by Michelle Wojdyla
“We’re kind of bummed,” he said.
“It just sucks that it had to happen at worlds,” she said.
For Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto, the Argentine Tango was not their friend. Skating sixth in a field of 31 dance teams, the five-time and reigning U.S. champions attacked the first four segments of the compulsory dance with speed and power. Their GOEs were solid: 22 +2s, 24 +1s, and one each of a +3 and a base 0 comprised the first 48 marks.
Then came segment five.
Coming around the corner, Belbin turned and reached for Agosto’s hands.
And then she was down.
She hit her toe and tripped herself, falling hard to the ice. Agosto was skating backwards, and with the speed they had built up, he was not able to stop. Belbin jumped to her feet and quickly caught up to her partner, and they were able to skate the sixth segment. Needless to say, they were hit on the GOEs, receiving all –2s and –3s for that fifth segment and mostly 0s on the last. They also were dinged a 1.0 deduction for the fall.
Although one judge had given them a 5.25 for timing and a 6.75 for performance/execution, the majority of the program component scores were in the 7s with a sprinkling of 8s. The PCS score of 19.14 was the second highest in the field. The 16.88 for their technical score, however, was only tenth. The total of 35.02 placed them in fifth overall.
“It’s just a freak accident,” Belbin said. “It has never happened before.”
“The rest of the dance felt really good,” Agosto said. “We were happy with our performance. We just need to avoid little mishaps.”
Placing first in both TES and PCS, France’s Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder were the only team to break 40 points, with 20.79 TES and 19.94 PCS giving them 40.73.
“It was a good compulsory dance,” Schoenfelder said. “We wanted to show a special interpretation to make the dance more interesting. We are happy with the marks.”
Delobel & Schoenfelder got into the tango character even before the music started. Once the dance began, the duo had good flow and pacing, with excellent leg line unison and an overall polished performance. The judges were impressed, and out of the 72 GOE scores, the French received 42 +2s, 26 +1s, three 0s, and a +3. Their program component scores ranged from 7.50 to 8.75.
The penultimate team, Canadian champions Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, scored 38.71 to place second overall. Their 20.00 TES was second highest and their 18.71 PCS was third. Their interpretation of the Argentine Tango featured lots of attitude, power, and speed, showing off their deep edges. They “skated big” throughout the dance, earning 34 +1s, 29 +2s, eight 0s, and a lone –1. PCS scores were mostly in the 7s and ranged from 7.0 to 8.25.
“The new system has definitely helped us quite a bit, and we’re thankful for that,” Virtue said. “Just to be rewarded for the technical aspect is something in itself.”
“We’re happy with where we are sitting right now, obviously, second, two points out of first,” Moir said. “We knew we’d have to do [the Argentine Tango] at Worlds as soon as we got back from Four Continents, so we really had some good time to train it. We really like the dance. It’s a dance that has a lot of skating skills.”
Virtue & Moir were disappointed when they heard that Belbin had fallen.
“We want everyone to skate well. That’s what competition is,” Virtue said. “We want everyone to have their best performance. We train with Tanith and Ben, and it’s really too bad they didn’t have their best skate. We see them at home every day and their Argentine is just fabulous.”
“No kidding! They trained so hard,” Moir interjected, “so it’s not like they weren’t trained, but that’s why we come here, right? It’s sport. You still have to compete. I’m sure they’ll bounce back in the next two phases, and we’re definitely rooting for them.”
Russia’s Jana Khokhlova & Sergei Novitski had a wild and dramatic opening, using a variation of the “Tanith Spin” before beginning the pattern. Their height difference was obvious in the compulsory, since they had to reach for each other more than other teams did. They were third in the TES (19.52) and fourth in the PCS (18.46) to place third overall with 37.98. The judges showed a difference of opinion in the GOEs. One judge gave them four 0s and two +1s; another gave straight +2s. Program components were not as varied. Aside from the 6.25 from the judge who gave them the base GOEs, all other marks were in the 7s, with two 8.0s.
Federica Faiella & Massimo Scali are always strong in the spicier dances, and their Argentine Tango did not disappoint. They keep the interplay between them going throughout the dance, not just in the opening and closing sections. Strong edges made them look completely in control.
“We love to skate and to have a strong interpretation to the music, with strong emotions in the compulsory dance, and we felt great on ice today,” Scali said. “We skate the best we can. We know it is a hard competition for us, but the marks today were unbelievable, and we are very happy with our performance.”
