Nebelhorn Trophy opened season in senior skating

Jason Brown, Michal Brezina and Konstantin Menshov at Nebelhorn Trophy 2014

By Olga Fluegge

The 46th Nebelhorn Trophy, one of the oldest international figure skating competitions, was held September 25-27, 2014 in Oberstdorf, Germany. 

This event is included in the new “ISU Challenger Series” with more world standing points, an own ranking system and prize money. 80 athletes from 22 countries competed in all disciplines.

Men: It is all about Tristan

Jason Brown of the United States took the clear lead after short program with a strong performance to music “Juke” by Little Walters. The 19-year-old has not put a quad jump into the program yet.

“I love Oberstdorf! Today I was really focusing on spins and levels,” he said. And he was successful with it: all spins got level four; an intricate step sequence received level three. He loves vocals but has chosen only instrumental music.

His new free program is called “Tristan and Isolde” by Maxim Rodriguez. Speaking about the choice of music, he explained that he loves to play characters and his choreographer picked this piece of music. “The music is powerful and emotional. I heard the music and fell in love with it. I am trying to portray the character,” Brown said.

It was a very mature skating, with excellent posture and gorgeous body control. Every movement was polished. Jason Brown did not just skate to music but lived a Cornish knight during the entire program. His performance received a very warm welcome from the crowd.

Technically the program was not perfect: four jumps of his routine were under rotated and he did not perform a quad. However, the levels of steps and spins were high. The highest PCS were absolutely deserved. Jason Brown won the title with 237.17 points.

Michal Brezina of Check Republic, the winner of the silver medal with 228.48 points, did a coaching change after last season, moving from America to Oberstdorf. Brezina skated a clean short. His only mistake was an unclear landing on quad Salchow.

“Last week was a little bit hard for me, because I could not compete in Italy due to stomach flu. I am happy with the performance today. For the first competition of the season it was not bad at all,” he said. Michal uses vocals for his free program “The Marriage of Figaro” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, because “opera sounds better with vocals.”

In the free program, he landed one combo quad Salchow-double toe loop, but his second quad was under rotated and he singled a loop. “I feel pretty good about the performance. It is my first competition and comparing to the last year it was much better. My choreographer and coach gave me a suggestion. When I had come back to Oberstdorf, Mr. Pfaffr gave me it and said “this is your music”. But I actually love skating to that music, I love every part of the program,” Brezina added.

Konstantin Menshov of Russia finished third taking the bronze medal with 211.03 points. In the free program, he did a gorgeous combo quad but was struggling with landings of jumps. “It was hard to skate on the 800 meters altitude for me. I was fighting through the program for every element and I am very pleased to be on the podium,” 31-year-old from St. Petersburg said.

Talking about his music he admitted that the choreographer Olga Glinka is helping him with that. “My program is to music of Tango en Silencio by Ara Malikian. This is the program about our time. We live in troubled times. There are many wars in the world and so many journalists are being killed.”

Pairs: A great comeback of Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov win Nebelhorn Trophy 2014

Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov, 2010 European champions from Russia, who set out last season due to surgery of Alexander, skated a flawless short program and earned 66.59 points. All elements in the program Meditation from “Tais” by Massenet got level tree and four.

“We are glad to skate and to compete again. We are happy with our performance, but we can skate better and want to improve,” said Alexander Smirnov.

A highlight of the event was definitely the free skate of Russian couple who kept the lead and took a clear victory with 195.89 points overall. They performed a very dramatic powerful routine to music of Manfred Symphony by Tchaikovsky.

Speaking about the free program Smirnov admitted that they are very happy about the victory in Obersеdorf because the main goal was reached. Next month the couple is going to prepare for their first Grand Prix stage Skate America, working on elements and free skate.

Their team-mates Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov made a successful senior international debut winning the silver medal with a total score of 178.98 points.

