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U.S. Figure Skating Classic - Day 1

Americans Dominate First Day of the United States' First Ever Senior B International

by Alexandra Stevenson

(14 September 2012)  Salt Lake City, UT

The beautiful twin rink Salt Lake City Sports Complex is a pleasantly far cry from the normally freezing, stuffy, crowded venues for minor league contests. That makes it very likely this Senior B international will return to this city next year. The pleasantly bright and airy construction and comfortable temperature control is a legacy from it being built in 2000 as a practice facility for the 2002 Olympic Games. It is next to indoor and outdoor swimming pools adjoining University property in the foothills west of the city.

The only downside is that on Saturday, the site of the Games’ Opening Ceremony, which is close by, will witness a very high profile football match between the two Utah colleges, meaning huge crowds will cause traffic chaos.

Locals are very proud of the 2002 Games, and there is considerable support for bidding for the Olympics again. The flags of the 20 countries entered for this inaugural Senior B event were hung in the competition rink, while the flags of the 30 nations entered in the 2002 Olympic figure skating events fly high in the adjoining secondary rink.

They have a large hockey program here. A promising exponent in that sport is Holly Cook Tanner’s oldest of her four children. Cook, Salt Lake’s most famous figure skater, never won the U.S. Senior title, in part because the figures section in which she excelled were eliminated for the 1991 season. However, she won bronze in the 1990 World Championships in Halifax.

Americans dominated Thursday’s competitions with U.S. skaters taking the top three slots in the opening round of the Men's event, and the top two places in the Short Dance section.

Three men made the minimum TES score for the Short Program, and four dance couples for the Short Dance.

MENS SHORT PROGRAM

1.74.69 (40.02+34.67) Skating last of the 15 competitors from 11 countries, Max Aaron, a 20-year-old American who trains with Tom Zakrajsek in Colorado Springs, gave clearly the best performance of his event. Performing in a black outfit inspired by his music from the Tron 2 movie, a routine which was choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo, he revealed, “I wanted to have flashing lights on the silver lines and circles of my costume, but I was advised that was just a bit TOO much.” The design of the outfit resembled the outfits worn by the robot computer chips in the movie.

Aaron, who is the 2011 U.S. Junior champion, was eighth in the U.S. at senior level this past January. He soared through a quad Salchow to double toe, with computer like accuracy. That was followed by a good triple Lutz. After a spin, he presented a triple Axel late in the routine and ended up with some very energetic, complicated footwork and a final spin.

Zakrajsek said, “What was really pleasing to me was that he got good levels for his spins.” No one had access to the computer details scores, but Zakrajsek explained, “I could tell the levels had to be good because the overall score was so good. And I’m very pleased with that.”

Aaron did admit he was worried during the warm-up. “The six-minute warm up was rough. I’ve been working on pulling myself together and making sure everything is in the present. That’s been a problem this year. I’m glad the program came out this way. It’s still not perfect but we still have U.S. Championships and that’s when we want to hit the jackpot.

“I have been working with a USOC sports psychologist on my focus and remaining in the present and taking one thing at a time. I get ahead of myself sometimes. I want to improve and do two clean programs in the same event.

“It’s nice to lead for a change. I haven’t done that in a while. I would like to get my first senior international medal. But if I can come out with the experience of being able to focus is the big thing for me.”

Aaron said part of his development has been due to training alongside the Canadian twice world champion Patrick Chan. “He’s really looking amazing. It’s a privilege to see how he practices.” Aaron is actually a former elite hockey player. His sisters, Molly and Madeline, also compete in figure skating in pairs. Molly and her partner finished 11th in the U.S. championships. Madeline and partner won the 2011 U.S. Novice title.

2. 69.09 (34.10+35.99 -1) Ross Miner, a 21-year-old from Boston, fell on his opening jump, a quad toe but brought off the following triple Axel, his triple Lutz was solid and his footwork good. He said, “I’m very happy that Salt Lake is hosting the Senior B. It’s in my home country. It’s a great opportunity and a very big asset to skaters from North America to be able to do an international event on their home continent and not cost the Association a huge lot of money to send us all the way to Europe.”  Miner is a former U.S. Junior champion, who has won the bronze medal in the U.S. championship for the past two seasons.

Miner revealed that he believed, “It was a good debut to really show this program at an international event. There are obviously a lot of improvements to make. I had a really bad fall in warm up on the (triple) Salchow. I was happy for the break between the warm up and my skate. I got a chance to refocus and get my head together.

