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U.S. Figure Skating Classic - Day 3

Americans Take Top Four Places in Senior Men's Event.  In Ice Dance, Canada Takes Gold and Silver After Freaky Mistakes Plague U.S. Couple Who Led After the Short Dance.

by Alexandra Stevenson

(16 September 2012)  Salt Lake City, UT

Balmy weather in the eighties is providing a very pleasant background for this inaugural event. There’s also an additional thrill for the competitors. The ice on which they are competing has the usual hockey markings but inside the faceoff circle, large letters proclaim, ‘OFFICIAL TRAINING VENUE SALT LAKE 2002’. For some, it is inspirational to enter by one of the doors on which a large picture of US Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes is displayed, and practice on the very spot where she and all the other top figure skaters honed their last minute preparation during the Games.

Senior Free Dance

For their country to enter them for the World Championship, ice dancers must have achieved in an ISU recognized championship or Senior B competition, which this event in Salt Lake is, a technical score for their Short Dance of 29.00 points and a technical score for their Free of 39.00. This can be achieved in two different competitions. The leaders after the Short Dance, Chock & Bates, did not make the mark for the Free, but the couples winning medals and the duo who compete for Ukraine did.

1. Total 146.90; 1.Free Dance 90.92 (46.17+44.75) Piper Gilles, who is now Canadian as well as American, and Paul Poirier, were taking part in their first international together. Their success here totally justified the break-ups with their former partners, and her decision to leave the States to follow the route fellow Canadian competitor, Kaitlyn Weaver did some years ago and now has a standing of fourth in the world.

Gilles and Poirier performed sixth, second in the second warm-up group. She was in old gold, with a V-shaped back to her skirt, and he in a black and mustard creation. They lay third after the Short Dance but won the Free by a 3.02 point margin over their teammates, Paul & Islam. Their music was unusual. It started with “Beirut” by Gulay Orkestar which led into “I Don’t Love You Any More” by the Hungry Ghosts. It was the type of routine that you don’t fully absorb at first. You need a few viewings to appreciate all of the nuances and complexity of the choreography. One highlight was a very low lift with Islam spinning Gilles’ head close to the ice. Both partners skated with lots of youthful energy and spirit.

Their potential is enormous. Six of their eight moves which receive Levels earned the maximum 4. The other two, the opening Circular Steps and their Midline Steps were Level 3. All their average Grades of Execution were positive, although one of the judges punched in a -1 for their first curve lift. Ironically, their fifth category for the components, which is for Interpretation and Timing, got them both their highest, 8.0, and lowest, 5.50, scores, from the five-member judging panel. However, since the highest and lowest scores are thrown out, they didn’t count.

After collecting their medal, Poirier explained, “We wanted to stay away from one specific style of dance, so we named our program, ‘World Spirits.’ We left our style up to interpretation so everyone can enjoy it in their own way. We wanted to be different and we love this program. It’s very different from our short dance and from our programs last year. All of the music is modern with some Baltic and some Gypsy influences."

Gillis said, “We’re still fairly new together, but I think our skating naturally goes together. We’re both very athletic, so we’re very powerful and we like to push the boundaries. When we tried out, we knew within the first five minutes that we wanted to skate together. We still have things to work on, but we’re very well matched. It took us a bit to get used to the spin. I have to grab so low and hopefully I catch his leg, because if I don't catch it, I fly out. It's a big risk, but we've done it enough to have the consistency on it."

Both are 20. Poirier formerly competed in both the Olympics and World Championships with Vanessa Crone. Gilles is from Colorado Springs and has competed international in events as far as Capetown, South Africa. It was inevitable she would skate, since her older brother, Todd, fell in love with the sport and then ice dance. Gilles has a twin sister Alexe, who became the 2008 U.S. Junior champion. Piper was eligible to become Canadian because her grandmother was from that country. Poirier said, “It’s only our second time out. We did Thornhill (a big competition fairly close to their home base in Scarborough, ON, at the beginning of the season). But this is our first international. The next will Skate Canada. We keep trying to improve. Every time we make progress, the bar gets lifted. It doesn’t get easier. You think it will but each time you advance, there is more to do and more responsibility. But we love it.”

