So how did the winners win on the first day of the world figure skating championships?
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford seem almost inhumanly consistent (to the point that if they make a mistake at home during training, their clubmates say: “Ahhhhh, you are human!), but they are particularly explosive on the technical side.
While Qing Pang and Jian Tong slightly edged them on the program component marks (by .20 points), the Canadians excelled on the technical side, with their side by side triple Lutzes, (the only skaters to do this in the short) , their throw triple Lutzes (well, they weren’t the only ones – Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch gallantly did a throw triple Lutz, too but their point spread was .60 points), and almost all elements listed at level four.
Duhamel and Radford’s twist was deemed a level three, as was Pang and Tong’s lofty one, and it’s not easy to get a level four in this move, but Wenjing Sui and Cong Han did, as well as Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, and understandably, Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov.
So Duhamel and Radford reigned supreme with a tech mark of 41.27, while Sui and Han really did sizzle with 38.89, the second highest technical mark. (They are currently third going into the free.) They did a throw triple flip, but they got more points for that element than Duhamel and Radford, 6.90 to be exact. Their level four twist got the Chinese a whopping 8.00 points. They lost ground because they did only triple toe loops.
Duhamel and Radford defeated the lovely Pang and Tong because of their 3.59 technical edge over them. Injuries have made jumps an uncertain thing for Pang and Tong in the past, but right away today, the Chinese nailed their triple toe loops, and you knew things were going to be all right with them. Of course those toe loops earned them 5.20 points while Duhamel and Radford’s Lutzes counted for 7.20.
And of course, Duhamel and Radford are human. When they took their starting positions, Duhamel said she felt: “terrified, calm, confident, and like I was going to vomit all at the same time.
“Seriously, I went through waves where I felt so calm and I was like, this is easy and then I go through a wave where I was like: ‘Oh my god, I can’t do this.’ But when the music starts, it always brings us back together and I felt okay, now I’m good. It’s comforting when you hear your music on the ice.”
Radford said he felt proud of what they did, and admitted they both were “pretty nervous” going into the short program. The crowd hadn’t settled after Pang and Tong had skated, and he found it a little distracting.
And Pang and Tong? Lots of pressure there. They had changed the program three weeks ago, after Four Continents. And the feeling that they know this will be their final competition, ever. They will retired after this (for sure, they said.) And they are skating in China.
“Of course we were a little bit nervous because the audience are all watching us and we felt some pressure,” Pang said. “I think this competition will give me a very good memory.”
Both Sui and Han and Peng and Zhang admitted to feeling pressure because of the expectations of skating at the first world championship held in China. “We wanted to do our best and show it to the Chinese people,” Han said.
Kavaguti and Smirnov were pleased to have a good performance and say they don’t look at the score. Still, they were disappointed to get only a level three on a spin. “I thought I counted and Yuko counted (the rotations),” Smirnov said. “ It was a little tough to skate at worlds again after such a long break and I felt a bit nervous. “
Seguin and Bilodeau, 10th after the short, say their goal was to finish in the top 10 at their first senior worlds, but they are not putting pressure on themselves.
As for Ilyushechkina and Moscovitch, they are becoming quite accustomed to skating first. They’ve done it at all seven competitions they’ve entered this season. “We have practiced,” he said. Moscovitch touched hands down on a triple Salchow.
Ilyushechkina said she was excited to skate for Canada. “It’s nice to see a lot of fans from Canada,” she said. “They gave me a lot of power. “
For the short dance, Madison Chock and Evan Bates ended up on top because, for the first time, they got level fours for all elements, including their first Paso pass. And Grand Prix Final and Four Continents champs Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje got only a level two. “That made a difference in our score,” Bates said. “We’ve made so many minute changes to the details, especially since Four Continents. We changed our approach to the footwork, taking a few turns out and making sure the turns that we are doing are high quality.”
Chock and Bates and Weaver and Poje were locked in step with the midline footwork sequence, both earning 10.80 points. Weaver and Poje edged the Americans narrowly on a lift and the twizzles. But we’re splitting hairs, here. Mind you, hairs can win or lose an event, as Weaver and Poje learned last year when they lost the world title by only .02 points.
Chock and Bates led after the short dance at Four Continents, but then fell to second. Bates said they weren’t particularly pleased with their free dance in Seoul. “We knew we could skate better,” he said. “We know we can’t rest. We have to absolutely attack the program and skate it as if we’re coming from behind.”
Weaver said she and Poje had put pressure on themselves since finishing third in the short dance at Four Continents to improve their technical mark. And they were in the zone today. Chock and Bates defeated them technically by 1.82 points although judges gave the component mark to Weaver and Poje narrowly .03 points. Basically, they thought them the same.
Actually, reigning world champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte had higher technical marks in the short than Weaver and Poje, but only by .33 points. They had level fours in their paso sections, but only a level three for not-touching midline footwork.
The top three teams had component marks that are basically tied. The highest component marks were awarded to the fourth placed team, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who had 36.66 points. The young French team looked disappointed at their marks but lost ground technically in both paso sections (level three for both) and for their midline footwork sequence (level three).
“We might not have had the score we expected, but there were a lot of good things in our performance today,” Papadakis said.
“We’ve improved a lot,” Cizeron said. “Last year, we were 13th at worlds. We don’t expect too much now. We are just happy with our progress.”
Cappellini and Lanotte have had a tough season, disappearing from the scene after a disappointment at Cup of China, and then suffering a defeat to Papadakis and Cizeron at the European championships – beaten by a team they had left in their dust a year ago. “We couldn’t be happier with the performance we put out there…It means a lot to us,” Cappellini said. “The last 12 months have been difficult for us, but we did realize we love the sport and we wanted to keep going.”
Cappellini said if anyone had asked them if they would continue for the next Olympic cycle, they would have said no. “We were so drained,” she said. “It was clearly an exceptional season for us. We needed to figure out why we would continue skating. It wasn’t from day one to the other that we realized it is our life.”
They want to enjoy it as long as it lasts, she said. “It is an opportunity for us to really live this experience instead of chasing after a particular medal. “
They’ve been trying to reinvent themselves and they suffered health problems, too. “It’s not over for us,” she said.”