PAIRS: Russian Strength Dominates
In Sochi the outstanding masquerade waltz short program from the Russian Pair Volosozhar & Trankov (1st) was sheer classic perfection. But I preferred the more fun/modern short routine of the German couple Savchenko & Szolkowy who performed to music from the Pink Panther, dressed as the Panther and a policeman respectively. I also enjoyed the brightly clad Canadian Pair Moore-Towers & Moscovich, who performed superbly in their free program scoring 202.18 for overall 6th place. My preference in the free program gravitated more toward the lower end of the spectrum. I loved the Italian Pair Berton & Hotarek performance to the Philip Glass soundtrack Dracula (overall 11th). The complete package just fitted them so well I thought. The American Pair Castelli & Shnapir (overall 9th) almost made history by pulling off a throw quadruple Salchow during their Skyfall routine. Castelli landed two-footed although credit was given in the technical marks. But all eyes were on the top four from the short program for medal contenders. All of them were first time viewing for me as I had missed them during the team event, and I was in for a treat. The German Pair Savchenko & Szolkowy in second place after the short program had falls at the start and end of their free routine, won Bronze with 215.78. Mother Russia took Silver with 218.68 through Stolbova & Klimov performing to The Adams Family music, and Gold with 236.86 from Volosozhar & Trankov performing to Jesus Christ Superstar. The Chinese Pair Qing & Jian put in a solid performance to score 209.98 placing 4th in their last skating season.
MEN: World Record Helps Secure Japan Gold
Drama unfolded in the Men’s individual event when Russian Evgeni Pluschenko pulled up injured in his warm-up and retired from the competition. This resulted in Russia’s only chance of a medal in this event being dashed. Japan’s 19 year old Yuzuru Hanyu made history by scoring the first ever plus 100 marks in the short program (101.45). Having only recently burst onto the international scene Hanyu proved to be the main threat to Canada’s Patrick Chan. In the short program Chan took second with 97.52 whilst Spain’s Javier Hernandez placed third with 86.98. This left the interesting prospect of an Asian, Canadian or Spaniard being within touching distance of the Individual Men’s Gold medal, a feat never seen before. However, anything can happen in the free program, and further drama played out before the Gold medal was awarded. Team USA’s Jeremy Abbott performed a lovely flawless routine to Exogenesis by Muse, scoring a season’s best of 160.12 which earned him 8th in the free program ranking. But having suffered a horrendous fall in the short program (15th), could only manage 12th overall with a score of 232.70. Germany’s Peter Liebers 5th after the short program failed to land his first quadruple jump, thwarting his chance of making the podium, ended up 8th overall (239.87). Other skaters produced errors in their routines including Yuzuru Hanyu, who fell in his first quad and faltered in a triple move as well. His free program scored 178.64 well below his plus 193 season’s best, but his overall tally was 280.09 enough for Japan Gold. A nervous looking Patrick Chan didn’t manage a flawless performance either and secured Silver for Canada with a score of 275.62. But the surprise Bronze medallist was Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten who put in a solid, well executed, flawless routine to move from 9th to 3rd overall with a score of 255.10. This happy ending for Ten was made all the more sweet, having endured an injury blighted season with skin, back and ankle problems. Going into the free program less than nine points separated Ten in 9th from Javier Hernandez in third, but the Spaniard ended 4th overall (253.92) in the competition. A special mention should also go to Michael Christian Martinez the only Filipino at the Games, and the first to compete in the Men’s Individual who placed 19th overall (184.25). He looks to have a promising future ahead of him judging by his assured performance.
ICE-DANCE: The Only Question-Who Will Get Bronze?
Before the competition started it seemed everyone had already crowned the American couple Meryl Davis & Charlie White as champions, with the Canadian couple Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir coming a close second. With each couple performing true to form and expectation, the true battle rested with the fight for third place.
Having missed seeing the Ice-Dance short program in the team event, I was interested to find out how the more compulsory elements would be interpreted, and delighted in hearing lots of vocals in the music. Great Britain’s Penny Coombes & Nick Buckland received a very disappointing score of 59.33 leaving them 11th going into the free program. After the team event they subtly changed their short routine in an attempt to better their scores, but still found no favour with the judges. Their free program dancing to a Michael Jackson medley (91.78) was well received by the audience, but a final score of 151.11 left them 10th overall. Coombes & Buckland’s experience in Sochi highlighted perfectly, how subjective figure skating is as a sport. No two competitions can expect the same kind of judging, and the British couple with the same routines won Bronze last month in the Europeans. Other lower ranking couples who impressed with their free programs included Guignard & Fabri of Italy (86.64) and Hurtado & Diaz of Spain (88.39). Both performed to music associated with their nationality, the Italians moving beautifully to Romeo & Juliet and the Spaniards inhabiting the Surviving Picasso Soundtrack.
Meryl Davis & Charlie White never put a foot wrong to win Gold for Team USA, having come first in both the short and free programs. They scored a season’s best with 116.63 in the free to obtain an unassailable 195.52 lead score. Routines showed a combination of quick, dynamic, strong, faster movements and more fluid lines, whereas the Canadian couple Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir who took Silver with 190.99 emulated more elegance, class and style in very precise routines. They also scored a free program season’s best with 114.66, which is all you can ask of an athlete.
The real competition however was between the two Russian couples for third place. Bobrova & Stoloviev (5th overall 172.92) also received a season’s best score of 102.95 for their intriguing “vice-versa” free routine, which saw the personas of the couple switch mid routine. It was fascinating to watch and utterly compelling. Ilinykh and Katsalapov performed a very dramatic Black Swan free program that had both modern panache and old school Russian classic lines within. With an overall score of 183.48 they took Bronze for Russia.
WOMEN: RUSSIA SECURES A FIRST GOLD MEDAL IN WOMEN’S FIGURE SKATING
The “darling” of the Russian team skate Julia Lipnitskaya fell in both her short and free programs putting her out of medal contention. However, her compatriot Adelina Sotnikova who had yet to compete in the Sochi Games shone. Her short program was technically accomplished and scored 74.64 just fractionally behind the Olympic champion of 2010 Kim Yuna (74.92). Going into the free program Italian Carolina Kostner was third (74.12), and barring a fall in the free skate it was expected that these positions would remain unchanged. Kostner performed a lovely free routine to Ravel’s Bolero scoring 142.61 to secure Bronze for Italy (216.73). Adelina Sotnikova put in an electrifying free program gathering 149.95 points with 7 jump sequences/4 in combination. Last skater South Korean Kim Yuna put in a flawless graceful routine, which TV commentators stated was an obvious Gold medal winning performance. How wrong they were, because Yuna scored 144.19 for her free program; (losing 6 technical points to Sotnikova who performed more jump combinations); and only had enough (219.11) to secure Silver for South Korea. To the obvious delight of the home crowd the ecstatic 17 year old Adelina Sotnikova took Gold for Russia with 224.59 points. She became the first ever Russian Olympic female individual figure skating Gold medallist, and having been overlooked in favour of Julia in the team event, Adelina’s success must have tasted sweet.