In Scarborough, they are trained by Carol Long, who, working with Poirier and his previous partner, devised the stationary version of a dance lift. Gilles and Poirier included an interesting variation of this move in Salt Lake.

2. Total 143.76; 2 FD 87.90 (44.83+43.07) The 5’4” Alexandra Paul, who turns 21 on Sunday, the day after competing, and Mitchell Islam, 22, 5’11”, have skated together since 2009. They finished fifth and sixth in the past two Canadian championships. They were eighth to skate in Salt Lake and presented a Jazz age number she in purple dress, he in lilac tie and waistcoat he mimed playing the piano at one point very smooth and polished. There were five sections all set to music by Ennio Morricone: “The Crisis”, “1900’s Madness; “Danny’s Blues; “12th Street Rag”; and “Playing Love”. They rose from fourth after the Short Dance to claim silver.

Islam explained, "Alex and I have experienced much success early in our careers together. After only a year as a team, in March 2010, we were second at the World Junior Championships in The Hague, Netherlands. We then became the Canadian bronze medalists in 2011 at the Nationals in Victoria, B.C."

In June, the pair made the difficult decision to train full-time at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where they are now trained by Pasquale Camerlengo and Angelika Krylova. Islam explained, “The club is a hotbed for ice dance right now, with world medallists and an array of talented couples from various corners or the world."

Paul said it was a tough decision to leave the Mariposa rink because, "There were always amazing skaters to look up to and learn from. The caliber of coaching staff in Barrie is incredible and has helped me achieve so many amazing things in my life. But I’m enjoying this new phase of my life.”

They chose to do two short lifts and one long, as opposed to the other medallists who preferred to execute four short lifts. All their moves were judged Level 4 except for their Level 3 circular steps and Level 2 Diagonal steps. After the event, he said, “Our goal coming here was to skate our programs how we know we can. It wasn’t about the placement at this point. It’s about our comeback since last year was a rough year for us. We want to show everyone we are back and we can skate.”

Next week they are off to the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, in the very south of Germany. “We have competed twice before this so we made the changes to our programs coming into this competition. Our programs are pretty ready and we won’t have to make many changes going into next week’s event."

3. Total 140.86; 3.FD 84.37 (44.00+40.37) Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giuliette-Schmitt brought this competition to a close, skating ninth of the nine couples from six countries. They were lying second after the Short Dance but were third in the Free and had to be content with bronze. He explained, “Having role models was something that really helped me growing up. I was fortunate enough to train with a lot of other guys and it helped me through adolescence. I know a lot of the younger teams at this competition are going through the same things, so I want to be a good role model for them, just like the generation before was to me.”

Kriengkrairut added, “I think this competition is great in that it includes the novice and junior skaters. It’s not too often they get to compete with us or any international skaters, so I think it’s a great set-up. It’s nice having them wish us luck and hearing them cheer us on is really motivating for us.”

About their skate, Kriengkrairut said, “It was a solid skate overall. We were a little nervous for this competition, but I think we worked through everything well.” He added, “We’re nervous going into any competition. There were a lot of things, psychologically, that we worked through this week, which was really good for us. We’re approaching our programs in a little bit of a different manner and we’re taking things one step at a time. Now we’re one step closer to where we need to be later in the season.”

4. Total 139.84; 5.FS 76.95 (35.43+42.52 -1) Madison Chock and Evan Bates, drew to skate first of the top five couples in the second warm-up group and things did NOT go well. Their Levels were lower than expected. They gained the maximum Level 4 only for their combination spin and the Serpentine lift. Their curve lift and the two steps elements were only Level 2. Towards the end of the routine he fell and their final move, the choreographed very short lift, was not well performed. She wore light blue with silver trim and he had a grey waistcoat over dark sleeves and trousers.

They were the pre-event favorites and were well in the lead after the Short Dance so not to finish in the medals was a huge disappointment. She said, “It was shaky, not our best skate. Now we know what it feels like and we can continue to work out the kinks. It was an off-day which happens sometimes. We will train through it. But the crowd was responsive and friendly. It’s always nice to perform in your home country.”

