Davis, White make history with fourth straight gold
U.S. duo first in any discipline to win four consecutive Grand Prix finals; Virtue, Moir take second
|World silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White won both the short and the free. (Getty Images)|
The U.S. champions notched a decisive win in Sochi at the 2012 Grand Prix Final, defeating training partners and archrivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir by some 3.56 points, including nods on both the technical and program components scores in Saturday's free skate.
"It was a fantastic program -- emotionally, technically, we really put it all out there," White said.
"Some days you go out there and the performance comes really easily; some days you have to fight through," Davis said. "Today, we were proud of the way we fought through it and still put out a great performance."
Despite the fight, Davis and White -- who have said they are working to show greater connection and emotion on the ice this season -- hit all of the right notes in their free dance to music from Notre-Dame de Paris. Starting with a fluid, ever-changing opening spin that quickly transitioned into a fast-spinning rotational lift, all of their elements, including Level 4 twizzles, were smoothly executed.
They gained 110.19, a new season's best. When added to their winning short dance, they ended with 183.39 overall.
Saturday's win is a bit of history: No other singles skater or team has ever won four Grand Prix titles in a row.
"It's something to be proud of," White said. "These are the top skaters in the world. They had to prove themselves at their Grand Prix events, and we had to do the same. To be able to win four years in a row, it's an accomplishment."
There was little to choose technically between the top two teams, closely matched in ability and coached by Marina Zoueva in Canton, Mich. Both gained all Level 4s for their elements, save for their step sequences, which were graded Level 3.
The only noticeable mistake for either team occurred on Virtue and Moir's final move, a choreographed (non-graded) lift, when the Olympic champions hesitated slightly before gaining position. The difference -- Davis and White gained 0.58 points higher on their choreographed lift -- helped give the Americans an edge in the technical score.
In performance, the programs are at opposite ends of the spectrum, with the refined drama and quiet intensity of Davis and White's Notre-Dame de Paris leagues apart from the raw passion of the Canadians' Carmen. Here, too, the judges gave the U.S. champions the nod, tipping them 0.77 points in program components.
Virtue and Moir have smoothed the few, minor rough edges they had in their free dance at Skate Canada in October, showing a tightly controlled spin and more fluidity. Carmen, too, earned a new season's high score of 108.56 points.
"It certainly felt like a season's best. I think it is good for this point of the season," Moir said. "We still have to fight for this program; it's really quite challenging. Our elements were a lot stronger today than they were in Canada or in Russia (at Rostelecom Cup), which we expected because we have been training quite hard.
"We made major changes in all our footwork," he continued. "We'd like to see it get Level 4, but it has been consistently called Level 3 this week; the callers are being hard, but we need to figure those out for the new year so that we will maximize the points."
World bronze medalists Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat of France, who train in Detroit under Pasquale Camerlengo, showed off their own style with a deliberately rough-around-the-edges free skate to a Rolling Stones' medley marked by inventive positions in lifts. They gained 101.48 for their free dance and captured bronze with 170.18 points.
"I think we had [a] good performance; it was very clean. We just would like to improve on the component score," Péchalat said. "We know what to work on to be ready for the European and world championships.
"After the first Grand Prix, we changed some lifts and transitions," she said. "We changed stuff in the short dance. For the free dance, we need to talk to our coaches. During the season, program always changes; it's never like it was in the beginning. It needs to improve."
Showing a more classically refined Carmen free dance, Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte climbed from fifth after the short dance to take fourth overall.
Two-time Russian European silver medalists Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev's free dance suffered from Soloviev's disruptive fall on a transition move out of a rotational lift, and they fell to fifth overall.
Another Russian team, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, was sixth.