The two singles winners at Cup of China over the weekend were the favorites, but they didn't win pretty. Mao Asada and Javier Fernandez both had to rely on their short program leads and their superior component marks to hold off their up-and-comer challengers. But perhaps most surprising was how the pairs gold medalists won - Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirnov pulled off a slight upset by debuting a new throw quad in their free skate. Let's take a look at the third GP of the season before we move on to Bordeaux.
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Kavaguti/Smirnov's quad loop
Yes, Boyang Jin's quad lutz-triple toe was incredible and history-making, but we expected him to put that in his short program based on what he's done this season. The big surprise was in the pairs event, when Kavaguti/Smirnov landed a quad salchow (expected) and then less than a minute later debuted a throw quad loop. Kavaguti stood it up with a two-foot and a step-out, but it was a very creditable attempt.
Who knew that after years of awful shoulder-dislocating falls on their quad sal that they would have not one, but TWO throw quads in their free skate?
Make no mistake - at the ages of 33 and 31, Kavaguti/Smirnov have reestablished themselves as a World title contender with this new trick. And they defeated a fairly clean Wenjing Sui/Cong Han in the process. Russian Nationals is going to be a fun one.
Cup of China, in general, saw quite a number of skaters go insane on their difficult tricks. Jin landed the first quad lutz-triple toe in competition in his short program and then proceeded to rotate four quads in the free skate (clean lutz, one clean toe, a toe with a hand down, and a fall on the sal). Kavaguti/Smirnov had a quad sal and a quad loop, Sui/Han had a quad twist, and Xiaoyu Yu/Yang Jin attempted a quad sal as well.
And you certainly can't talk about difficulty without referencing Asada's picture-perfect triple axel. It was one of the most flawless and effortless triple axels we've ever seen.
Former World champs regaining their place?
I don't cover ice dance too much, but when anomalies arise, my eyes are definitely drawn to them. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte's win over Madison Chock/Evan Bates in the short dance was unexpected but definitely explainable. Chock/Bates had higher components, as expected, but got low levels on a few of their elements, which was the difference between first and second.
But the surprise was Cappellini/Lanotte's win in the free dance - with both higher technical AND higher component marks. It will be interesting to see what Chock/Bates' trajectory this season is going forward - if they have another lukewarm reception to this free dance at the next GP, we might just see a new FD for Nationals.