The competition at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final concluded Saturday in Tokyo, Japan with the Free Dance, the Men’s, Pairs and Ladies’ Free Skating. In the Grand Prix Final the top six skaters and couples from the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series competed against each other. The event was held in the Yoyogi National Gymnasium.
Ice Dancing, Free Dance
Tatiana Navka/Roman Kostomarov of Russia claimed their third consecutive gold medal in the Grand Prix Final. Elena Grushina/Ruslan Goncharov (UKR) earned the silver and the bronze went to Canada’s Marie-France Dubreuil/Patrice Lauzon. For both the Ukrainians and the Canadians it was the first medal in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final.
Performing to Georges Bizet’s classical “Carmen”, Navka/Kostomarov delivered a passionate dance that featured difficult lifts including a curve lift with an original entry, a straight line lift with him skating in a shoot-the-duck position and not supporting his partner with his hands as well as fast twizzles and good footwork. The two-time World Champions were awarded a level four for all four lifts, their twizzles and their combination spin. Their circular footwork was graded a level two and the serpentine was graded a level three. Navka/Kostomarov scored 102.71 points (52.00 element score/50.71 program component score) and accumulated a total of 165.72 points. “This was a nice ending today, and we’re already looking forward to the next competition. We skated well, but it wasn’t our very best, because it felt a bit hard to skate”, Navka explained. “We were well prepared and all our elements were well done. We’re happy to have won our third Grand Prix Final gold medal”, Kostomarov added.
Grushina/Goncharov had opted for an oriental theme, dancing to “Passion”. The husband-and-wife team completed interesting lifts and well synchronized twizzles, but they seemed to slow down towards the end in their serpentine footwork. The reigning World bronze medalists received 95.69 points (48.90/46.79) and were ranked third in the Free Dance but second overall with a total of 154.53 points. “We did not feel we were slow at the end, it is just the serpentine (footwork). These steps need more control and more concentration. I don’t know why the technical score is so low. We tried to show everything we can”, Grushina said. “We lost some points in the circular and the serpentine footwork. It’s good that it happened here, so we still have time to improve something”, Goncharov said.
Dubreuil/Lauzon skated a soft and romantic dance set to the soundtrack of “Somwhere in Time”. The Canadian Champions produced intricate footwork at good speed and innovative lifts including a one armed reverse rotational lift and a straight line-rotational lift with changes of position. The two-time Four Continents silver medalists picked up 96.94 points (51.00/45.94) for this routine and collected an overall event score of 152.36 points. “We finally get on the podium for Grand Prix Final. This is our 6th Grand Prix Final. It was one of our goal to win a medal at the Final. This goal came true, and we’ve worked very hard this season to be on that podium. It wasn’t the best performance of the season, maybe the two trips to Japan within two weeks (to the NHK Trophy and the Final) got to us. But we still put out two good enough performances to hold on to a medal”, Dubreuil commented.
Galit Chait/Sergei Sakhnovski (ISR) skated a dynamic “Bolero” program to finish fourth with a total of 149.49 points. In what was their first Grand Prix Final, Oksana Domnina/Maxim Shabalin (RUS) came in fifth (142.73 points). European bronze medalists Isabelle Delobel/Olivier Schoenfelder of France turned in a solid performance and were ranked fifth in the Free Dance but remained in sixth place overall with 139.65 points.
Men, Free Skating
World Champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland defended his overnight lead to win the gold medal in his first ISU Grand Prix Final. Reigning World silver medalist Jeffrey Buttle (CAN) took the silver like last season while Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi, another newcomer to the Final, captured the bronze medal.
Lambiel fell on his opening triple Axel in his routine to “The Four Seasons” but recovered to hit a quadruple-triple toeloop combination, although he put down his hand on the first jump. The 20-year-old went on to complete a triple loop, a double Axel, a change foot combination spin with many positions and, at three minutes into the program, a beautiful quadruple toeloop. The Swiss stepped out on his triple flip, but nailed a triple Lutz-triple toeloop next and a triple Salchow-double toeloop after this to earn 149.50 points (76.30 element score/74.20 program component score). He accumulated a total event score of 230.10 points. “I was really afraid before I went out to skate, because I had done such a good short program and I really wanted to do the same thing today, and it was difficult to remain on that level”, Lambiel revealed. ”I was very confident going into the Axel, even though it didn’t work so well in practice this morning. When I fell, I tried to tell myself, that I just do the rest. I put down my hand on the first quad, but that was more to reassure myself. The rest after that, I did step by step, one jump after the next.” Wining the Final meant a lot to him. “It was already a great feeling to be here, because it’s my first time at the Final. It’s very different from European or World Championship, the level is very high, and it was an honor for me to be in this Final at all. And winning it makes me very happy, it’s very positive for the rest of the season. The beginning of the season went well for me, and I’m continuing to build on it, and that gives me confidence.”
Buttle had to overcome an unusual problem: When he took the ice for his performance, he realized that his blade was loose. “After the warm up I thought I just had a bad warm up, but when I got back on the ice the blade just felt kind of loose. We had adjusted the blade last week and I guess I just didn’t screw it in tight enough”, he explained after his performance. Buttle screwed his blade in again and then started his program consisting of various classical pieces all connected to pianist Glenn Gould. The Canadian landed a triple toeloop, a triple Axel-triple toeloop (but he put down his hand on the second jump) and four more triples, but he stepped out of his second Axel. The World silver medalist also doubled a Lutz as he realized he had already repeated two triples (toeloop and Axel) and couldn’t repeat another one. Buttle showed also strong spins and scored 138.34 points (63.64/74.70) which added up to 214.34 points. “I think I lost a little concentration because of that (problem). Given the distraction with my blade problem I feel it was an improvement over my skate at France (at Trophee Bompard), so I am satisfied”, he said.
Takahashi delivered a solid performance to Sergei Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. The 19-year-old missed his opening quadruple toeloop but rallied back to hit eight triples including two Axels (one in combination with a double toe) and a triple flip-triple toeloop combination. The 2002 World Junior Champion was awarded 137.92 points (67.82/71.10) and had 212.52 points overall. ”I was very happy to be able to compete in the Grand Prix Final and that I was able to get on the podium. I missed the quadruple toeloop, thre rest wasn’t perfect, but I landed all my jumps“, Takahashi told the press. „Now I can go to Nationals with a good feeling.”
Nobunari Oda (JPN) finished fourth with 197.05 points. The reigning World Junior Champion popped his opening Axel but landed seven triples. Emanuel Sandhu (CAN) was ranked fourth in the Free Skating but remained in fifth overall with 189.46 points. He reduced his first combination to a double-double toeloop but pulled off seven triple jumps.
Pairs, Free Skating
Next up were the Pairs. Two-time World Champions Tatiana Totmianina/Maxim Marinin claimed the gold and the title, while Dan Zhang/Hao Zhang earned the silver medal and newcomers Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy of Germany took the bronze. For the Chinese and the Germans it was their first medal in the Grand Prix Final.
Performing to “Romeo and Juliet” by Edvin Marton, Totmianina/Marinin put out a strong program that included a side by side triple Salchow and triple toeloop-double toeloop combination, a triple twist, an excellent throw triple loop out of nowhere and an equally well done throw triple Salchow as well as difficult lifts. The couple from St. Petersburg skated with confidence and maintained good speed from the first to the last second. The four-time European Champions scored 126.68 points (64.76 element score/61.92 program component score) to collect a total of 193.60 points. “The gold medal feels always good. We’re happy with the performance, we did everything, and we deserved the gold medal. I heard the marks of the others, especially of the Chinese couple (Zhang/Zhang), and I knew we can’t afford to make any mistakes”, Totmianina commented. “A gold medal is always good, especially when everyone skates well. We did the best of today. Emotionally, it was the best performance of the season”, Marinin said. It was the second time for the Russian team to win the Grand Prix Final after 2003. They had finished second in 2004 and they didn’t participate in the Grand Prix last season.
Zhang/Zhang impressed with a powerful performance to “The Offspring of Dragons”, reeling off a huge throw triple Salchow, a double Axel-triple toeloop combination, a high triple twist as well as a triple Salchow, throw triple loop and difficult lifts. When they had finished, they hugged each other tightly. The reigning Four Continents Champions earned 124.36 points and had the highest technical score of the day with 69.00 points. Their component score was 55.36 points, and they moved up from fourth to second with a total of 186.12 points. “We’re very pleased with our performane today, we did everything very well”, Dan Zhang told the press. “We couldn’t skate so well at the NHK Trophy because of my injury (she hurt her hip in a fall in practice), but today it was the best performance ot the season.”
