by Lynn Rutherford
Ladiesí Short Program
The twenty-three young women who took the ice at the Maurice Richard Arena arrived in Montreal with high hopes and lovely costumes, but after skating their short programs many left with bruised egos and sore body parts. With few exceptions, it was an afternoon of tumbles and tears, a competition that most of the ladies (and their coaches) would rather forget.
Skating with good speed and showing incredibly fast rotations in the air, Akiko Kitamura of Japan easily took first place with a difficult program to "Capriccio Espagnol," choreographed by Tom Dickson. She opened with the only triple Lutz of the event, then attempted a triple flip, double toe loop combination that was downgraded by caller Todd Sand to a double flip, double toe.
Kitamura followed her combination with a fast combination spin including a change of edge and five changes of position that gained a Level 4 from Sand. Her weakest element was a layback spin with poor back and leg positions, but she finished her routine with a strong double Axel. She enters the free skate with 47.14 points (TES 25.25 + PCS 21.89). (Note: a Lutz jump is required in the junior ladiesí short, and skaters may elect to do a double or triple.)
"I am very sad about my combination," said the lovely Kitamura, who will turn 17 on October 23rd.
"For her, it was not her best. She did not have enough height on her triple flip, so she had to cheat the rotations a bit," added her coach, Mie Hamada.
Kitamura, who was 14th at the 2005 World juniors and fourth at the 2005 Japanese junior nationals, placed sixth at the JGP Final last season in Helsinki. She said her biggest goal was to compete at the JGP Final again this year. More basic concerns, however, will have to be addressed first.
"Our rink in Kyoto closed last week, so when we get back to Japan, I have to find a new training site," explained Hamada, who said that unlike Japanese competitors including Miki Ando, who trains in Ohio under Carol Heiss; Yoshi Onda, who is coached by Josee Chouinard in Toronto; and Takeshi Honda, who has long trained with Doug Leigh in Barrie, Kitamura and the rest of Hamadaís students will remain in Japan, where economic pressures including high fuel and electricity costs have made maintaining year-round rinks increasingly impractical.
In a surprise, Laura Dutertre of France, who will be 17 on October 13th, sits in second place with 43.02 points (TES 24.20 + PCS 18.82). Performing her short to selections from Charlie Chaplin movies, she hit a triple Salchow, double toe loop combination and three fine spins, including a combination spin that earned a Level 4 from caller Sand.
Dutertre, who is coached by Didier and Claudie Lucine in Annecy, placed third at French nationals last year.
Skating to the Moody Bluesí "Nights in White Satin" clad in Ė what else? Ė white satin, 16 year-old American Megan Oster opened with a superb double Axel before falling on her double Lutz, landing in a split position. She recovered quickly with a good flying sit spin and strong triple toe loop, double toe loop combination.
Oster showed Beillmann positions in both her spiral step sequence and layback spin, and her circular step sequence had interesting, musical steps. All three of these elements earned Level 3ís, helping her gain third place with 42.65 points (TES 23.43 + PCS 20.22).
"Everything felt good, except of course the Lutz. I felt confident going in to it but I was kind of nervous," said Oster, the reigning U.S. junior ladiesí bronze medallist who placed fourth at last season's JGP Ukraine.
"I thought overall the program looked good. She got high program component scores, which is very encouraging," said Osterís coach, Tracy Poletis, who trains the skater at the University of Delaware. Osterís choreography is by Oleg Epstein and Susie Wynne.
Hamada also trains Chae-Hwa Kim, a 17 year-old who was born in Osaka, Japan but represents Korea. Skating to selections from Vivaldiís "Four Seasons," choreographed by Dickson, she had one of the very few clean performances of the event, hitting a triple Salchow, double toe loop combination as well as a strong flying sit spin and excellent step sequences that both gained a Level 3.
Cindy Carquillat, a 19 year-old Swiss with light, pleasant style, skated her short to a Tchaikovski violin concerto. She opened with triple Salchow, double toe loop combination and had a strong spiral step sequence and combination spin, although her layback spin was weak. Coached by Jacqueline Kiefer, Carquillat was third at the 2005 Swiss nationals and 25th at the 2005 World juniors.
