Chinese shoot for stars but settle for gold

Canadians take silver; Simpson and Blackmer win bronze

Wenjing Sui and Cong Han won the Grand Prix junior final on Friday.
Wenjing Sui and Cong Han won the Grand Prix junior final on Friday. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(12/09/2011) - Wenjing Sui and Cong Han fell short on their most explosive elements but triumphed in Friday's junior pairs free skate to win the Grand Prix Junior Final.

The high-flying Chinese pair tried both the quadruple twist and throw quadruple Salchow in their Flamenco free skate. The first move, which had a sizable collision on the catch, was downgraded by the technical panel. The gutsy Sui made a game effort on the second and two-footed the landing, still earning 7.14 points.

"We want to try these quads," Han said in his improving English. "It is our dream. Maybe we have a little nerves and made mistakes."

The rest of the technically packed program was also a mixed bag. The skaters faltered on triple toes, with Sui doing only a double, and lacked unison on their side-by-side spins. Other elements, including a throw triple flip, were more successful, and their 103 points in the free and 160.43 overall were good enough to bring home gold to Harbin, where the skaters train under Bo Luan. She is the former pairs partner of renowned Chinese coach Bin Yao, who guided Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao to Olympic gold.

Canadians Katherine Bobak and Ian Beharry, paired up by coaches Kris and Kristy Wirtz in February, took second with a polished outing to Spartacus that included a double Axel, double Axel sequence and two solid triple throws as well as a lovely Level 4 combination spin. Their 99.88 points is a new best, and they ended with 152.65 points.

"It felt amazing, even better than the short program, and to do it in Canada is amazing," Beharry said.

"When we first teamed up, there is no pressure on us from our coaches but a lot of people came up said how good we were looking from the start. We didn't let it get to our heads, we just worked hard."

Colorado Springs skaters Britney Simpson and Matthew Blackmer had a clean and stirring program to music from Titanic, hitting two solid triple throws as well as side-by-side double Axels. Though they placed only fifth in the free, their 95.44 points added to their short program total, giving them 146.35 points and the bronze medal, just edging out Russians Ekaterina Petaikina and Maxim Kurduykov by 0.18.

"I think what we are going to take away from this competition is knowing how to compete at a high level, and how to be prepared for our nationals and enjoy it," Simpson said.

"Every second of our program was powerful," Blackmer said. "Before we got on the ice, our coach, Dalilah [Sappenfield], told us to focus on each other and be where we are comfortable, and that is in [focusing] on the components. The elements just followed."

Blackmer added that now he was done competing, he looked forward to watching the senior pairs.

"I am really excited to watch the Germans and Russians battle it out," he said.