As expected, current World Champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Moscow Oblast (MOB) easily won this segment of the event with 45.17 (22.00/23.17) points. The students of Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponossov have not competed at all since their triumph in Los Angeles last spring, but they looked as if they have not missed a beat. The couple was smooth and confident throughout, and gave a commanding and expressive performance.
"We were very eager to show our programs to the audience and judges," commented Domnina afterwards. "Finally we got out. We have really missed competing"
"We are lacking competitive practice a bit," added Shabalin. "We skated well, but we do have a room for improvement. All our programs are 100% ready, but the question is whenever we will be able to skate them 100%".
Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Moscow Oblast (MOB) maintained an easily lead after the Original Dance (OD), while Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer of Moscow (MOS) and Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (MOS) are nearly tied for second. In a very close fourth place, is Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko (MOB).
Domnina and Shabalin gave a solid debut of an Australian Aboriginal Dance, which profusely stood out amongst the other teams who perform Russian Folk dances. Apparently, this was exactly their intention.
"We wanted to surprise everyone by our dance," Domnina later explained. "We did not want to create another Slavic dance and have considered a lot of options, including Scottish folk. But eventually we settled on this one. I guess it really makes everyone stop and take the notice. For me it was a shock at first. I could have never imagined myself in such a style. It was a new challenge for us. I thought it was just crazy, but once we have tried it, we immediately fell in love with it."
The debut went over relatively well with both audience and the judges. The couple was entertaining and expressive and stylized all their moves well to match the character of the dance. The current World Champions received a level four for their twizzles and lifts, but their step sequence received only a level three, placing first in the Original Dance (OD) with 66.54 (30.92/35.62) points and overall (111.71 points).
Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko (MOB) maintained a very close fourth with just over two points keeping them from the podium.
Domnina and Shabalin's free dance debut did not go over as well as they had hoped. Domnina stumbled on the second twizzle, which received level two, and their combination spin was rated only a level three. In addition, the current World Champions appeared tense and tentative, which prevented them from fully committing to the performance.
On a positive side, the team has created new lifts for the dance and with more mileage, the dance has the potential to become one of the most emotional programs of the season. They placed first in the free dance with 103.06 (46.75/56.31) points and overall (214.77 points) to win the title.
"Our performance was not as good as it could have been," admitted Domnina at the press conference. "I made some little mistakes. They did not make a difference in the end, but the aftertaste is a bit heavy. But as I have said before, we are just happy to compete here and get the feedback from the judges. We know what we have to work at. We will review the performance later."
When asked to rate their own performance, Shabalin replied: "It's a bit hard to quantify such things, but as you have seen, there were some glitches in the program. I'd say it was around 70% of our potential."
His partner, however, disagreed claiming that 70% is too generous. "It was more like 60%... or, rather, on your part it was 70%, and on mine no more than 60%."