Fifteen-year-old Kathryn Kang of Vancouver, the 2005 Canadian novice silver medallist, performed to a piano piece entitled "Anna Maria." The lyrical skater, who has elegant arm positions and completes her elements with nicely pointed toes, landed a triple Salchow, double toe loop combination but fell on her triple Lutz. She sits in sixth place with 37.95 points (TES 20.94 + PCS 18.01).
"Iím really happy; she hit two out of the three jumps, which is what I expected. Sheís still a work in progress. I wish she would attack her programs with more confidence, because she has nothing to worry about," said Jill Marie Harvey, who coaches Kang with Joanne McLeod at the BC Centre of Excellence in Burnaby, B.C.
Kang competed internationally earlier this year, placing sixth in the junior ladiesí event at the 2005 NACS event in Kansas City, Kan. She also won the silver medal in the novice ladiesí event at the 2005 Mladost Trophy.
Germanyís Denise Zimmerman, a 17 year-old from Mannheim who placed 17th at the 2004 World juniors, performed a clean short to snappy Dixieland jazz music, landing a triple Salchow, double toe loop combination. Her spin and step elements, however, were not graded as high as those of many of the other skaters, and she placed seventh with 37.88 points (TES 20.66 + PCS 17.22).
Coached by Peter Sczypa, Zimmerman was a controversial fourth at last yearís German nationals, where many observers thought her strong jumps should have placed her as high as second. Two judges ended up resigning in the aftermath.
Nicole Della Monica, a 16 year-old from Italy, skated her short to music from "Schindlerís List" and finished eighth with 36.58 points (TES19.25 + 18.32 PCS). She fell on an intended triple flip combination and had a weak flying sit spin, but overall showed good style and strong basic skating skills. Della Monica is coached by Angela Puelisi in Bergamo.
Cecilia Gauvin, an 18 year-old from Quebec City making her JGP debut, sits in ninth place with 35.33 points (TES 19.96 + PCS 14.71). Skating to "Carmen," she popped her double Axel into a single, but hit a fine triple Salchow, double toe loop combination and executed three variations in her layback spin.
Gauvin ranks seventh among Canadian junior ladies. She has international experience, finishing eighth in the junior ladiesí event at the 2004 North American Challenge Skate event in San Jose, California. Manon Perron and Nathalie Martin coach Gauvin out of the Club de Patinage Artistique St-Leonard.
Skating to lyrical New Age music, Charissa Tansomboon of Thailand showed the softest knees and jump landings in the event, opening with a lovely double Axel and double flip, double loop combination. She also had good extension on her spiral step sequence and a strong sideways-leaning (layback) spin, one of the finest of the afternoon. Tansomboom sits in tenth place with 33.99 points (TES 19.28 + PCS 15.37).
Ekaterina Lobanova, a 14 year-old from Moscow who is coached by Viktor Kudryavtsev, opened with a lackluster double flip, single loop combination and popped her double Lutz into a single, but earned Level 3ís for two of her step sequences as well as her layback spin. She ended the short in 11th place with 33.86 points.
Hamadaís third pupil in the event, Satsuki Murmato, hit a strong triple loop but singled the double toe loop portion of the combination. She also lost ground when she popped her double Axel into a single, and finished 12th with 31.85 points.
Laura Downing, 16 year-old from Perth who was second at 2005 Australian juniors, skated her short to music from the soundtrack of "Last Samurai." She had good stroking and fine Beillmann positions in her spiral sequence, layback spin and combination spin, but had trouble with the jump elements, falling on an intended triple toe loop combination and popping her double Axel into a single. She sits 13th with 30.73 points.
Canadaís Erin Scherrer, a 17-year-old Waterloo, Ontario native ranked eighth among Canadian senior ladies, skated with sinuous grace but missed some jumps, failing completely on an intended triple loop combination and popping her double Axel into a messy single. Her 30.10 points put her in 14th place.
Jocelyn Ho, an 18 year-old from Chinese Taipei, showed good camel and sit spin positions but botched her double Axel and fell on an intended triple Salchow combination. She placed 15th with 29.20 points.
Matia Segovia, a 15 year-old who represents Mexico, skated to selections from "Cotton Club." Segovia, her countryís junior bronze medallist, put both hands down on the ice on but hit a double flip, double toe combination and showed good extension on her spirals. She sits in 16th place with 28.53 points.
