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Team USA Earns Four Medals in Quebec

11 Dec

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Team USA earned four medals in Quebec at the Grand Prix Final and Junior Grand Prix Final including two gold medals. Meryl Davis & Charlie White became the first U.S. team ever to win three straight gold medals at a Grand Prix Final with their top performance in ice dancing while Jason Brown earned gold in the men’s event of the Junior Grand Prix Final. Also earning podium finishes were Joshua Farris with a bronze in the junior men’s event and Britney Simpson & Matthew Blackmer, with a junior pairs bronze medal.

Davis & White continued their winning streak with their ninth consecutive gold medal as the Americans posted a best-ever short dance score of 76.17 to give them a five-point margin heading into the free dance competition. In the free dance, Davis & White edged Canadians Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir by .05 points, posting another personal best, to win the competition by 5.21 points.

Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat of France earned the bronze, while Americans Maia & Alex Shibutani, competing in their first Grand Prix Final, posted season-best scores in both the short and free dance competitions and finished in fifth place overall.

Brown, in his second season on the JGP circuit, placed second in both segments of competition and won the gold medal over silver medalist Han Yan of China and teammate Farris, who won bronze in his second trip to this event. Brown set international best scores throughout the competition.

The ladies crown belongs to Italy’s Carolina Kostner. She has medaled at each of her four trips to the Final, but this year’s is her first gold. She was joined on the podium by Japan’s Akiko Suzuki and Russia’s Alena Leonova. Alissa Czisny, competing on a sore left leg, finished fifth in the ladies field.

Canada’s Patrick Chan skated to an easy 11-point victory over Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi, who battled from a fifth-place showing in the short program to win silver. Javier Fernandez of Spain won bronze in his first trip to the Grand Prix Final. American Jeremy Abbott skated his best free skate of the season, landing a quad in competition for the first time since the 2010 U.S. Championships, but finished fifth overall.

Like the junior ladies podium, the junior ice dancing podium also belonged to Russia. Victoria Sinitsina & Ruslan Zhigansin led the way followed by Anna Yanovskaia & Sergei Mozgov and Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin. In their JGP Final debut Team USA’s Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton finished fourth

By a slim margin, senior pairs gold went to Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy of Germany. They edged Russia’s Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov by 0.18 points. Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov, also of Russia, took bronze.

Simpson & Blackmer, who formed their partnership over the summer, earned the junior pairs bronze medal. They enjoyed two clean skates and totaled 146.35 points. They were joined on the podium by China’s Wenjing Sui & Cong Han in first and Katherine Bobak & Ian Beharry of Canada in second.

Russia enjoyed a sweep of the junior ladies podium with Julia Lipnitskaia leading the way. Teammates Polina Shelepen and Polina Korobeynikova finished second and third, respectively. American Vanessa Lam, competing in her first JGP Final, finished fifth overall.

Ice Dancing Quotes

Meryl Davis (West Bloomfield, Mich./Arctic FSC) & Charlie White (Bloomfield Hills, Mich./Detroit SC)

(training town: Canton, Mich.)

1st place (1 SD, 1 FD)

Total: 188.55; FD: 112.38; SD: 76.17 points (all are international PB scores)

(on winning nine consecutive competitions) White – “It’s fantastic. The consistency of our training, coming every day to the rink with a good attitude and bringing it over to competition with the same sort of idea is what we do. We control ourselves and so far we’re doing a good job of that.”

(on winning FD by 0.05 points over CAN’s Virtue and Moir) Davis – “The closeness of the points will drive us even more. We work very hard every day but having Scott and Tessa there right next to us pushes us that much more. We’re really excited to get back home and keep working and improving.”

(on winning three straight Grand Prix Finals) White – “It’s a testament to our hard work, our coaches and our parents,  who are always helping us. I wish we could take all the credit, but it’s everyone that helps us. Of course our partnership is a key, having been together for so long and being able to rely on each other. At this point, in senior, it’s something you get used to, but at the same time you can’t take it for granted.”

(on performing best free dance of season) Davis – “We feel really good about where our skating is. It’s nice to be rewarded for it with the points. I think we can feel the growth of both programs from competition to competition. We’ll stick on that upward trend throughout the season.”

Maia Shibutani (Ann Arbor, Mich./SC of New York) & Alex Shibutani (Ann Arbor, Mich./Arctic FSC)

(training town: Canton, Mich.)

