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2014 U.S. National Championships

Vivian Le Wins Gold in Novice Ladies

by Doris Spicer Pulaski

(6 January 2014)  Vivian Le won the 2014 U.S. Nationals Novice Ladies Championship by 12.40 points, after the scores of her third place finish in the Short Program (44.18 points), and her first place scores from the Free Skate (93.88 points) were added together to total 138.06 points. Le's forte is very competent, focused skating. The 2014 Midwestern Sectional gold medalist made no major errors in her program to "Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven. Le, whose hometown is Plano, TX, began her routine with a huge, high triple Lutz-double toe loop combination and immediately followed it with a solo triple Lutz of equally high quality. All her spins and her step sequence received level 4.

The thirteen-year-old, who is trained by the husband and wife team of Aleksey Letov and Olga Ganicheva, is credited by them with being a hard worker. As Ganicheva, who is also Le's choreographer declared, "She works, she works, and she works. And always with a positive attitude and good sportsmanship."

The silver medalist, Paige Rydberg, performed to “I'm a Doun for Lack O'Johnnie," from Vanessa Mae's Classical Album, by various artists. Rydberg, who won the Short Program, slipped to third place in the Free Skate with a score of 80.50 points and 125.66 points overall.

A tidy skater, with nice air positions, Rydberg performed all her elements for positive grades of execution, but because she only attempts two different types of triples, the Salchow and the toe loop, her base value is lower than several of the other competitors. The student of Coach Mary Antensteiner does have some technical issues as well. She tends to break at the waist on the landing of her double Axels, her triple toe loop-double toe loop combination had a bit of a two-footed landing, and although her spins had generally nice centering and speed, her final layback spin only earned level 1, and her flying sit spin only earned level 2.

The Plainfield, Illinois, fourteen-year-old, who loves the TV reality series, "Dance Moms," really works at executing her choreography by Scott Brown and Mary Beth Marley, and playing to the audience. She also tries to keep a positive attitude. Her signature quote on her website proclaims, "I may not be there yet, but I'm closer than I was yesterday." Rydberg plans to compete in the Junior division next season.

Boston Skating Club member, Rebecca Peng, finished second in both phases of the 2014 U.S. National Novice Ladies Championship, but her total score of 125.04 placed her behind Paige Rydberg in third place. Peng wore a pale, pastel lavender costume to skate to "Ladies in Lavender" by Nigel Hess, with choreography by Jamie Isley. The bronze medalist, who is a resident of Glastonbury, CT, earned 80.80 points in the Free Skate. Peng, who is coached by Peter Johannson and Mark Mitchell, had quite a bit of difficulty with her spins, often having to re-center, and lost control of her rotation, most noticeably during change-of-edge spins. All three of her spins earned some negative grades of execution, and her layback spin only received a level 1. Peng's jumps are in much better shape than her spins. The fourteen-year-old executed a nice triple loop-double toe loop combination, a solo triple Lutz, and a particularly well-done solo triple loop. She also attempted a triple flip-double toe loop combination, but under-rotated the triple flip which forced her to have a wide swinging free leg on the second jump.

Carly Berrios, age 16, finished in fourth place in the Free Skate with 79.46 points, and fourth place overall with 122.49 points. Berrios had placed first at the 2014 Eastern Sectional Novice Ladies Championship with the highest score of any of the sectionals champions. Her planned routine was the most demanding attempted at the 2014 U.S. National Novice Ladies Championship. The Simpsonville, SC, resident who trains in Ashburn, VA, under Coach Rashid Kadyrkaev, powered her way through a program choreographed by Audrey Weisiger and Marianna Rozanova to “Bohemian Rhapsody," performed by Maksim Mrvica. However, Berrios was unable to complete all of her difficult elements perfectly. She fell on her triple flip, and again on her solo triple loop from an Ina Bauer.

Fourteen-year-old Elise Romola, Washington FSC, earned the fifth place in the Free Skate with a score of 73.13 points, and the fifth spot overall with a total score of 111.92. Romola and her choreographer, Nataliya Tymoshenko, chose "Firebird" by Igor Stravinsky for her routine. The student of Andrey Kryukov made many small errors in her performance, which added up to low grades of execution. Romola landed two-footed on her triple loop. She then attempted a triple Salchow combination, but stumbled on the landing of the Salchow so that she was unable to add the double loop she had planned. Finally, she stepped out of the landing of the second jump in her double Axel-double toe loop combination. Her last spin, a camel combination spin, earned level 4, but completely slowed to a halt.

Hina Ueno of Salt Lake Figure Skating finished sixth overall with a sixth place Free Skate score of 72.86, and a total score of 111.27 points. The teenager, who moved with her parents to Orem, Utah from Japan nine years ago, presented an energetic performance to George Gershwin's "Overture" from Crazy for You. Ueno, who is trained by Stewart Sturgeon, attempted four triple jumps in her routine. Her triple Salchow-triple toe loop combination had very nice spring, but she stepped out of her solo triple toe loop. Ueno displayed significant difficulties with keeping her spins centered and rotating smoothly, which cost her GOE for those elements.

Cheyenne Taylor, a powerful skater who is coached by Frank Carroll, earned the seventh place position with an eighth place in the Free Skate for 65.62 points and a total score of 105.79 points. She opened her routine to "Tango de Roxanne" from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, with a promising double Axel-loop-triple Salchow combination, but fell on her triple flip attempt. Taylor seemed to give up on her performance at about the half-way point, and turned all her planned triple jumps to doubles and her planned double jumps to singles.

The eighth place competitor, Riley Shinn, who won the 2014 Midwestern Sectionals pewter medal, presented a balletic program to "Danse Macabre" by Saint-Saens. Her Free Skate score was 67.44 points and her total score was 98.31 points. Shinn does not yet include any triple jumps in her program. Her lower base value, rather than mistakes, accounted for her relatively low score. The Dallas FSC skater did her best to maximize her points by including extra transitions.

Runa Maeda, of the All Year FSC, who had been 9th in the Short Program, withdrew from the event before the Free Skate.