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The first event in the Grand Prix of Figure Skating, National Car Rental Skate America 1999 concluded in Colorado Springs on Saturday.
The Canadian Pair Jamie Sale/David Pelletier took the victory by surprise, beating French Champions Sarah Abitbol/Stephane Bernadis and two-time World Champions Elena Berezhnaya/Anton Sikhuralidze from Russia. The Canadians, who had teamed up last season, skated two clean harmonious programs. Their free program set to music from the movie "Love Story" featured side-by-side triple toeloops, a triple twist, triple throw salchow and triple throw loop as well as side-by-side double axels. "It was a big release for both of us. I've been waiting to win an international for a long time", Pelletier commented. The French team moved up from third place after the short to claim the silver medal with a dramatic performance portraying the battle between good and evil. "We wanted to create a story", Bernadis explained. "Sarah is an angel, and I am a devil - the good wins in the end." Abitbol/Bernadis completed all their elements, only their side-by-side spin was out of sync. Reigning World Champions Berezhnaya/Sikhuralidze had to settle for the bronze medal after making several mistakes in both programs. Berezhnaya fell on the triple toe and stumbled on the triple throw salchow in the Short Program. In the Long Program to "Waltz Sentimentale" Sikhuralidze struggled with the side-by-side jumps, and Berezhnaya two-footed the triple throw loop. "It was so difficult, because of the altitude. And it's our first competition, a first try", Sikhuralidze said afterwards. The German Champions Peggy Schwarz/Mirko Müller dropped from second to fourth after Schwarz singled the axel and fell on the double throw toeloop.
The second surprise of the evening came in the Ice Dance event when Italian Champions Barbara Fusar-Poli/Maurizio Margaglio beat European Bronze Medallists Irina Lobatcheva/Ilja Averbukh from Russia in the Free Dance. The Italians captured the audience with a fast paced, passionate Irish Dance and earned scores up to 5,9 in the second mark. "A big dream came true", Margaglio said about the first victory in a Grand Prix event. The Russian team was disappointed. "The audience didn't get our program", Averbukh believed. "We didn't have the support of the crowd." Their free dance to "Cirque du Soleil" started off well with fast steps, but towards the end, it simmered down. US-Champions Naomi Lang/Peter Tchernyshev won their first medal in a Grand Prix competition with a romantic and flowing dance, choreographed by Olympic Ice Dance Champion Christopher Dean. "We're very, very happy with how we skated the program because it's a challenge for us. We made a couple of mistakes - we are glad it wasn't perfect because that gives us something to build on for the next Grand Prix event", explained Lang.
In what turned out to be a fascinating battle on a high level, Russia's two-time World Champion Alexei Yagudin held off Timothy Goebel (USA) and three-time World Champion
Elvis Stojko of Canada. Yagudin, first after the short program, popped his planned quad toeloop, but reeled off seven clean triples. He two-footed the triple salchow right at the end of his intense program set to "Broken Arrow". "This is my first competition this year, and my ankle has been hurting, and I changed my boots, so I'm happy that I managed to skate through the program", he said. Yagudin, had landed a clean quadruple toeloop in the short program as did Goebel and Australia's Anthony Liu. In the Long Program Goebel set a new record by landing three clean quadruple jumps in the same program. Although the 19-year-old started his program with a fall on the triple flip and a mistake on the triple axel, he pulled off his quad salchow-triple toe combination, went on to do a quad toeloop and a quad salchow. After he completed the feat he clenched his fists in triumph. "After the pretty rough start, I was able to get it back together. I was thrilled to be able to do all three (quads)." Stojko moved up from a fourth-place finish in the Short to win the bronze medal. Skating to "Star Wars", the Canadian completed a quad toeloop-double toeloop combination and five clean triple jumps. World Bronze Medallist Michael Weiss (USA) suffered from a stress fracture in the ankle and fell hard on the quad toeloop right at the beginning of "Carmen", his Free Program. He struggled, falling on a triple axel, two-footing a triple flip and triple loop. These mistakes caused Weiss to drop two places, costing him a medal.
