Khokhlova, Novitski surprise winners in Russia

Duo upsets favorites for gold medal

Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski won their first gold medal on the Grand Prix circuit.
Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski won their first gold medal on the Grand Prix circuit. (Getty Images)


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By Tatiana Flade, special to
(11/23/2008) - On the final day of the Cup of Russia, Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski upset their teammates Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin to win their first gold medal on the Grand Prix series. Meryl Davis and Charlie White fought back after their disaster in the original dance and captured the bronze medal. All three couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final next month in Korea.

Khokhlova and Novitski looked well prepared and were full of energy when they performed their dance to "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini" and to Niccolo Paganini's "Caprice 24." The team had improved some of their elements since the Cup of China and earned a Level 4 for all lifts and a level three for both step sequences. This and a high component score allowed them to overtake Domnina and Shabalin. The European champions were hesitant and rather slow in the footwork, the edges were shallow and they also made an error in the spin. So they got only a Level 2 for the footwork and the spin, and although the lifts were strong and they put a lot of emotion into their program to Spartacus, it was not enough to remain on the top. They slipped to second place.

"We are still in shock. We've just won our first gold medal on the Grand Prix, here in Moscow with such strong competitors," Novitski said. "After the Cup of China, we've changed our lift in the original dance, because they [technical panel] couldn't see that I wasn't using my hand to hold on. We've also worked on the steps and the lifts in general," Khokhlova explained.

"We made a lot of mistakes and as a result, our technical score wasn't very high," Domnina admitted. "Our program is still unpolished, because we started to train late after my [knee] injury. We aren't yet in good shape and we made a technical error in the spin. We put out a lot of emotion today, maybe too much and therefore made mistakes," Shabalin added.

Davis and White stood in fourth place after having fallen twice in the OD. But today White was his usual self, skating with confidence and ease. The Americans delivered a smooth and technically demanding performance of their Samson and Dalila free dance. They got a Level 4 for all elements except for the two step sequences that were Level 3's. Davis and White had the highest technical score of the day, were ranked second in the free dance and pulled up to third.

"It was just a matter of training," White answered, when asked about coming back from the disappointment in the original dance. "We know what we need to do. We just had to put the OD behind us and worry about the free dance, just take it one step at a time and we were able to do that without any problems. Our confidence built as the program went. It was just a matter of getting past that OD."

He still couldn't explain what had happened yesterday. "I wish I knew exactly what happened. Just some mental errors, little things here and there that added up. My skates were fine, everything was fine, Meryl was fine, it was just some mental errors," he said.

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte from Italy finished fourth and Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski (Israel) were fifth.

The Cup of Russia was the fifth of six events in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating. The series continues next week with the NHK Trophy in Japan.