Skate Canada 2009: Day 3

By Suzanne Herrmann
Photos ┬ę Suzanne Herrmann

Saturday's practice (Men & Ladies)

First group of men: Patrick Chan looked to be more on his axis. Dennis was skating strong. Alban Preaubert was taking command of the arena even during practice. Jeremy Abbott looked good as well and was attempting quads. Michal Brezina looked at ease. Various skaters came in to watch others practice as they warmed up or after their own practice including Alban, Caroline Zhang, Annabelle Langlois, Cody Hay and Jeremy A.

Second group of men: Daisuke Takahashi has incredibly quick rotation. Kevin Van der Perren needs to learn how to let his frustration go. In my opinion, he wasted his entire practice getting worked up over his triple axel. He was popping them like crazy, one right after another, and he was ready to leave practice many times. He really did not work on anything else the entire practice and left early. He would be a lot better off if he let his difficulties roll off his shoulders as the remainder of his practice group appeared to be doing. No one was perfect and no one is ever perfect. Skaters have good days and skaters have bad days. I know it is easier said than done, but a lot of what skating is has to do with what goes on in the skater's head. Once doubt and frustration creep in, it is a lot harder to clear the mind and start fresh.

The ladies all had their moments as well. Caroline Zhang was having trouble with her triple flip. If she could just fix her hammer leg in the entrance to the flip and lutz, she would have a much easier time out on the ice. It looks like she puts so much energy into the jump just to complete it. Her leg picks in far off her center. She needs to get her body all the way over to where she picked in and she pulls her left side so hard that when she has trouble I think she's sometimes pre-rotating the jump and making it impossible to complete. Her other jumps, though sometimes downgraded, spins and spirals are strong. It would be nice to see her skate up to her potential. Akiko looked really strong. She seems to be one of the more forgotten Japanese ladies but she is a fireball in her own right.

Joannie Rochette with her coach and Shae-Lynn Bourne

Today the guest of honor again was Ottavio Cinquanta. He awarded the skaters their medals in Pairs, Men's and Ladies skating.

Saturday's competition (Original Dance, Pairs, Men & Ladies)

The Original Dance is one of my favorite events. The Canadian crowd-which is awesome, by the way-never failed to be drawn into any performance they could clap along to. All Canadian skaters receive a huge ovation and the favorites receive the "Canadian Clap" as I termed it. They start out clapping to a beat and clap faster and faster until it turns into applause. It is just another way to show their appreciation for their own.

In first place with 101.26 points are Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Seemless skating was marred by a few stumbles, almost resulting in falls. It was quite uncharacteristic of them and took away from their passion. They had to focus on standing up rather than expression.

In second with 91.60 are Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat. The crowd LOVED the music and began clapping right as the music began. It is a lot of fun to watch skaters who are having fun out there entertaining the crowd. It looked like the twizzles might have been a little unmatched, but overall, a great performance.

Staying in third place by a small margin with 51.18 points are Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. They are skating very well and it certainly helps to have the Canadians on their side. I have been impressed by the level of skating from this team and look forward to seeing how they fare in Canadian Nationals.

The next event of the evening was the Pairs Free. All teams skated pretty well. No one is peaking yet-which is good. A stand-out moment was when the young Canadian team, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, skated an excellent program. Though they do not hold the maturity that the older teams display, they moved the crowd to their feet. Canada really supports its skaters and when their skaters have clean programs, they go bonkers!

Winning the gold medal were Aliona Savchenko and Robin Solkowy. It was a good choice to switch music and programs for their second Grand Prix event. It is difficult to have such success with so little time to work on the program. That obstacle was not even an issue for these two. The throws were top-notch, all elements were completed and any jumps that were not perfect were held onto. Multiple difficult entries to elements and their fluid quality was rewarded in their score of 206.71 points.

Winning the silver medal were Maria Muhkortova and Maxim Trankov with 185.71 points. It was daring of them to skate to Love Story in Canada. The commentary on the Skate Bug was "bugging" me! Though I do agree that they do not have the spark between them to create magical moments like Jamie Sale and David Pelletier once did, they did have a fluid quality to their skating that complimented the music nicely. Maria and Max need to relate to each other more in order to connect to the audience in a better way. This program was full of all the types of excitement a spectator would rather do without; except for the amazing split triple twist that the audience audibly sighed "ahhh" to.

