Day Three, Four Continents, pairs final

It wasn’t easy for Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, even though they won the Four Continents championship title by 18 points. The week seemed long. By the time they finished the free skate, they felt quite tired.

Perhaps that’s why they missed that triple Lutz, with Duhamel stumbling and Radford hopping, something they rarely do on that element. But they quickly righted themselves and did what they do: hum along, throw in a quad Salchow (one judge gave them a GOE of -2, another of +2) and don’t forget that formidable throw triple Lutz, too. Their 143.81 fell slightly short of their season’s best, but they finished with 219.48 and for faraway Valentine’s Day, that was enough.

Radford spoke Korean to the crowd in a post-interview. (And I thought he was just learning French.) “We’re going to use this as a stepping stone to the world championships,” he said in English. It wasn’t their best skate, the twosome admitted. They will bring both the artistic and technical parts up to a peak in Shanghai.

The scramble for the rest of the podium was fascinating. Actually, the fight further down the line was interesting too. All season long, Lubov Ilyushechkina  (this is how she’d like her name spelled, and by the end of the season, we’ll get it without looking) and Dylan Moscovitch and his old partner Kirsten Moore-Towers and her new partner Michael Marinaro have faced each other on the same warmup groups and practices, and here too.

If there is a rivalry between the two, and often “rivalries” are made for headlines and story angles, it was all defused when Moore-Towers  fell on a throw triple loop and then – disaster – a lift didn’t go up, looked like an abort, although Marinaro eventually pushed his partner up, but too late: they got no marks for it at all. They finished ninth of 10.

Ilyushechkina and Moscovitch had troubles with their triple twist, with Lubov landing on his shoulder. There were other little bobbles, but Lubov skated with elegance and a shining face. They looked quiet when their marks came up: 113.37 for the free, 173.50 overall. It ended up putting them sixth. A sign in the sparse audience said: “Lubov and Dylan: Attack on the top,” which we guess to mean they should try to get into the final group. But they remained behind the U.S. champs Alexa Scimeca and her leggy fiancé Chris Knierim, whose quad twist was beyond the pale, at least in height. Judges docked some marks from their GOE. Things that fly high above the planet don’t always dock in the exact correct spot. The Americans ended up fifth.

Yes, there were THREE attempts at quad twists in the free. Who got the highest marks for theirs? Cheng Peng, only 17, and her gentle giant of a partner, 30-year-old Hao Zhang, who got a level three for that move, earned a mass of +3s and some +2s for it and got 10.87 for that move alone. (Duhamel and Radford’s triple twist got them 7.40.)

Peng and Zhang finished third in the free (131.64) and second overall (201.45), thrilled to bits, with Peng doing a finger dance in the kiss and cry.

Wenjing Sui and Cong Han were the first Chinese team to skate and their quad twist earned them 10.10 points, and it was a lovely thing, too, assigned a level three with a row of +2s. They got no marks for a combination spin and ended fourth in the free (129.69) and just off the podium with 198.88. They sank lower in their seats as their compatriots skated and squeezed them out of the medals. They had worked hard this year, gone to Canadian choreographer David Wilson, got more mature programs, like Stray Cat Strut and classical music for the free.

But a ripple went through the meagre crowd (the television cameras always wisely panned the most populated section), when Qing Pang and Jian Tong took to the ice for their first competition of the season.

After being on the sidelines for almost a year, Pang and Tong were brilliant, and they may be even better at their ultimate goal, the world championships in their home country. And for the first time, they skated to vocals and what vocals! Their music was Andrea Bocelli, singing one of his hits: “Lo Ci  Saro,” which in translation is a song of love appropriate for both Pang and Tong, who became engaged in 2012 at an ice show in Shanghai. And it could also speak to their relationship with their fans.

In translation:

“My love, maybe you know

That tomorrow you will not find me.

It is not my fault.

It is life that takes me away from you

Every time you will hear

A piano, you will remember

Our hours together playing

And listening to music.

But I will be there.

If you will suffer,

I will find myself beside you

If you want.”

And so here they were, in the Seoul arena, skating to this glorious music as they can, with Pang having a little issue with jumps, but none at all with GOE, racking up rows and rows of +2s and +3s. They had far lower technical marks than Duhamel and Radford, but slightly higher component marks. Their bronze medal upstaged Sui and Han, who are 19 and 22. Pang and Tong are both 35. Their return is a season highlight.

What will it possibly be like when they skate at the world championships in Shanghai? You just have to be there.


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