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2005 Junior Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada

Free Skating

by Lynn Rutherford


Ladies Free Program

The ladies’ event at Montreal’s JGP, held at the city’s Maurice Richard Arena, turned into a two-skater race, with Akiko Kitamura of Japan edging out American Megan Oster by 3.50 points despite placing second in the free program.

The 85.72 points Kitamura earned in the free skate (TES 42.08 + PCS 43.64) was more than 14 points more than the next-highest score, and her gold medal winning 132.06 points was nearly 16 points higher than bronze medallist Laura Dutertre’s total.

Skating to the lyrical "Eaux (Waters)," with intricate choreography courtesy of Tom Dickson, the 16 year-old Kitamura (she will turn 17 on October 23rd) opened with an intended triple Lutz, double toe loop combination that was downgraded to a double Lutz, double toe by caller Todd Sand. She followed up with a solid triple flip; a triple toe, double toe, double loop combination; and, after some interesting transitional moves, a triple Salchow.

Kitamura made a costly miscue on her second triple flip, failing to add a second jump to make the element a combination. Hence, she received no credit for it. After singling her intended second triple Lutz, she closed the program with a fast, well-centered combination spin, with five crisp changes of position as well as a change of edge.

"It was not her best performance because the (second triple flip) was supposed to be done in combination. She always tries to do better, because there are so many good skaters in Japan and she wants to continue to get international assignments," said Kitamura’s coach, Mie Hamada.

Hamada said that Dickson visited her rink in Kyoto this summer to choreograph for several of her students.

"The ("Eaux") was his idea; Akiko is representing falling water, still water, all kinds of water. Tom came to us with this music," she explained.

Hamada, who coaches seven international skaters including Kitamura, Chae-Hwa Kim (who placed fourth at this event) and 2005 Four Continents champion Yukino Oto, is searching for a new training home now that the rink in Kyoto has closed. She anticipates that finding a permanent site will be difficult, and says that her school may move to temporary digs in the interim.

Kitamura placed sixth at the JGP Final last season in Helsinki and hopes to medal at this year’s JGP Final. Her next competition is the JGP Gdansk in Poland. Currently the fourth-ranked junior lady in Japan, she plans to compete at her country’s Junior Nationals again this season, because the competition in the senior division is so fierce.

Oster, the U.S. junior bronze medallist who was third in the short, performed her free program to music from the "Untouchables" soundtrack, choreographed by Oleg Epstein. The 16 year-old Chicago native nailed her opening triple flip, and then popped an intended triple loop into a single before executing a fine triple Lutz. Her flying sit spin, which ended in an attractive low position, earned a Level 3, and she followed it with a double Axel, triple Salchow and a rare Level 4 layback spin that morphed into a Beillmann position.

The youngster maintained her energy throughout the final third of her program, doing a difficult (Level 3) spiral sequence (including the Beillmann position, of course) and a triple toe loop, double toe, double loop combination before falling on her second triple Salchow. She won the free program with 86.71 points (TES 44.26 + PCS 43.45) and placed second overall with a total score of 129.36.

"I’m really excited; I think I skated pretty well. I felt a lot more relaxed than I did before the short program. I was glad to get the first part of the competition over with so I could go out and try even harder in the free. I’ve been working really hard at home and that is paying off," said Oster.

"She has had the Lutz for about two years; now, it’s time for her to nail the triple loop," added Oster’s coach, Tracy Poletis, who trains the skater at the University of Delaware in Newark.

Oster’s next competition will be the JCP Okaya City in Japan. Poletis said that, since Oster medalled at the 2005 U.S. juniors, she will compete in the senior ladies’ division at U.S. Nationals this coming year.

Laura Dutertre of France, who will be 17 on October 13th, performed her free to music from Yanni. The reigning French national bronze medallist, who trains in Annecy under Didier and Claudie Lucine, opened strongly with a fine flying sit spin; a triple Salchow; a triple toe loop (pitched forward); a double Axel, double flip jump sequence; and a difficult layback spin with the Beillmann variation. She picked up some bonus points by doing several simpler jump elements in the second half of her program, and ended her routine with a well-done Level 4 combination spin.