5th place (5 SD, 5FD)

Total: 160.55; FD: 95.03; SD: 65.53 points (all are season-high scores)

(on Final experience) Maia – “We feel really good. This was a good competition for us. We made a lot of improvements in our programs since the Grand Prix events. I think we have been really excited to be here. It’s our first Grand Prix, hopefully the first of many.”

(on preparing for U.S. Championships) Alex – “Like Maia said, it was our first Grand Prix Final and so we have tried to soak it all in as much as possible. We’re going to go home and work really hard. We are always going to make corrections and keep pushing the bar for ourselves so by the year we’re as good as we can be.”

(on free dance) Maia – “We’ve done a lot of hard work in order to improve everything about our programs. We’re really happy because within this competition, we see a big increase in our levels. That shows that we are going in the right direction.”

Canton Fun and Games in Quebec City

10 Dec

by Lynn Rutherford

During practice one of the first ice dance practices here, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani swung into their “Chattanooga Choo Choo” tap dance and suddenly, there were six skaters doing the steps instead of two.

The siblings’ training partners – Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir – were out there tapping away, too.

“We saw it out of the corner of our eyes,” Maia said.

“We heard the audience’s reaction; normally, that section doesn’t get that much applause,” Alex said. “So it was the most we got for that part, but it was really fun. It was nice to know we each know each other’s routines so well that we can shadow each other.

“In hindsight we could have foreseen this happening all last week. They were kind of mocking, a little bit of fun.”

Moir claims it was all a deliberate plan to keep the atmosphere light.

“It’s always so serious,” he said. “The reality is we have fun at home and [we wanted] to have fun here, maybe get them to loosen up a little bit at their first Grand Prix Final.”

“We’ve been talking about this with Meryl and Charlie for a really long time,” Virtue added. “And oddly enough we still don’t know the steps exactly. We tried our best. It’s Maia and Alex’s first go at the Grand Prix Final and there can be a lot of nerves, a lot of pressure and anything we can do to get a laugh.”

So, is Alex plotting a way to get back at his training mates?

“Yeah, I am,” Alex said.

Thanks to Alex Shibutani for tweeting this picture:

2011 GP Final – Viewer’s Guide

9 Dec

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2011 GP Final (All times Eastern)

Friday, Dec. 9
1:00 p.m.: Senior ladies short program
2:05 p.m.: Senior short dance
8:00 p.m.: Senior pairs short program
9:15 p.m.: Senior men’s short program

Saturday, Dec. 10
3:40 p.m.: Senior ladies free skate
4:55 p.m.: Senior men’s free skate
8:15 p.m.: Senior pairs free skate

Sunday, Dec. 11
1:50 p.m.: Senior free dance

Notes

The DefenderAlissa Czisny is the reigning Grand Prix Final champion. The 2011 U.S. titlist began the season by winning gold at 2011 Hilton HHonors Skate America, the first event of the Grand Prix Series. She went on to secure bronze at Trophée
Eric Bompard in Paris in mid-November.

Three’s CompanyJeremy Abbott, the 2008 Grand Prix Final champion, makes his third trip to the Grand Prix Final and first since placing fourth in 2009. Abbott’s season includes a gold medal from Cup of China and a bronze from Rostelecom
Cup.

The Rookie(s)Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani earned their spot at the Grand Prix Final thanks to a gold medal at NHK Trophy, their first Grand Prix Series win, and silver at Cup of China. Both U.S. ice dancing teams in the train in Canton, Mich., under coaches Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband.

The Whole Nine YardsMeryl Davis & Charlie White enter the event having won eight consecutive events dating back to 2010 NHK Trophy. The 2011 World champions, Davis and White, are the two-time reigning Grand Prix Final titlists and also
earned the bronze medal at this event in 2008.

History in the Making? Davis & White look to become the fi rst Americans to ever win three consecutive Grand Prix Final titles. They would join Russia’s Tatiana Navka & Roman Kostomorov as the only teams in history to do so (2003-05).

Final Facts –
* The U.S. has won 29 medals since the Grand Prix Series’ inception in 1995 (11 men’s, 12 ladies, 6 ice dancing)
* The U.S. has won 9 gold, 8 silver, 12 bronze
* Michelle Kwan has won the most Grand Prix Final medals (5)
* The U.S. has won medals in ice dancing every year since 2007 (4 consecutive years)

JGP Quotes

Junior Pairs

Britney Simpson (Golden, Colo./Broadmoor SC) & Matthew Blackmer (Detroit/Detroit SC)

(training town: Colorado Springs, Colo.) – 3rd place – 50.91 points (season-high)

(on short program) Simpson – “It felt like what we have been training at home. It was so much fun with the Canadians here watching it. It was really easy to skate”

Blackmer – “From a components standpoint, it felt really, really good. We emoted really well and had a strong connection between us. Overall, it was a great performance.”