“We are pretty happy with our short. It was a good start, but we did few small mistakes and want to fix them. The selection of the music “Globus” was suggested to us,” Morozov said. In the free skate, the young Russians did some flaws on triple Salchow jump and on the last lift.

A five-time world champion Robin Szolkowy joined their coaching team and added some correction in the training. “Robin is very competent and spreads a positive aura. We are so pleased to work with him,” Morozov said.

Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim (USA) won the bronze medal with 166.10 points. In the short program to the music of “Tango Roxanne” Alexa fell on triple toe loop jump and did not land triple throw flip, but their huge triple twist got 8 points.

Scimeca said that she loves vocals and has chosen a strong music. In the free program both skaters fell on the jumps but still managed to get the bronze medal.

Ladies: Russian ladies double success

Elizaveta Tuktamisheva wins Nebelhorn Trophy 2014

Last season 17-year-old Elizaveta Tuktamisheva from St. Petersburg has gone through rough times: she was juried, missed Russian Olympic team and has been almost written off as an athlete with regard to the deep field of strong Russians ladies.

The victory at the Nebelhorn Trophy, a first international event after the injury, could be another breakthrough in her competitive carrier. She gave two solid routines featured by triple-triple combinations, winning the event with 195.65 points.

“This victory means a lot for me. I am very happy. It was an incredible feeling to see the marks after the free skate. I could not believe I won a competition again and hope to continue this way,” she said. Tuktamisheva is aiming to improve during the season and to become more competitive. She wants to make the World team and maybe to win Russian championships.

The silver medal won another lady from St. Petersburg Alena Leonova. Her coach change to Evgeni Rukavitsin has paid off. She is very comfortable with the Charlie Chaplin and tango medley routines. In the free skate she went for combination triple flip-triple toe loop, it was not planned, and landed it. Answering the question about her future plans she said: “My goal is 2018 Olympics. I will compete there and I really do not pay any attention to other athletes. Yes, in Russia the ladies field is extremely strong. I wish all the young girls to stay healthy.”

The U.S. champion Gracie Gold fell on her opening combo in the short program: “It is my first competition since Worlds. This is a hard way to open your program with a fall on the first jump.” In the free program, she skated better but singled a Lutz. “I was pretty nervous because I had a bad practice. I am not satisfied because I lost many points,” Gold said.

Ice Dance: “Swan Lake” reloaded in Oberstdorf

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje win Nebelhorn Trophy 2014

Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje of Canada won the gold with 165.32 points. Seven years ago they started international career with the bronze medal at the world junior championships, which was held here, in Oberstdorf.

“It feels great to be back in Oberstdorf,” Weaver said. “We feel great about our program we put out at the competition. After getting feedback from judges we will push ourselves to get ready for Skate Canada,” Poje added.

U.S. ice dance couple of Madison Chock/Evan Bates, performing a beautiful routine to “An American in Paris”, won the free dance but finished second overall, taking the silver with 163,73 points. “We feel good about our performance today. We are happy to be back. Choosing “An American in Paris” we wanted to do something different we did before,” Chock said.

Germany’s Nelly Zhiganshina/Alexander Gazsi, the winners of the bronze medal with 147.10 points overall, are well known for their very creative programs. Stephane Lambiel choreographed their free dance to “Swan Lake reloaded” by Fredrik Rydman, which was not used in figure skating before.

They were looking for a change of scenery, trying to do something different from last season, more competitive but not dramatic. “We have seen the street dance show in Munich and liked it very much. Mr. Lambiel is a genius on ice. This is the first time he did a choreography for ice dance and he did a great amazing job,” Gazsi said.

He also noted that despite the complexity of modern ice dancing, this kind of skating should keep an aesthetic side of them.

“Last seasons showed us how sportive and competitive ice dance can be with all speed and levels, but for me it is important to say that we, skaters and officials, should bring to the audience what ice dance was: a very creative part of figure skating.” he noted.

Photos: Olga Fluegge

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