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Volosozhar, Trankov stun with Nebelhorn marks

Russians smash personal best; Wendes take second for Germany
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Reigning world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia set a new (unofficial) world record with their short program score of 81.65. -Getty Images

The short program of Russian world pairs champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov was the absolute highlight of the first day of competition at the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Skating to Khachaturian's Masquerade Waltz, the Russians earned an astounding 81.65 points, 5.81 points higher than their previous personal best. They opened with a huge triple twist, gaining +3 grades of execution (GOEs) from six of the nine judges. Their triple toe loops were done in perfect unison, and their big throw triple loop also gained several +3's. Their step sequence and three spins all gained Level 4, and their program components averaged about 9.3, with a high of 9.75.

Although the score is an unofficial world record, Trankov thinks they can do better.

"It is very early, only end of September, and for this time we are not in a bad shape," he said. "We skated clean, but we can see we have to work more on the component scores."

"It is difficult to [perform] a waltz in pairs skating," he continued. "We hope to skate better in the next competition. For us, it is a tradition to skate here in Oberstdorf because we know that it is a lovely atmosphere."

Volosozhar and Trankov now train more in Sochi than Moscow, and had problems traveling to Oberstdorf because their flights were delayed. Next week, they will fly to West Orange, N.J., to prepare for their first Grand Prix event, Skate America.

Newly married Maylin and Daniel Wende of Germany, who tied the knot in June, placed second. They had to sit out the whole of last season due to family problems and longtime injuries, but are now in good shape and earned 61.00 points for their short to David Garrett's "November Rain."

Their twist was only doubled, and Daniel put his hand down on a triple toe loop, but the other elements were good, including a difficult Axel lasso lift that gained Level 4 and earned five +2's from the judging panel.   

"Our last competition was [the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships] in Nice, 18 months ago," Daniel said. "Therefore, I have never been as nervous before a competition as today, but I told myself to breath calmly and it worked."

The new Canadian pair of Natasha Purich and Mervin Tran, which trains in Montreal under Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte, had a dynamic performance to take third place with 56.71 points. Their triple twist and side-by-side triple toe loops were a bit shaky, but their other elements were clean, including a throw triple toe loop. 

Tran and his former partner, Narumi Takahashi, won world bronze in 2012 but split up the following season.

"We have been skating together for only seven months," Tran said. "We are very excited to be here in Oberstdorf and to be at this level. We left some points out there; the jump was under-rotated, and I almost fell on the twizzle in the footwork."

Two other German pairs are fourth and fifth. Mari Vartmann and Aaron van Cleave (who has U.S. and Canadian -- but not German -- citizenship) earned 56.70 points after hitting a triple twist for the first time in competition. Van Cleave doubled the intended triple toe loop.

Annabelle Prölss and Ruben Blommaert, who sit sixth with 55.24 points, are just up from juniors and are Germany's biggest hope for the next Olympic cycle. Prölss is too young to qualify for the Olympic Games in Sochi.

New U.S. pair Lindsay Davis and Rockne Brubaker placed sixth after Davis fell on the landing of a throw triple Salchow. Their side-by-side triple Salchows were strong, but their triple twist was a bit shaky.    

"We did some good things and we had some small mistakes," Brubaker said. "After our first completion at Skate Detroit, we made the elements harder. For example, we added the triple twist."

"We can still make up a lot more points and get more +2's from the judges. We will keep developing everything," he continued.

İlhan Mansız, a former player in the first German football league and member of the Turkish team that won a bronze medal at the world soccer championships in 2002, placed 19th and last with his experienced partner, Oľga Beständigová.

The 38-year-old Mansiz began training with the Slovakian Beständigová in 2010, falling in love with her in the process. Their program was slow and their elements shaky, but they were happy with their performance.  

"I would never recommend figure skating to any football player because it's hard, but I recommend everyone to fight for their dream, no matter what it is," Mansiz said.

"We probably won't make it to the Olympics, but still it is our victory," Beständigová said.

Many of the teams competing in Nebelhorn are battling for the four available Olympic pair spots. After the short program, Stacey King and David Kemp, the eight-time British pair champions who train in Ellenton, FL under Lyndon Johnston, led the way in that group, earning 51.33 points for seventh place.

After splitting with Tran, Takahashi teamed with former Japanese singles competitor Ryuichi Kihara and moved to Detroit to train with Jason Dungjen. She and her partner are eighth with 49.42 points.

Teams from Ukraine and Austria are also in position to qualify, but the standings could shift after the free skate.

Reporter's note: The ISU confirmed that for the first time, scores earned at Nebelhorn Trophy will count for skaters' personal bests. Previously, only scores earned at Grand Prix events and ISU championships counted for that statistic.

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