Dutertre, who was third in the short, placed fourth in the free skate with 70.73 points (TES 35.81 + PCS 34.92) but gained the bronze medal with a total score of 113.75.

"I am surprised because I did a program that was less difficult than what some of the other girls did. Since I was very little I have dreamed of going to the Olympics, so now I am preparing for the 2010 Games. It will be too hard to try for 2006," said Dutertre through an interpreter.

Dutertre, who trains in Annecy with Didier and Claudie Lucine, said she skates three times a day: before school at 7 a.m., at 12 pm to 2 pm, and after school.

Another Hamada student, 17 year-old Korean Chae-Hwa Kim, skated her free to "Danse Macabre," choreographed by Hamada and Dickson. She opened with two strong combinations, a triple toe loop, double toe, and a triple Salchow, double toe, followed by a double Lutz and a double Axel. Her flying sit spin earned a Level 3, as did her spiral sequence, but she fell on a double loop and popped an intended second triple Salchow into a single. She placed third in the free skate with 71.62 points (TES 32.80 + PCS 39.82) and ended the competition in fourth place with a total score of 112.98.

"Kim was born in Osaka, but both her parents are Korean, so she is a Korean national," explained Hamada, who added that all of the skaters in her school were "very good friends – they are all very disciplined and work hard to succeed."

Kathryn Kang overcame two falls, on an intended triple Lutz and triple toe loop, to take fifth place in the free (67.48 points) and fifth place overall, with a total score of 105.43. The elegant 15 year-old, who is coached by Jill Marie Harvey and Joanne McLeod at the BC Centre of Excellence in Burnaby, B.C., skates very much in the manner of Michelle Kwan’s (now retired) older sister, Karen Kwan, with lyrical movements, exquisite toe point and graceful arms.

Cindy Carquillat, a 19 year-old Swiss, performed to a Tango medley and placed sixth in the free (TES 28.54 + PCS 35.25 = 63.79 points) and sixth overall (104.81) points. Although she was unable to land a triple jump, her well executed step sequences and relatively strong program component scores kept her in the top ten.

Germany’s Denise Zimmerman, a 17 year-old from Mannheim who placed 17th at the 2004 World juniors and fourth at her most recent senior nationals, skated her free to the soundtrack of "Das Wunder von Berr." The teenager’s choreography suffered from her unfortunate habit of repeating jumps she had just missed; hence, she stroked around the ice from jump to jump with little going on in between. She was tenth in free (TES 25.73 + PCS 32.80 = 58.53) and seventh overall with a total score of 96.41.

Ekaterina Lobanova, a 14 year-old from Moscow who is coached by Viktor Kudryavtsev, interpreted "Malaguena." She opened with a fine double Axel and weak triple Lutz before taking a terrible fall on an attempted triple loop, landing flat on her stomach. She recovered to land a triple toe loop, double toe combination, but fell again on a triple Salchow and skated over to the referee to stop her music. After about a minute, she restarted her program. (Fortunately, she did not appear to be injured.) Lobanova ended the free in eighth place (61.40 points), and also finished eighth overall with a total score of 95.26 points.

While she did not land a clean triple jump, 17 year-old Canadian Erin Scherrer skated with balletic grace and nailed two double Axels, the second in combination with a double toe. She placed seventh in the free program with 63.58 points and ninth overall with a total score of 93.68.

Hamada’s third pupil in the event, Satsuki Muramato, had several intended triple jumps downgraded by caller Sand, receiving credit for just one, a toe loop. She ended up ninth in the free (60.15 points) and tenth overall, with a total of 92 points.