To start, not far into their program, the elastic on the end of Max's pants popped off on one side and the referee did not call it until after he completed a lift while the audience held its breath. A collective sigh of relief could be heard when they faded the music. They were given three minutes (they did not take most of the time) to regroup and prepare to continue the program where they left off. Not long after they picked the program back up, Maria and Max did flying camels that landed so close together, everyone was afraid that they would collide and in Canada, the memory of Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison's incident at Four Continents is still a little too fresh. The crowd applauded generously at the culmination of their performance.

Jessica and Bryce won the bronze medal with 166.93 points. They have a great quality to their skating, nice lifts and great expression, however, little mistakes added up throughout the program to leave them almost 20 points behind second place.

The men's event was an exciting one this evening. It may not have been the cleanest competition, but there were many great skaters with great qualities and a fantastic quad by Jeremy Abbott.

Winning the gold medal with 232.99 points was Jeremy Abbott. He completed a spectacular quad that the Skate Bug commentators said may have had as much as a +2 GOE. He had to hang onto a few landings that almost got away from him, but he incorporated them into his choreography quite well. His skating quality and flow are matched by few and no doubt working with Yuka Sato will only bring those qualities out further.

Winning the silver medal with 231.31 points was Daisuke Takahashi. He completed an excellent program with many strong elements. There is still room for improvement, but he is back! There were many moments where the audience let out a collective sigh in response to a move he completed or a collective gulp of air when he did not quite complete a move. It is apparent how much he draws the audience into his programs when everyone reacts simultaneously.

Winning the bronze medal with 212.28 points was Alban Preaubert. The audience loved his programs and the medal was well-deserving. He fought for everything that did not come easily to him and used all excess energy to play to the crowd. One of the amusing elements was that he had a Rolling Stones practice shirt with a red, white and blue tongue and his competition Rolling Stones shirt with a sparkly red tongue. The guy sure has personality! I give him credit for being able to entertain and interact with the crowd while concentrating on a difficult program.

I do not believe any lady in the free program event skated cleanly. There were a few great skates but the earlier skaters lack the transitions and components of the PCS scores to keep them atop the leaderboard. The highlights appropriately were the medalists, Joannie Rochette, Alissa Czisny and Laura Lepisto.

Finishing with the gold medal in her home country with 182.90 points was Joannie Rochette. Even without a perfect program, she brought the house down. She received the "Canadian Clap" as she took the ice. When she was not perfect, she fought for her elements. The passion she brought to the program and confidence of her abilities on the ice really made her stand out in this field of ladies.

Winning the silver medal was Alissa Czisny. She had a couple of unfortunate falls, but overall skated a strong program, especially in the beginning. Her technique as definitely improved but she still is suffering inconsistencies on some of her jumps, I think mainly the flip and Lutz. She has lovely presentation, incredible spins that rotate at the highest speed of the competition. It is incredible how much speed she gets on her Y spin at the end of her program, holding it for the 8 revolution feature. The audience was disappointed that she did not pull off a better skate but relieved that she sat atop the leader board after her skate.

Finishing in third place, winning the bronze medal was a delightful Laura Lepisto. She skated a strong program and was one of the only top skaters not to fall. She was not perfect on all of her jump landings, but she fought to stay vertical. Skate Bug mentioned that her spiral sequence may only have been rated a level three because of excess upper body movement during the change of edge which is not allowed. Her spins, though, were well-executed and well-centered. I hope she always keeps her pleasurable demeanor on the ice; it is a joy to watch.

14 hours of arena time was well rewarded by the hard work of many skaters. I always come away with a greater appreciation of what a skater can accomplish. This time I had the added benefit of the Skate Bug in my ear with further explanation regarding the new judging system, which today included commentary from Shae-Lynn Bourne, than I have ever received from commentary before. I especially enjoyed the "mock" calling of the programs by the technical specialist(s) in the booth. I hope they are able to make this more widely available as I think people would appreciate the increased connection to the judging aspect of figure skating.

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