Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, Kitchener (CAN), Day 1

A total of 36 entries, currently representing the worlds best skaters, have gathered in Kitchener (CAN) to compete in the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final on December 13-16. According to the Grand Prix Final format, the event opened today with the Original Dance, the Ladies, Men and Pairs Short Programs, followed by the first Free Dance and the first Ladies, Men and Pairs Free Programs.

Ice Dance, Original Dance & First Free Dance

The dance event brought some surprises. Marina Anissina/Gwendal Peizerat of France took the lead after the Original Dance and defended it in the first Free Dance. Currently in second place are Canada's Shae-Lynn Bourne/Victor Kraatz, who finished second in both parts of today's competition. Margarita Drobiazko/Povilas Vanagas (LTU) are sitting in third after the first day of the event. They were fourth in the Original Dance but pulled up to third in the first Free Dance. Reigning World Champions Barbara Fusar Poli/Maurizio Margaglio of Italy finished third in the OD, but were fourth in the first Free Dance to end up in fourth place overall.

Anissina/Peizerat performed a flamboyant OD, consisting of a Flamenco and Tango. The 2000 World Champions displayed good footwork and captured the character of the dances very well to take all first place ordinals. In the Free Dance, the couple from Lyon chose to skate to "Carmina Burana", the program that won them their World title. Skating with much passion and speed, they thrilled the audience with innovative lifts and good footwork. Their marks went up to 5.9 for technical merit, and they received one 6.0 for presentation. "It felt great to skate this program again", Peizerat said. "We never had skated it so well. That we could do so after two years shows our progress."

Bourne/Kraatz put in a strong OD to a Flamenco and Tango, as well. The Canadians then went on to pull off a dynamic Free Dance set to "March with Me" that contained intricate steps. However, Bourne stumbled briefly in the diagonal footwork line. "I can't explain the error", she said.

Drobiazko/Vanagas had trouble in the OD, as she fell during the side by side footwork line shortly before the end of the program. "I don't know what happened. I felt very good throughout the dance", Drobiazko commented. The husband and wife team rallied back to produce a flowing Free Dance to "Spente le Stelle" that featured unique dance spins. Fusar Poli/Margaglio also had a problem in their side by side footwork line in the OD, as he stumbled at the end. "The boards were too close, I didn't have enough room for my turn", Margaglio explained. The defending Grand Prix Champions came back with their "Romeo and Juliet" Free Dance from last season. Skating with their characteristic passion and speed, the couple displayed original lifts.

Ladies, Short Program & First Free Program

Irina Slutskaya of Russia leads the standings after the first day. She is followed by Michelle Kwan (USA) and Maria Butyrskaya (RUS).

Slutskaya won both the Short and the first Free Program today. The current World silver medallist produced a clean Short Program that contained a triple Lutz-double loop combination. She brought back last season's "Don Quixote" for the Free Skating in the evening. The four-time European Champion hit a triple Lutz, a triple Salchow-double loop combination and two more triples, but she doubled her second Lutz and put her hand down on the triple loop. Her performance also featured strong spins. "I wasn't great, but it wasn't too bad either", the Muscovite told the press. "This year, I feel much more powerful. I worked hard, and the competition is going well for me."

Kwan hesitated in her triple Lutz-double toeloop combination in the Short Program, and the toeloop was shaky. The reigning World Champion finished third in that part of the event. She had to overcome a rough start in the Free Skating set to "Song of the Black Swan", as the fell on her opening triple loop and doubled the first Lutz, but the Californian managed to land five clean triples overall and a double Axel. "I was pretty confident out there, but there was lots I did wrong and can do better tomorrow", the 21-year-old explained.

Butyrskaya beat Kwan in the Short Program with a clean and flowing performance. However, the Muscovite struggled in her Free Program, doubling her first Lutz and two-footing the toeloop in her triple toeloop-half loop-double Salchow combination. "I'm really tired", Butyrskaya said. "I felt embarrassed about my program today." The 1999 World Champion placed fourth in the Free Program, but stayed ahead of World bronze medallist Sarah Hughes (USA).

Men, Short Program & First Free Program

The Men's event turned out to be an exciting battle between reigning World Champion Evgeni Plushenko (RUS) and his teammate Alexei Yagudin, a three-time World Champion. Plushenko came out on top, but it was close. US Champion Timothy Goebel stands in third place after the first day of the competition.

Plushenko captured an early lead in the Short Program, delivering a solid performance that contained a quadruple-triple toeloop combination. Yagudin put his hand down on his triple Axel, but he also landed the difficult quadruple-triple combination. Plushenko stayed ahead on a majority of five to two Judges. In the Free Skating, the 19-year-old took the ice right before Yagudin. He nailed a quadruple-triple toeloop-double loop combination, another quadruple toeloop and six more triples in his Medley of Movie soundtracks. The marks went up to 5.9 for both technical merit and presentation. Yagudin risked it all. Skating to "Gladiator" with his typical passion, the 21-year-old went for the spectacular quad-triple-double combination as well, but he fell on the loop. Yagudin also put his hand down on the following quadruple toeloop, but produced six clean triples and strong spins. He lost to Plushenko by the thinnest margin, on a split of three to four Judges. "I was too close to the boards", Yagudin said about his fall. "Originally I wanted to do only one quad today, but Tatiana (Tarasova, his coach) told me that Plushenko did two, so I went for two." Plushenko is fighting a sore ankle after a painful fall in practice the other day. "I got an injection and I can skate", he commented. "It is hard to do two programs, but I did everything clean today."

