U.S. Skaters In Position to Medal at Four Continents

Courtesy of International Skating Union and Tatiana Flade
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto at the 2005 U.S. Championships
Photo by Paul Harvath

Four Continents Results and Photos

(2/16/05) — The 2005 Four Continents Championships opened Wednesday in Gangneung, Republic of Korea, with the compulsory dance, the men's short program and pairs short program. The Four Continents Championships were introduced in 1999 and are being held for the second time in the Republic of Korea.

Compulsory Dance
The competition kicked off with the Golden Waltz compulsory dance, which was created by 1992 Olympic champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko of Russia and their coach Natalia Dubova.

Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto danced to the lead with their teammates Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov coming in second. Japan's Nozomi Watanabe & Akiyuki Kido are in third place.

Belbin & Agosto's luggage was lost on the way to Gangneung and just arrived the day of the competition, but the skaters didn't let the lack of practice show. The defending Four Continents champions put out a smooth waltz with good flow and showing off deep edges. They were awarded 44.00 points (20.55 element score/23.45 program component score), which was a new personal best for them.

“Our skates came in this morning, very early in the morning around 4 a.m.,” Belbin said. “Then we had one short practice in the practice arena. We were very relieved that they (the skates) finally arrived. It was a little bit difficult tracking them down; we weren't sure when they were going to be coming, so it was a little bit nerve-wracking. But it was a good experience for us. These things can happen.”

Agosto felt that the situation did not really affect their performance.

“It was a little bit different because we hadn't been in that arena yet," he said. "We wanted to make sure that we don't hit the boards, make sure that we set our pattern up all right. So it was maybe a little bit more cautious, but it felt very good,” he said.

Belbin also added that the loss of their luggage (and skates) seems to be a common problem that needs to be addressed.

“A lot of skaters lost their skates,” she said. “We're hoping that this sort of opens the eyes of many people in the skating world that maybe it's time to make some kind of exceptions for athletes to carry equipment. It's a big problem; it happens all the time. This could happen at the World Championships; this could happen at the most important competition of your life. We're very happy they came!”

Gregory & Petukhov delivered a solid Golden Waltz as well. They had good speed and unison throughout the dance. The husband-and-wife team earned 38.02 points (17.82/20.20), setting a new personal best for themselves as well.

“It feels great," Petukhov said. "It's very exciting to make a personal best in the compulsories and we're looking forward to break our personal records in the original and free dances."

“This was the first time we've competed the waltz (this season), but it felt very solid to us,” Gregory said. “We were very happy with the way we skated, especially since I had food poisoning yesterday and the day before. But I'm much better today, and we skated actually pretty strong.”

Watanabe & Kido also skated well but didn't look as polished as the top two teams. The Japanese champions scored 32.63 points (15.84/16.79).

“We're very happy with how we skated and we're excited to be in third right now,” Watanabe said, referring to the fact that the team has never been in this position at an international championship.

“We were very motivated today,” Kido added.

The third U.S. team, Lydia Manon & Ryan O'Meara, aren't far behind in fourth place with 32.50 points. Nakako Tsuzuki & Kenji Miyamoto of Japan are standing in fifth place (31.13 points), just edging Canadians Martine Patinaude & Pascal Denis (31.10 points).

Men's Short Program
Chengjiang Li of China won the men's short program ahead of Canada's Ben Ferreira and Japan's Daisuke Takahashi. The skaters are separated by just a few points.

Performing to “The Treasured Book of Chinese Martial Arts,” Li produced an excellent quadruple toe-triple toe combination, a triple Axel, a triple loop out of footwork and good spins. He included typical martial arts moves into his routine, interpreting the theme very well. The current ISU Grand Prix Final bronze medalist earned 72.10 points for his program (38.75 element score/33.35 program component score).

”I'm quite happy with today's performance,” Li said. “It went well. It wasn't the best ever, but the best of the season. There were some little errors, and I think still I can do this program better.”

