Gregory & Petukhov Inch Closer to Second Grand Prix Medal

by Mickey Brown

Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov
Photo by Michelle Harvath

2006 Skate America News, Photos and Blogs

(10/27/06) - If Friday's original dance at Skate America was an indication of how Denis Petukhov skates through pain, he should injure himself more often.

During the warm-up before his group was supposed to compete, Petukhov, skating apart from partner Melissa Gregory, lost his footing and smashed into a cutout in the boards at the Hartford Civic Center, gashing his shoulder and forearm. After seeking medical attention, he and Gregory went out a skated a sparkling original dance to put themselves in position for their second ISU Grand Prix medal (Their first and only was a bronze at last year's Skate Canada).

“(The crash) should have been a plus three – bonus move,” Gregory joked. “I heard a big boom. I looked back and saw black, but I knew everybody was wearing black. And I'm thinking, ‘It's not Denis, it's not Denis.' And then I see him on the ice, and I say, “Holy cow, it's Denis.' But then I saw him get up, and he was smiling.”

Gregory and Petukhov set a personal best in the OD, scoring a 55.61 in the segment (their previous high was 55.10, set at the 2005 Four Continents Championships) to give them 90.63 for the competition. The only part of Gregory & Petukhov's “La Cumparsita” and “Tanguera” program that wasn't sharp was their twizzles. Other than that, they received level fours on four elements, and skated with an effortlessness and confidence not yet often seen from the pair.

“We feel like we can do better. We know that we can do better,” Gregory said. “It's a huge step up for us, and it's a big improvement, but inside we feel like we have more.

“It's a great season opener. We got a personal best. We're very happy with the way we skated. We're looking forward to tomorrow. But I know that we both feel inside that we have more, and we're looking forward to showing more.”

Gregory and Petukhov will hope to keep it going in Saturday's free dance. Their program, which they debuted at the Campbell's Cup on Oct. 15, is to a piece by famed composer Yoav Goren, the man responsible for the trailer music for such films as “Spiderman 2,” "X-Men: The Last Stand” and “The Da Vinci Code.” He wrote a unique composition for them, and they incorporated it into their Adam and Eve-themed program.

The Bulgarian team of Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski widened their lead over the Americans to almost 11 points following an OD in which they received level fours on five of the six elements, the only team to accomplish that feat. “These are pretty high marks because usually they're very rare in the beginning of the season,” Denkova said. “Even last year and the year before the World champions didn't get such high scores. So, we're pretty happy with the scores.”

Denkova and Staviski skated their “Libertango” program with a ruthless efficiency. Watching them, it is clear they believe they are simply the best team here in Hartford this week, which, of course, they are. Not to downplay their virtually inevitable victory at Skate America, but Denkova and Staviski have their eyes focused on much larger prizes this season.

The French team of Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat shattered their personal best by more than 4.5 points. Their score of 52.88 gives them 85.26 for the competition, more than four points ahead of Great Britain's Sinead Kerr and John Kerr. The Kerrs are in a heated battle for fourth place with Americans Morgan Matthews & Max Zavozin, as just .04 points separate the two teams.

Matthews and Zavozin actually got the better of the Kerrs in the original dance, outscoring them 51.05-50.06 and receiving four level fours to the Kerrs' two. Both teams' lifts were exemplary; the Kerrs had the superior twizzles, while Matthews and Zavozin had the advantage in spins.

“It wasn't anything special. That whole dance in general was about how we usually do it,” Zavozin said. “We were pretty happy with it. It was very stable, and we felt a connection on the ice. We went out there and tried to perform it instead of skate it.”

The team that made the biggest leap of the night was the American duo of Kimberly Navarro & Brent Bommentre. Skating to John Powell's "Assassin's Tango" – which appears on the “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” soundtrack – and Tom Waits' "Little Drop of Poison,” they got level fours on all but two elements and beat their previous personal best by more than 3.5 points.

“(The music) adds a bit of playfulness, a little bit of fighting, but we kind of like it,” Navarro said.

Bommentre, always ready with a witty retort, said, “It was kind of hard before we went out to compete because I had to get myself in the ‘I'm gonna kill you' (mindset).”