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Volosozhar, Trankov bare fangs in Nebelhorn free

Russians suck life out of field with Dracula program; Americans second
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Looking like the Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of old, the Russian Olympic champions walked away with the gold medal. -Getty Images

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov put all thoughts of their disappointing short program aside to perform a brilliant free skate at the 2015 Nebelhorn Trophy and win the event by more than 20 points over the field.

It was a triumphant return to competition for Russia's newlywed Olympic pairs champions, who missed the 2014-15 season due to Trankov's shoulder surgery.

"The short program has always been more difficult for us," Trankov said. "Only in the Olympic season did we have good short programs right from the beginning of the season. After 18 months (away), our experience for competition was completely gone. Today we tried to forget yesterday, and (yet) we learned from yesterday. Our feeling for competition today was much better than (it was) yesterday."

The free skate, choreographed by Nikoli Morozov to two Dracula soundtracks (Van Helsing, Bram Stoker's Dracula), included an outstanding triple twist and two excellent triple throws (flip and loop). The pair also performed side-by-side triple toe loops and triple salchow-double toe-double-toe combinations.

"It was my idea to choose Dracula for our free program," Trankov said. "This program was meant to be for last season, but because of my injury, we could not show it anywhere. In the Olympic season, I played Jesus Christ Superstar, and I wanted to play the opposite in the post-Olympic season -- from heaven to the underworld."

Volosozhar and Trankov's top rivals this season will likely be Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who have added two quadruple throw jumps to their arsenal since Sochi. The top Chinese pairs will include throw quads, as well as quad twists, in their programs, and U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim have mastered the quad twist.

Trankov, however, is bucking the quad trend.

"For the twist, I can imagine doing a quad, because it is still under my control," he said. "We do not want to learn quad throws, because I do not want to throw my wife around and risk her health. I want her to have a baby one day."

"We hope we can win without quads in the future," Trankov continued. "And I think it is also because of the quad that many countries have no pairs at all. It is too dangerous."

Volosozhar and Trankov have a world crown, three European championships and a Grand Prix Final title to their credit, in addition to Olympic pairs and team gold. But Trankov indicated they have no intention of stopping there.

"We still have the fire for competition in us, because we have been competing together only since 2011. That is not a long time, and we plan (to keep going) until 2018 (Olympics)," he said. "It is the fourth time we won here in Oberstdorf, because Nebelhorn is the most classic competition in skating history."        

Scimeca and Knierim climbed from fourth after the short to win the silver medal with a strong free program that opened with a quadruple twist, the only quad element of the competition. The two triple throws (salchow and flip) and three lifts were outstanding, as were the side-by-side triple salchows. They finished with 179.56 points.

"We are pleased with our performance today," Knierim said. "There were a few things we can improve on, but it was a great start to the season. We want to take it from here and keep improving." 

Knierim disagreed with Trankov on the subject of quads.

"We want to show quads, because the sport must progress," he said. "The quad twist is a difficult element, but we can handle it. We will start training a quad throw, and we will see how it goes.

"A lot of teams have quads now, so we must have them as well," Knierim continued. "The men are doing several quads now, so [pairs] must follow."

The skaters, who train in Colorado Springs under Dalilah Sappenfield, performed their free to music from the Elizabeth: The Golden Age soundtrack.

"We researched music all summer that would show our power, comfort, speed and maturity," Scimeca said. "All the top teams had strong music last season, and we want to keep our connection growing. Therefore, we chose this soundtrack."

Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès of France won the bronze medal with 172.18 points. They interpreted two soundtracks of new Romeo and Juliet films. Most of their elements were clean, with the triple twist, spins and lifts being highlights.

"It is a good feeling to be on the podium here again. We had a good start to the new season with two new programs," Ciprès said.

"We chose Romeo and Juliet because it reflects a little bit our connection and our life," James said. "Instead of doing things like a tango, we want to be more graceful this season."

The new German team of Mari Vartmann and Ruben Blommaert finished fourth with 166.50 points.

Canadians Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau had a bad day, experiencing problems on their side-by-side jumps and having to abort two lifts. They ended up fifth with 150.32 points.  

British pair splits after short: Amani Fancy and Christopher Boyadji of Great Britain sat seventh after the short, but ended their partnership before the event's free skate. They skated together for about two years, training in Oberstdorf under Alexander Koenig.

Robin Cousins, the high performance program manager for Great Britain's National Ice Skating Association (NISA), is in Oberstdorf and had a meeting with Fancy and Boyadji on Thursday. On Friday morning, Fancy showed up for practice, but Boyadji did not. Later, Cousins told the Nebelhorn organizers that the pair had split.