Jacqueline Voll of the Netherlands, who will be 18 on October 18th, is in 17th place with 28.44 points. Voll, whose looks and style somewhat resemble Susanna Poykio, had a good layback spin and flying sit spin, but suffered a bad fall on an intended double flip combination.
Reigning U.S. junior champ, Sandy Rucker, who is coached by Tom Zakrajsek in Colorado Springs, had a disastrous program with terrible falls on an intended triple loop combination as well as a double Lutz. Rucker, who turns 18 on October 29th, is in 18th place with 28.27 points.
Olga Khromaia, a 13 year-old from Ukraine who was third at her 2005
junior nationals, performed her short to "Dance of the Sugar Plum
Faeries," from "The Nutcracker." She fell on a triple Salchow and
struggled with the Beillmann position in her combination spin and sits in 19th
place with 24.01 points.
Valeria Leoni, a 17 year-old from Italy who was 4th at the 2003 Italian juniors, skated her short to "Bong Song" by Safri Duo. She fell out of her double Axel, placing both hands on the ice, and was unable to complete a double toe loop combination. These and other miscues placed her 20th with 23.34 points.
Soo Bin Park of Korea was 21st with 22.64 points. Sonja Mugosa, a 15 year-old from Serbia and Montenegro, skated her short to "Balkan 2000." The bronze medallist at her nationals, she placed 22nd here with 21.02 points. Pretty Aadnya Barkar, an 18 year-old from India, a still-developing skating nation, fought gamely but was unable to successfully complete an element. She ended in 23rd place with 10.04 points.
Menís Short Program
Thirteen proved an unlucky number for the junior men, who produced a rather ho-hum short program competition at Montrealís Maurice Richard Arena last evening, with few clean programs and just one triple Axel combination.
Reigning U.S. junior silver medallist Craig Ratterree, who won last year's Gardena Spring Trophy as a junior, was the best of the bunch (TES 28.45 + PCS 26.06 = 54.51 points). Performing his short to Beethovenís "Moonlight Sonata," the 18 year-old Raterree, who trains under Sergey Korovin in Alexandria, Virginia, opened with a triple Axel, double toe combination (the triple Axel landed slightly forward), followed by a strong triple Lutz. The remainder of his elements were clean and well done, although the step sequences were rather simple.
Ratterree, whose goals are to make the Junior Grand Prix Final and compete at the senior U.S. Championships this January, was delighted with his performance in his first JGP event.
"Thatís the best short Iíve had all year. Itís exciting to hit that combination in competition, because I nail it all the time in practice at home. It was all there tonight; I just had a few stumbles in the footwork," he said.
Korovin added that Ratterree is attempting more complicated choreography for the first time this year.
"Before this season, I did all of his programs myself. This year, I invited Ari Zakarian to come to the rink to do his short program, and Gennadi Sretenski to do his free program. Itís a hard year for Craig, because he is doing all of these difficult steps, but he is adjusting well," said Korovin.
One of the pre-event favorites, 2005 Canadian Junior Menís Champion Patrick Chan, skated his short to "La Repression" by Lalo Schifrin and "Feline" by E. van Dijken. The 14 year-old Chan performed with good expression and style, earning the highest program componentsí scores of the event. He opened with a Level 3 camel spin with a clean change to a forward outside edge, followed by a solid triple flip, triple toe loop combination.
The Ottawa native had an odd miscue on his triple Lutz, slipping off the outside edge and missing the jump entirely, but recovered with a fine double Axel and strong closing combination spin. His 52.82 total points (TES 26.28 + TCS 26.54) were good enough for second place.
"The Lutz was a freak accident. I had stuff in my head and rushed it," said Chan, who trains under venerable near-nonagenarian coach Osborne Colson at Torontoís prestigious Granite Club.
"Mr. Colsonís artistic choreography certainly helps; it gives me kind of a Plan B. I would not have been in second place under the old system. Under the 6.0 (system), it was mostly jump, jump, jump. Choreography didnít count as much."
Colson respectfully disagreed with his pupil.
"Patrick would have scored equally well under the old system. His combination jump was so strong, it impressed the judges," said Colson, who has coached countless Canadian champions, including 1948 Olympic champion Barbara Ann Scott.
Chan placed fourth at the Slovakia JGP earlier this season. He was seventh at the 2005 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Kitchener.
