Sui and Han soar to Grand Prix glory


Sui Wenjing and Han Cong perform their free skate during the pairs competition at the International Skating Union Grand Prix Skate Canada International in Vancouver on Saturday. [Photo/AFP]

VANCOUVER, Canada - Two-time world champion pair Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China claimed a stunning 31-point victory at the ISU Skate Canada Grand Prix International on Saturday.

Russians Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin won the silver medal while Ashley Cain and Timothy Leduc of the United States moved up from sixth to bronze.

Skating to the bridge over Simon & Garfunkel’s murky water, Sui and Han scored 145.11 points for their free skate after landing a triple twist, triple toe-double toe-double toe, big throw triple flip and Salchow, while their only problem arose when Sui ran into the triple Salchow.

The 2018 Olympic silver medalists totaled 224.05 points for the title, well ahead of Pavliuchenko and Khodykin (193.08), second, with Cain and LeDuc third (189.90).

“Our performance was not bad. We missed a few hiccups, and we missed a level on a lift and a spin. We can improve and we will try to fix everything,” said Sui. “It’s our first win at Skate Canada so it’s really exciting.

In their three previous appearances at the Canadian event, Sui and Han have been finalists every time.

Nathan Chen ran away with the men’s event in blunt response to his below-par performance a week ago at the American stage of the series.

Third last week in Las Vegas after winning 14 straight events since March 2018, the 22-year-old American star finished with 307.18 points ahead of a small crowd at the University of British Columbia’s Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Center.

Chen’s trainer Rafael Arutunian was forced to watch from the crowd after his accreditation was withdrawn due to an inadvertent violation of the event’s COVID-19 protocols on Friday. Chen said the incident did not affect his performance.

“I was still able to concentrate on my skate,” said Chen. “He taught us to be very self-reliant. Really nothing has changed in that regard. What happened was appropriate. It is reasonable to adhere to the bubble protocol. Protecting us all is the goal of this bubble.”

The three-time world champion also who won the Grand Prix final in Vancouver in 2019.

His fellow American Jason Brown finished second (259.55), followed by Russian Evgeni Semenenko (256.01).

15-year-old Kamila Valieva later led a Russian sweep of the top three spots in the women’s free skate. Valieva scored 265.08 points, followed by 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (232.88) and Alena Kostornaia (214.54).

In ice dance, Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier won in 210.97. They also won the 2019 event in Kelowna.

Italians Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri finished second (200.05), followed by Spaniards Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz (192.93).

The next figure skating Grand Prix will take place in Turin, Italy from November 5-7.


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