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German pair mixes it up as Kim arrives at NRW

Savchenko, Szolkowy shed old costumes in short win; Korea's Olympic champ rents extra space

Four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy are enjoying Dortmund.
Four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy are enjoying Dortmund. (Klaus-Reinhold Kany)

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By Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(12/07/2012) - Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy performed a near-flawless short program at the NRW Trophy in Dortmund, Germany, on Friday, earning 73.55 points to take a large lead.

The four-time German world pairs champions hit a throw triple flip, side-by-side triple toe loops, triple twist and other elements with ease, gaining many positive grades of execution (GOEs) from the judges.

The Germans are competing here after Savchenko's severe sinus infection caused them to withdraw from their second Grand Prix event, preventing them from qualifying for the Grand Prix Final being held in Sochi, Russia, this week.

"Two weeks ago, we made a spontaneous decision to skate here, because we certainly had planned to skate in Sochi this weekend," Savchenko said. "I am 80-percent healthy now; the sinus infection has almost disappeared. It is nice to compete at such a small competition again, although this is unusual for us, and it is nice to compete in Germany, which is unusual for us as well."

"Since the European championships are at the end of January, we have enough time to get in full shape again, especially since we have a good level of elements and a lot of experience," Szolkowy said.

The Germans' main rivals, Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, are competing in Sochi, but Szolkowy refuses to compare point totals earned.

"Each competition is different, and each time there is a different panel of judges, so it does not make much sense to compare our points here with the points the pairs get in Sochi," he said.

(For the record, Volosozhar and Trankov lead the Grand Prix Final after earning 73.46 points.)

The pair ditched the eye-catching unitards they sported at Skate Canada, substituting blue costumes.

"At Skate Canada, we found out that there was too much discussion about our costumes," Szolkowy said. "At home, we watched our programs on video once more and decided to change them completely. We like to test something new, but we saw that it was not the right decision and, therefore, changed the costumes.

"We do not want too much discussion about our costumes; we prefer more attention to our skating and choreography. Therefore, we decided to use more decent (less form-fitting) costumes, and we will do this tomorrow in our free program as well."

Savchenko and Szolkowy are not the main stars in Dortmund; Olympic champion Yu-Na Kim takes that honor.

"For Germany and Dortmund, it is great that Yu-Na Kim comes to compete here for the first time," Szolkowy said. "However, it is stupid that top skaters like her who pause for a year have to go to a small competition first to gain a minimum score before being allowed to go to worlds again."

Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès of France are second, earning 60.49 points for their clean short.

Italians Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek are third with 58.85 points, after Berton put her hand down on a triple toe loop.

The Korean team consists of nine people, including two skaters, two coaches, a physio and a friend of Kim's, who arrived in Dortmund on Thursday morning from Seoul via Paris. A volunteer driver, the father of reigning German ladies champion Nicole Schott, picked them up at the Düsseldorf airport and drove them to their Dortmund hotel.

When the van passed the huge soccer stadium of the famous German soccer club of Borussia Dortmund, a member of Kim's entourage asked Schott if this was the venue. Schott answered that the ice rink in Dortmund does not have 50,000 seats, but is only a practice rink with about 300 seats.

The team arrived 24 hours later than planned because they had missed the Tuesday night flight from Seoul. They are keeping the name of their hotel secret because they want to avoid fans surging into the lobby.

In the Dortmund rink, there are also novice and junior competitions all day, and there is only one official practice in the morning of the competitions. Therefore, Kim's team rented additional private ice time at a nearby rink in Essen, about 15 miles from Dortmund.