Cecilia Gauvin, an 18 year-old from Quebec City, covered the ice well during her "Swan Lake" free and showed a fine layback spin. Her jumps, however, failed her, and she placed 12th in the segment (53.96 points) and 11th overall with 89.29 points.

Italian Nicole Della Monica, a 16 year-old who skated to Rodriquez’ "Conquistador," showed nice stroking but has an unfortunate tendency to rush her jumps. This caused her to fall three times, and she placed 15th in the free skate and 12th overall with 88.50 points.

Australian Laura Downing, who entered the free skate in 13th place, maintained her position with her free skate to music from the soundtrack of "Interview with the Vampire." Clad in a black pants’ unitard, the Australian junior silver medallist nailed a triple toe loop, double toe combination and a double flip, double toe combo, as well as a fine spiral sequence that was graded Level 3. On the debit side, she fell on both a double toe and double Salchow. The Perth native earned a total score of 86.98.

After taking 10th place in the short, lovely Charissa Tansomboon, an 16 year-old from Thailand, appeared nervous and tentative in the free, falling three times and placing 17th. This disappointment dropped her to 14th place overall with a total score of 82.52.

Reigning U.S. junior champ Sandy Rucker improved upon her 18th place in the short by surviving three hard falls and finishing 13th in free program. Rucker, who is coached by Tom Zakrajsek in Colorado Springs, opened with a strong triple loop, fell on an intended triple Lutz, then landed a triple flip before taking two more tumbles on a double Salchow and a double Axel. She ended the competition in 15th place with 81.81 total points.

Matia Segovia, a 15 year-old who was third at the 2005 Mexican juniors, opened her program with a double Lutz, double toe loop, double loop combination and showed nice extension in her spirals. She ended up in 14th place in the free skate and 16th overall with a total score of 81.49 points.

Jocelyn Ho, an 18 year-old from Chinese Taipei, opened her free skate with a fine double Axel, double flip sequence and showed a lovely spiral sequence, but fell on a double Salchow and had several other intended triples downgraded to doubles. She placed 16th in the free skate and 17th overall with 80.71 points.

Jacqueline Voll of the Netherlands, who will be 18 on October 18th, finished 19th in the free and 18th overall with 74.04 points. Valeria Leoni, a 17 year-old from Italy who was fourth at the 2003 Italian juniors, skated her free to Safri Duo’s "Played-A-Live" and placed 20th in the segment and 19th overall with 69.71 points. Soo Bin Park of Korea was 20th in the free and 20th overall, with 62.86 points, and Olga Khromaia, a 13 year-old from Ukraine who was third at her 2005 junior nationals, was 19th in the free skate and 21st overall with 62.17 points.

Sonja Mugosa, a 15 year-old from Serbia and Montenegro who was third at her nationals, skated her free to "Tabakera." Her right thigh was heavily taped, but she managed to land a double Lutz before falling on both a double flip and a double loop. She finished 22nd in the free and 22nd overall with 53.37 points.

Aadnya Borkar, who lives in Oman in the United Arab Emirates but represents India, inspired mixed reactions from observers in Montreal. Some, including Osborne Colson, the highly respected veteran coach of many Canadian champions, thought it lovely that Indian skaters were participating in ISU events. Others argued that entrants should be required to be able to execute crossovers prior to hitting the JGP circuit. Borkar finished 23rd with 28.77 total points.

Men’s Free Program

After a less-than-stellar short program competition, the men redeemed themselves with a fine free skating event at the JGP Montreal, held at the city’s Maurice Richard Arena.

The sparse crowd, comprised mostly of friends, family and Skate Canada officials, went home happy when 14 year-old Canadian junior champion Patrick Chan captured the title with a superb effort to "Guitar Concerto" and "Violin Romance."

"I knew I could do better than I did in Bratislava; I knew I could prepare (for competition) better, and I did. For my second-ever JGP, I’m very happy with my programs here," said the 14 year-old Chan, who was fourth at the JGP event in Bratislava, Slovakia earlier this season and seventh at the 2005 World juniors.