Two-time World Champion Michelle Kwan (USA) dominated the Ladies' event. Kwan performed a flawless Short Program to the Beatles tune "A day in the life", complete with a triple lutz-double toeloop combination for which one judge awarded her a perfect 6,0. In the Long Program, Kwan was, again, the only competitor to get a 6,0 by a judge for presentation. Her graceful performance to "The Red Violin" was marred only by a fall on the triple flip. Kwan recovered quickly and did a second triple lutz at the end of her program. Altogether, she landed six clean triples, including a triple toeloop-triple toeloop combination. "Coming into the competition, I wasn't 100 percent ready. But I was getting better which each practice", Kwan commented.
World Bronze Medallist Julia Soldatova from Russia had stumbled in the Short Program in her triple lutz-combination, but she came back strongly in the Free Skating with four clean triples and a smooth performance to take the Silver Medal. "I'm happy, because I did my job here. In the next competition, I want to do even better", the Muscovite announced. Her teammate Elena Sokolova remained third, starting off well with four triples, but she slowed down and doubled the salchow in two attempts towards the end. "I was tired", Sokolova admitted. World Junior Silver Medallist Sarah Hughes from the USA was knocked off the podium when she fell three times during her Free Skating Program. The night before, the 14-year-old placed second in the Short Program with an impressive and clean performance. "These things happen and the athlete learns from it. Now we just have to go back home and get back to work", said Coach Robin Wagner.
For further information please contact: Grand Prix of Figure Skating & Final National Car Rental Skate America Aline Bussat, ISU Media Coordinator Bob Dunlop at the USFSA, +41 21 612 66 66 +1 719 635 5200
Pairs Final Results Pl. Name Nation TFP SP FS 1 Jamie SALE / David PELLETIER CAN 1,5 1 1 2 Sarah ABITBOL / Stephane BERNADIS FRA 3,5 3 2 3 Elena BEREZHNAYA / Anton SIKHARULIDZE RUS 5,0 4 3 4 Peggy SCHWARZ / Mirko MÜLLER GER 5,0 2 4 5 Kyoko INA / John ZIMMERMAN USA 7,5 5 5 6 Tiffany SCOTT / Philip DULEBOHN USA 9,5 7 6 7 Tatiana TOTMIANINA / Maxim MARININ RUS 11,0 8 7 8 Danielle HARTSELL / Steve HARTSELL USA 11,0 6 8 Ice Dancing Final Results Pl. Name Nation TFP CD OD FD 1 Barbara FUSAR-POLI / Maurizio MARGAGLIO ITA 3,0 2 2 1 2 Irina LOBACHEVA / Ilia AVERBUKH RUS 3,0 1 1 2 3 Naomi LANG / Peter TCHERNYSHEV USA 6,4 4 3 3 4 Kati WINKLER / Rene LOHSE GER 7,6 3 4 4 5 Jamie SILVERSTEIN / Justin PEKAREK USA 10,0 5 5 5 6 Josée PICHÉ / Pascal DENIS CAN 12,0 6 6 6 7 Kornelia BARANY / Andre ROSNIK HUN 14,0 7 7 7 8 Nozomi WATANABE / Akiyuki KIDO JPN 16,0 8 8 8 Men Final Results Pl. Name Nation TFP SP FS 1 Alexei YAGUDIN RUS 1,5 1 1 2 Timothy GOEBEL USA 3,5 3 2 3 Elvis STOJKO CAN 5,0 4 3 4 Michael WEISS USA 5,0 2 4 5 Matthew SAVOIE USA 7,5 5 5 6 Alexander ABT RUS 9,5 7 6 7 Anthony LIU AUS 10,0 6 7 8 Stanick JEANNETTE FRA 12,5 9 8 9 Michael HOPFES GER 15,0 12 9 10 Thierry CEREZ FRA 15,5 11 10 11 Yosuke TAKEUCHI JPN 16,0 10 11 12 Szabolcs VIDRAI HUN 16,0 8 12 Ladies Final Results Pl. Name Nation TFP SP FS 1 Michelle KWAN USA 1,5 1 1 2 Julia SOLDATOVA RUS 4,0 4 2 3 Elena SOKOLOVA RUS 4,5 3 3 4 Sarah HUGHES USA 5,0 2 4 5 Julia SEBESTYEN HUN 9,0 8 5 6 Alisa DREI FIN 9,0 6 6 7 Angela NIKODINOV USA 9,5 5 7 8 Yuka KANAZAWA JPN 12,5 9 8 9 Julia LAUTOWA AUT 13,5 7 10 10 Nadine GOSSELIN CAN 14,0 10 9 11 Dorothee DERROITTE BEL 16,5 11 11
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