Volosozhar, Trankov reach new heights
Canadian, Japanese training partners stand second and third
|Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov set a new personal best in the short. (Getty Images)|
When the Russian world silver medalists began the season at the Nebelhorn Trophy, their short program was a ragged near-disaster, with turned-out jump landings and a lift that didn't quite get up.
At their next competition, the Ondrej Nepela Memorial in Bratislava, Slovakia, the program was a bit better. Here in Mississauga, at 2011 Skate Canada, it was near perfect, earning an eye-popping score of 70.42 points, a new personal best.
"It was out strongest short program performance this season so far," Voloszhar said. "Of course, it can still get better."
If it gets too much better, other teams may be out of luck. Their score was some 7.57 points higher than China's Hao Zhang and Dan Zhang's winning number at Skate America last week. The Russian's biggest rivals, German world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, are working to add a throw triple Axel to their short, and the early-season number put up by the Russians here shows they may need it.
Skating to Evanescence's "Bring Me Back to Life," choreographed by Nikoli Morozov, Volozoshar and Trankov showed their trademark clean lines and superb carriage, opening with a huge triple twist followed by side-by-side triple toes and a throw triple flip that earned 6.40 points. The remainder of their elements, including steps, spins and a death spiral, all gained Level 4.
"For sure, we can skate better than we did today, but we had good scores," Trankov said, adding that a now-healed injury to his shoulder had impacted their early-season training.
"It is the right way to go, with a better performance each time as the season goes on."
In a battle of training partners, Canadian silver medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who were seventh at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships in Moscow, edged Japanese champions Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran and are second entering tomorrow's free skate. Both teams train under Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte in Saint-Leonard, Quebec.
Duhamel and Radford opened their Flamenco program, choreographed by Julie Marcotte, with a strong triple twist that gained Level 3 from the technical panel. The element has come a long way since 2011 worlds, where Duhamel broke Radford's nose during a collision on the twist in their free skate.
The Canadians landed their side-by-side triples in the short for the first time in competition; this time, they did Salchows, after previously trying toes, Lutzes and flips. They dramatically closed their program with a solid throw triple flip and, like the Russians, gained Level 4 for all of their rated elements. Their 62.37 point score is a new high.
"We had three goals: to get a Level 3 on the twist, to get all Level 4s [on the other elements] and to get 27 for the program components," Duhamel said. "We reached all three goals."
Takahashi and Tran's intricate and elegant short program to John Lennon's "Imagine," also choreographed by Julie Marcotte, was marked by a fine Level 3 triple twist, an element they did not try during their ninth-place finish at worlds last season.
Although Takahashi turned out of the landing of a triple toe and had to fight for the landing of a throw triple Salchow, Tran was delighted with the program, which earned 60.60 points.
"We weren't perfect, but overall this is a great result for us," said the 20-year-old Saskatchewan native, who teamed with the tiny Takahashi to compete for Japan in 2007. "I think we're both really happy with it. We got 60 for the first time."
In an interview last month, Bruno Marcotte said the two teams' progress is due partly to healthy competition in the rink.
"At the end of the day, both [teams] have high expectations," he said. "They want top marks and, eventually, the podium at worlds, and the only way to get there is to push themselves every day."