Skating with newfound maturity and power, the Ottawa native opened his free with some fine choreography showing superior edges, followed by a strong triple Salchow. His flying sit spin was done in good position, gaining a Level 3 from the caller, Ravi Walia. His triple loop had great ice coverage and was followed by an elegant circular step sequence and fine triple Lutz, double toe loop combination.

Chan two-footed the landing on a double Axel, but executed a strong triple flip, triple toe loop combination in the second half of his program, gaining a 10% bonus and earning 10.75 element points. His only noticeable flaw was a poorly landed triple Lutz, but he ended his program with a fine Level 3 combination spin including a change of edge.

The young Canadian was first in the free with 115.01 points (TES 58.63 + PCS 56.38) and first overall with 167.83 points. He had been second in the short.

"I used to be scared of skating too fast, but now I know that pushing is good. Just give it 100% and you’ll get good results. You don’t have to be (physically) big, you just have to learn to use what you have," said Chan, who has grown several inches since last year and now stands 5’7".

The skater is continually inspired by his 89 year-old coach and choreographer, Osborne Colson, a venerable figure in Canadian skating whose career dates back to the 1940’s.

"He’s a great coach; he’s unique, and I don’t think there will be another like him. In Bratislava, I missed so much by not having him with me. I called him before the competition just to have a word. Talking to him makes me so comfortable and happy. Today, I spoke with him in the change room right before I took the ice," said Chan.

"He’s sensible, which is amazing for his age. He listens to me, and so do his mom and dad. They’re all wonderful and we make a good team," said Colson, dapper as always in gray flannels, a navy blazer and jaunty white cap.

Is Chan already thinking about the Vancouver Olympics in 2010?

"No one has ever said to me, "You’re a good bet for the next Olympic team," but maybe they will some day. Life is so unpredictable and those Olympics are five years away; anything can change. Of course, I would love to go."

Takahiko Kozuka of Japan, who sat third after the short, skated his free program to Gershwin piano selections, choreographed by 1994 World champion Yuka Sato. Attacking his elements with gusto and speed, Kozuka fell out of an opening triple Axel but came back strongly with a triple Lutz, a triple loop and a triple Salchow, showing lovely inside and outside spread eagles between his jumps as well as a "hydro-blading" move.

The second half of the program featured a Level 3 flying sit spin, followed by a double Axel, triple toe loop combination; a triple Lutz, double toe combo; a triple flip; and a double Axel, double toe. Since all four of these jump elements were in the final half, they earned valuable bonus points. Kozuka completed his program with a well-done circular step sequence and excellent combination spin, including the "pancake" position. His second-place free program earned 113.67 points (TES 61.49 + PCS 53.18) and put him second overall with total score of 165.77, just over two points behind Chan.

Nobuo Sato, Yuka’s father, coaches Kozuka, who won the short program competition at last year’s Japanese nationals.

"It was not my best-ever free program, but I am happy. My score was higher at the Japanese Nationals last year, " said Kozuka, who added that his biggest goal now is to gain a consistent triple Axel.

"I don’t know what our next event will be. It could be the (upcoming) Junior Grand Prix in Osaka City, but that is for the Japanese Federation to decide," explained Sato, who said that Kozuka would compete at both the junior and senior men’s events at Japanese Nationals this winter. (They are held at different times.)

The leader after the short program, U.S. junior silver medallist Craig Ratterree, had trouble from the start of his free program, popping an intended triple Axel into a single. He later omitted a combination spin and fell on a second triple Axel and a triple Salchow.

Despite his difficulties, Ratterree landed four clean triples, including a triple flip, double toe loop combination, and placed fifth in the free skate (91.79 TES + PCS 51.94) and third overall with 146.30 points.

