Hilton HHonors Skate America continued Saturday in Ontario, California with the Men's Free Skating, Free Dance, Ladies and Pairs Short Programs. Skate America is the first of six events of the 2011/2012 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series. The skaters compete for a global prize money of US $ 180, 000 per individual event of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating and the top six in each discipline qualify for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final.
Michal Brezina (CZE) skates to Men's title
Michal Brezina of the Czech Republik skated to his first Grand Prix gold medal at Hilton HHonors Skate America. Belgium's Kevin van der Perren earned the silver medal and World silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka of Japan settled for the bronze.
Brezina opened his program The Untouchables with a high triple Axel and landed five more triples including another Axel, but he fell on the triple Lutz and singled a loop. The 22-year-old was ranked third in the Free Skating with 136.92 points and held on to his lead after the Short Program to win with 216.00 points. I'm really happy with the place. It's my first gold medal at the Grand Prix. I think after last season when I couldn't compete (in the Grand Prix), it's a good start, Brezina said. On the next competition, I just want to prove to my coaches that the quad will be in the program no matter what because again today was their decision to go without. For the next competition I just really want to prove them that the jump will be there even if they say no, he stressed.
Van der Perren's performance to The Man in the Iron Mask was highlighted by a quadruple toeloop and a triple Salchow-triple toe-triple toe combination. The Belgian veteran, 29, scored 142.39 points to win the Free Skating. He totaled 212.48 points to claim his first Grand Prix medal since 2007. Most important for me at the competition is to do the quad and the Axel, van der Perren noted. This season the only thing I'm really focused about is Europeans. I'm happy with how I skated, and even if I would have been fifth or sixth, I still would have been happy.
Skating to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Kozuka fell on an underrotated quad toe and a triple Lutz but produced five triple jumps and three level-four spins. The World silver medallist earned 141.40 points and slipped to third at 212.09 points. I made many mistakes on my jumps in my performance, but I am happy that I got a level four for the step sequence and the scores for choreography and interpretation were quite high, the Japanese pointed out.
Richard Dornbush (USA) finished fourth (202.27 points) and Denis Ten (KAZ) was fifth (197.98 points).
World Champions Davis/White (USA) dance to gold
World Champions Meryl Davis/Charlie White danced off with the gold medal at Hilton HHonors Skate America with European Champions Nathalie Pechalat/Fabian Bourzat of France finishing second. Lithuania's Isabella Tobias/Deividas Stagniunas clinched the bronze medal.
Davis/White put out a swinging Waltz from Die Fledermaus that featured difficult lifts and smooth footwork. The lifts, spin and twizzles merited a level four while the step sequences were a level three. The World Champions scored 107.74 points to win clearly with 178.07 points. The skate for us was very good. Definitely the best we have done the program to date which is always nice in competition. We haven't been able to see the levels but I think in terms of the character and how we wanted to present ourselves, we're very pleased. We're looking forward to working on it more, White told the post event press conference.
Pechalat/Bourzat produced an Egyptian themed dance with innovative lifts. The French couple received the same levels as the Americans except for a level two circular step sequence and picked up 96.22 points. They remained in second place with 156.29 points. It was a nightmare for me today but I made it through the end with no major mistakes, Bourzat said, referring to his bronchitis. It was pretty smooth I think. Not as strong as we could skate it, it's still a raw program from the beginning of the season, he continued.
Tobias/Stagniunas entertained the crowd with a Rock'n'Roll Medley and earned 80.75 points to move up from fifth place, edging out Nelli Zhiganshina/Alexander Gazsi of Gemany by less than one point for the bronze in their first Grand Prix as a team. They accumulated 132.58 points. This is incredible. It's really a validation of hard work. We are so thankful to have gotten the opportunity to compete here. I hope it will set a good tone for the rest of our season, Tobias noted.
Zhiganshina/Gazsi slipped to fourth (131.61 points) and Kharis Ralph/Asher Hill (CAN) came fifth (131.29 points).
Zhang/Zhang (CHN) take Pairs Short
China's Dan Zhang/Hao Zhang won the Pairs Short Program with Caydee Denney/John Coughlin (USA) and Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov of Russia following in second and third.
Zhang/Zhang hit a throw triple loop, triple twist and side by side triple Salchow in their routine to A Transylvanian Lullaby. The team earned 62.85 points. We are very satisfied with today's performance especially since we haven't competed for one year, Hao Zhang said. I had a couple of injuries to my hand, shoulder and knees and my health still isn't the best.
Skating to East of Eden, Denney/Coughlin delivered a clean performance as well that included a high triple twist, triple toeloop and level four footwork. The newly formed couple picked up 59.62 points. We've been working really hard and training to get these programs as automatic as we can in the short amount of time that we've been together. But we feel really comfortable out there together, Denney commented.
Bazarova/Larionov had a tough start when he fell on the opening triple toe, but the European bronze medallists recovered to nail the triple twist and throw triple flip. The Russians scored 59.62 points. Today, I am personally not very pleased with my performance because I made an unfortunate mistake by falling on the jump and I also missed the end of the step sequence. The elements have been working in practice, so I don't know why I didn't pull myself together. We will continue to work to improve next time, Larionov noted.
Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch (CAN) are currently ranked fourth at 59.60 points. Three-time World Champions Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy (GER) finished fifth after she took a hard fall on the throw triple Axel, but they are not far behind with 59.45 points.
Alissa Czisny (USA) wins Ladies Short Program
Alissa Czisny of the USA won the Ladies Short Program ahead of Carolina Kostner of Italy and Caroline Zhang (USA).
Czisny produced a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, double Axel and her signature spins in her program to La vie en rose. The flip received an edge call. Czisny sccored 64.20 points. I guess that was okay out there tonight. I was really nervous going out there tonight this being the first competition of the season. I was happy to get my feet under me, the Grand Prix Final Champion commented.
Kostner landed a triple toe-triple toe, a shaky triple loop and the double Axel in her routine set to the Allegretto from Trio No. 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich. The three-time European Champion collected 60.23 points. I'm glad that it went well for the first time. It's always a little bit of a jump into cold water. I feel better now, the Italian noted. (The music) was a natural choice. I wanted to experience something new and try it out. I felt that it would be fun to choreograph a piece of music like this, and it was really fun.
Zhang's program to Rushing Wings of Dawn featured a triple flip-double toe and triple loop, but she stepped out of the double Axel to earn 55.05 points. It's been a lot shakier than it has in practice, but for one of the first international events of the season, I'm happy, the 18-year-old Californian said. I'm happy with how I'm doing right now. Especially since a lot of people wrote me off after my horrible performances from the last couple of years, but hopefully I can bounce back and show everyone that I'm a competitor again, she added.
Haruka Imai (JPN) placed fourth (54.67 points) ahead of Viktoria Helgesson (SWE) with 51.13 points.
Hilton HHonors Skate America concludes Sunday with the Ladies and Pairs Free Skating and the Exhibition Gala.