Four-sight! Davis, White rule Skate America againItalians claim sixth Grand Prix silver; Shibutanis capture bronze
Meryl Davis and Charlie White wove their Scheherazade spell for the second time this season, and their web grew even tighter and more mesmerizing.
After the world champions' season opener at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City last month, their coach, Marina Zoueva, resolved to add more speed and drama to the free dance. On Saturday night at 2013 Skate America, her team delivered, amping up the volume on their lifts -- including a shoulder-high, sweeping closing "choreo" lift -- and strengthening the tension and connection throughout their steps.
The result was Davis and White's fourth consecutive Skate America title and a free dance score of 112.53 points, a little more than two points below their personal best. They won the event with 188.23, some 20 points ahead of the field.
That they did it before a hometown crowd packed with friends and family made it even sweeter.
"I feel like I'm getting boring," White joked at the press conference. "I feel like I give the same answer every time: 'We were pleased with our skate today. It's still early in the season.'
"We are happy with what we put out there. It was definitely one of our best performances. The spin was a little bit of a hassle getting into, but I liked the fight we showed. It's an exciting start. The crowd was into it, so that was fun. It gives you a little bit of extra energy and we were grateful for that."
Davis thinks the passion she and White have for Rimsky-Korsakov's masterpiece energizes their performances and inspires them to greater heights.
"It's a piece we have been dying to skate to for years," she said. "At the beginning of last season, the three of us sat down and decided this was the piece we wanted to use this year. We sort of came up with several lifts for it a season ago. ... We're confident with the material and feel we have a lot of room to grow with it still."
Zoueva agreed, targeting the technical score -- Davis and White got three Level 3's, for their step sequences and a rotational lift -- for improvement.
"We worked on the dramatic aspect of the program," Zoueva said. "Next will be speed, and upgrade the levels. Technical things. I think we have ten '10s' today for artistic impression (program components scores), most for interpretation and choreography.
"Before, Meryl and Charlie were always working on their artistry. Now, they are getting better marks for artistry, and they need just a little bit more technical to match it."
Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, fourth at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, brought a bit of la dolce vita to Detroit with a light-hearted free dance to the overture of "Barber of Seville" that built in speed and expression throughout its four minutes. The Italians had five Level 4 elements, including superb opening twizzles, and earned 98.61 for the program. They won silver with 168.49.
"We were really pleased with the way we skated," Cappellini said. "It was harder than yesterday, having lost some training time because of Luca's neck problem.
"We had to pull out of Nepela Memorial so we weren't completely ready, but we were glad we could skate a clean program. We are happy with the response from the judges. It was a great week for us, and we'll use it to build on rest of the season."
Davis and White's training partners, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, recovered from Alex's fall early on in their Michael Jackson free dance to skate an engaging and inventive program that grabbed the attention of the crowd.
The Shib Sibs also impressed technically, earning Level 3's for their step sequences and Level 4's for their lifts and spin. They won bronze with 154.47 points.
"We had so much energy from the audience, and the excitement we had going into this performance tonight was an all-time high for our career," Alex said. "We were so excited to share what we have been working on this entire summer and for the last year and a half.
"Obviously, you don't plan on [a fall] happening, but we got back up and kept pushing through the program. We got a great learning experience out of it. We can build on this and nail it for the next performance (at NHK Trophy)."
Zoueva thought the crowd's enthusiasm for the King of Pop's hits and signature moves may have given Alex an added adrenaline rush.
"I love the reaction of the audience; that was exactly what I expected," she said. "For Alex, he was a little bit not used to this from the crowd. He lost control a little bit. Now he knows how Japanese fans will react, and we have two more weeks to train. I'm very proud of them and excited because it's a big change for them to do a program like this."
The Shibutanis edged out Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who train at Detroit Skating Club, by 1.49 points. The couples are two of the teams who will likely battle for one of the three U.S. ice dance spots at Sochi.
Hubbell and Donohue's free dance, choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo to Lucia Micarelli's "Nocturne" and "Bohemian Rhapsody," was subtle and seamless, highlighting the team's strong romantic connection and smooth performing skills.
The DSC skaters defeated the Shibutanis in program components, but Level 2 diagonal steps cost them technical points and they placed fourth with 152.98.
"It was a strong start to our Grand Prix season," Hubbell said. "We're excited to go home and fix the little things we missed for Skate Canada next week. We're disappointed we didn't come up to bronze today, but we got stronger levels than at Nebelhorn last month. We know we have to skate perfectly technically if we want to achieve our Olympic dream."
"We thought it might have been worthy of a little higher score," Donohue said. "We'll work on some of the subtle aspects of our transitions and other elements, and really show something special at nationals."