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Germans put out commanding performance

Savchenko and Szolkowy skate cleanest free skate yet; Berton and Hotarek earn first Grand Prix medal

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy won their second Grand Prix gold this season.
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy won their second Grand Prix gold this season. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(11/26/2011) - Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy are hitting their stride, just in time for the Grand Prix Final.

The three-time world champions had the finest outing yet of their multi-layered Pina program, gaining a commanding win over Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov at the 2011 Rostelecom Cup.

It is the Germans' second Grand Prix win of the season; last month, they triumphed at Skate America.

As choreographed by Ingo Steuer, Pina is full of intricate transitions and unusual moves inspired by German modern dance choreographer Pina Bausch. The program is so difficult, we may never see a fully clean performance, but today the only major error was Savchenko's faltering double Axel. The opening throw triple flip; two triple toes, done in sequence; and triple twist were near perfect, as were the ambitious lifts and closing throw triple Salchow. Savchenko and Szolkowy earned an impressive 139.97 points for the effort and finished with 208.69 overall.

"Today we are satisfied with our performance in spite of the error on the double Axel," Savchenko said. "Before we went out, we just focused on our own performance and wanted to give our very best.

Kavaguti and Smirnov's performance to Debussy's lyrical "Clair de Lune" was also superb, marred only by Kavaguti's two-foot landing of a throw triple loop. The Russians, who are coached by the legendary Tamara Moskvina, had an exceptional triple twist and throw triple Salchow, and ended the program with a dramatic carry lift. It was so good, even the normally inscrutable Kavaguti cracked a broad smile. Although "Clair de Lune" earned 132.67, the Russians still placed 10.85 points behind the Germans.

The two top teams qualified for the Grand Prix Final in Quebec City next month.

The phrase "class by themselves" is often used in sport, but rarely is it more fitting than here, where bronze medalists Stefania Berton and Ondraj Hotarek finished nearly 30 points behind the Russians and more than 40 points off the Germans' total.

"We are also very satisfied with what we did today in spite of a little mistake (on the throw triple loop)," Smirnov said. "We are happy that we were able to skate here in Moscow again and make our coach and the audience happy."

Still, the Italians can be proud of their first Grand Prix medal. Their program was highlighted by a strong opening triple toe-double toe-double toe combination and a throw triple Salchow, and they ended with 168.02 points.

"It is a great honor to be here and to have one our first Grand Prix medals here in Moscow. It will stay in our memory for a long time," Hotarek said.

Making their Grand Prix debut, U.S. junior champions Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan had a few rough spots -- they missed a couple triple jumps, and Cain fell on a throw triple Salchow -- but their Dr. Zhivago free was entertaining and fluid, featuring some of the better spins of the event. They earned 138.02 points.

Information from the ISU press release was used in this article.