“This competition is great. I have a lot of friends from Boston here doing the junior event. If I was a junior, I would love to get a chance to watch the seniors. I think it’s great we’re having a Senior B in the U.S. because we’ve wanted one for so long. They are doing a great job running it. It’s a beautiful facility and I love Salt Lake. The weather is going to be sunny for the next seven days so I’m not complaining.”

3. 68.95 (37.54 + 32.41 -1) Skating eighth, Armin Mahbanoozadeh, USA, was attired all in black. He brought off a superb quad toe but fell on his next element, a triple Axel. He looked as if the jump was OK, but then once he landed, the weight wasn’t in the right place. His spins appeared very good and his footwork was quite hard.  

He said, “I’m feeling good, happy that I stood up on a nice quad. That will be my goal for the first couple of events. From here, I just have to keep working to improve my scores. Overall, I’m happy. For the rest of the season, I want to continue on the path that I’m on. I want my jumps to be more consistent and I want to have two quads in the long by the U.S. Championships.” 

4. 67.13 (35.13+32.00) Shu Ting Ronald Lam from Hong Kong, in black, had an initial problem with his music, but survived the delay.  His arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue seemed a little strange but he put his routine out there including a triple Axel, although he touched down with his hand on the landing. He formerly competed for Canada, representing that country in the 2010 world junior championship. Hong Kong has never had a competitor of his level.

He said, ““It felt great out there. That Axel, I would have kept my hand out and executed a little better, but everything else was very good for me. The competition is really, really good. A lot of the top skaters from around here are competing and it’s great.”

5. 63.68 (32.60+32.08 -1) Timothy Dolenski from Kennesaw, Georgia, is fresh up from Juniors. He won silver in the U.S. Junior championships last January. Skating fourth, attired in black, his triple Axel got huge cheers from few spectators. He managed his combination but fell on his triple Lutz which was executed with his arm over his head.

Dolenski said, “I feel pretty good, actually. I wanted to come here and show everyone that I’ve made the transition to senior successfully. I landed my triple Axel. I think that’s a good start. I’m going to keep working hard and start getting ready for the qualifying season. I’m going to work on some quads and up the quality of everything in my programs.”

6. 60.31 (31.40+29.91 -1) Jeremy Tan, Canada, skating in black with a red right shoulder and sleeve, had a bad fall onto his hip from his opening element, a triple Axel, and had to do a double three between the triple Lutz and his triple toe in the combination. His other triple was a loop out of steps.

7. 60.13 (32.63+28.50 -1) Paul Bonifacio Parkingson, Italy, in black and silver, skated to poignant violin music. He executed a triple Axel which had little distance and he was forced to execute a scratchy loop on the ice to hold the landing. He brought off his triple Lutz to triple toe loop but fell on his triple flip. 

8. 58.58 (24.83 + 33.75) Liam Firus, Canada, was first on in the second warm-up. He opened his enjoyable presentation with a high triple Axel but couldn’t hold the landing and had to step out. He followed that with a triple Lutz to triple toe. However, he slipped on the approach to his triple flip and only managed a single.

Completing the field, results were as follows:

9. 57.88 (29.54 + 28.34) Christopher Caluzi, Philippines.

10. 55.56 (29.56+26.00) Luiz Manella, Brazil.

11. 51.47 (24.97+26.59) Patrick Myzyk, Poland. 

12. 48.58 (21.13+28.24 -1) Christopher Berneck, Germany.

13. 48.37 (21.13+28.24 -1) Oleksii Bychenko, Israel.

14. 44.93 (20.42+25.51 -1) Jono Partridge, Great Britain.

15. 40.36 (19.02+23.34 -2) Mark Webster, Australia.

Luis Hernadez, Mexico, withdrew.

SHORT DANCE  

1.62.89 (32.33+30.56) Madison Chock and Evan Bates, USA, skated second in the field of nine couples from six countries. They established a significant lead of 6.40 points over the second placed couple. He was in a black tux with gold trimming. She wore a complicated backless outfit with a light blue skirt and a neck ruffle. They performed to Quidam.

Both were very pleased with their performance. She said, “We really feel we’ve made lots of progress. I love being at the Novi rink so close to home.” Their coach, Igor Shpilband, moved from Canton to this Michigan rink after his shocking split with Marina Zueva. The two had worked together very productively for many years.

