(March 5, 2003)
The 2003 ISU Grand Prix Final, which was held in St. Petersburg, Russia from Feb. 28 - March 2, proved to be a very exciting competition with many strong performances turned in by the skaters.
Two Canadian entries qualified for this event - ice dancers Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon and the pair team of Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto. While this event marked the third year in a row Dubreuil and Lauzon have qualified for the Grand Prix Final, it was the first trip to the Grand Prix Final for Langlois and Archetto.
The pair event kicked off with the short program. Langlois and Archetto skated a clean, strong performance, with which they were extremely pleased.
"I feel good about our program," said Archetto. "This was our first clean short program this season. We're very glad."
The Canadian pair stood sixth after the short program, and finished in sixth-place overall after skating two free programs. Langlois and Archetto's second free program was particularly strong. The duo landed impressive side-by-side triple toe loops, and the only major flaw came when they both missed the side-by-side triple Salchows. Langlois also stepped out of the throw triple Salchow.
Langlois and Archetto were pleased with the experience they gained in St. Petersburg, and they hope to incorporate two side-by-side triple jumps into their free skate in future competitions.
"It's great. It's a first experience," said Archetto. "We did three Grand Prix (events), it went well, and it's (the Grand Prix Final) is just a bonus for us, and we enjoyed it."
Russians Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin won the pair event with three solid performances. The team's second free skate, which was skated to the music Cotton Club, included side-by-side triple Salchows, a triple twist, a throw triple loop and a throw triple Salchow. The judges awarded the Russians with marks ranging from 5.7 to 5.9 for technical merit, and they received a strong of 5.9s for presentation.
Finishing second was the Chinese team of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, the reigning World Pair Champions. Shen fell on the side-by-side triple toe loop in the pair's double Axel-triple toe loop sequence, and she also stepped out of the throw triple loop. Shen and Zhao did go on to complete a huge throw triple Salchow, side-by-side double Axels and a high triple twist. They received marks up to 5.8 for both technical merit and presentation.
Rounding out the podium was the Russian team of Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov.
In the Dance event, Dubreuil and Lauzon finished in sixth-place in each of the three components of the event, which included the original dance and two free dances, to place sixth overall. The silver medallists from the Senior Dance event at the 2003 BMO Financial Group Canadian Championships skated well in all three performances, and they felt that their original dance in St. Petersburg was the best they have skated it all year.
"It was fun to skate our program, and the crowd really responded to it," said Dubreuil. "So, we really had a good time."
Dubreuil and Lauzon skated their Dance With My Heart free program, which is the program they have used as their free dance in competition this season. They also had success with this program, as they skated it the best they have skated it so far this season in competition. The duo felt that the experience put them in good stead for being ready for the upcoming world championships.
Capturing the gold medal were the reigning World Dance Champions, Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh, of Russia. Their teammates, Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov took the silver medal, and the Bulgarian team of Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski finished in third-place.