U.S. up to challenge in Graz, garners six medals
Castelli, Shnapir win gold in pairs; Kriengkrairut, Giulietti-Schmitt top dance podium
|Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir romped to victory at Ice Challenge. (Getty Images)|
Castelli and Shnapir, who opened the season with a fifth-place finish at Skate America, earned the gold medal by a 40-point margin over teammates and silver medalists Gretchen Donlan and Andrew Speroff.
The winners' 18-point lead after the short program grew after they earned 114.42 points for their free skate. Their "Payadora" free featured side-by-side triple toes as well as a throw triple Salchow and a Level 4 lift that earned 8.13 points. Castelli and Shnapir totaled 175.86 for the week.
Donlan and Speroff, who nabbed their first international medal in Graz, earned 135.43 points for the competition and moved up from third place after the short program. The reigning U.S. pewter medalists performed a Sleeping Beauty free skate that included a Level 4 pairs spin and Level 4 lift.
Israel's Danielle Montalbano and Evgeni Krasnopolski placed third with a total score of 133.91 points.
Kriengkrairut and Giulietti-Schmitt easily defended their title, winning gold by nearly 26 points over silver medalists Lucie Mysliveckova and Neil Brown of Czech Republic and bronze medalists Ramona Elsener and Florian Roost of Switzerland. Only 0.30 points separated the silver and bronze medalists.
Kriengkrairut and Giulietti-Schmitt opened the competition as the only team to break the 50-point mark in the short dance with 50.46 points. Their program saw positive grades of execution (GOE) on every element except the twizzle sequence.
Totaling 89.24 points for their free dance, set to music by Adele, the duo's skate featured four Level 4 lifts, and a step sequence and spin also earned Level 4. Their program components score of 41.91 points was the highest in the competition by more than nine points.
Mysliveckova and Brown, who teamed up last summer, finished the week with 113.88 points, narrowly edging the Swiss team's total of 113.59. The reigning Czech silver medalists earned their best international finish in Graz.
Germany's Peter Liebers won his second medal of the season, moving up from fourth place after the short program to win gold with 205.81 points. Liebers, who won bronze earlier this fall at Cup of Nice, fell on his program-opening quad toe attempt but rebounded to execute elements including a triple Axel-triple toe combination and two Level 4 spins.
Short program winner Douglas Razzano of the U.S. won his second Ice Challenge silver medal, matching his finish in 2010. He maintained a slight edge over teammate and eventual bronze medalist Armin Mahbanoozadeh throughout the competition. Razzano totaled 204.62 points, while Mahbanoozadeh amassed 200.01.
Razzano's short program to Rachmaninoff featured seven elements that received positive GOEs, including a triple Axel, Level 3 and 4 spins and a Level 4 step sequence. With 72.21 points, he led after the segment.
Mahbanoozadeh also turned out a solid short, worth 72.14 points. The program included a triple Lutz-triple toe combination that was the segment's highest-scoring element at 11.27 points.
In the free skate, Razzano fell on his triple Lutz and put a single toe on the back half of his triple Axel combination, but otherwise turned in a clean "Queen Symphony" performance. Highlights included a triple Axel and two Level 3 spins, as he earned 132.41 points for the segment.
Mahbanoozadeh, en route to 127.87 points for his Doctor Who free skate, executed a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and a pair of Level 4 spins.
After going more than a decade of international competition without a gold medal, Great Britain's Jenna McCorkell is 2-for-2 this season, as she captured gold in Graz by more than 11 points over silver medalist Isabelle Olsson of Sweden.
McCorkell's triumph at Ice Challenge comes on the heels of her win last month at the Ondrej Nepela Memorial.
Slovakia's Monika Simancikova earned the bronze.