Ice Network

Baldé takes gold behind dominant flamenco free

Aaron settles for silver; Menshov claims bronze; Hochstein places seventh
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Elladj Baldé, who ran away with the men's title at the 2015 Nebelhorn Trophy, poses with coach Bruno Marcotte. -Klaus-Reinhold Kany

Charismatic Canadian Elladj Baldé delivered the finest free skate of his career to win his first career international title, claiming gold at the 2015 Nebelhorn Trophy.

The 24-year-old skater grew up in Montreal and moved to Detroit in 2012 to train with Jason Dungjen. This spring, he returned to Montreal and now trains under Bruno Marcotte and Manon Perron. At Skate Detroit this summer, he told icenetwork he takes his training far more seriously now compared to when he was in Detroit. The new commitment paid off, as he took gold in Oberstdorf.

Skating to a flamenco medley, Baldé combined great flair and energy with technical difficulty. He opened with a very good quad toe loop, followed by a solid triple axel-triple toe loop combination. Five clean triple jumps followed, with the only error coming on a step-out of an under-rotated triple loop. His program components averaged around 7.7, and he won the free skate with 163.80 points. His total score of 242.36 points shattered his prior personal-best score by some 30 points.

"It is my first victory at an international competition and it feels great," Baldé said. "I have been working much harder with my new coach Bruno (Marcotte) this summer than in other years.

"We've found a good balance between being tired and not tired, so it was less stressful to come here," he continued. "It is the first time I did a quad in both the short program and free skate, and triple axels and triple-triple combinations as well."

This is the second season Baldé has used his flamenco free, which was choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo.

"Before this flamenco, I had a Pink Floyd free program, but it was not my style," Baldé said. "I had done a flamenco short program about five years ago and got a lot of positive feedback, so I wanted to go back to this music. I chose to keep the music from last season because I did only three competitions with it."      

Max Aaron won silver with 222.94 points, although he placed just third in the free skate. Skating to selections from Clint Mansell's Black Swan soundtrack, he lost ground when he doubled two intended quad salchows; each double cost him almost 10 points. Five of his triple jumps were good, including two triple axels. His program components averaged 7.3.

The 2013 U.S. champion, who led after the short, was disappointed to miss his quad attempts, but vowed to continue his efforts to become a more artistically complete skater.

"I was looking for a close-to-perfect performance and I was looking forward to continuing the path of my short program, which I started this summer," he said. "I love Black Swan, and I always wanted to do ballet. When you hear 'Max Aaron and ballet,' the two don't really go together in people's minds. I want to change this image.

"My goal for this season is to skate two clean programs at my Grand Prix and to qualify for the (Grand Prix) Final," he continued. "Another goal is to win a U.S. title again, to make the world team and to fight for a medal at worlds."

Russian veteran Konstantin Menshov finished third with 218.14 points. Although several of his jump landings lacked flow, he executed two quads (toe loop, salchow) and four triples. He fell on his second quad toe loop. Menshov, who often presents programs that highlight social and political troubles, skated to "Mad World" by Gary Jules and Lindsey Stirling's "Radioactive."

"I decided to make my program more difficult this season and to try three quads," Menshov said. "I am happy that I was able to rotate the third quad in the second half of the program, even if I fell. I used this music because I want to show how mad the world is."  

Florent Amodio of France placed fourth with 207.96 points. He opened with a clean quad salchow, but doubled his first intended triple and stepped out of a triple salchow-triple toe loop combination. Germany's Peter Liebers finished fifth with 204.41 points. The Czech Republics Michal Březina placed sixth after falling on all three of his quad attempts and a triple flip.

Grant Hochstein, ninth in the U.S. last season, placed seventh with 194.88 points. He fell on the opening quad toe loop of his free to Les Misérables, and later fell on his second triple axel. Four other triple jumps were solid, as were two of his three spins.

"I felt I skated okay but made silly mistakes," Hochstein said. "I felt more relaxed than yesterday and was less nervous. After I fell on the quad, I wasn't worried because sometimes I miss them at home as well. I calmed down and hoped that the rest would be okay. Usually, I don't miss the second axel."