Cup of Russia 2008 - Day 3
Text © Maria Bagdasarova
Pictures © Natasha Ponarina, photo.fsonline.ru
The fifth event of the ISU Grand Prix series – the Cup of Russia - concluded on Sunday with the final segment of the dramatic ice dance event – the free dance. Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin failed to maintain their lead after the OD and lost to their compatriots Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski who won the first gold medal at the Grand Prix event in their career. Bronze went to Meryl Davis and Charlie White who managed to pull themselves together after the disastrous OD when the bronze seemed to be beyond their reach. All three medal-winners qualified for the Grand Prix Final which takes place in Korea in three weeks.
Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski impressed the audience and the judges with a complex free dance to Rhapsody on the Theme of Paganini and 24 th Caprice. The 2008 World and European bronze medallists tried to portray the story of Paganini and his muse. The Muscovites opened their dynamic routine with the solid sequence of synchronized twizzles to continue with level four lifts which fully showed off Khokhlova’s flexibility, level three step sequences and difficult transition moves. Their free dance got a great response from the crowd as it was performed at a very high speed and with great passion. Thus Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski set their seasonal best in the free dance and by winning the whole competition, secured their spot in the Grand Prix Final for the third time in a row. “It feels great. After the Cup of China we worked a lot, especially on the lifts. We changed the one in the OD because the judges didn’t see I wasn’t using my second hand. We’re really happy with this result and we’d like to say thank you to our coaches,” Jana Khokhlova told the press.
Overnight leaders Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin slipped to overall second place. The 2008 European champions skating to the powerful Spartacus by Aram Khachaturian made several technical errors including a huge stumble on the spin, and they didn’t get the expected levels for their elements. Apparently, Domnina/Shabalin who changed their coaches after last season moving to Natalia Linichuk and Gennady Korponosov, were affected by the late start of their summer preparation as it took Shabalin a couple of months to recover from meniscus surgery he underwent in March. The reigning European champions obviously were not in their best shape, as they lacked their usual power and flow visibly dropping speed on intricate step sequence. However despite the fact, so far Domnina/Shabalin have failed to show all the potential of their free dance that still needs to be polished, one can say that the choreography and composition are built to show off their strong sides – exquisite soft lines and great skating skills.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the USA with a technically strong performance to Samson and Delilah by Camille Saent Sans, placed second in the free dance setting the highest technical score of the night and managed to capture the bronze overtaking Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy. The US silver medallists got the highest level for all their elements including fast sequence of the opening synchronized twizzles, the element Charlie White’s troubles on the OD started with. A good start to the routine allowed Davis and White to drop the pressure and get their confidence back. Their free dance appeared the most choreographically complex and demanding of the field. The couple showed good speed on the step sequences, interesting entries to all of the element, great flow and ice coverage. Davis and White - who have already been known for their technical strengths with this kind of free dance which manages to show the expression of both partners and doesn’t seem to be just a set of elements but a complex action carried out with such an ease - may be a serious threat for the top couples.
Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte who had more than 6 points lead over Davis and White after the OD had a touching performance to famous Love Story soundtrack. However Cappellini stumbled on the diagonal step sequence which was eventually awarded with only level two, preventing the promising Italian couple from getting enough points to medal. “I know we lost a couple of points here and there. Davis and White are better than us at the moment, but we knew even if we had lost the free, if we had scored enough we would probably have kept the place. That’s a huge disappointment, but we take it like a learning experience”, said Cappellini. The 2007 Skate Canada silver medallists who worked with Muriel Zazui this summer, have definitely improved their basic skating skills, but still lack power of the top-teams.