5. Total 128.40; 4.FD 79.26 (41.41+37.85) Siobhan Heekin-Canedy, 21, and Dmitri Dun, 22, who teamed up in 2011, represent Ukraine but train in the United States. They were 15th in the last world championship. They performed seventh. Their Free earned them fourth place in the Free but they stayed fifth. Their good marks in the Free were earned with Level 4s which they received for all their lifts including both parts of their difficult long reverse rotation combination lift, and for their twizzles and combination spin. Their diagonal steps were Level 3. Their only flaw came on the circular steps element which was only Level 2 with -0.33 subtracted from the base value.

6. Total 113.08; 6. FD 70.98 (37.99+32.99) Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus, the sixth ranked Americans, skated third to "Comanche" by The Revels, "Please, Mr. Jailer" by Rachel Sweet, and "Jailhouse Rock" by West End Orchestra and Singers.She was in blood red and he in black with a small amount of red but lots of silver sparkles. The duo, who are trained by Karen Ludington, Alexandr Kirsanov, Christie Moxley-Hutson and Kat Arbor, finished seventh in the 2011 World Junior championships.

Cannuscio said, “It went really well today. We made a lot of changes after Champs Camp, and it’s really helped us to feel the music and really express it. I think today is probably the best we’ve ever skated the routine.” He added, “We changed a lot of elements going into this event and we want to see how they were received here and hopefully get some more feedback. Luckily we have a good amount of time before Skate America, so we can really let everything sink in and make our skating the best that we possibly can.”

7.Total 110.62; FD 67.65 (37.65+31.24) Danielle O’Brien and Gregory Merriman of Australia skated second and performed in very colorful circus-y outfits, he in a lime green shirt with suspenders, she in purple. They earned the maximum Level 4 for three of their lifts. Their twizzles, the combination spin and their rotational lift were Level 3. Their Diagonal steps received Level 2 from the Technical Panel, as did their Circular steps but, while the diagonal received the base value, the Circular got 0.33 removed.

8.Total 106.49; FD 64.50 (34.20+30.30) Justyna Plutowski and Peter Gerber, representing Poland, performed fourth and last in the first warm-up group. They presented a flowing, romantic Waltz beginning with an impressive long lift which earned Level 4 for both parts. However, the following circular steps were only base value Level 1. Their other two lifts were also Level 4 as were their Twizzles. The spin was Level 3 but the Diagonal steps were also only Level 1. They wore black, with him in a monkey suit with a white shirt with long sleeves. This is a new partnership for the 21-year-old Plutowski, who was born in the Polish city of Gdynia.

9.Total 105.10; FD 62.23 (35.46+27.77 -1) Carter Jones, 19, is an American Californian who has teamed up with a Briton, Richard Sharpe, 20, and they represent his country. They train in Aston, PA, with Suzy Semanick Schermann. They opened the Free Dance event performing to a slow, sexy version of St. Louis Blues, she in knee length deep red dress and he in black. They lost a point for an extended lift. Technically they did well, earning Level 4 for all their four lifts, the twizzles and the spin. However, their circular steps were only Level 1 and the Midline steps Level 2.

Senior Men

For their country to enter them for the World Championship, male singles skater must achieve a technical score for their Short Program of 35.00 points, and for their Free Skate a technical score of 65.00, which can be done in different competitions. Only the top four, all Americans, made the free mark.

1. Total 231.21; 1.FS 156.58 (83.57+73.00) The 20-year-old Max Aaron, who is from Scottsdale but trains in Colorado Springs with Tom Zakrajsek, was attired in a red top, emulating the hero in the famed movie, West Side Story. He skated immediately following his teammate, Dolensky, opening with an impressive quad Salchow which earned 0.67 over the base value of 10.50. He said later, “It was one of my better programs, not only because I stayed on my feet, but I was able to adjust throughout and stay in the program."