Goebel pulled off his trademark quadruple Salchow-triple toeloop combination in the Short Program. The 20-year-old was the only skater to show two different kinds of quadruple jumps today as he landed a quadruple Salchow-triple toeloop combination and a quadruple toeloop in the Free Skating. Goebel edged out his countryman and 1996 World Champion Todd Eldredge, who came in fourth place overall. "The program felt great", Goebel said. "I feel very confident about tomorrow's program. I'm more comfortable with it."

Pairs, Short Program & First Free Program

The Pairs delivered an exciting competition. It was the two-time World Champions Elena Berezhnaya/Anton Sikharulidze of Russia, who took the lead on the first day. Reigning World Champions Jamie Sale/David Pelletier of Canada won the Short Program, but lost to their Russian rivals in the Free Program to come in second today. China's World bronze medallists Xue Shen/Hongbo Zhao are currently sitting in third place.

Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze turned in a clean Short Program that contained side by side triple toeloops and a triple throw loop. However, the Canadians also skated very well and executed all of the required eight elements cleanly. They received four first place ordinals and the Russians had three. In the Free Skating, it was just the other way around, as the Russians got the nod by the majority of the Judges. Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze opened their original Charlie Chaplin program with side by side triple toeloops and a double Axel-double toeloop sequence. However, Berezhnaya stumbled on the landing of the triple throw Salchow, and the triple twist was wobbly. Sale/Pelletier both struggled with the triple toeloops, as she doubled it and he barely held onto the landing. The team pulled themselves together to complete a good triple twist, a triple throw Salchow and strong lifts in their routine set to Sergei Rakhmaninov's Second Piano Concert. "A good thing that Jamie was there", Pelletier joked. "She was there to hold me up. Sometimes under pressure, you feel like you are wearing someone else's skates, and that was me tonight."

Berezhnaya said: "Physically, it wasn't so difficult to do two programs, but now I'm very tired. I think it was a technical mistake (on the throw Salchow). Tomorrow we'll debut our new program".

Shen/Zhao put in a dynamic Short Program and enthralled the crowd with their huge triple throw loop. Skating to "Mulan" in their Free Program, the Chinese nailed side by side triple toeloops, a triple twist and a triple throw loop, but Shen two-footed the triple throw Salchow. "We are tired. The mistake on the triple throw Salchow happened because of tiredness. We went back to Mulan, our 1999 free program, because we like it very much", Zhao explained.

Results

Ice Dancing

FPl.	Name					Nat.	Points	OD	FD1	FD2

1	Marina ANISSINA / Gwendal PEIZERAT 	FRA	1.0	1	1	
2	Shae-Lynn BOURNE / Victor KRAATZ 	CAN	2.0	2	2	
3	Margarita DROBIAZKO / Povilas VANAGAS 	LTU	3.4	4	3	
4	Barbara FUSAR-POLI / Maurizio MARGAGLIO ITA	3.6	3	4	
5	Galit CHAIT / Sergei SAKHNOVSKI 	ISR	5.0	5	5	
6	Marie-France DUBREUIL / Patrice LAUZON 	CAN	6.0	6	6	

Ladies

FPl.	Name			Nat.	Points	SP	FS1	FS2

1	Irina SLUTSKAYA 	RUS	1.0	1	1	
2	Michelle KWAN 		USA	2.4	3	2	
3	Maria BUTYRSKAYA 	RUS	3.2	2	4	
4	Sarah HUGHES 		USA	3.4	4	3	
5	Tatiana MALININA 	UZB	5.0	5	5	
6	Yoshie ONDA 		JPN	6.0	6	6	

Men

FPl.	Name			Nat.	Points	SP	FS1	FS2

1	Evgeny PLUSHENKO 	RUS	1.0	1	1	
2	Alexei YAGUDIN 		RUS	2.0	2	2	
3	Timothy GOEBEL 		USA	3.0	3	3	
4	Todd ELDREDGE 		USA	4.4	5	4	
5	Takeshi HONDA 		JPN	4.6	4	5	
6	Ivan DINEV 		BUL	6.0	6	6	

Pairs

FPl.	Name					Nat.	Points	SP	FS1	FS2

1	Elena BEREZHNAYA / Anton SIKHARULIDZE 	RUS	1.4	2	1	
2	Jamie SALE / David PELLETIER 		CAN	1.6	1	2	
3	Xue SHEN / Hongbo ZHAO 			CHN	3.0	3	3	
4	Kyoko INA / John ZIMMERMAN 		USA	4.8	6	4	
5	Maria PETROVA / Alexei TIKHONOV 	RUS	5.0	5	5	
6	Sarah ABITBOL / Stephane BERNADIS 	FRA	5.2	4	6	


For further information please contact:

Aline Bussat Ingwersen,
ISU Media/ Communications Coordinator

Tel: + 1 (519) 744 8892    
E-mail: bussat@isu.ch	

or

Patrick Kenny,
Press Officer, 
Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final,

Tel:+1 (647) 221 31 06      
E-mail: pkenny@skatecanada.ca

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