The Championship-level events got under way today with the pairs’ short and the ladies’ short. There was also a nice opening ceremony, with Rudy Galindo skating and other Bay Area notables appearing: Brian Boitano, Peggy Fleming, Charlie Tickner, Debi Thomas, and Kristi Yamaguchi’s daughter Emma standing in for her mom.
There’s a bit of a surprise at the top of the leader board. Mary Beth Marley and Rockne Brubaker lead after the short program.
I have always felt that Brubaker was a very strong partner, but Marley had not skated pairs prior to teaming up with Brubaker. She is tiny, and he tosses her with ease; her pairs skills have improved markedly since last year. They skated a mostly clean short with a big throw triple Lutz, and I think surprised a lot of people by having the high score of the night (65.80). Their score would have been even higher had Rockne not lost his balance and touched a hand and foot down on their death spiral.
Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig continue to be plagued by Evora’s jumping problems. She fell on their side by side triple toes, and hers was determined by review to be short of rotation, so they were downgraded to doubles. Their lifts were spectacular as always. They are in second place after the short (61.27).
Caydee Denney and John Coughlin’s Nationals debut as a partnership was eagerly anticipated. Their short to “East of Eden” had a spectacular throw triple twist, good side by side triple toes, and good connection between the partners, but Caydee fell on their throw triple flip. They looked to be having issues in practice with her being the proper distance from Coughlin and in proper position to be thrown, and even though they did land the throw a number of times in practice, they did not land it in the competition.
Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir had the skate of their career to take fourth in the short, with Gretchen Donlan and Andrew Speroff fifth.
There is a surprise at the top of the ladies’ leaderboard as well. Agnes Zawadzki landed a nice 3T/3T combo and a huge 3Lz to lead the short with 66.24 points. Her artistry has improved as well.
Reigning US Champ Alyssa Czisny looked nervous and a bit tentative. She landed her 3Lz/2T combo and a 3Lo, but singled the Axel. She is in second with 63.14.
Ashley Wagner went clean to finish third with 63.06. Caroline Zhang skated better than I’ve seen her skate in years to finish fourth. Her triple flip was quite sound, without that high leg kick that has given her problems in the past. Mirai Nagasu skated without a lot of fire. She had an edge violation on her 3Lz/2T, and possibly a downgrade on her 3Lo as well. She has filled out quite a bit, and I would imagine she is having some issues adjusting. Christine Gao was sixth.
We saw men’s and pairs’ practices. Love, love, love Jeremy Abbott’s short program to swing music. It has great expression and personality. Jeremy made several attempts at the quad toe and landed one. Adam Rippon was trying a quad Salchow but didn’t really come close. His triple Axel, which is often a problem for him, didn’t look too bad. Brandon Mroz did not practice well, and a reliable Colorado Springs source says he has not been practicing well at home either. Keegan Messing needs to learn proper practice etiquette (and shame on his coaches for letting him get away with this). He seems to think the practice ice is his private ice time, and does not yield right of way to the skater whose music is playing. He had numerous close brushes, and one skater even had to interrupt his footwork sequence during his runthrough to avoid Messing spinning.
News from Euros
Artur Gachinski holds a minuscule lead over Evgeny Plushenko after the men’s short. Gachinski landed his quad, while Plushy didn’t do one. Tomas Verner is third.
Volosozhar and Trankov won their first European pairs championship, with Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov second and Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov third to complete the Russian sweep.