Ice Network

Stolbova, Klimov storm to pairs title in Barcelona

Duhamel, Radford finish distant second; Kavaguti, Smirnov claim bronze
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It's official: Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are all the way back. The Olympic silver medalists nailed every one of their 12 elements in their "Man and Shadow" free skate, scoring 154.60 points for their effort -- 0.06 short of the world record held by compatriots Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. They finished with a total of 229.44 to take the gold by almost 13 points. -Getty Images

Pairs events have often been known for their great competitions. The 2015 Grand Prix Final provided one of those unique moments when the greatest skaters at their best produce a real show of sport and athleticism, as well as unison and connection between two people. The sellout crowd warmly applauded with sheer enthusiasm for the three last teams that took the ice.

Russia's Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov topped the free skate, coming away with a new season's best in the process to win gold. They amassed 154.60 points for the segment to finish with a total score of 229.44 points. Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford claimed silver, earning 143.93 points in their free, for a 216.67 total. Russia's Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov grabbed the bronze medal with 206.59 points overall after their 132.95-point free.

Team USA's Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim had another off night, settling for sixth place.

Stolbova and Klimov skated a crystal-clear and perfect program to music from The Unknown Known. Their routine included a triple twist and a fantastic triple toe-triple toe-double toe combination. Their throw triple flip, side-by-side triple salchows and throw triple salchow perfectly matched the power of their music, just like their strong lifts and spins, each of which was rated Level 4. Each one of their elements was rewarded with positive Grades of Execution (GOEs). They even received +2.00 GOE for their throw triple flip.

"Finally, we managed to skate our program clean," Klimov said. "I think this is the first time this season.

"Winning the Grand Prix Final for the first time is a big step for us," he added.

"Now, we just have to add the quad throw," Stolbova said.

Skating to Adele's hit song, "Hometown Glory," Duhamel and Radford graced the audience with one of those unique programs that only they could give, combining the highest level of athleticism with an inspirational performance. They produced a triple twist and landed their side-by-side triple lutzes in a magical way, right as the next musical phase was starting. They continued with their side-by-side triple toe-double toe-double toes, which Duhamel slightly two-footed. Their major mistake took place when she tumbled on their throw triple lutz.

"I'm very proud of what we did today, very proud of how we gathered ourselves after a disappointing short program," Duhamel said.

Kavaguti and Smirnov elected to skate to Tchaikovsky's dramatic "Manfred Symphony" for a third season. The start of their free was just as dramatic, as Kavaguti fell on their side-by-side triple toes and the first double axel of the team's planned combination, seconds later.

The reigning European champions nonetheless managed to recompose themselves, landing their throw quad salchow. They opted for a throw triple loop, and the rest of their program was perfect.

Canada's Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau showed that their brilliant performance from the short program was not a fluke. Skating to Procul Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale," they went from their opening triple twist to final spin like it was a dream. Their side-by-side triple toe-double toe combinations and salchows were perfect. It was not a dream, however, as she entered into their throw triple lutz not totally in a vertical position, which she could not hold on the landing, and she fell. Their final axel lasso lift was like a present Bilodeau offered the audience at the end of their program. They garnered 129.82 points for their free, which included a higher technical score than Kavaguti and Smirnov (64.45 compared to 62.55 for the Russians), and 200.98 overall.

"We feel great! We had a couple of mistakes, but we did a great job and we are happy with that," Séguin said.

The three teams skating in the first group experienced far more difficulties.

China's Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin skated to "Humility and Love" from the Creation soundtrack.  Their program featured side-by-side triple toes, a triple twist, a throw triple loop and three Level 4 lifts. She fell on their throw quad salchow.

The 2014 world junior champions scored 118.24 points to finish with 186.87 points overall. They maintained their fifth-place standing that they had following the short program.

China's Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang imrpoved one spot from the short to finish in sixth place overall. The morning practice was rough for the team, as he struggled with a back injury. They nonetheless managed to skate through their free, although in a less-than-stellar performance. Skating to music from Les pêcheurs de perles by Georges Bizet, she fell on their throw quad salchow and triple loop attempts. They garnered 117.44 points for their free program and 183.04 points overall. Peng disclosed that she had injured her wrist before competing.

Team USA's Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim skated to music from the movie Elizabeth: The Golden Age, opening with a nice quad twist. Scimeca did not miss their side-by-side triple salchows as she had in the short program -- but Knierim did. They completed their throw triple salchow and throw triple flip, but fell exactly in sync on their planned side-by-side triple toe-double toe combination. Their final combination lift missed the two required positions and did not receive any points.

"If there is any competition this season that something like this we can afford, it was here because nothing was on the line," Scimeca said. "We have some time before nationals. I'm not really sure what happened this week because practices were scattered too. It's OK. This doesn't define us.

"There wasn't any pressure put on us to do well here, but I think it weighed a little that it's been a long drought since an American team was here in pairs," she continued. "Deep down, we wanted to stand at the top. There was a little bit of that going on subconsciously. That's what happens when you want to be the best."

"It's a huge accomplishment. We didn't skate as well as we could have and wanted to, but just getting here is a big honor and shows how far we've come from three years ago," Knierim concluded.