Beijing (AFP) – Germany’s Minerva Fabienne Hase and Nikita Volodin won the pairs competition at the Grand Prix Final in Beijing on Friday, inching past their closest rivals by half a point.
Meanwhile reigning world champion Kaori Sakamoto dominated the rink to take the lead after the short programme in the women’s competition.
Despite coming second in Friday’s free skating to Italy’s Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii, Hase and Volodin’s strong showing the day before in the short programme led to a final score of 206.43 to the Italians’ 205.88.
Volodin had been ill just before the event, the pair said on Thursday.
“We are super, super happy. We came into this competition with no expectation and ending with first place is more than we could wish for,” said a delighted Hase just minutes after getting off the ice.
The pair have only been skating together since October 2022, but won the season’s Grand Prix Finland and the NHK Trophy.
“You just have to work even harder and have a good partner,” said Hase when asked their secret.
Their success was hard fought, with the top three competitors all scoring within around two points of each other.
European champions Conti and Macii’s free skate earned a score of 135.58 — a personal best — with Hase and Volodin on 133.87.
Canada’s Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps, who came second in the short programme, dropped to third on Friday.
Skating to “Interview with a Vampire” and dressed in black with crimson jewels glittering on their chests, a few imperfect landings saw them obtain 133.08 for a final score of 204.30.
Sakamoto on track
Sakamoto, 23, sped across the ice to “Baby, God Bless You”, a song she has said is a tribute to her recently born niece and nephew.
Her lyrical, powerful performance was rewarded with a score of 77.35, a season best.
“In practice… I had confidence and I wanted to connect that confidence with the competition,” she said according to skating news site Golden Skate.
“I want to answer the expectations of those around me, and my own expectations as well… I think I have to win against myself, so I want to focus and do my best.”
Belgian Loena Hendrickx came in second with a techno-inspired routine, swivelling energetically around the rink in a sequinned scarlet outfit to earn 73.25 points.
Her compatriot Nina Pinzarrone is in third place with 66.72.
But it was a disappointing night for 16-year-old Isabeau Levito, who won the Grand Prix de France last month.
An error-ridden programme saw her come in last.
Russian athletes, who have in the past flourished in the women’s single event, are banned from the competition because of the war in Ukraine.
Back to the eighties
In the ice dance, world champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates have a clear lead after their meticulously executed Queen medley saw them take top spot in the rhythm dance.
The Americans’ score of 89.15 sees them over three points ahead of Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, who took to the ice in plunging turquoise and pink outfits.
Just 0.65 of a point behind in third place were Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier with 85.17.
The eighties theme meant fun costumes, including a Top Gun ensemble from Canada’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen and a blue leopard-print jacket from compatriot Marjorie Lajoie.
The ice dance and women’s competitions will conclude on Saturday evening with the free dance and skating events.
© 2023 AFP