Li, Eastler sustain lead, capture gold dance title
Chiangs skate away with silver medal; Johnson, Samii win bronze
|Anna Li and William Eastler's 65.24 points were well ahead of the competition. (Matt Parat)|
Li and Eastler, who earned 34.17 points in the pattern dance, finished with 65.24 total points after a beautiful free skate. April and Gilbert Chiang of the Skating Club of Oregon skated away with the silver medal, despite two heartbreaking falls by Gilbert. They earned a two-day total score of 57.52 points.
Molly Johnson and Kianoosh Samii of the St. Mortiz Skating Club in San Mateo, Calif., took the bronze with 49.90 points. Debra and David Gaultier of the Detroit Skating Club missed the bronze by just 0.07 points, taking the pewter with 49.83 points.
Li and Eastler, who have been skating together for about six years, returned to nationals after a two-year break. Busy professional lives (he's a software engineer for Microsoft in Seattle and she owns a marketing company called Twizzle Pop) prompted the break.
"We just got back on the ice in December," Li said. "In January, we started thinking about competing. I remember the day I thought, 'OK, this is it: The [entry] money's going in!'"
Considering their downtime, Li and Eastler's transitions appeared seamless. Near the end of the program, they executed an effortless hydro blade that seemed to last forever.
"I could really hear the crowd during that," Li said. "When you're concentrating so much, you can barely hear them, but today while we were holding it, you could really hear them."
The veterans Johnson and Samii were happy with the bronze medal, but it was obvious that where they finished in the competition was of little import.
"We never skate with any expectations," Johnson said. "We try to skate the best that we can skate, and tonight we skated the best we can."
"This bronze medal means a lot to us," Samii added, "Because we are in the company of some great skaters. For us to finish third to them is really, really something special to us."
At the end of the competition, all five teams skated to the center of the ice, held hands and bowed in unison toward the officials. They then applauded both the tech panel and judges, some of whom applauded the competitors.
It's a tradition that Samii says began at the 2002 U.S. Adult Championships held in Ann Arbor, Mich.
"Every time we do this, we look forward to the very end of the completion so that we can thank the judges," he said. "To us, the crowd are the judges, too, so we thank them."