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World champions still reign at Trophee Eric Bompard

Germans, French win pairs, dance titles in Paris

Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Shoenfelder, as well as the rest of the ice dancers at Four Continents and the European Championships, will be dancing the Finnstep.
Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Shoenfelder, as well as the rest of the ice dancers at Four Continents and the European Championships, will be dancing the Finnstep. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/15/2008) - The pairs and ice dancing events went as scripted at the 2008 Trophée Eric Bompard Cachemire, with world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (pairs) and Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder (ice dancing) topping their respective podiums.

Pairs

"After our program tonight, a few people came to us and said it was not so bad. Yet, maybe because we are German, it is hard for us to find something good about it," Szolkovy explained afterwards with only half a smile.

"Fortunately, this season is not over," Savchenko added.

Savchenko and Szolkovy had decided to make some changes since they won gold at Skate America last month, opting for a throw triple flip and a throw triple Salchow in the second part of their program. Savchenko fell on the first one and singled the second, but Szolkovy still said, "I am convinced it paid off."

The German world champions nonetheless won the free program by almost 13 points over Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin of Canada.

The segment did not finish without drama though. Duhamel's blade hit her partner's wrist about a minute and a half into their program.

"I went off pattern, and I kicked him with my toe pick," she explained later. Their program had to be interrupted for three minutes, during which time Buntin received a bandage on his bleeding hand.

"It was a pretty scary moment," Duhamel recalled afterwards. "[Craig's hand] was all gross and gluey," she said half-laughingly. "So I said to myself, 'You have to smile, so that he does not feel it!'" By the end of the program, her yellow dress was marred with blood spots.

The French have always been very sympathetic with anyone overcoming adversity, and the crowd applauded the duo throughout the remaining part of their program, and Duhamel and Buntin skated flawlessly.

"The French audience was very supportive," Buntin acknowledged afterwards. "Actually, I felt the crowd was just like at home. So, 'Merci la France'".

Buntin received a few stitches after their performance, and fortunately no ligament was hurt.

Duhamel and Buntin earned Level 4s for all their elements except their final step sequence.

"This was actually our goal," Duhamel said. They finished second in the free program and third overall, winning their first Grand Prix medal after skating together for only a year and a half.

Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov of Russia took third place in the free and won the silver medal.

Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent of the U.S. skated a beautiful program. Even though they were skating in the first group, they managed to finish fourth in the segment and fifth overall, only 0.58 points behind Huibo Dong and Yiming Wu of China.

"We could really skate the program emotionally," Vise said. "The changes we made last week were worth it. We would love to skate this way at nationals!"

Ice Dancing

The ice dancing competition was interesting in many aspects. Delobel and Schoenfelder were quite apprehensive after the mistakes they made in their original dance, but they won their second Grand Prix gold medal of 2008, finishing more than five points ahead of Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy and nearly eight points in front of Sinead Kerr and John Kerr of Great Britain.

The 8,000 spectators at the Palais Omnisport in Paris were incredibly attentive during the three best programs, proving that the simplification of the requirements for ice dancers are allowing for more creativity from the dance teams and more interest from the fans.

"It was a little harsh for us to come on the ice," Schoenfelder confirmed. "We were tired. We needed to secure victory, and at the same time, we wanted to show that we were ready to perform."

"We needed to stay focused and not make any mistakes after those we made yesterday," Delobel added.

Most experts agreed that their program was superb aesthetically and emotionally.

"We still need to understand why we got only Level 2s for all our step sequences," Schoenfelder commented when he saw the detailed results. "The way we build our program should, however, make changes quite possible to make," he added.

Faiella and Scali skated to their first silver medal in a Grand Prix event.

"The hardest thing for us was to skate with strong motion and strong feeling," Scali explained. "In our program, we portray a mind in love with the moon. There is a lot of feeling involved there, and we needed to live that feeling within us. I think we succeeded tonight."

The Kerrs, a brother-and-sister team from Scotland, were competing in France for the first time in their career.

"We got a great reaction from the audience right from the start of our program, with many Union Jack flags in the stands, and that was a good help," John said.

"We performed better than at Skate America and in Finland [at the Finlandia Trophy in October]," Sinead added. "We felt connection between us and with the music, which may be why so many people were embarked into our program."

The duo credited their coach, Evgeni Platov, for making the program not only interesting but also emotional.

Canada's Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier, who stormed their way to the silver medal at Skate Canada earlier this month, were unable to reach the podium again. The young couple finished in fourth place, roughly five-and-a-half points behind the Kerrs.

Jennifer Wester and Daniil Barantsev, the lone U.S. dance team in the field, remained in eighth place overall. Their Requiem for a Dream-themed program emphasized their amplitude and rhythm, and they set a new free dance season high -- 69.15.