Third place went to Takahiko Kozuka of Japan (TES 27.12 + TCS 25.98 = 52.10 points), who placed fourth at 2005 Japanese juniors. Skating to the big band number "Sing, Sing, Sing," the speedy Kozuka fell on his opening triple Axel, but followed up with a triple Lutz and strong step sequence and flying sit spin with a change of edge. His double Axel was superior, and he closed his program with the finest combination spin of the evening, earning a rare Level 4 from the caller, former Canadian competitor Ravi Walia, who was assisted by former Danish menís champion Todd Sand (also known for his pairsí skating).
Three-time French novice champ Kim Lucine, who is coached by parents Didier and Candice Lucine, skated his short to Rodrigoís "Concerto de Aranjuez," placing fourth (TES 28.81 + TCS 21.91 = 50.72). The 17 year-old opened with a triple flip, triple toe loop combination and excellent flying sit spin (Level 4). He followed with a good double Axel, but the rest of his program tailed off when he two-footed his triple Lutz. He closed with a difficult combination spin (graded Level 4) that wobbled a bit but still earned 3.35 valuable points.
Skating to music from the "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" soundtrack, current U.S. novice champion Austin Kanallakan, who is coached by Tom Zakrajsek in Colorado Springs, was fifth with 48.55 points (TES 26.27 + TCS 22.28). The 14 year-old California native, who placed second at last year's Gardena Spring Trophy behind Ratterree, fell on the second jump of his triple flip, triple toe loop combination, but recovered to land his triple Lutz and double Axel.
"Iím definitely not satisfied. My spins and jump landings were off," said Kanallakan, who added that his goal is to land his triple Axel this season.
"I think Austin is still young and developing, and this is a good first JGP for him to gain experience," said Zakrajsek.
Joey Russell, the fourth-ranking Canadian junior man, skated to music from "Legs Diamond" and took sixth place (TES 20.49 + PCS 23.87 = 43.36 points). The 17 year-old, who trains under Lee Barkell at the Mariposa School of Skating in Barrie, Ontario, opened with a triple Salchow (leaning), double toe loop combination, but fell on his triple Lutz.
"This is my first JGP event, and I was as nervous as I have ever been in my life. I felt good going in but I lost it a little. I could have fought more for the jump elements," said Russell, who competed internationally earlier this season, taking home the gold medal from the 2005 NACS event in Pierrefonds, Que. He also won the gold medal in the Junior Menís event at the 2005 Mladost Trophy.
Daniil Gleichengauz of Russia, who placed ninth at the 2003 Triglav junior trophy, was seventh with 42.76 points (TES 21.29 + PCS 22.47). He opened his program with a triple Lutz, then fell on an intended triple flip combination.
Sitting eighth (42.21 points) is another Barkell student, 18 year-old Jamie Forsythe of Kingston, Ontario, who performed his short to Vivaldiís "Four Seasons" in a style and costume reminiscent of three-time World champion Evgeni Plushenko. He opened with a triple loop, double toe combination, but popped his Lutz into a single and fell, and also missed his double Axel. This is the first-ever ISU Junior Grand Prix assignment for Forsythe, who ranks eighth among Canadian junior men.
Little-known Yukihiro Yoshida of Japan skated with good style to Tango music, but doubled an intended triple "tano" Lutz and could manage only a triple toe loop, double toe combination. He is ninth with 41.50 points.
Phillipp Tischendorf, a 17 year-old from Berlin, skated his short to "Cirque de Soleil." Tischendorf earned his trip to Montreal with a surprising bronze-medal finish at JGP Slovakia, but he was unable to recapture the magic here, failing on both his triple Lutz and double Axel and ending up tenth with 39.65 points.
Coming tenth was Parisian Jeremy Prevoteaux, who placed 10th at last yearís French Nationals. Skating his short to "Otonal," Prevoteaux appeared to be inspired by two-time U.S. Johnny Weirís fluid style, and his step sequences are reminiscent of the Americanís. However, he proved unable to match Weirís jumps, falling on both his triple Lutz and his triple flip combination. He earned 36.87 points and is in 11th place.
Marco Fabbri, a 17 year-old from Milan coached by Lucia Civardi, skated his short to mambo music. The three-time Italian junior champ, who was 24th at 2005 World juniors, had significant mistakes on all three jump elements and placed 12th with 35.27 points.
