Zhang/Zhang Win, Inoue/Baldwin Win First Grand Prix Silver

by Michelle Wojdyla, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang
Photo by Michelle Harvath

2006 Smart Ones Skate America Results, Photos and News

(10/22/05) - The competition at 2005 Smart Ones Skate America concluded Saturday night with the pairs free skate. Unlike the chilling end to last year's competition with the injury to Tatiana Totmianina, this year's event gave much to cheer about. Team after team stepped up to the plate with programs that were complex and exciting.

China's Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang repeated as champions with 119.24 in the free skate and 179.14 overall. Americans Rena Inoue & John Baldwin moved up to silver with second in the free (109.60) and 164.44 overall. Despite being fourth in both the short and the free skate, Russians Julia Obertas and Sergei Slavnov placed third overall (106.36/160.40). Canadians Elizabeth Putnam and Sean Wirtz were third in the free and fourth overall (107.22/154.42), and Americans Marcy Hinzmann & Aaron Parchem were sixth in the free and fifth overall (99.30/154.30). The third American team, Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig were ninth (82.74/128.02).

Zhang and Zhang skated to “The Offspring of the Dragons.” It wasn't their cleanest program, as they received negative GOEs on three elements, the double Axel-triple toe (he two-footed the toe), the throw triple loop (she turned out on the landing) and the side-by-side triple Salchows (he two-footed). Their split twist received all +2s.

At the press conference following the competition, the pair spoke via a translator.

“Both of them think tonight they did a better job,” the translator said. “Compared with Thursday night, they did very well. Hao said this morning he had some pain in his wrist so [it hindered] his performance tonight, although he thinks he did very well. Dan said she found the rink is small so for some specific [elements] (throw quad Salchow) she didn't do it.”

A bad fall in practice this afternoon sent Dan crashing back first into the boards. She said that it did bother her a little in the competition.

History was an 1/8th of an inch away from being made, as Inoue and Baldwin attempted to complete the first throw triple Axel in competition. Although Inoue rotated the throw, she wasn't able to land it.

“When I was reaching for the landing I knew it was a little too soon,” Inoue said. “I thought it was very good control, especially for the first time putting it out there under pressure. It was a really good performance. We learned a lot and we've got some homework to do for our next competition.”

“We did a nice one in the warm-up and have been doing them nice all week, but doing it under pressure is another story,” Baldwin said. “We didn't feel tired. The accomplishment of this program was the conditioning. Of course the audience was behind us, and that helped us.”

Skating to music by Shostakovich, Inoue and Baldwin attempted side-by-side triple Lutzes, but he doubled. The elements throughout the routine were given levels ranging from one to four, with their highest score coming on their level three lift at the end of the program.

Obertas and Slavnov offered few comments to reporters. “There is no time for being sad, just to be happy that everything is over,” she said.

Slavnov acknowledged they were not happy.

“Of course, we could do better, but we look forward to doing the better skating next time,” he said. “We didn't skate very well the short program, so we're a little bit disappointed, so our mood was not very good.”

The Russian couple had many mistakes throughout their program to “La Traviata.” Their triple twist had a bad crash and pause before he set her down, receiving –1s and –2s. He had a two-foot landing on the double Axel-triple toe attempt, receiving –3s across the board. The throw triple loop received –1s and –2s when she fell out of the landings. They also received negative GOEs on their straight line step sequence and their final lift.

Skating in the first half of the competition, Canadians Putnam and Wirtz skated to Tchaikovski's Piano Concerto No. 1. The only negative GOE they received was a -0.18 on their flying combination spin, and they received the second highest technical scores, behind only the Zhangs.

“It felt great,” Wirtz said. "It's a good start to the season to put that performance out there. It sets the year up for us, and we can build from this and keep working hard.”

The duo was disappointed about their short program placement but did not let this stand in their way tonight.

“I think after the short you have two choices," Putnam said. "You can either look at it like ‘oh, what happened to us? Why didn't we get the marks we thought?' or you can take it for what it's worth and come back and try to show everybody what you're made of. And I think that's what we did. If anything, that just gave us fire for tonight. We wanted to come out and show everybody how hard we've been working.”

Although they were sixth in the free skate, Hinzmann and Parchem skated what they felt was a personal best program.

“This is a fabulous start for us,” Hinzmann said. “Element-wise, I was pretty happy. I would like to get a little more speed and work on some more difficult lifts and just kind of sell the program a little bit more. I think we are on the right track. We are a lot more confident. We've been training pretty well, but we actually were able to carry it over in competition, so that was a big step for us.”

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig had a rough first half to their Prokofiev's “Romeo and Juliet” routine.

“Obviously our beginning was nothing how we wanted it,” Evora said. “I had a hard time recuperating during the slow part. I kept thinking ‘oh my gosh, we've already fallen three times.' We calmed ourselves down, and we knew at the end we [needed] a strong finish. Finally we did. We did a strong ending.”

“It was a great crowd,” Ladwig said. “I think I probably got too friendly with everybody instead of keeping myself within the boards.”

For their first Grand Prix, the team looked at this as a learning experience.

“We grew very well on practices, getting use to practices with a bigger stage,” Ladwig said. “The two of us really stepped up on the practices. Now putting it together with the program, we'd like to have done that. We've got a second chance, basically, next week.”

The Grand Prix Series continues next week at Skate Canada.