(on free skate) Simpson – “What we’re coming here to do is to skate and not worry about placement. We want to enjoy skating and that is what we are going to show tomorrow in the long.”

(on the Chinese team performing quad throws and twists) Simpson – “We can’t control anything other than what we are capable of doing. We are going to go out tomorrow and do what we can do best.”

(on intensity of short program today) Blackmer – “We spend a lot of time on our component mark because we feel that is something we are strong at. We work on basic posture and stroking and enhancing the dynamics of our skating.”

Junior Ladies

Vanessa Lam (Bellflower, Calif./trains in Westminster, Calif./All Year FSC) – 3rd place – 54.34 points (international personal best)

(on short program) “I felt really excited to get out there. Warm up was good for me. I was just ready to do my thing. It felt nice to perform. I’m pleased with the performance and presented my program the way I feel I wanted to present it.”

(on transitions in program) “Mostly transitions felt better for me. I’ve been working on them for the past few weeks after my Junior Grand Prix events and hopefully people see improvement.”

(on goals for free skate) “To land my jumps of course. But also presenting to the audience. I’m working on my components score.”

(on competing at first JGP Final) “It’s so amazing here. Everything is so pretty. To be here at this event is so exciting and I’m looking forward to watching the seniors after I’m done competing.”

(on final goal for the season) “My goal is to improve on my transitions and skating skills, my program components in general. I want to be able to get more into the music when I perform.”

Junior Ice Dancing

Alexandra Aldridge (Birmingham, Mich./Detroit SC) & Daniel Eaton (Bloomfield, Mich./Detroit SC)

(training town: Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) – 5th place – 51.59 points

(on short dance) Aldridge – “It was not our best, that’s for sure. We started off really strong. The lift was great and the first of pattern of cha cha was pretty good. Then we had a stumble, recovered well and finished the cha cha. The twizzles were very good. Our choreography got a little sloppy, but we finished as strong as we could.”

(on tomorrow’s free dance) Eaton – “We’re going to reset our minds and get ready for the free dance. We want to do what we are good at doing.”

(on free dance being the stronger of their two programs) Aldridge – “The free dance is definitely our stronger program. We love doing the Irish dance, the crowd loves it. It’s good that we have that to look forward to tomorrow.”

Junior Men

Jason Brown (Highland Park, Ill./trains in Highland Park and Northbrook, Ill./Skokie Valley FSC) – 2nd place – 68.77 points (international PB)

(on short program) “I felt really good about it. I stayed focused. I tried to use my excitement to my advantage and express to the audience how much fun I was having. Hopefully they felt that way.”

(on what he has improved this season) “I have improved in my program components and my skating skills. I have gotten faster and am more confident in what I do. I think my spins have improved and the speed into my jumps.”

(on triple Axel) “It’s coming. It’s one of those jumps where I keep thinking it’s coming and it’s coming. Every day I think it gets closer. We were thinking about doing it in the short but decided not to. I’m not planning to try it in my free skate.”

(on free skate) “I’m going to use the short program and go forth from there. I want to stay focused and keep up with how well I did today. I’m going to try my best to go through my long like I did my short today.”

(press conference opening statement about short program and experience here) “I tried to stay calm. It’s been amazing to be at this event with six of the best senior men in the world. It’s unbelievably motivating.”

(on where short programs ranked in terms of season) “This was my personal best. There were parts of the program that weren’t as strong as other competitions, but as a whole it was my personal best.”

Joshua Farris (Colorado Springs, Colo./trains in Colorado Springs, Colo./Broadmoor FSC) – 1st place – 72.99 points

(on short program) “I opened with a great triple Axel. Probably one of the best I’ve done in competition this year. I did my triple flip but fell out of the circle a little bit do I did a double toe to have a nice skate. My spins were great. I also did a really good Lutz. Overall, I felt really good about the program. It felt very easy and over my feet.”

(on competing in second JGP Final) “I feel much more confident. I was focused on myself instead of others this time. That is something I’ve done all year.”

(on where short programs ranked in terms of season) “I don’t think it was my personal best. There were things that were better than other programs. But it was my second best of the season.”

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