Bates agreed, “We’re really happy. The Cirque du Soleil music is very quirky, kind of weird and eerie. It’s unusual and we find it really fun. We’ve worked a lot on the Polka and it felt great doing it today.”

Their routine has a story. She's trying to walk on the tightrope and she loses her balance, falling into his arms. Chock said, “It's just a fun dance, and it's great music for Polka, one of the most fun I came across. Hopefully, we can get audience involved, which is a big goal."

Shpilband enlisted 2001 world ice dance champion Barbara Fusar-Poli to help with facial expressions and arm movements, while 1992 Olympic champion Marina Klimova worked alongside Alexei Gorshkov on the technical aspects of the Yankee Polka.

Bates teamed with Chock in the summer of 2011. He said he believes fans will see what great progress they have made. “I think we are in a different league now.”

On today's performance Bates said, “We are really happy with the way we performed it. This is the third time we have done it. We did it in Lake Placid and we did it at Champs Camp. Each time it’s gotten better. This is the best to date.”  Choch added, "We added stuff to our outfits. We worked a lot on the Polka to get things clear and more precise. We are going to keep working on it but it’s been our main focus.”  Looking forward to the season ahead she said, “We are ready. We competed at Lake Placid and were ready then. We’ve had a lot of time over the summer to get our stuff together, a lot more than last year, which has been very helpful. We are ready to go.”

2. 56.49 (29.17+27.32) Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giuliette-Schmitt, USA, gave a spirited showing. He was in a country and western black suit with silver belt buckle. They performed an extremely enjoyable routine to Chris Isaak’s version of Johnny Cash’s classic, “Ring of Fire” and “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You”. She wore a short sleeved, short skirted orange dress. They really seemed to be enjoying the routine. She said, “The Polka is really upbeat and fun.”

"We are excited to be here. It’s nice to skate at home so early in the season. We are happy with the program. We thought we performed well overall.” Her partner admitted, “There were a few things here and there, of course. Overall, the skate felt good. We’re happy that scores came out so quickly. That means they didn’t have to review a lot and it was a good score on top of that. We’ve made a lot of improvements since Champs Camp and we want to keep building in the right direction.”"

3. 55.98 (29.33+26.65) Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, Canada, have made a very successful transition with Gilles moving from the U.S. and becoming a Canadian. This is their first international. They presented a wonderful Mary Poppins routine with light popular music from the very popular movie. Their coach, Carol Lane, was extremely pleased with their development. “We’ve worked hard to develop new moves. It’s hard because you have to get Level 4 and you are never really certain what you are going to get until you put the routine out there.”

Gilles said, “I felt like it was a good first run for us. We have a few things that we’ve been working on that we hoped would make our first appearance on the senior scene a good one. There’s always more to work on, but we feel good about what we did.” Her partner said, “Every day of skating is really fun for us. We enjoy being in each other’s company and we both like to work really hard. Hopefully we can just keep building from here.”

4. 55.86 (30.83+25.03) Alexandra Paul and Michel Islam from Canada opened the event. Skating in black and white with short sleeves and he sported a red cravat, they performed to the vocals by the famed French singer Edith Piaf.

Completing the field in dance were:

5. 49.14 (25.98+23.16) Siobhan Heekin-Canedy and Dmitri Dun, Ukraine.   

6. 43.17 (24.16+20.01 -1) Carter Jones and Richard Sharpe, Great Britain.

7. 42.97 (21.83+21.14) Danielle O’Brien and Gregory Merriman, Australia. 

8. 42.10 (20.17+21.93) Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus, United States, gave a romantic showing of a Viennese grand ballroom with Strauss music. She was in an elaborate peach outfit. Cannuscio and McManus were sixth at the 2012 U.S. Championships, but didn’t appear to have as much “steam” and speed here in Salt Lake.

McManus admitted, “It was a disappointing skate for us. We had a little slip that caused a problem on one of our elements. We haven’t seen the protocol yet, so we don’t know what the damage was, but I think it’s good to get the first program out of the way. We’ll definitely learn from this experience and try to pull it together for the free dance on Saturday.”

Cannuscio said, “We’re really trying to polish everything in our programs right now. After Champs Camp we came home with what the judges told us and changed what needed to be changed. We’re going to continue to work hard and make changes to get ready for Skate America.”

9. 41.99 (22.67+19.32) Justyne Plutowski and Peter Gerber, Poland.