the Pairs Short program ahead of Russia's Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov and Narumi Takahashi/Mervin Tran of Japan. It was a high-level competition with all eight couples giving strong performances.
Pang/Tong opened their romantic routine to Frederic Chopin's Nocturne No. 2 with a side by side triple toeloop followed by a high triple twist and a throw triple loop. The two-time and reigning World Champions posted a score of 67.10 points (34.23/32.87). “This competition was like a practice for us as the program is new and we don't yet feel so comfortable with it”, Tong said.
Bazarova/Larionov skated first and set a high standard. Their program to “Secret Garden” was highlighted by a triple twist, throw triple flip and a difficult one-armed Axel Lasso lift. The couple from Perm was awarded 60.16 points (34.36/25.80). “We are happy for today with what we did, but it's too early to relax. We want to skate as well tomorrow”, Bazarova told the press.
Takahashi/Tran turned in a solid performance to “Feeling Good” as well, hitting a side by side triple Salchow, throw triple toeloop and a high double twist that garnered a rare level four. The current World Junior silver medalists earned a seasons best of 57.23 points (31.70/25.53). “We used the Junior Grand Prix as a warm up for this competition, and it worked as we did better here than in juniors. We are on the right track”, explained Takahashi.
Caydee Denney/Jeremy Barrett (USA) are ranked fourth (55.03 points) and Mylene Brodeur/ John Mattatal are currently sitting in fifth (54.28 points).
European Champion Carolina Kostner (ITA) grabs Ladies Short Program
Carolina Kostner of Italy captured the Ladies Short Program. Kanako Murakami of Japan finished second ahead of Rachel Flatt (USA) while World Champion Mao Asada (JPN) faded to 8th.
Performing a characteristic Flamenco program, Kostner hit a triple toe-double toe combination, a triple loop, double Axel and got a level three for her spins and footwork. She earned 57.27 points. “I'm just happy to be here and I didn't have any expectations coming into this competition”, Kostner said. She is suffering from pain in her left knee and missed training time this summer and fall. “Tomorrow is a new day and I just try to concentrate on having as much fun as I did today.”
Murakami went for the triple toe-triple toe combination, but the first jump was underrotated. She went on to nail a triple flip and double Axel in her upbeat program to “Jumpin' Jack” to score 56.10 points. “I didn't really feel more pressure. I had to be more serious than usual, although I'm always serious in competition”, she said, laughing. “The audience clapped along and that really helped me through the program.”
Flatt turned in a solid performance to “Summertime” and “Oh, But on the Third Day” that included a triple Lutz-double loop combination, a triple flip and a level-four flying camel spin. The U.S. Champion was awarded 53.69 points. “I'm very excited with how I skated tonight. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get my triple Lutz-triple loop in. I've been working on it in training a lot”, Flatt said.
Asada made errors on all three jump elements: she landed forward on the triple Axel, singled the flip and the triple loop in her combination with a double loop was underrotated.
The NHK Trophy continues Saturday with the Men Short Program, Free Dance, Pairs and Ladies Free Skating.