Rocky Pairs Long at 2016 Skate Canada International Still Yields Gems

by Jacquelyn Thayer

After a strong short program event for the Skate Canada International pairs field, the long brought a few more woes — though the top finishers managed to hang on for podium success.

With their “Non, je ne regrette rien” free, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford completed their third victory at Skate Canada International with a total of 218.30, though a hard fall on the throw quad salchow helped cap their segment score at 139.91.

“We always find it difficult after having a really strong short, where there’s a lot of adrenaline and a lot of excitement, to go out and sort of maintain it in the long, especially in the beginning of the season,” said Radford. “But we’re really happy with how we just fought back and the fact that we finished the program really strong — that’s going to give us confidence despite that fall on the throw quad.”

Indeed, the performance marked a significant advancement for the season from Finlandia’s outing, which included errors on each jumping element. Their segment score here improved by 8.62 points, with positive GOEs on all non-jump elements as well as the throw triple flip.

“Those are the little points we’re always looking to collect as well,” said Duhamel. “So overall, we’re really happy. Our main objective here was to come out and nail that short program, so as we go forward to NHK, we’ve got that in our pocket and we’re going to work on cleaning up the long as well.”

Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch survived a tough skate that included falls on the throw triple lutz and combination jump, as well as a doubled salchow, to score 122.69 in the segment, 190.22 overall — and pick up their first career Grand Prix medal, bronze behind China’s Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang.

“Today was work for us,” said Moscovitch. “It was not an ideal run-through, it wasn’t exactly how we’ve been training or how we pictured today going. But we stuck to our training, we kept refocusing throughout the program, working together as a team, and I think the fact that we were able to do that and not let the other elements slip away and points slip away — we were able to keep the integrity of the program up and get ourselves on the podium.”

The long score here was a 4.27-point improvement from their performance at September’s Nebelhorn Trophy, thanks in large part to that sustained quality across their other content, helping them notch PCS of 65.14, just below their personal best set at the 2016 World Championships.

“The mistakes which happened were obvious, but the other elements, we did with good quality and got our levels,” said Iliushechkina. “So there are major things to work on — refocus and regroup ourselves and go into the next competition.” That event would be Cup of China in two weeks, where the pair believes they can remain in contention for a Grand Prix Final berth.

Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier remained a close fourth with 188.23 overall and a score of 121.73 for their Somewhere in Time free. While the skate was well executed in most respects, Denney’s singled axel — a currently routine element as she returns to full competitive form — and a downgrade on the combination jump meant a 0.4 TES lag behind the Canadians, as well as a drop from their season benchmark set at the prior week’s Skate America, where, the pair noted, expectations were fewer.

The intricate lyrical program crafted by Marina Zoueva has also entailed particular focus on the transitions and detail work. “It’s such a big part of what makes a program, the in-between stuff, and we get very element orientated,” said Denney. “It’s important to have your technical, but it’s equally as important for the second half of it, which is your overall program.”

In an unusual coincidence, the pair, who made their Grand Prix debut at 2013’s Skate Canada International, did so then against two familiar faces — their current coaches Rockne Brubaker (competing there with Lindsay Davis) and Stefania Berton (winner with Ondrej Hotarek).

“I think they’re fresh off of the competitive scene, so they understand the mental aspect of what we’re doing every day,” said Denney. “So I absolutely think it’s a benefit to have that.”

With a total of 151.68, Canadians Brittany Jones and Joshua Reagan remained in seventh, scoring 97.45 on their Turandot free with a fall on the triple salchow for her and a handful of other technical glitches — though the team did attain a personal PCS best of 50.16.

“We set ourselves up really poorly with our short yesterday, so obviously it was going to be a major, major fight to get back from that,” said Reagan. “At least we got the experience out of this one. We got to get out in competition pretty early this year, so it was nice, and hopefully we get something else and can go out and do the programs that we’ve been training.”

Since their last Grand Prix appearance in 2014, the pair began work full time with coach Bryce Davison, whose emphasis where technique is concerned has been less element and more component-based.

“When we went to him, he kind of tore apart our skating skills and everything like that, and so we kind of put the technical [elements] on the backburner,” said Reagan. “So now at this point, it’s just trying to have the skating that we’ve improved and get our technical stuff back to being consistent at all times.”

Similarly, their second year of choreographic work with David Wilson has involved further development in that respect. “He kind of knows our style and the way we like to skate,” said Jones. “So I thought this year’s programs have really stepped it up and made our transitions a lot harder than last year. Our short program is a little bit more fun and cool, laidback, and then our long program is really intense, so we like the different extremes.”

Find complete results here. The Grand Prix continues this week with Rostelecom Cup.