Ice Network

Flawed Volosozhar, Trankov lead despite mistakes

New German pair surprises by finishing second; Scimeca, Knierim fourth
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov are making their first competitive appearance since winning the gold medal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. -Klaus-Reinhold Kany

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov are back, but they're not in top form.

"We were very nervous today because we had not done any competition for 18 months now, and we knew that some fans had come from Japan or Russia to watch us live," Trankov said. "We knew that others were watching the live stream, so it was a lot of pressure."

The Olympic champions, who last competed in Sochi in February 2014, won the short program at the Nebelhorn Trophy on Thursday despite serious mistakes in their Bollywood-themed routine. Trankov stumbled on the triple twist and did not catch Volosozhar properly, and then stumbled again on the triple throw flip, a new element for them. The pair also received a one-point deduction for a time violation.

The remaining elements, including side-by-side triple salchows, were excellent. Their step sequence, done in perfect harmony with the music, gained one Grade of Execution (GOE) of +3. Their program components scores averaged 8.2, by far the highest of the event, and they earned 64.87 points.

"I am sad and disappointed that I missed two elements and could not show what I thought would work well," a visibly upset Trankov said. "We just tried to remember how we did before, when we were in mentally good shape.

"There were a lot of strange things today for me," he continued. "I did not feel the boots or the blades on the ice all the time. Once again, we had to skate last, which we do not like. ... The most important thing for us is to come back, but this takes time."

Germans Mari Vartmann and Ruben Blommaert, who teamed up this spring, are second with 61.10 points. Both were with different partners last season -- Vartmann with Aaron Van Cleave, with whom she finished 15th at the 2015 World Championships, and Blommaert with Annabelle Prölss.

They made no mistakes in their short to "Stranger in Paradise." Most of their elements earned GOEs of +1, including their side-by-side triple toe loops and triple twist, which they learned only a few weeks ago. Three of their elements gained Level 4, and their components averaged 6.6.

"We are very happy that the first part of our first competition together went so well," Blommaert said. "We have been doing fine in practice, and we showed this in the competition. This was the first step to a good career; therefore, we are very pleased. I am not surprised but just relieved that we can do it."

"The music was a suggestion of our choreographer, Mark Pillay," Vartmann said. "He thought it would suit us. We trusted him, and he was right again, (just) as he was when he did programs for me with my former partner."

Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès of France are third with 58.34 points. Both skaters almost fell during their opening triple twist, when he almost tumbled backward and she stumbled as well. Their other six elements were clean, and their interpretation of "I Put a Spell on You" was convincing.

"This was the first time we did this program," James said. "We had a good practice. It is a bit sad that we missed the triple twist. It was my fault, because I turned too quickly and over-rotated. We had some good [elements] but lost some points on our lift. Our interpretation was quite sexy, strong and confident."   

U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim sit fourth with 58.00 points for their program to Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters." Scimeca came down on both feet on their triple twist, and she also fell on an under-rotated triple salchow, but their other elements were solid. Their throw triple flip gained one GOE of +3.

"We had some technical errors which killed us today. We left a lot of points on the table," Knierim said. "But the rest of the program was good. It is the first time that we got a Level 4 on the backward outside death spiral."

"Every year we want to pick different music to see what works best for us," he continued. "This year it is rock 'n' roll. Our skating has to grow every year."

Canadians Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau are fifth with 57.81 points. Both skaters missed their triple salchow (she fell, he touched his hand down), but the rest of the program to "Monde Inversé" from Cirque du Soleil was strong.