Reigning Mexican champion Miguel Angel Moyron skated his short to "Concerto de Aranjuez" by Rodrigo. The Guadalajara native, who is coached by Alejandro Chavez, earned 34.33 points and sits in 13th place.
Pairsí Short Program
ust five teams Ė two from the U.S., two from Russia and one from the host country, Canada Ė took the ice at Montrealís Maurice Richard Arena for the pair competition.
The buzz about the rink was that despite a scarcity of age-eligible junior pairs, Skate Canada has elected not to nominate untested teams and novice pairs to this fallís Junior Grand Prix circuit. Hence, in a somewhat embarrassing miscue, they had just a single entrant to their own JGP event.
Skate Canada CEO Pam Coburn forthrightly admitted that this decision may have been a mistake.
"We set some performance standards for the pairs we send to the Junior Grand Prix events, and perhaps they were set too high. Itís something weíre honestly taking a look at," said Coburn.
"The pair here (Cronin & Shales) met those standards, but other pairs did not. So, some didnít file entry forms to be considered (for the JGP). We didnít want to disadvantage the pairs that didnít enter, so we didnít take any teams that did not meet the standards we set."
Coburn went on to explain that Skate Canada is holding a mini training camp for pairs next week, to be headed by Lee Barkell, where it will review pairs who wish to be considered for the JGP circuit.
"Itís our hope that this camp will show us couples who could be added to the final two JGP events this year," she said.
Meanwhile, rumors of the forthcoming demise of Russian pair skating appear to have been a bit exaggerated. With long-time rival Canada unable to field complete teams, and new pairsí powerhouse China also putting few junior couples on the scene (perhaps by choice), Russia is carrying on quite nicely, thank you.
Skating to music from "Swan Lake," Valeria Simakova & Anton Tokarev outranked the competition with a powerful performance in the classic Russian dramatic style. They opened with the finest double twist of the evening, followed by a huge throw double loop, "tano" double Lutzes, a rather simple circular step sequence, and a strong hip lift to one hand with Simakova is an unusual sideways split position. A difficult dismount helped earn the lift a Level 3 from the caller, Jamie McGrigor, who was assisted by former U.S. champion Jason Dungjen.
Their straight-line steps were again simple, but well done, and they closed the program with a lovely FIDS and attractive pair combination spin. Overall, they gained 45.88 points, with both the highest total element (24.08) and program components (21.80) scores of the event.
"He is 20; she is 14. They have only been skating together for one year. They can do the throw triple (loop), but she is having back trouble so they have not been able to practice it," said their coach, Nina Mozer, who trains the couple in Moscow.
Earlier this year, Simakova & Tokarev placed second at the JGP Skate Slovakia. They were 11th (last) at 2005 Russian Nationals. Judging by their performance in the short, they may turn into a force to be reckoned with.
Little-known Ekaterina Sheremetieva & Mikhael Kuznetsov, who like their countrymen train under Mozer, also upheld the great Russian pair tradition, with an appealing program to music from "The Mask" that earned second place (TES 23.17 + PCS 18.85 = 42.02 points). The tiny, 14 year-old Sheremetieva Ė who just reaches the 17 year-old Kuznetsovís elbow Ė skates with a bouncy style and executes her elements with authority. With greater maturity, this pair, too, could leave its mark.
The couple opened with a high, powerful double twist, followed by a huge throw triple loop that Sheremetieva landed on two feet. Kuznetsov had trouble with the flying camel portion of their combination spin, but the duo recovered with a strong lift. Their final two elements, a FIDS and pair combination spin, put them a beat or two behind the music, but they did not receive a deduction.
Americans Molly Aaron & Taylor Toth of the U.S., who placed fourth at Skate Slovakia, skated a solid program with good speed to take third place with 41.36 points (22.56 TES + 18.80 PCS). The highlights were a strong one-arm hip lift that gained a Level 3 from the caller, as well as a lovely FIDS with a "pull-through" entry. They had a bit of a rough landing on their double twist, but their throw double loop was big and clean.
"It was really good, a vast improvement over our short in Bratislava (Slovakia). The lift was nice and the death spiral was solid," said Toth, who placed fourth with Aaron at last year's U.S. novice championships.