Savchenko/Szolkowy produced a solid double twist, a throw triple flip, throw triple Salchow, a side by side double Axel and difficult spins and spirals in their innovative routine to “Bon Voyage” and “Conquest of Paradise” by Vangelis. However, Szolkowy doubled the second jump in the triple toe-triple toe sequence and theirAxel Lasso lift was wobbly and cut short. The German Champions were awarded 118.32 points (61.68/56.64), establishing a new personal best for themselves. They collected 180.10 points overall and held on to the bronze medal. “It’s like in the short program, some things were better and some things were worse. I did only a double toe for the second jump in the sequence. We got a new personal best (score), but it wasn’t a personal best (performance). In the subconciousness it does play a role of course that you have the chance to win a medal, although you just want to go out and give your best. We’re very surprised to have medalled here and we’re thrilled”, Szolkowy explained.
World silver medalists Maria Petrova/Alexei Tikhonov (RUS) slipped from second to fourth after she two-footed the side by side triple Salchow and underrotated their triple twist (it was downgraded to a double). The Russians also cut short their last death spiral but still went overtime and got a deduction of one point. But they had landed a double Axel-triple toeloop sequence and two triple throws (178.10 points). Their teammates Julia Obertas/Sergei Slavnov finished fifth with 169.20 points. Obertas fell on the side by side triple toe, but the couple made no further mistakes. Qing Pang/Jian Tong (CHN) were sixth with 168.34 points and ranked fifth in the Free Skating. Pang missed the throw triple Salchow and he stepped out of the triple toe.
Ladies, Free Skating
The last to skate were the Ladies. As in all the other disciplines, the starting order was the reverse order of the result after the Short Program.
Alissa Czisny (USA) opened the competition and started off well with three triples, but then she underrotated her second flip and fell hard on a triple Lutz attempt. She remained in sixth place with 140.90 points.
Russia’s Elena Sokolova went down on the second jump of her triple Lutz-triple toeloop attempt and doubled the next jump, a flip, but then recovered to land four good triples. She finished fifth with 150.08 points.
Then Yukari Nakano of Japan took the ice. Skating to “Don Quixote” by Leon Minkus, she went for a triple Axel right at the beginning, but she underrotated it and the jump counted only as a double. The 20-year-old went on to nail five triple jumps and good spins, and she only popped her loop into a single. Nakano received 105.78 points (52.34 element score/53.44 program component score), improving her previous personal best by three points. She got 161.82 points overall and took the lead at this time.
Miki Ando (JPN) was up next. The 2004 World Junior Champion seemed to lack confidence. She underroated and fell on the second jump in her planned triple Lutz-triple loop combination and also missed a Lutz and also fell on the last jump in her triple toe-double toe-double loop combination. Ando, who stood in third place after the short program, picked up 100.60 points (49.04/54.56) for her routine to “My Funny Valentine” and dropped behind Nakano with a total of 157.30 points.
Then Irina Slutskaya took the ice. The reigning World Champion rallied back from yesterday’s faulty Short Program with a strong performance to a Flamenco Medley, completing a high triple Lutz-double loop combination, a triple Salchow-double loop-double toeloop combination, two triple flips (one in combination with a double toe), a triple loop, triple toe and double Axel as well as difficult spins, earning a level four for the layback, flying camel spin and the combination spin as well as the spiral sequence. The Muscovite scored 122.58 points (62.10/60.48) and accumulated a total score of 181.48 points.
One more skater was to come – overnight leader Mao Asada of Japan. Skating to “The Nutcracker” the 15-year-old pulled off a triple Axel, two triple flips (one in combination with double loop), two triple Lutzes (the second in combination with double loop) and a triple loop-double loop-double loop combination as well as nice spins. She was awarded a level three for all her spins except the flying camel spin (level two). The reigning World Junior Champion scored 125.24 points (65.80/59.44), improving her previous personal best by 6.11 points and racking up a total score of 189.62 points. Asada defended her overnight lead to win the Grand Prix Final the first time she participated in the event. Slutskaya settled for the silver this time and Nakano captured the bronze in what was her debut in the Final.
”I’m so surprised and happy to have won. I was more relaxed than yesterday. I decided after the six minutes warm up not to go for the two triple Axels today. I didn’t have enough confidence to try two triple Axels. I thought it was better to concentrate on one and to do it cleanly”, Asada said.
”I’m very happy with my first mark, my jumps were high and solid today”, Slutskaya commented. ”I’m also happy with my performance, I skated like a true lady. I just didn’t understand why my component score was so low. It was higher in my other competitions“, she added.
„At the beginning of the season, it was unbelievable for me to skate at all in the Final“, Nakano told the press. „I’m so glad that I was able to show one of my best performances ever in front of a Japanese audience. It’s a step further to the Olympics in Torino. I just have to make sure that my triple Axel is there.”
The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final concludes tomorrow (Sunday) with the Exhibition Gala.Results