Sochi by Two Blog #13: The Free Dance!

14OWG-PhotoBlog13-00001by Adelaide Ponte Usdin and Wendy Ponte

February 17, 2014

Ok, let’s just cut right to the chase!

We (as in Adelaide and Wendy) went into the Free Dance event tonight thinking that we knew exactly what would happen. Davis and White would get gold, Virtue and Moir in silver and Iliynkh and Katsalapov in bronze (well, to be honest, we were a little less sure of this last, but only marginally so).

And, amazingly, we were right!

But in the last few skates of tonight’s competition we began to have doubts…

But back to the beginning… When the second group came on, the first thing we observed was that out of a warm-up of 5 teams, 3 of them were coached by Igor
Spliband! One of the things we love about live competitions is watching the coaches in action. How do you juggle 3 teams in one warm-up? We’ve also enjoyed watching coaches switch country jackets and figure out what to do when they have back-to-back teams.
In this 2nd group, we enjoyed watching the British team of Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland. They hit a new season’s best by over 5 points. Their routine is a Michael Jackson medley, and their costumes were black and silver, just like the Shibutanis. Nonetheless, the two routines are very different from each other. Coomes and Buckland’s routine is a bit edgier whereas the Shibs really researched MJ’s style. We aren’t saying one is better than the other–they are just different interpretations. The crowd loved them!

Here is a good time to say that the Russian audience, while super loyal to their skaters, and sometimes obnoxiously so, does nonetheless appreciate a good skate, and doesn’t mind expressing that appreciation!

Again, Adelaide is a huge fan of the Azerbaijan team of Zlobina and Sitnikov. They beat their SB of 87.96 and scored 90.48. They do a crazy lift with Alexei on one knee!

The Spanish team of Hurtado and Diaz also beat their previous SB by over 6 points. The crowd went crazy over their Picasso piece and we think the choreography is brilliant, very modern and staccato, just like a Picasso painting. Adelaide says they travel too much on their spins, but otherwise we love this program.

The Shibutanis had a great intro to the Olympic experience here in Sochi. Their Michael Jackson program is such a good stretch for them. Unfortunately their twizzles were off and the lifts seemed tentative, but we think they have more Olympic Games in their future!

Another American team, Chock and Bates, beat their SB by over 4 points and seemed very happy with their results. After being disappointed with their short dance score, the Canadian team of Weaver and Poje scored 103.18 in the free dance and looked happy about it!

Here is where it started to get interesting! The French team of Pechalat and Bourzat did a fantastic program. They beat their SB, getting a score of over 104 and were just altogether lovely to watch.

Virtue and Moir then beat their SB too! They got 114.66, and this is when we began to wonder about that gold. They set the bar really high for Davis and White and we wondered what would happen next.

Iliynkh and Katsalapov beat their own SB of 103.48 with a 110.44. But they would have had to get over 117 in order to get ahead of the Canadians. We think Nikita Katsalapov needs to reign in his twizzles a bit, but otherwise, their program was brilliant. What has Morozov done with them in training just in the last couple of months to achieve these results, we wondered? In short order, we suspect, they will be the new Davis, White, Virtue and Moir’s of the ice dance world.

This was undoubtedly hard for the team of Bobrova and Solovive, who followed directly after their countrymen. They’ve had a tough year, and in these games, chose to go back to their last season’s free dance program, after receiving poor commentary on this year’s program.They did improve upon their SB, but it wasn’t near enough to get on the podium.

And finally, Davis and White. They had to have a score of 112.11 in order to beat the Canadians. In true Davis/White fashion, they did that with a score of 116! The Americans, we have observed, are always measured in their response to their scores–but not tonight. They let themselves look as thrilled as they undoubtedly felt to have achieved this ultimate goal. We screamed our heads off and celebrated along with them!

This is our last full day in Sochi, and what a way to end! We are just sorry we won’t see the medal ceremony for ice dance tomorrow, but not sorry enough to put off going home! In the last day Wendy has developed a bad toothache and needs her dentist at home, and both of us miss our beds and our dogs!

Tomorrow morning we fly to Moscow. Look for another post from us from there, where we spend a night before flying home the next day.