Skate America 2009: Day 2

By Suzanne Herrmann
Photos ┬ę Suzanne Herrmann

A fun-filled afternoon of skating kicked off with the Original Dance. Blanc & Bouquet kicked off the evening in fine form. The Original Dance is great this season because the audience is able to experience a bit of the personalities and backgrounds of many of the skaters, especially when they pick music native to their own countries.

In first, with a combined total of 100.23 is Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto after winning the Original Dance, which is likely no surprise to anyone. They are skating more like the Tanith and Ben I enjoyed a few years back (but better!). It’s hard to compare them with the other teams at times because they are a bit ahead of most in terms of the level they skate at. They skated very precisely and fast while maintaining fluidity. What is great about Tanith and Ben is that they follow every movement through and carry every extension to their toes. This probably goes without saying, but the crowd LOVED them!!

Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski barely remained in second place with a grand total of 86.43 after finishing fifth in the Original Dance because of a rather sluggish program. The crowd did enjoy the humor choreographed into the program and set to certain beats of the music, but the magic just was not there for them tonight.

In third place are the Italians, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte with a combined total of 86.13. In the Originial Dance, they actually finished in second place and closed the gap between them and second place. Their dance was very cute. I loved how they stayed in character from before their names were called and all the way through their program. The crowd enjoyed them greatly! They are in great striking distance of a silver medal!

The second event of the afternoon was pairs. It was filled with crazy moments and quite honestly, some of the men made me nervous when they lifted the ladies. Meghan Duhamel and Craig Buntin had a performance that just unraveled and ended in withdrawing from the competition after the final blow, a throw triple that ended with Meghan hitting her head on the ice. It appeared, after she was up for a few minutes, that it was her leg that was bothering her far more than her head. The top teams were not perfect, but did manage to accomplish most of the program content.

Winning the Gold medal were Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao with 201.40 points. Their amazing performance was not without fault, but by far belonged on top. Their passion is incredible but they must not let the little mistakes in such as turning out of jumps or putting hands down! That will not win them an Olympic gold medal!

Winning the silver medal were Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov with 171.82 points. They had a wonderful program. It started out with a couple mistakes, but grew stronger and stronger, bringing the audience into the performance. When they are “on,” they are fabulous!

Rounding out the top three and winning the silver medal were Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang with 168.19 points. Their performance was a bit scary at times with unsteady lifts and a crazy camel spin. The performance was uncharacteristic of their usual solid technique, but even in an “off” day, they managed to place decently.

The first event of the evening began rather dully. Not to say that the audience did not enjoy the skaters, but there was a certain piece missing. However, once the second group took to the ice, the energy in the crowd just continued to build. There were an enormous number of Korean fans. It was incredible the energy they brought to the arena.

In first place after a program that words cannot describe is Yu-na Kim. She landed a magnificent triple lutz/triple toe, triple flip and double axel. Brian Orser, her coach, leapt into the air after her triple flip in celebration. It was awesome to see that reaction. It is hard to even begin to describe the energy that could be felt. It is times like these that make me a skating fan. She had the crowd completely in the palm of her hand with her regal charm and cool demeanor. Her score of 76.28 could rival many men’s scores!

In second place, sits Rachael Flatt. She is far more enjoyable in person. Her personality and character and little nuances are more visible and add to the performance. I think those are sometimes lost on television. Her solid technique did not let her down. Though she fell on her opening triple-triple combination, she did not let that get her down. She is not in realistic striking distance of winning the gold, with 58.58 points, nearly 20 points away from Kim.

Julia Sebestyen sits in third place after a successful skate. She landed a triple lutz/double toe loop, triple flip and a double axel. She was proud of herself and gave a little fist pump to celebrate before taking her bows. The crowd was excited for her accomplishment! With 58.54 points, if she could skate a clean long, she could be in striking distance of the silver medal.

The final event of the evening was the Men’s freeskate. Though Evan is one of the crowd favorites, by far the most enjoyed skater of the evening was Ryan Bradley.

Evan Lysachek was the definition of consistency this evening. He was not perfect, but was pretty close. He can save his perfection for February! His spins were so amazingly centered and he skates with such ease that one can almost just sit back and enjoy the program without worrying that he will nail every element. At the end he celebrated with a single hand clap of enthusiasm. He ran away with the gold medal with a whopping 237.72 points.

Silver medal winner, Shawn Sawyer, skated a fantastic program. Though he admitted that his spins were not the best this evening, his response was far more positive than my inquiry of his last Grand Prix event (he didn’t want to ‘go there’ but that is ok because I do not remember it!). Shawn’s skating is fabulous when he is ‘on.’ His landings are incredibly smooth and his flexibility lends something to skating that is often lost amongst the men. He finished with 203.91 points.

Ryan Bradley might not be able to ham it up any more if he tried! He was hilarious and hit every little note with every little finger with every little Mozart and Bach way he could! His choreography is so entertaining and because it is Ryan, it comes across to the audience in a way that no other skater could manage. The crowd laughed along and that sent Ryan into higher levels of performing. It was fantastic! He was not perfect, but the quads—yes, I do believe I saw two quads—made up for it all! He rocketed to the bronze medal with 198.12 points.

Fun points of the day:

  • Talking briefly to Scott Hamilton and Susie Wynne (and getting a picture of Susie & Suzie!).

  • Finally getting a photo with Tara Lipinski after many years.

  • Watching Ryan watch the fish I threw to him after his free, then picking it up and playing with it (if it is squeezed, a bubble pops out until you un-squeeze it).

  • Maybe this is not a “fun” point, but rumor has it, Andrei Lutai’s skates did not arrive until yesterday after men’s practice which would explain why he took to the ice by himself before the dance event began.

  • Talking to Tanith Belbin, Brandon Mroz, Adrian Schultheiss, Shawn Sawyer, Stacy Kemp & David King.

  • Autograph session #2 included all the US pairs teams. (Yesterday was two of the dance teams).



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