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Savchenko, Szolkowy ride baroque 'Bolero' to win

Silver medalists Duhamel, Radford exceed personal goals; Americans finish sixth, seventh

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy put a Latin spin on a skating classic, "Bolero."
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy put a Latin spin on a skating classic, "Bolero." (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/27/2012) - Four-time world pairs champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany overcame flu, a challenge from Canadian champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, and some rough patches in their new free skate to capture their fourth Skate Canada crown.

"I was very happy that yesterday they skated a very good short, and today they fought for each element," the team's coach, Ingo Steuer, said. "We didn't do the triple Salchow in the second half because Aliona got an infection yesterday; she has a temperature and couldn't breathe or sleep. I said we can do everything when we have normal power, but if not, don't risk anything."

Savchenko's flu may account for some lack of speed and a bit of caution in their otherwise fine program to "Flamenco Bolero," which opened with a huge but shakily landed throw triple flip, followed by double toe-triple toe sequences. (Szolkowy doubled an intended triple.)

The rest of the way was clear sailing, with the Germans' trademark baroque positions and staggering difficulty on full display in their combination spin and three lifts, all done in the second half of the program. They closed with a solid throw triple Salchow, and earned 129.10 points for the free and 201.36 overall.

"It was quite a good performance for the first long program [of the season] in competition," Szolkowy said. "We had some shaky moments, but in the end, it was good."

The Germans had planned to reprise last season's free skate to Pina, but Steuer changed his mind when he read the new ISU rule changes.

"We needed a step sequence, and I had to change something in a perfect program, so we said, 'OK, we won't do it. We will do a new one,' " Steuer said.

" 'Bolero' is kind of special music for figure skating, and we thought for a couple of years of doing a program like this," Szolkowy said. "Now we thought, 'OK, the time is right -- we are ready and we can deal with this music.' "

With clean side-by-side triple Lutzes and three-jump triple Salchow combinations, Duhamel and Radford defeated the Germans by 2.41 points in the technical score. (Savchenko and Szolkowy prevailed by 5.51 in program components.) Their free-flowing, romantic program to Phillippe Rombi's "Angel" had five Level 4 elements, including all three lifts, but was marred slightly by Duhamel's near fall on a throw triple loop and hand down on a throw triple Lutz.

Still, the Canadians earned 126 points, more than four points above their previous personal best, and finished with 190.49 points, also a new high.

"We set some pretty lofty goals coming into this weekend that a lot of people considered out of our reach," Duhamel said. "We wanted to get 60 for [program] components by the end of the season with this long, and we just started with 62. It's huge for us.

"Last year, when we skated our very best, we barely got 120 points. Now, we didn't skate our very best and we got 126 points. We're really excited to see where the season will take us -- hopefully, to the podium in London[, Ontario, site of the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships]."

Italians Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek won bronze with a fiery free skate to the Flamenco-inspired "Poeta en el viento" that opened with three-jump triple toe combinations and featured two solid triple throws done in the program's second half.

Although Berton fell on a triple Salchow, they set new personal bests for both their free skate (112.24 points) and total score (172.03).

"We are very happy with our new personal bests here," Hotarek said. "There are still a couple of things for us to work on, and we're looking forward to making improvements and making it a little better."

The U.S. pairs at Skate Canada, Tiffany Vise and Don Baldwin, and Lindsay Davis and Mark Ladwig, finished sixth and seventh, respectively.

Skating to a medley of Legends of the Fall and "Time to Say Goodbye," Vise and Baldwin's best elements were triple toe-double toe sequences (Vise did two triples; Baldwin doubled the second triple) and a strong throw triple loop. On the debit side, Vise fell on the throw triple flip, and their pairs spin was ruled invalid.

Vise and Baldwin earned 94.74 points and finished with 141.21.

"Our long is our strong point. We have to keep focusing on the short and getting more clean run-throughs," Vise said. "I think we put too much pressure on ourselves in the short. The long, we just go out and skate."

Competing in their first Grand Prix as a team, Davis and Ladwig had trouble on several elements, including their jumps and one of their lifts, and earned 122.26 total.

"They need more mileage, more run-throughs of the program," said Lyndon Johnston, who coaches the pair in Ellenton, Fla. "When you have a brand new team, it's tough to know how they will react under pressure. Looking back on my own career, every one of my partners reacted differently.

"Bottom line, next three weeks [before NHK Trophy], it's going to be more of the same training, and build from that."