"I think if they crank another quarter turn on the FIDS, it could go to Level 4. (It is now Level 2.) Itís an improvement over (Bratislava). Iím happy; theyíre just a few points out of first place. Under the NJS, that could mean just one double Axel," said Doug Ladret, the former Canadian pairs champion who coaches the couple at the Alltel Ice Den in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Like many of the coaches here, Ladret is not pleased with the ISUís efforts to "spread the word" about adjustments to the NJS.
"(The ISU) issued more clarifications on the judging about a week before our first JGP, but we didnít get the communication until a day or two before we left (for Bratislava). Itís a bit frustrating; we had worked to bring up the levels in the spins and step sequences, but as it turned out, that went by the wayside with the new communication," said Ladret.
"Coaches in Europe are having daily telephone conferences on the new rules. We really need better communication on this stuff (in North America)."
Tothís difficulty finding a living situation in Arizona was the topic of several articles in The Arizona Republic and the talk of internet skating news boards. But now the 17 year-old Toth and his parents, Lynn and Greg, report that he is happily boarding with a single divorcee they all describe as "Dorothy from the "Golden Girls."
"Sheís got a great, dry sense of humor, and sheís taken an interest in Taylorís skating. She sells real estate part time, so she has time to drive him to and from the rink and watch some of the practices," said Lynn, a former high school economics teacher.
"Itís so nice that itís all figured out. We get along great; we have lunch together some times," added Taylor, an honorsí student whose biggest concern now is keeping up with his schoolwork while competing abroad.
The new U.S. team of Bridget Namiotka & John Coughlin, who have been training for just over six months under Jeff DiGregorio at the University of Delaware, earned a berth at this JGP with strong performances at The Indy Challenge this August. Skating to a disco version of "Firebird," the duo had a clean, if unspectacular, program highlighted by a high double twist with Namiotkaís arms overhead and a well-executed lift with three changes of position that gained a Level 3 from the caller. They placed fourth with 41.20 points (TES 22.60 + 18.60 PCS).
"The program felt pretty good; weíre happy. The music was very loud, and Bridget had a hard time hearing me call things, especially during the spin changes, so our spins could have been better," said the 19 year-old Coughlin, who stands 6í2" in contrast to the 5í5" Namiotka, who is 15.
"We can do a throw triple loop, but itís not consistent yet, so we stuck with a double. Some of the teams here are trying throw triples, but the girls are two footing the landings. We wanted to skate as clean as possible. If we place fourth or higher, we will go to JGP Croatia. We should be able to do it, but teams from Russia and Canada are always strong," added Coughlin, who returned to the pairsí scene after skating singles in during the 2004-05 season. Namiotka formerly skated with Alex Merritt, with whom she finished fifth at the 2003 U.S. novice championship.
Reigning Canadian junior champs Michelle Cronin & Brian Shales had a somewhat disappointing performance to "Tango Jalousie," music most famously used by Olympic champions Jamie Sale & David Pelletier (TES 22.57 + 17.46 CPS = 40.03 points). Cronin, in particular, looked tentative, singling an intended double Lutz and two footing the landing of the throw triple loop.
Their finest elements were their two last: a gorgeous FIDS with a "drag" entrance, nearly three rotations and a pivot position change that gained a Level 3 from the caller; and a well-executed Level 3 pair combination spin.
The Ontario natives have had a tumultuous September, relocating to new training digs after their coaching team of Kris Wirtz, Kristi Wirtz and Paul Wirtz left the Cricket Club in Toronto to move to the suburban Thornhill rink.
"We love it at Thornhill. Change is always good; weíre using (the move) as a positive. We get great ice time, just as much as before," said the 20 year-old Shales.
"The single Lutz was stupid. I donít know what happened," added the 18 year-old Cronin.
"Theyíre coming off a great year last season and theyíre putting pressure on themselves. They have just got to go out and do it the same way they did it last year. They have all the qualities they need to be a top pair. Now itís just a matter of getting them to believe it," said Kris Wirtz, a former Canadian pair champion with his wife, Kristi.
Cronin & Shales competed at two ISU Junior Grand Prix events last year, winning the bronze medal in Long Beach, California and placing fourth in Harbin, China. They finished seventh at the 2005 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships.