Golden Skate

Peng and Jin take surprise lead in Pairs at Grand Prix Final

Cheng Peng and Yang Jin

China’s Cheng Peng and Yang Jin perform their Short Program at the 2018-19 Grand Prix Final of Figure Skating.

2018-19 Grand Prix Final of Figure Skating

Pairs’ Short Program

China’s Cheng Peng and Yang Jin were the surprise winners of the Pairs Short Program at the 2018-19 Grand Prix Final in Vancouver, Canada. The team’s performance to “Ophelia” showed personality and clean elements including steady side-by-side triple toes, throw triple twist and throw triple loop. All other elements received level 4 grading. The double-silver medalists on the Grand Prix series scored a season’s best of 75.69 for their effort.

“Tonight we did it and we are happy,” Jin said of the team which struggled this season to deliver clean programs. “First time we went to the Final, we didn’t do very well since we made some mistakes. This time, we made sure that we could do our best.”

Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert of Russia came second with a score of 75.18, a season’t best, thanks to clean elements set to their powerful “Alexander Nevski” routine. The throw triple garnered high grades of execution (GOE), however, the only level four element was their lift.

“We are satisfied with today’s skating so it was emotionally good,” said Zabiiako. “Maybe we did some little mistakes and we will think about it and we will watch what we did, but the whole program was great. We feel good.”

“It’s good,” Enbert said about the team’s winning streak this season, “but for me, most important is to feel like I’m ready to compete and I’m ready to fight. For my focus, it’s better when I just feel ready for the program. The gold medal is cool for us, but for me, it’s best to feel ready.”

“You know that you’re in good condition,” Zabiiako added to the advantage of qualifying for the Grand Prix Final with two wins on the series.

“Two years ago we came in as substitutes,” Enbert pointed out. “It is an amazing feeling, half of the season is done, the programs are ready, elements are ready, and you feel like you can fight with all your power. This is the type of competition where I think you have to show your best.”

Teammates Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov settled for third after the short program when Tarasova fell on her side-by-side triple toe. The automatic one-point deduction was the only glaring error in the team’s animated routine set to “I Got You” by James Brown. They scored 74.04 for the routine.

“We feel confused about our skating,” Morozov said after the performance. “We did one mistake. Something happened, but normally we do everything. Normally we do good on the jump and throw. The elements were good otherwise. Tomorrow will be the free program and we will focus on our program and tomorrow will be a new day.”

“We do not give a lot of attention to the French team or other competitors,” Morozov added in regarding any nerves from facing the French team of Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres. “We know what we need to do and which way we need to go. Good sleep. Breakfast, practice and in the rink, we will meet again.”

France’s James and Cipres were also bewildered by errors in their short program that left the team in fourth place with a score of 71.51. James performed gritty landings of the side-by-side triple toe loop and throw triple flip. The program was otherwise effective, capturing the essence of Alanis Morrisette’s “Uninvited.”

“Tight everywhere,” James said, describing the performance. “Same mistakes pretty much as the last few competitions with the flip being very forward, toe loops not enough. I don’t know. Not like in the practices, so we are going to have to rework and see what is going on with the short program.”

“Nothing to say,” Cipres added. “Not happy, to be honest because this time was because of this. I do not understand what is going on with the short program. We have to react on this.”

Italians Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise skated with ease in their short program set to “Never Tear Us Apart” by Joe Crocker until the landing of the throw triple flip where Della Monica put her hand down to steady herself. The team finished fifth with a score of 69.77.

“We just opened a big door for our country and our discipline,” said Guarise on the team’s qualification for the Final. “Historically, Italy has been strong with ladies and ice dance, and now we have pairs, too. That is a great achievement, I think.”

“We think it’s amazing,” added Della Monica. “It was our goal this season to be qualified for the Final and we needed it. We are just trying to enjoy this competition now. It is very high level so it is already a result for us to be here. Today was not so easy to skate.”

Russia Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin struggled in their short program to “When Winter Comes” by Andre Rieu to finish sixth (61.24 points). Pavliuchenko tumbled to the ice on her landing of the throw triple flip.

“Like in other competitions, there was some nervous excitement,” said Pavliuchenko. “I lost control for a little bit. I was not happy with performance today. It was not a good skate.”

“We probably will not be creating new things, and we will try to enjoy our performance,” said Khodykin of the upcoming free skate. “We will not be losing anything, and we will not be finding anything either. We will do our best, and bring pleasure to ourselves and others.