"I’m happy to be on the podium, but at the very beginning of my program I turned the wrong way. Instead of going north, I went south, and I lost my sense of direction. I felt disoriented on the Axel and did the wrong spin; it was supposed to be a back camel/back sit spin, but I was so stunned that I don’t even remember what I did," said the 18 year-old Ratterree, who trains with Sergey Korovin in Alexandria, VA, where he shares the ice with three-time U.S. champion Michael Weiss. This was his first-ever event on the JGP circuit.

"All my regular triples were there, but I really wanted to get that Axel," added Ratterree, whose top-four finish here ensures a second JGP assignment later this fall.

Skating to selections from Bach with choreography by Nikolai Morozov, current U.S. novice champion Austin Kanallakan, in fifth place after the short, opened his program with a triple flip, triple toe loop combination, followed by a triple Lutz, double toe and a triple loop with a step out on the landing. After some creative footwork, including a flying leap, he fell out of a triple Lutz but executed three more jumps – a triple toe loop, triple Salchow, and (two-footed) double Axel – in the final half of his program, earning bonus points.

Kannallakan’s free skate was judged the third-best of the evening (TES 96.63 + PCS 48.50 = 96.63 points) and he ended the competition in fourth place with a total score of 145.18.

"That was my best performance in competition all year. It wasn’t my best of all time, but it was good," said a delighted Kanallakan, who added that his top goal this season is to land a triple Axel.

"Actually, a more near-term goal is to add a second triple-triple combination, probably a triple Lutz, triple toe. We would like to have it by our next JGP event," said Kanallakan’s coach, Tom Zakrajsek, who trains the 14 year-old California native in Colorado Springs.

"Austin did a great job tonight. He did a triple-triple for the first time in a major competition, which is a big achievement. He’s still young and this is a really good first JGP for him. Now, he understands a bit more what it will take to become a top junior man," added Zakrajsek.

Joey Russell, the fourth-ranking Canadian junior man who sat sixth after the short, had an impressive free skate to music from "Carmen," opening with a fine inside spread eagle to a triple Salchow, double toe loop combination, followed by a double Axel and a well-done triple flip, double toe, double loop combo. His excellent sit spin change sit spin, with a change of edge and superb low, twisted position, earned a Level 4 from the caller. The middle section of his program tailed off somewhat, as he under-rotated an intended triple loop and fell on a planned triple Lutz.

Russell ended strongly with a triple toe, double toe combination, as well as a triple Salchow, and gamely struggled to land another triple loop. He earned 93.82 points for his free skate and finished in fifth place with 137.18 points overall.

Fourth after the short, three-time French novice champ Kim Lucine, who is coached by parents Didier and Candice Lucine in Annecy, skated his free to music from "Pirates of the Carribbean" clad in a black outfit with brief cap sleeves, a red waist sash and silver "skull and bones" insignia on his back. The 17 year-old was a bit sloppy with his spins and footwork, put his hands down on several jumps, and fell on a triple toe loop late in the program, but had a nice spread eagle into a solid triple Lutz. He placed seventh in the free (84.06 points) and sixth overall with a total score of 134.78.

Seventh after the short, 14 year-old Daniil Gleichengauz of Russia, who is coached by Viktor Kudryavtsev in Moscow, showed good promise in his free skate to a hodge podge of Broadway tunes and dance rhythms. A solid spinner with a good sense of music, he will hopefully receive more sophisticated choreography in the future. He opened his program with a double Axel, followed by a triple Lutz and a triple loop, triple Salchow sequence before falling on a triple flip and stepping out of a triple loop. He ended up in seventh place with 134.42 points.

Phillipp Tischendorf, a 17 year-old from Berlin, moved up two places to eighth overall with a free skate to flamenco music, choreographed by Diana Goolsbey. Like Gleichengauz, he is developing a fine style and executes his elements in time with the music. Although he opened the season with a bronze at JGP Slovakia, he missed too many jumps to be a factor in this competition, and finished in ninth place with 122.79 points.

