Ice Network

Savchenko, Massot run away with Nebelhorn gold

Canadians take silver; Germany's Vartmann, Blommaert claim bronze
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Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany collected their fourth international gold medal Saturday at the Nebelhorn Trophy. -Photo Joluskating

World bronze medalists Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany easily won gold at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, earning 203.04 points despite several mistakes in their free skate.

Performing an elegant program to the romantic "Lighthouse" from the young American singer Patrick Watson, the duo opened with an outstanding triple twist, which gained +3 Grades of Execution (GOEs) from six of the seven judges. Massot doubled the two intended triple salchows in a side-by-side jump sequence, and he went on to double an intended triple toe loop.

In the short program in Oberstdorf, Savchenko landed a throw triple axel on two feet; in the free, she fell on the landing. 

"Today it was difficult to skate, but it was a good first competition," Savchenko said. "As it was in our home rink, we had the feeling of a practice more than of a competition, but it was important to get the feeling of competition back after six months off. We know now what we have to work on."

"Our next competition is next week in Bratislava (Ondrej Nepela Trophy), and I will work on my jumps until then," Massot added with a laugh.   

After the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships in Boston, Savchenko and Massot flew to Florida to work on the choreography for their new short program with British ice dance coach John Kerr and former U.S. pairs champion John Zimmerman and his wife, former Italian champion Silvia Fontana.

"We want to show the audience that you can do something with people who are talented and who have fresh ideas," Savchenko said. "They were wonderful skaters, and their heads are full of unusual ideas. We have been good friends with Silvia for a long time, and I always liked John very much as a skater. John Kerr and his sister, Sinead, always had special programs."

"Bruno is our music boss," Savchenko revealed. "He chose this romantic song for our free."

Second place in the event went to Canadians Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch, who skated to Josh Groban's "When You Say You Love Me."

The pair's triple twist was very good and their throw triple lutz was clean, but Moscovitch doubled the intended triple toe loop and could not add the second toe loop in the combination. They ended with 184.40 points.

"It was a good start for us and important to do a run-through," Moscovitch said. "The program needs more mileage, but the hardest part is done, which is the first competition."

The second German pair, Mari Vartmann and Ruben Blommaert, won the bronze medal with 162.38 points. Vartmann fell on the second triple toe loop of the combination and singled a salchow, and both of the team's throws were only doubles.

"We are happy about third place and the world ranking points we got," Blommaert said. "For us, it was the first competition after eight months and we know now what we have to work on."

The new U.S. pair of Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc placed fourth with 150.40 points. Most of their elements were relatively clean, but LeDuc fell on a triple loop and Cain landed the triple throw flip on two feet.

"For today, it was our goal to attack every element and to skate with the passion and confidence we have in practice," Cain said. "On Thursday in the short I held back a bit after not competing in pairs for 4 1/2 years. But today, Tim and I took a lap in the rink before our program and told each other our goals, and it helped."

U.S. pair Erika Smith and AJ Reiss made mistakes on five elements and fell three times. They finished fifth with 148.84 points.

"We are very excited to be here," Reiss said. "It is our first international competition together. We need to strengthen our preparation. We gained a lot of experience this week but need to make improvements."