Davis, White outpace Virtue, Moir in dance thrillerSavchenko, Szolkowy rally to oust favored Russians; Asada bags gold
The pairs free skate, ladies free skate and free dance were held Saturday at the 2013 Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, Japan, resulting in a scintillating dance showdown and surprise pairs victory.
Davis, White outpace Virtue, Moir for gold
Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White danced to the gold medal, edging out Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir by 1.35 points. Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat of France moved up from fifth place to claim the bronze.
Davis and White danced to "Scheherazade" by Nikoli Rimsky-Korsakov and picked up a Level 4 for the lifts, the combination spin, the twizzles and the diagonal step sequence. The two-time and reigning world champions scored a new personal best and record score in the free dance with 113.69 points, which added up to 191.35 points overall, another highest score.
It was the fifth consecutive Grand Prix Final title for the couple from Detroit.
"Meryl and I were really happy when we finished skating," White said. "We've come a long way and expect to put out everything we have every time we compete. Today, it felt like all of our hard work paid off.
"We are happy technically and emotionally, and we are where we want to be," he continued. "We've already talked about where we can take this program to keep it from getting stale. We want to continue to show how much better we can be."
Davis credits much of their success to their training mates and rivals, Virtue and Moir.
"We have a really great rivalry with Scott and Tessa from Canada," Davis said. "They're an incredibly talented team, and we've been competing directly against them since before we were teenagers. The rivalry has pushed the two of us to heights that I don't know we would have reached without that rivalry."
Virtue and Moir's dance to music by Alexander Glazunov and Alexander Scriabin included difficult lifts and footwork as well. The Olympic champions earned a Level 4 for seven elements and scored a personal best of 112.41 points. Overall, they accumulated 190.00 points, which is a personal best as well.
"We had an extremely amazing week," Moir said. "We skated as well as we have been training; for an athlete, that's what you want for your performance. We really felt like today we connected and we brought the audience into our performance. This is a stepping stone for us for the Olympic Games."
Péchalat and Bourzat put out a strong performance of their Le Petit Prince program, collecting Level 4's for all elements except the two step sequences that were rated a Level 3. The two-time European champions posted a season's best with 102.48 points and totaled 169.11 points.
"It was the best skate we had since the beginning of the season," Péchalat said. "The people out there supported us a lot. We love that, and we skated for the audience today. We had nothing to lose, so we just tried to enjoy the program."
Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev dropped one spot to fourth with 166.72 points, while Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje slipped to fifth place (165.04 points) and Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte remained in sixth (156.58 points).
Savchenko, Szolkowy surprise with pairs victory
Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy skated off with the pairs gold medal, coming from behind to beat Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. The bronze went to China's Qing Pang and Jian Tong.
Performing to Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, Savchenko and Szolkowy produced a throw triple flip, triple toe-triple toe sequence, a throw triple Salchow and five Level 4 elements. The four-time world champions set a new personal best for themselves with 147.57 points and racked up 227.03 points overall to win the fourth Grand Prix Final title of their career.
"I just enjoyed skating," Savchenko said. "It was not easy, but nothing is easy. We are back. We will work hard and keep doing our best."
Volosozhar and Trankov opened their program to Jesus Christ Superstar with a Level 4 triple twist and landed a throw triple loop and Salchow, but Volosozhar struggled with the solo jumps, falling on the triple Salchow and stumbling on the triple toe. The reigning world and European champions earned 141.18 points for the segment and slipped to second with 223.83 points.
"We made mistakes, and it was not our very best," Trankov said. "These are jumps we do not usually miss. We are happy about our skate anyways because we felt fresh and we were able to keep a good mood after our mistakes. Sometimes we lose at competitions, and we lost today."
Pang and Tong's routine to "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables featured a double Axel-double Axel sequence, triple toe, triple twist and three Level 4 lifts. The two-time world champions picked up a season's-best 138.58 points and totaled 213.98 points.
"We were able to show everything that we were working on," Tong said. "We actually arrived to the rink late, so we were panicking a bit before. We will build from this competition to prepare for the Olympics."
Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang of China performed a quadruple twist and moved up from fifth to fourth (197.37 points).
Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford dropped to fifth with 193.38 points, and their teammates, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, placed sixth with 189.11 points.
Asada coasts to ladies crown
Mao Asada of Japan skated to the ladies title, with Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia claiming the silver medal and American Ashley Wagner taking the bronze.
Asada's program to Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 2" was highlighted by five clean triples and Level 4 spins and footwork, but she missed the opening triple Axel and two-footed the second triple Axel. The reigning Olympic silver medalist earned 131.66 points, which added up to 204.02 points overall.
"I had a good feeling going in [the first triple Axel], but I fell," Asada said. "I need to keep practicing more. The first fall slows you down, but many fans applauded and cheered me; that has pushed me to skate."
Skating to Schindler's List, Lipnitskaia completed a triple Lutz-triple toe, four more triples and picked up a Level 4 for her excellent spins. The 2012 world junior champion scored 125.45 points and totaled 192.07 points to move up from fourth to second in her Grand Prix Final debut.
"I did everything that I needed to do today," Lipnitskaia said. "It went better than in Canada (Skate Canada), but there are still things I need to work on. I will try to make myself better and better until Sochi."
Wagner landed four triples in her routine set to Romeo and Juliet by Sergei Prokofiev, but she fell on a triple Lutz and under-rotated the back end of her triple flip-triple toe combo. The U.S. Champion was awarded 119.47 points and had 187.61 points overall.
"Today was a lesson learned for me," Wagner said. "I was focused more on how Julia had performed before me. I think I let that get into my head instead of focusing on my main goals. I got the triple-triple out, which has been what I've wanted to do all season. I have to go home and learn how to make a mistake and recover from it."
Wagner is looking ahead, hoping she and Team USA have the chance to make some noise at the Olympic Winter Games.
"I would love for the U.S. ladies team to be something that the world watches out for," Wagner said. "I think that whoever we end up sending will be quite capable in the top six. I would love to be on the podium. I think I would have to give a performance similar to my short program here and my long somewhere else."
Russia's Elena Radionova pulled up one spot to fourth with 183.02 points. Her teammate, Adelina Sotnikova, slipped from second to fifth with 173.30 points, and Anna Pogorilaya, also from Russia, placed sixth with 171.88 points.