Yukihiro Yoshida of Japan, who was ninth in the short, had a fast-paced routine to a selection of Big Band standards including "Tuxedo Junction" and "Moonlight Serenade," but he appears to rush his elements, leading to many mistakes. Here, he fell on both his triple Lutz and triple loop, but had a wonderfully high and powerful flying sit spin, blazingly fast footwork and a fine closing combination spin. Yoshida placed ninth in the free with 78.96 points and ninth overall with a total score of 120.46.

Sitting eighth after the short, 18 year-old Jamie Forsythe had a free program he’d probably like to forget. Skating to dreary music that sounded like a tortured poet’s funeral dirge, the talented skater appeared more concerned about enacting his internal character’s angst than he did about landing his jumps. He fell on two triple loops and downgraded the remainder of his triples to doubles. It all added up to a 13th (last) place finish in the free (69.89 points) and 10th place overall with 112.10 points.

Parisian Jeremy Prevoteaux, who placed 10th at last year’s French Nationals, entered the free in 11th place. An interesting skater with excellent flexibility and good musical sense, he interspersed lovely spread eagles throughout his program, and dropped to an almost full split position on the ice ala former French champion Vanessa Guzmeroli. He needs more speed and greater jump consistency to become a competitive threat. Prevoteaux, who is coached by Annick Dumont (formerly Gailhaguet), placed 11th in the free with 73.03 points and 11th overall with 109.90 points.

Reigning Mexican champion Miguel Angel Moyron, who was 13th in the short, had a personal triumph to his free skate to music from "The Prince of Egypt," landing four triple jumps and gaining 74.81 points to take 10th place. He was 12th overall with 109.14 points.

Marco Fabbri, a 17 year-old from Milan coached by Lucia Civardi, placed 12th in the short. The three-time Italian junior champion skated his free to music from the soundtracks of "Dracula" and "Interview with the Vampire," falling on both a double flip and a triple Salchow. He placed 12th in the free skate (72.62 points) and 13th overall with a total score of 107.89.

Pairs’ Free Program

Her teams finished one-two in the pairs’ event at Montreal’s Maurice Richard Arena, but coach Nina Mozer, who trains her athletes at Moscow’s CSKA Club, isn’t entirely satisfied.

"I am actually 50-50 on my couple’s performances here. I’m happy they won, but when they do (clean) side-by-side triples and throw triples, they will be a lot better. I am going to add difficulty to their programs, and they are going to have to work harder," said Mozer through an interpreter.

In the meantime, the Russians’ current bag of tricks, as well as their superior speed and good basic skating skills, carried them to victory over three Canadian and American pairs.

Skating to a Tango, Valeria Simakova & Anton Tokarev took first place with a promising -- though hardly clean – performance that earned 79.81 points (TES 40.44 + PCS 39.37). They opened with a powerful double twist, strong throw double loop, and side-by-side double flip, double toe loop sequences. Their side-by-side spins lacked unison, but their pair spin was fast and well centered. Both skaters doubled planned triple Salchows, but recovered with a Level 3 hip lift with Simakova in a split position.

The second half of their program had a throw double toe loop, an Axel lasso lift to one hand, a nice FIDS, a lasso lift with a rough dismount, and a step sequence that seemed a bit under-practiced, causing them to end several seconds after their music. (No deduction was assigned.)

"I am happy we won first place, but we will work to get better in the future. We want good results at the Russian Nationals and Junior World Championships," said the 20 year-old Tokarev. (His partner is just 14.)

"We added a spiral sequence after (judge’s feedback) at the JGP Bratislava, and it made the program too long," explained Mozer, who added, "(Simakova) is having trouble with her back, so we did not do the throw triple loop here. Their next competition, they will have the throw triple."

