Canadian Champion Joannie Rochette Wins Skate Canada
Skate Canada, the second in the Grand Prix figure skating series, took place in Ottawa this week and ended today. With only a small batch of competitors in each division, it was easy to focus in on the ladies: three Canadians, three Americans, two Japanese and four European skaters. Beginning with the short program on Friday, long time Canadian champion, Joannie Rochette triumphed, skating to "Summertime" and receiving a standing ovation, coming out 7 points ahead of Fumie Suguri, former world medalist, and Caroline Zhang, rising American star and former world Junior champion. Jenna McCorkell of Great Britain came in fourth, followed by Bebe Liang and Alissa Czisny, 0.26 points apart.
The first skating group in the long program came with a lot of falls, including Canadian Cynthia Phaneuf, who took a couple of hard falls, placing eighth overall. Soon after, World silver medalist, Carolina Kostner of Italy, faltered in the short program, coming into the long in 7th place. And I know she has these famous Italian designers create her dresses, but they always end up with poofy skirts that are just a little bit too short on her, leaving a less than desirable effect. Unfortunately, she didn't have the height she needed on her jumps and was wobbly early in the program. She rallied later, showcasing her strength and artistry, making a significant comeback and coming in 4th overall.
Alissa Czisny skated first in the second warm-up group, wearing an unusual color combination of purple and lime green. Her exceptional spins and artistry always intrigue the audience, but her jumps were on - for the most part - as well, earning her a spot on the podium and a bronze medal. Then, McCorkell's long program dropped her out of medal contention and her costume didn't seem to reflect her music. Zhang had trouble with all of her toe jumps, putting her leg out much too far before taking off - high enough for a spiral - putting her in a place where there was really no way to have a stable lutz or flip jump.
Fumie Suguri wore a gorgeous purple dress and her artistry shined through, well matched to her dramatic music choice, as well as her technical skill, including a huge triple lutz - in stark comparison with Zhang, winning her the silver medal. Suguri and Rochette, the veterans of this group, know the Vancouver Olympics in 15 months is probably their last opportunity, particularly with the fierce competition for Suguri within Japan for spots on the team, so they have to stay on top of their game to make it there. It's also likely that the skaters who succeed this season with certain programs will keep that music through next year for consistency.
Rochette skated last, performing a strong, nearly flawless program full of energy, speed, and solid jumps, gaining another standing ovation and taking the gold at home. Her style skating style always reminds me of Michelle Kwan - she moves in a similar way, and she had a lightness to her skating that made it look nearly effortless. She he beat her former personal best scores in both the short and long program. Rochette looked really happy taking her winner's lap around the rink having struggled some in past seasons. You can bet she will be a crowd favorite in Vancouver.
As to the men's competition, Canada's Patrick Chan captured the gold even though he didn't win either the short or long programs. Due to the point system, his total points gave him the championship, just 3 points over American, Ryan Bradley, who took the silver. Lysacek came in third after a third place finish at Skate America. Yannick Ponsero of France, who won the short program, came in fourth, and Shawn Sawyer of Canada, who won the long program, finished fifth overall.
In the pairs' event, Kawaguchi & Smirnov of Russia took the gold, followed by Dube & Davison of Canada and Americans McLaughlin & Brubaker. In ice dance, the champions had not yet been determined at the time this was written.
In the States, Skate Canada wasn't available on TV this year, but it was shown live at icenetwork.com and anyone who wants to see the events can watch individual events there online. For the rest of the Grand Prix series, check icenetwork.com. Cup of China begins this Thursday in Beijing.
Sarah Granger doubles as a political correspondent whenever she's not sneaking off for a breath of Zamboni processed cold air.
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