Ice Network

Séguin, Bilodeau weave magic at Skate America

Illinois-based Denney, Frazier earn silver; Russians slip to bronze
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Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau were masterful throughout their free skate Saturday night en route to their first Grand Prix title. -Getty Images

Everyone at Hoffman Estates' Sears Centre Arena fell a little bit in love with Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau on Saturday night.

The radiant young skaters, second to world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford in Canada last season, created a touch of magic with their free skate to music from Cinema Paradiso, gliding seamlessly from one big element to another as they interpreted David Wilson and Marie-France Dubreuil's choreography.

It was romantic, it was captivating and, best of all, it was almost clean, earning 130.82 points and giving the up-and-coming duo their first Grand Prix title with 197.31 points.

"We are always working the same way, not focusing on any place or podium," Séguin said. "We are working hard to skate our best and skate with our heart, and that was what we were able to do tonight."

Her partner stressed there was little magic involved; their deep connection on the ice was rooted in run-throughs and drills at their Montreal training site, where they train under Josée Picard and Marc-André Craig.

"It's just a lot of work to deliver a performance like we did tonight," Bilodeau said. "As soon as the music starts, we just try to create a moment together. We could not do that without the work behind the program at home, and that makes us able to come here at competition and forget about everything and live the moment together."

To Picard, their on-ice honesty and charm comes naturally. 

"I think what you see out there, and what they portray and what you see in the interviews, is what I see, five days a week," the coach said. "I try to find music that capitalizes on this and shows off their best features."

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier continued their stunning comeback from Denney's serious right knee injury and surgery in April 2015, winning their second Skate America silver medal in three seasons with a solid program to the Somewhere in Time soundtrack that included a strong opening triple twist and two big triple throws.

The highlight, though, was back-to-back lifts in the program's closing moments, especially a difficult reverse lasso lift. The team's only major glitch was Denney's downgraded double toe on a triple salchow-double toe combination, and they ended with 192.65 points.

"Going into this event, the training was not where we wanted it yet this season. But to come out here, do the things we did and fight, that's a challenge we're glad we took on," Frazier said.

Denney -- who still wears a soft knee brace -- credited her physical trainers at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center with helping to build back the confidence to land high-impact triple throws.

"When we were in Colorado Springs, I had a lot of physical therapy, and once that stage was over, I was able to do strength and conditioning," Denney said. "Our trainer gives us our workout plan, and we do that four times a week. Doing those exercises is really key."

While talking to reporters in the mixed zone, the pair were told they had placed second over Russians Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who led after the short program. Frazier was stunned.

"I'm confused, they are on a different level," he said. "[Morozov] is one of those guys, like Fedor [Klimov] and Max [Trankov], I really look up to for their skating skills."

The Russians were certainly impressive Friday; their coach, Robin Szolkowy, said the short was the best he had ever seen them skate. But Tarasova took a hard fall on the first element of their free skate, a quadruple twist, and struggled with her jumps. They regained their equilibrium after a few minutes, but had to settle for the bronze medal with 185.94 points.

"Today we had a mistake on the quad, and we made a lot of mistakes after," Morozov said. "I think that's (because) I was sick in the morning with a temperature. But after the first half of (the program) with difficult elements, we could do our regular program and continue."

Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès of France, who train in Florida under John Zimmerman and Jeremy Barrett, were fourth with 174.65 points. Another Russian pair, Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov, were fifth.

After disappointing short programs Friday, U.S. champions Tarah Kayne and Daniel O'Shea improved substantially with their free skate to a medley of "Song of India" and "Marche Slav," hitting triple salchows and double axels. Kayne fell on a throw triple lutz, but the pair placed third in the free and sixth overall with 173.50 points.

U.S. bronze medalists Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran were fourth in the free, stumbling on a few jumps but gaining high marks with the lifts in their Journey medley. They finished seventh overall with 171.95 points.