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USA, Japan and Canada All Winners at Campbell's Cupby Michelle Wojdyla, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
|Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto|
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla
(10/15/06) - Sharing is good. Win-win situations are good. Sunday afternoon at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio, the audience was treated to a win-win-win at the inaugural U.S. Figure Skating Campbell's Cup. Each of the countries participating in this team competition captured one of the three titles.
The autumn invitational event is usually scored under the international judging system, and this was no exception. What made this year's event different from previous years was the introduction of a country-based team. The men's and ladies teams had three members from each country for a total of six participants in each discipline. One member performed a short program and the other two skated free skates. Pairs and dance combined with two dance teams and two pairs teams for each country for a total of 16 participants. Among the four teams, one did a short program, one a free skate, one original dance and one free dance. Winners of the first place singles teams took home $20,000 each and second place $10,000. The couples each took home $10,000 per team for the win and $5,000 for second.
Before the competition went live on ABC, the pairs and dancers combined for a Team Canada vs. Team USA showdown, with the northern neighbors taking home the silver cup. Canadians Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin were first to skate, performing their short program “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White.” Buntin flipped out of the opening side-by-side triple toes, but that was the only major mistake the team had. Their split double twist was the highest of the four couples, and they laid down all of their elements with high energy.
Rena Inoue & John Baldwin performed their short program “The Soul of Spain” by Monte Kelley. They opened with side-by-side double Axels, which Baldwin singled. They followed that up with a throw triple Axel that Inoue crashed on. The rest of the program was fairly clean, but the mistakes seemed to knock their performance level down. Marcoux and Buntin won this pairing 62.30 to 59.06.
The free skates were next, with Canadians Utako Wakamatsu and Jean-Sebastien Fecteau performing to a selection of Japanese music that included “The Last Emperor,” “Farewell My Concubine” and “Samurai Collection.” Their opening triple toe loops weren't clean and Wakamatsu had to fight for the landing of the throw triple loop. This contrasted their interesting and difficult choreography, which included a pairs spin that went counter clockwise-clockwise-counter clockwise. They also reversed direction in their final overhead lift. They scored 108.89.
Naomi Nari Nam & Themi Leftheris had a rough outing in their program, skating very slowly at times and having awkward moments throughout the four and a half minutes. Their score was 91.70, leaving the dancers with a more than 20 point deficit.
Ice Dancing Competition
After their warm-up, it was training partners going head to head with their original dance choreography by Igor Shpilband. Canadians Tess Virtue and Scott Moir chose “Association Tango” while Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto used Astor Piazzola's “Concierto Para Quinteto and Oblivion.” The two teams' technical scores were exactly one point apart, with the Americans having the advantage. Another four and a half points on the components scores gave this battle to Belbin and Agosto 60.99 to 55.47.
Skating to the romantic classic “At Last” by Etta James, Canadians Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon wove a smooth, sweet four-minute dance that scored over 100 points.
The gap was now too far for Americans Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov to overcome. They portrayed an Adam and Eve theme to Yoav Goren's “Preliator.” During an inverted lift that had Gregory's head just above the ice, Petukhov lost his balance and had to put his free leg down to save his wife. On their next element, she stumbled, almost pulling him down. These slips cost them in the scores, giving them only 38.33 technical points and 79 overall.
Team Canada won 326.76 to 290.75.
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla
Next up were the men from Japan against the Americans. Short programs were first, and three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir debuted his short program to “King of Chess” by Silent Nick. Dressed in understated black and white, Weir opened with a nice triple Axel and worked his way through the program with no major errors, despite a bad cold.
“I was happy for the first time out,” Weir said. “It wasn't perfect, but I didn't cough during the number, so I was really excited.”
Japan's Kensuke Nakaniwa was next, performing to “Concierto de Aranjuez.” He missed all three jumps, falling out of the combination, putting his hand down on the triple flip, and hitting the ice hard on his triple Axel attempt. Despite the jump errors, Nakaniwa sailed through his footwork and did not give up on the program. His technical score was only 29.50, contrasted to Weir's 42.20, putting Team USA into an early lead 78.61 to 59.08.
Scott Smith, sporting some fake tattoos in keeping with the movie “William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet,” was totally on in his free skate. Although he doubled his planned quad Salchow, he didn't let that stop him. Smith knocked off jump after jump, and highlighted the four and a half minute program with an extended spread eagle that drew enthusiastic applause and a growing grin from the skater. His technical score (67.20) was second best of the men, but his component score was last (65.66). His 132.86 gave Smith a new personal best.
2005 Smart Ones Skate America champion Daisuke Takahashi was next, skating to “Phantom of the Opera.” The dynamic skater struggled with his edge jumps, turning an attempted triple Axel into a giant “waxel” that sent him flying in the wrong direction. He lost his edge going into a planned triple loop that caused a hard fall. He stepped out of a double Salchow and he fell on another go at the loop. His 52.80 technical score was more than 13 points behind everyone else, and extended the Team USA lead.
The last duo was Evan Lysacek and Nobunari Oda. Oda was first, skating to “Symphony No. 4.” Unlike his more playful programs of the past seasons, this time Oda went for a more serious performance. He opened with a triple Axel-triple toe-double loop and kept the jumps up, racking up a nearly 12 point lead in technical scores over the other men.
Evan Lysacek chose to skate to last year's “Carmen” again, performing a solid outing that gave him the highest component scores. His program solidified Team USA's win, 350.01 to 327.08.
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla
Ladies were next, and Mai Asada opened this phase of the competition with a soft interpretation of Tchaikovsky's “Swan Lake.” Although she lacked attack, it was a measured performance highlighted with her graceful arms. She earned 103.27 points.
Emily Hughes, dressed in a rosy mauve, debuted her new free skate to “Sylvia” by Delibes. Choreographed by David Wilson, the program looked new, but it already has a lovely, joyful quality that meshes with Hughes' temperament. She had some jump problems, popping one and missing her takeoff on another, and the international judging system hammered her for it with only 45.96 for her technical score for a total of 98.62.
Short programs were next, with Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen going against Japan's Miki Ando. Ando skated first, performing “Scheherazade” in a vivid blue dress. She landed her triple Lutz-double loop combination, solo triple flip and double Axel without any major effort. One noticeable change in Ando's performance is that now she smiles and looks to be enjoying her time on the ice.
Cohen skated last year's short program to “Dark Eyes.” She popped her triple flip and was a little flat throughout. Although she beat Ando in the component scores, her technical marks put her behind and left Team USA with a nine-point deficit.
Japan's phenom Mao Asada chose “Czardas” for her free skate. She did not do her famed triple Axels, doubling and falling on her opening attempt. Although her technical abilities put her more than eight points ahead of the other ladies, her performance was uninspiring. Throughout the four-minute program, her facial expression remained the same and rather blank, although the judges didn't seem to mind.
The final skater of the event was reigning World champion Kimmie Meissner. Skating to “Galicia,” a Spanish-toned program that gives Meissner the chance to get into character. She struggled with her jumps, however, underrotating her toe loops and falling on the one in her planned triple-triple combination.
The strong point in the program is the edge work throughout, with Meissner pushing herself to get into the ice and create softer shapes. Meissner won the program component scores, but it was not enough to overtake Team Japan, who took home the Campbell's Cup for the ladies event.
Miami University's synchronized skating team gave a special performance and then it was time for the skaters to give back to the Cincinnati crowd, tossing gifts into the stands and signing autographs and posing for pictures.
“The audience was so supportive,” Cohen said. “It was really nice to perform for the fans.”