The marks, 19.45 TES/17.70 PCS for 37.15, slotted them right behind the Russians. They received no negative GOEs, five base, 21 +2s, and the balance +1s. PCS scores averaged almost exactly seven points, with their interpretation score the highest at 7.21.
After their strong tango original dance last season, it comes as no surprise that France’s Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat would do well with this compulsory. They brought the drama and sold it well. GOEs were mostly +1s, with a handful of 0s and +2s and a lone –1.
“It felt very good,” Pechalat said. “Although we have practiced a lot on the original dance and the free dance and didn’t have a lot of time practicing on the tango, it felt really good.”
Bourzat is nursing a knee injury that has plagued him all season.
“It is up and down,” he said. “I still feel pain sometimes, and it makes practice shorter.”
Americans Meryl Davis & Charlie White sit in seventh with 34.80. Their TES score (18.12) was fifth highest on the day, receiving no negative GOEs, but only two +2s. They primarily received +1s. Program component score averages were all under 6.75 despite having around 40% of their scores 7.0 and higher.
Scottish siblings Sinead & John Kerr stand in eighth with 33.48. They were hit with three –1s, but received two +2s. The rest of the GOEs were a mix of +1s and 0s. Their program component scores were very close to Davis & White’s, with the Kerrs coming out on top in skating skills and interpretation, and the Americans grabbing timing and performance.
“We did a couple of shows in Switzerland with Art on Ice, so that gave us a chance to practice a lot of the routines that we are going to do this week,” John said. “We want to be in the top ten and obviously as high up in the top ten as possible. That would be a good result for us, so we are just working towards that.”
The skaters in ninth through 12th have only 1.03 separating them. Sasha & Roman Zaretski from Israel, Kristin Fraser & Igor Lukanin from Azerbaijan, Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte from Italy, and Americans Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre all scored over the 30-point mark. All four teams received multiple negative GOEs, but the majority of their marks were a mix of 0s and +1s.
Navarro & Bommentre had the highest TES of that bunch (17.23) but the lowest PCS (14.25) in their 12th-place finish. The judges’ opinions differed greatly when it came time to hand out the program component scores. Their timing scores actually varied from 4.5 to 7.0.
“Timing” has definitely been an issue for Navarro & Bommentre this week, as Bommentre’s luggage did not arrive in time for the competition. In fact, it has yet to arrive, period. The American bronze medalists are doing their Tim-Gunn-best to “make it work!” with shopping runs, helpful volunteers, and brand-new, un-broken-in skates couriered by a fan from Pennsylvania.
Another team with a last-minute surprise is Russians Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev. When gold medal favorites Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin had to withdraw from the World Championships, Bobrova & Soloviev got the call that they were heading to Sweden. The duo stands in 16th place, .02 behind countrymen Ekaterina Rubleva & Ivan Shefer.
“As first substitutes, we had to prepare,” Bobrova said. “We skated pretty well, and our coaches are pleased. We did our job for today.”
“We practiced our other dances, but this [Argentine] Tango, we’ve been doing only for two weeks,” Soloviev added. “We had the [Yankee] Polka in our other competitions this season.”
Japanese competitors Cathy & Chris Reed made their World Championship debut in Göteborg. The former U.S. novice champions are in 18th after the CD, successfully battling nerves.
“We were very nervous,” Cathy said, “but he was more nervous than me!”
“Yes, I felt very nervous,” Chris admitted, “but as soon as the music played, we got into character and it became easier to skate.”
“We felt very strong and very confident on the ice,” Cathy said. “It is the first time we compete in the World Championships, and it is just an honor to represent Japan.”
Another former U.S. novice medalist, Kaitlyn Weaver, and partner Andrew Poje, are 20th after the CD. The current Canadian silver medalists are fighting through a knee problem as well. Weaver was injured during the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.
“We had a great competition in Korea. It was a personal best through every segment,” Weaver said. “Unfortunately on the exhibition practice, we fell on a lift and I tore my MCL on my left knee, so I had to take a week off. [I was] a little bit slow coming back to the ice, but Andrew kept skating and kept training, so it was that much easier by the time I came back. We’re very pleased with the start of the competition. Especially at World Championships, it’s great to have a season’s best, to know that we finished the compulsory on that note.”
Canadian bronze medalists Allie Hann-McCurdy & Michael Coreno are in 17th after the compulsory.
The dance event continues Thursday with the folk/country original dance.