Ferreira opened his routine to Rodrigo's “Grassland Theme” with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination followed by a triple Axel. He also hit a triple flip and a solid change foot camel spin to score 68.86 points (37.07/31.79).

“Today was actually a very good skate for me,” Ferreira said. “Coming out of my nationals a few weeks ago was a little disappointing but it feels nice to go out there and to do a good job like that and be in a position that I'm in.”

He was fourth at the Canadian national championships.

Takahashi landed a quadruple toe-triple toe in his expressive flamenco program to "Nyah," but the triple Axel was shaky, and he stepped out of his triple Lutz. The 2002 World Junior champion also showed good spins and footwork. He was awarded 68.46 points (36.28/32.18), coming very close to Ferreira.

“I made mistakes, but I'm very confident. I don't feel any additional pressure," said Takahashi, referring to the fact that the outcome of this competition will decide which of the three Japanese skaters here will go to the World Championships. “During the competition, I don't think about that.”

The skaters from fourth to sixth are not far behind and still have a good shot at a medal in Friday's free skate. Matt Savoie landed a triple flip-triple toe but fell on his triple Axel and is currently ranked fourth (65.00 points). Evan Lysacek did the triple Axel and the triple Lutz-triple toe combination, but he doubled the flip to come in fifth (63.25). Shawn Sawyer of Canada is in sixth place has 60.77 points. He hit a triple flip-triple toe combination but made errors on the other two jumps. Fedor Andreev of Canada withdrew before the short program due to injury (back pain).

Derrick Delmore did not have his best short program. He landed his triple Lutz but landed forward and two-footed his triple Axel, which was downgraded to a double. He fell on the triple flip and got up to do the double toe, but he did not receive credit for the combination. He's in 11th.

Katie Orscher and Garrett Lucash at the 2005 U.S. Championships
Photo by Paul Harvath
Pairs Short Program
Wednesday's competition concluded with the pairs short program. Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang of China took the lead with their teammates Qing Pang & Jian Tong coming in second. U.S. champions Katie Orscher & Garrett Lucash finished third.

Zhang & Zhang completed side-by-side triple Salchows, a throw triple loop and a huge double twist in their routine to “All Alone.” They had a lot of flow in their performance, and the only glitch came when they lost unison at the end of their side-by-side spin. The reigning Four Continents silver medalists were awarded 63.67 points (36.24 element score/27.43 program component score).

“We performed up to our level today,” Hao Zhang said. ”We changed our solo triple from toe loop to Salchow because we get more points for the Salchow, and getting points is very important.”

Pang & Tong delivered a solid program as well. Skating to “All I Ask Of You” from the “Phantom of the Opera,” the defending Four Continents champions produced a nice Axel lasso lift, throw triple loop and double twist, but his landing of the triple toe was scratchy, and the side-by-side spin was out of sync. Pang & Tong scored 62.07 points (34.41/27.66).

“We had one little mistake,” Tong said. “We hope to skate better tomorrow in the free skating.”

Orscher & Lucash had drawn to skate first. Their routine to “Still Got the Blues” featured side-by-side triple toes, a throw triple flip and lasso lift. The team earned 56.15 points (31.65/24.50).

“Skating first, Katie and I are both happy with how we skated,” Lucash said. “Our elements were decent. Tomorrow we want to improve on our speed and command a little bit more.”

Sitting in fourth place are Elizabeth Putnam & Sean Wirtz of Canada (53.86 points). They received a deduction for going over the time limit.

Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig are in sixth after an up and down program. They had a nice double twist and spin, but they had trouble on the jumps. She fell on the throw triple loop, and both skaters underrotated the side-by-side triple Salchows.

Late additions Brooke Castile & Ben Okolski are in eighth. She landed forward and he fell on the side-by-side triple Salchows, and she also fell on the throw triple loop. The team had a nice variation on the death spiral. Castile & Okolski learned they were going to Four Continents just last week when Rena Inoue & John Baldwin withdrew due to injury.

Two-time Four Continents champions Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao of China withdrew Tuesday due to injury. Zhao is suffering from a foot injury.

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