Their training mates Ekaterina Sheremetieva & Mikhail Kuznetsov had an uneven but promising program to music from the "Aladdin" soundtrack that earned 77.48 points (TES 39.74 + PCS 38.74), putting them second overall with 119.50 total points. The youngsters (14 and 17, respectively) opened with a high double twist, but Sheremetieva fell on the landing of their throw triple loop. Both skaters had trouble with a double loop, double flip sequence, but they recovered with a fine hip lift to one hand, with four changes of position (Level 3). Their side-by-side flying camel combination spins, too, earned a Level 3, and they gained 10% extra credit for double loops and a throw double flip executed late in the program.

"They can do better; she can definitely land (the throw triple loop). But this is their first international competition and they were very nervous," said coach Mozer.

Canadian junior champions Michele Cronin & Brian Shales redeemed themselves after a poor short program by taking second place in the free (TES 43.99 + PCS 34.73 = 78.72 points) and third place overall (118.75 points). Skating to Eric Clapton’s "Higher," the couple -- who train in Thornhill under Paul Wirtz, Kris Wirtz and Kristi Wirtz -- were the only competitors to do a triple twist and two throw triples, the loop and the Salchow. Their packed program also featured three Level 3 lifts, as well as a lovely BIDS with a drag entrance and change in pivot and hand positions that gained a Level 4 from the caller, Jamie McGrigor.

"We did really well; we didn’t put as much pressure on ourselves (as in the short program). Brian and I are performers and we’re happy with what we put out there tonight," said the 18 year-old Cronin.

The Ontario natives, whose long-term goal is to compete at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, say they have their training plan for 2006 Canadian senior nationals all mapped out.

"We’re going to do a lot of run-throughs of this free program so that we feel more comfortable. Right now, we’re still uneasy with parts of it," said the 20 year-old Shales.

The judging of the Canadians’ free program, versus the top Russians’ program, makes for an interesting study. Cronin & Shales executed more difficult elements (a triple twist and two throw triples) than Simakova & Tokarev, but they gained only 3.55 extra element points for their efforts. Case in point: their triple twist was graded a Level 1, and they had a GOE of –0.80. The total score for the twist was 3.20. On the other hand, the Russians did a double twist, but it was graded a Level 2, and gained a GOE of 0.50, for a total score of 4.00. Hence, the Russians picked up .80 points doing a simpler element, but doing it well.

On the program component scores, the Russians came out 4.64 points ahead, gaining higher scores from the judges in all five categories despite choreography that caused them to finish behind the music.

Skating to music from the "The Prince of Egypt" soundtrack, Americans Bridget Namiotka & John Coughlin opened their program with a lovely tap overhead "carry" lift, followed by side-by-side double Axels (Namiotka stepped out of her landing). Their next lift had three changes of position, gaining a Level 3 from caller McGrigor, and they followed it with a throw triple Salchow and a high triple twist.

The second half of their program featured double flips done in sequence with double toe loops, a throw double loop, and another Level 3 lift, this one with a one-arm set-down.

"We’re pretty happy with it, but we were hoping our program component scores would be higher. We need to place in the top four for (U.S. Skating) to send us to JGP Croatia. Still, this is our first international event, and we have to earn our stripes," said the 19 year-old Coughlin.

"It was good to land the throw triple loop. I also thought our scores were low, but we did skate first," added the 15 year-old Namiotka. Fortunately for Namiotka & Coughlin, they took fourth place with 117.66 points overall, and will head to Croatia.

Americans Molly Aaron & Taylor Toth finished fifth in the free with 73.75 points, and fifth overall with 115.11 points (they were third in the short). Skating with good speed to music from Russian movie soundtracks, the duo had a bit of a rough landing on their double twist, but recovered with a solid throw double loop. They had an awkward dismount on star lift and big unison problems on their side-by-side spins, when Toth finished two rotations earlier than his partner.

All in all, this may be a competition Toth will try to forget: on the way to Montreal, his bag, containing clothes and schoolbooks, was lost by the airline. Toth borrowed workout gear from Coughlin, who is several inches taller, and will have to replace his books upon his return to Scottsdale. Fortunately, his skates and costumes were in another bag that arrived safely.