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Pairs, dance hierarchy holds true in Paris

World champs lead after pairs short, original dance

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy made sure they were in front after the short program.
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy made sure they were in front after the short program. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/14/2008) - The reigning world champions in pairs and ice dancing held serve on Friday at the 2008 Trophée Eric Bompard Cachemire in Paris. Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany won the pairs short, and Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder lead the dance field going into free dance.

Pairs

Savchenko and Szolkowy struggled in their short program at Skate America, their first 2008 Grand Prix appearance. They were not going to let that happen again. Their practice sessions in Paris were superlative, and their short program was no different.

"It was quite a good performance," Szolkovy said later, "even better than at Skate America."

The music they chose from the motion picture soundtrack Lost in Space is certainly not classical, but it helps to renew the sport. Savchenko credits herself for designing their costumes, which were quite original compared to their competitors in the pairs category.

Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov of Russia, who beat the Germans in the short program in Everett, Wash., also skated a flawless program and finished in second place.

"This is our third competition this season, and each time we have done a clean short program, which is satisfactory," Trankov said.

Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin of Canada took a deserved third place.

Tiffany Vise, who partnered with Derek Trent to finish sixth, came out quite saddened by her fall on the throw triple loop. Their program was otherwise flawless with a beautiful side-by-side triple toe loop. Their parallel triple toe was downgraded though. Their mirror skating was once again a hit for the crowd, especially during their flying camel spin, which they skated particularly close to one another.

Ice Dancing

Delobel and Schoenfelder had a rough evening tonight, as two of their original dance major elements (a spin and synchronized twizzle) were scored as Level 1s after they tumbled on both.

Even though they had only the second-best component scores, Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy won the original dance, with Level 3s and 4s for all their elements. Sinead Kerr and John Kerr of Great Britain finished second in the segment, only 0.27 points behind the Italians.

The day started well for Delobel and Schoenfelder. The 2008 world champions won the compulsory dance earlier in the afternoon by more than 3.5 points over Faiella and Scali. The French duo, known for its creativity, made up a story for its compulsory dance.

"I am supposed to be a pirate, while Isabelle portrays a Spanish girl," Schoenfelder explained. "It allowed us to imagine a different set-up and costume, without altering the spirit of the dance."

The original dance concluded quite differently on Friday night.

"Our warm-up was good," Delobel said afterwards. "Then, maybe I was not concentrated enough."

"We were not on our boat tonight," Schoenfelder said. "It is normal that we get poor marks for our elements; this is the law of sport. Actually, we like it that way. We skated poorly, and we got poor results. A Level 1 is worth a Level 1, and we certainly want to congratulate those who skated better," he added rather graciously.

While the other top dance teams had skated on the Grand Prix Series already this season, Faiella and Scali were actually opening their GP season in Paris.

"It has been a long wait since the world championships [in Gothenburg, Sweden, in March], yet we are so excited to show our new programs," Scali said. "We really enjoyed this original dance."

Scali expressed his gratitude for being able to train in the United States: "We have great coaches with Pasquale [Camerlengo] and Angelika [Krylova]. For the last two weeks, we also have the collaboration of Marina [Zoueva] and Igor [Shpilband], and it is great to compete with really good teams. Something has definitely changed in us since we have started training in the U.S."

The Kerr siblings were happy about their dance too.

"We skated much better than at Skate America," they agreed later.

Their music is particularly fast and requires an incredibly quick tempo to follow it.

"Evgeni [Platov, their coach] made it a special challenge for us. We need to skate it as fast as we can."

Their season started on a high note with a bronze medal at Skate America.

"Having started so badly last year made us want to start this one better. We set up a structured plan to be ready early in the season, and it seems to be working," Sinead Kerr explained.

Jennifer Wester and Daniil Barantsev of the U.S. finished eighth in the compulsory dance and kept their place in the OD.

Delobel and Schoenfelder are still in command of the overall competition with a 2.96-point margin.