Skate America 2011: Pairs and Dance

The pairs competition at Skate America was a 3-tiered event: the first tier belonged to Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szalkowy and Zhang Dan & Zhang Hao who were contending for the gold. Then there was Kirsten-Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch and Caydee Denney & John Coughlin fighting for the last spot on the podium. And then there was the rest, who don’t really register on my radar. And for an event like pairs, where there haven’t been very many inspirational teams, those who do register on that radar are very few in number, so it’s not a total insult. =P

In any case, let’s start with the SP…

The Zhangs won the SP with a score of 62.85 and had a 3 point lead going into the LP over the second-placed team. They began the program (and their comeback) with a giant throw triple loop followed by a triple twist. Overall, the program was skated solidly with only a little lack in unison coming out of their 3S. The only problem I do find is that they don’t quite emote as well as the other Chinese teams (Shen & Zhao and Pang & Tong). Their music was quite romantic and emotional and I couldn’t quite feel any of that. In any case, their technical ability was able to carry them through (S&S had the highest PCS). I do enjoy competing and comparing my predictions with PJ Kwong’s and she agreed with all of my predictions save for the pairs. She had her bets set on these two while I had mine set on the current World Champions. Though I was discomfited by their lead in the short, I was confident that they, like all their famous Chinse teammates before them, would have trouble in the LP.

The new partnership of Caydee Denney & John Coughlin surprised everyone with their fair amount of potential. Their East of Eden SP was well-skated and the throw 3F at the end wasn’t too shabby (though it looks as if she almost didn’t land it). I hope that this team (or any American pairs team, really) stays for a while. They were tied for 2nd place with Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov in the SP with a score of 59.62.

Yuri Larionov fell early on in the program – a surprise for me since Vera’s jumps were always the ones that were dangerously low – but their throw triple twist afterwards was fast, smooth and magnificent. They also managed to land a throw 3Lz. Despite the fall, I felt that they were a hair undermarked. Compared to Denney and Coughlin, these two had a lot more polish, grace and intricacy in their program. It would’ve been nice to see a little more drama – they are skating to Tosca, after all – but I guess not everyone can pull off an angsty face a la Tanith Belbin.

Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch started their season strong and they received a score of 59.60 in their SP. They were very fast on the ice, though sometimes to the point where they were a bit sloppy in the elements. In any case, their choreography was fun and it drew the audience in. It’s clear that these two need a lot of work but in the meantime, at least CBC will still fawn over them. If they start a romantic relationship, they might start gushing on how these two are the next great Canadian pair or something.

Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szalkowy wasn’t in top spot after the short because they failed to land the throw triple axel they planned to debut at Skate America. The rest of the program was solid but the choreography and music were a tad on the boring side. These two are a lot better at long programs because they’re good at expressing a well worked out story. Also, Aliona seemed to have a penchant for being her legs in ugly positions in transition movements. I think they need to tweak this program a bit. S&S ended up with a score 59.45 and in 5th place but despite the low ranking, I wasn’t too worried about them because they skate good long programs and in reality, teams 2 to 5 were pretty much tied since the difference between 2nd and 5th was 0.17. Easy difference to make up.

In the long program, things definitely got shaken up a bit. For one, my predictions on first and second place came true…

The Zhangs (115.81) started the program strong with a lovely 3T-2T-2T combination. They did a lovely triple twist but trouble started brewing when Dan Zhang doubled her triple salchow. Then their sbs spins kind of went down the drain in a mess. At this point, I was wondering when this mess to Totentanz would end but the music nonsensically changed which was accompanied by some caressing with tenderness I didn’t believe in. In the second half of their program Dan Zhang stepped out of a throw triple salchow but at that point, I seriously didn’t care. For Olympic silver medalists, I expected a team with pizazz and fire. I did not expect to be completely and utterly bored out of my mind. The choreography was a bit choppy, they didn’t connect with each other or the music and overall it was a disastrous program to watch despite the fact that there were no major disasters. These two have the big tricks but even little Sui and Han have more of the “it” factor than they do.

Aliona and Robin came back in the free as I expected with a score of 124.53. They did not try their throw 3A again but went with their tried, tested and true throw 3F. I swear, these throw 3Fs of theirs get bigger and bigger every season. Robin double his 3S in the sbs jumps but recovered when he executed a clean 3T. They lost unison at moments in their sbs spins but still brought a lot of energy to their performance. The choreography and movements within were really unique and I quite liked it. Aliona and Robin do improve as the season goes on so I can’t wait to see this polished up.

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch actually placed 2nd in the LP with 117.83. Bloody hell their costumes are terrible. They skated a strong program though I hope they don’t start out strong and end up a mess like last season.

Denney & Coughlin (115.78)

Bazarova & Larionov (114.32) [This time, Bazarova’s sbs jumps didn’t really get off the ice…]

As for ice dance, I’ve said everything I wanted to say about Meryl and Charlie’s short dance and free dance in another blog post. I still stand by my opinions, flame me for being a Tessa & Scott fan but that is my opinion. Take it or leave it. It’s not like it really matters anyways. The only thing I may add is that I commend Fabian Bourzat for putting up a good fight and good performances despite illness. He and Nathalie will be missed at Skate Canada this week. Their mummy and pharaoh routine was certainly interesting though I must say I didn’t expect anything less strange/creative from them. Besides, after their “Life is Beautiful” goes to the circus program a few years back, I don’t know if anything from them will traumamtize me any more than that.


Skate Canada predictions and notes on the men’s competition at Skate America will be up tomorrow if my meds and/or cold doesn’t make me stuffy and woozy.

~The Rinkside Cafe


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