American pairs trail after NHK Trophy short program

Reigning Olympic silver medalists Qing Pan and Jian Tong of China easily won the pairs short program at the NHK Trophy Friday in Nagoya, Japan, with 57.10 points, taking an almost seven point lead over Russia’s Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov (60.16), the 2007 Skate America bronze medalists. Japan’s Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran (57.23) are third.

U.S. Champions Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett are within striking distance of the podium, finishing fourth with 55.03 points, for a performance that included a triple twist, side-by-side triple toes and a throw triple Lutz. Their only mistake came on their combination spin.

Fellow Americans Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin (54.19) are sixth of eight teams. Coughlin had problems on the side-by-side spins but otherwise their program to “Oblivion” by Ástor Piazzolla was solid. They performed a triple twist, a throw triple Salchow, side-by-side triple toes, a lasso lift and a back inside edge death spiral.

“This competition was like a practice for us as the program is new and we don’t yet feel so comfortable with it,” said Tong, a two-time  World Champion with Pang. Their performance to Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne No. 2 included side-by-side triple toes followed by a triple twist and a throw triple loop.

Bazarova and Larionov’s program to “Secret Garden” was highlighted by a triple twist, throw triple flip and a difficult one-armed Axel Lasso lift. “We are happy for today with what we did, but it’s too early to relax. We want to skate as well tomorrow,” she said.

Takahashi and Tran, who are fresh off the Junior Grand Prix circuit, qualifying for the Final earlier this season, turned in a solid performance to “Feeling Good”, hitting a side by side triple Salchow, throw triple toe and a double twist that garnered a rare level four.

“We used the Junior Grand Prix as a warm up for this competition, and it worked as we did better here than in juniors,” she said. “We are on the right track.”

Earlier in the day, the short dance debuted on the Grand Prix circut, with Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White (66.97) dancing to the lead with Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje and Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia following in second and third. The short dance replaces the compulsory dance and the original dance.

“Charlie and I are really liking that transition,” Davis said when asked about the change from the compulsory and original to the short dance. “We really like the Golden Waltz as a compulsory dance. We really like the idea of having everyone putting a different spin on one pattern of a compulsory dance. I think it’s going to be great for ice dance.”

Davis and White opted for two Waltzes from “La Boheme” and “La Traviata” for their short dance. The World and Olympic silver medalists completed excellent twizzles and a rotational lift with changes of positions. They received a level four for the first sequence of the Golden Waltz and a level one for the second sequence.

U.S. Junior Ice Dance  Champions  Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, competing at their first senior Grand Prix, earned 53.68 for fifth place.

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Photo courtesy of Leah Adams

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