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Kavaguti, Smirnov withstand Canadians' charge

Russians capture pairs gold at Bompard; Duhamel, Radford also qualify for Sochi

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov held off Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford by 1.28 points.
Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov held off Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford by 1.28 points. (AFP)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/17/2012) - Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov won the gold medal at the Trophée Eric Bompard in Paris on Saturday afternoon with a season's best 121.21 points for their free skate. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada are a close second overall, after they won the free by more than three points (124.43 points for the segment). The Italian team of Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek took the bronze medal (112.19-point segment score), ahead of Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang of China (107.84 for the free).

Kavaguti and Smirnov had difficulty with several elements. Their side-by-side triple toe-triple toe was downgraded and earned them 0.32 points altogether. Their parallel double Axels were also downgraded. Their throw loop and Salchow were beautiful, and their lifts all got Level 4.

Their program, set to "February" by Leonid Levashkevich, was elegant, but their technical difficulties did disrupt the flow of their skating, which hampered the emotion that could have arisen from it. The Russians' total (187.99) was, nonetheless, enough to secure their spot in first place.

"We are happy about our performance and glad that we qualify for the [Grand Prix] Final," Kavaguti said afterward. "We had mishaps today, but hopefully that will not happen in our next competitions."

"I will not miss that jump," Duhamel had promised at the end of her short program. "That jump" being their parallel triple Lutz.

She did not.

The pair's program was near perfect, with the notable exception of a fall on their throw triple loop. Their parallel triple Lutz and triple Salchow-double toe-double toe combination were perfect. Their program was by far the densest of the event, with brilliant choreographic moves and all those small details that can give life to a program. In spite of the density and technical difficulty of their program, Duhamel and Radford, nonetheless, managed to produce a beautifully romantic rendering of Philippe Rombi's "Angel."

"We are very happy to qualify for the Final as well," Duhamel said, "And to compete in Sochi. That was our goal."

"Last year, we got third place and third place at our two Grand Prix," Radford recalled. "This year, we get second and second. So, we hope that next year it will be first and first!"

Duhamel's fall on her triple Lutz in the short program will be something to regret, though hopefully for not too long. They scored an overall total of 186.71 points, just one point behind the Russians.

Berton and Hotarek won the bronze with a free skate to their Spanish music, "Poeta en el viento." They opened with a triple toe-double toe-double toe combination and landed two solid triple throws (loop and Salchow) at the end of their program.

"Making the podium is quite a surprise for us today," Hotarek said. "We did our maximum and we skated two strong programs, so I guess that paid off."

Their only mistake was Berton's doubled Salchow.

"This also was a big surprise to me," she said.

They scored 169.49 points.

Peng and Zhang could not keep their third-place position from the short program. Although they skated to their "Poeta" Spanish music -- incidentally, the same piece as the Italians, who succeeded them on the ice -- with much more temper than they had Friday, the Chinese could not reiterate the same technical quality. Their quad twist was gorgeous but was evaluated only Level 1. They singled their parallel Axels, and Peng had difficulty with landing the throw triple Salchow. They scored a total of 167.76, almost two points behind the Italians.

Peng went rapidly to the dressing room afterward, crying.

Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov skated a lively program to The Addams Family, getting the fourth-best free score of the day (113.09). They finished fifth.

Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès had to redeem themselves after the costly mistake in their short program. They were first to take the ice and skated a faultless performance, except for James over-rotating her part of their parallel triple Salchows.

"I really love this music," Ciprès said. "I went to see the movie (Pearl Harbor) with my grandfather many years ago, and it really boosts me."

"It's great for us to skate our best program here, at home," a smiling James offered.

"The audience really pushed us," Ciprès added. "I came in very nervous ... When I felt the emotion from the audience, I felt really good".

To be fully honest, the Parisian audience was great to all couples Saturday afternoon.