(September 5, 2003)
By Gayle McClelland, Skate Canada National Teams Director
Team Canada arrived on Monday in Obertsdorf ready to challenge for podium positions in all disciplines at the 35th Nebelhorn Trophy Senior International event. The team flew into Munich, and a bus took everyone up into the mountains (about a 2.5 hour ride), ending up in Obertsdorf.
Hotel Mohren quickly became our home away from home, with athletes, coaches and officials alike settling in quickly. Typically at this time of year, the weather is notoriously rainy, and rain it did for the first 24 hours. Since then, we have enjoyed bright sunshine and fabulous mountain views.
Practices were scheduled for the first two days, and today the competition got under way.
The ice dance event made history with the first ever use of the new ISU judging system. Canadians Tara Dougherty and Tyler Myles were the first Canadians to skate the Austrian waltz finishing in 10th place, 11.5 points behind leaders, Alexandra Kauc and Michal Zych from Poland. Poland was well represented in the event with 3 teams.
Judith Longpre and Shae Zukiwsky were confident throughout their skate, although a strap came apart on his pants, resulting in the referee blowing the whistle on the second pattern signaling for them to stop. "I heard a whistle blowing" Shae said, "and I was not sure what it was…. Then I realized, it was for us to stop. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before." On their overall performance on the dance, Shae indicated that they were "really happy with our skate - we are on the up and up, and are looking forward to really rocking and rolling tomorrow".
The other top finishers in the event included Jana Khokhlova / Sergei Novitski a young Russian entry in second place with Christie Moxely and Alexander Kirsanov from the US in 3rd.
The next event skated was the men's short program. Canadian entry Nicholas Young took to the ice confidently after having practiced well all week. He completed all of the elements in his program successfully with only a minor touchdown on the triple axel and again on the flying spin. In a costume designed by coach Josee Picard, Nicholas captured the audience and judging panel with his intense focus and commitment to a well choreographed and balanced program. Scoring the highest element and program component scores in the entire event, he handily won the event, and enters the free skating portion of the event with an 8.2 point lead. Scott Smith of the US trails Nicholas in second place and Nicholas LaRoche also of the US is currently in 3rd place.
Commenting right after his performance, Nicholas said," I like the new system - not just because I am in first place, but because it really takes the pressure off. It is not about just one jump anymore - it's the whole program that counts." The footwork in his program really helped to set it apart from the other competitors, and Nicholas was quick to say that his inspiration had come from ice dancing. "I watched the videos from the World Championships and that is what gave me the idea of including twizzles and the variety of moves that I have", Nicholas said.
The pair event rounded out the evenings schedule, with two Canadian entries - Utako Wakamatsu / Jean Sebastien Fecteau and Pascale Bergeron / Rob Davison vying for top honours. Utako and Jean Sebastien completed side by side triple toe loops as their first element, had a miss on the throw triple loop, then moved on to skate the remainder of the program cleanly. Their lift position was extraordinary, highlighting Utako's flexibility. Both the element and program scores were the highest in the pair event. This new team has been together since February 2002 after coach Richard Gauthier saw Utako in the ladies competition at the 2001 Skate America event. Utako claimed to be " a bit nervous when I got on the ice. Then when the music started, I was fine, I am so happy to be here." Team mates Pascale and Rob also had a great skate. All elements were cleanly executed with only one error on the side by side jump (Rob did a double toe loop rather than a triple). Rob commented that he was "glad to see that the ISU new judging system really seemed to be accurately reflecting both the quality of skating skills and the technical elements." Overall Rob and Pascale were pleased with their skate. "We have room for improvement, but we are glad to see how things went." Rob stated. They finished in 3rd place after the short program, just over one point behind Americans Laura Handy and Jeremy Allen who are in second spot.
So we end the night with the arena buzzing about the first experience of the new ISU judging system, amazing performances from the Canadian team and with two Canadian entries as the current world record holders in figure skating!