He plans to upgrade his second element, triple toe to double, which got an extra +0.47, to include a quad toe to double toe. But Zakrajsek explained, “It’s a huge strained to practice two quads each day.” Next up in the routine were two Level 2 moves, a flying camel combination spin and straight line steps. Both earned an extra half point. Then came two +0.50 Level 2 moves, a combo spin and straight line steps, followed by a +0.17 Level 3 flying sit spin.

At the halfway stage, when the time bonus clicks in, he soared into a +1.33 triple Axel to double toe loop which earned 12.11 points. That was followed by a +0.93 triple Lutz and a second triple Axel which gained an extra +1.0. His third spin was Level 3 +0.17. Then came a real demonstration of what it takes to be a champion. He executed a triple Lutz but it was not right in the air and he really struggled with the landing. Nevertheless, remarkably, he managed to get into the air again for the half loop which morphed into the third jump, a triple Salchow. Gold medals are won with such determination. Although the move had -0.70 removed from its base value, Aaron still banked 11.07 points.

He had a problem with the middle jump after his second triple Lutz but managed to land the half loop and get airborne for a triple Salchow although -0.70 was taken off its base value of 11.77. His following triple flip was saddled with an “e” for wrong edge take-off. His last jump was a triple loop and he finished with some choreographed steps. It was definitely a technical tour de force.

The following triple flip got an “e” for wrong edge take-off but his last jump, a triple loop gained +0.47 over its base value. He concluded with the choreographed steps which showed an interesting disparity among the five international judges. One did NOT saw something the others didn’t and punched in a punitive -2. However, three of the other four gave 0 which means aspect was carried off successfully, and one judge even deemed it was “superior” and punched in a “+1”.

For the components, Aaron received a high of 8.0s and a low of one 6.75, which, said Zakrajsek, “were some of his highest ever. I felt like he really tried today to be a Jet. He has proved that he is not only working on his jumps and his spins, but also giving an entire performance, which is so important at the top of the sport."

Aaron explained, "We're trying to put more and more out there, show the jumps and also that second mark (program components) and improve, because that's something that can really help me get to the top. We still want a lot more energy, a lot more excitement. It was what we talked about in the short. I wanted to stay focused on the task at hand and keep myself in the presence. Everything that was off, I was able to pull back together because I was staying in the right mindset. The experience of doing the quad Sal in the short helped in the free skate. I know I can do it under pressure. What I can take away from this competition, (is the knowledge) that even being off balance, you can still make things happen by remaining focused. I want to build on this competition and put it on at U.S. Championships. My goal was to have my first senior international medal because I have not done that. It’s something I have wanted to conquer in my career so I’m proud to have done that.”

2. Total 218.06; 2.FS 149.11 (76.43+73.68 -1) Third on in the last group was Armin Mahbanoozedeh. He appeared in black with touches of blue on his chest and upper arms, and a belt. He survived a fall on his opening move, quad toe. The following triple Axel was worth an extra full point but his planned three jump combo turned into a single Lutz to triple toe to double toe.

His first spin was a +0.50 Level 3 flying sit. Then came a +0.93 triple loop and his step sequence which got Level 3 with +0.50.At the half way point in which the 10% bonus marks click in, he presented his second triple Axel combined with a double toe loop which gave him a total of 11.78 points. The following combo spin was Level 3 with +0.50. But then his triple Lutz to triple toe got a double arrow on the second jump which meant a serious under-rotation. A triple flip earned an extra +0.23 and his double Axel merely gained the base value. Then came his choreographed steps, which always only get the basic Level 1. He concluded with a Level 3 +0.67 combination spin.

Mahbanoozedeh, who was handicapped because a sprained right ankle had kept him from practicing full out until recently, used music from Dr. Who, the highly thought of quirky British science fiction TV series about a Time Lord. He earned 149.11 points for the free skate and 218.06 overall. He readily admitted, “There’s room to improve, but I'm happy that I fought through things and stuck with it. I was kind of disappointed with the quad. I think it was the first one I fell on all week. I hit one in the short so I'm happy with that. We're going to go home and train it even more. We're going to be really consistent with it this year."

"A lot of people told me I didn't have to do this competition because I started jumping again only about three weeks ago, but I stuck with it and I was happy with the performances I was able to put out. I want to give a shout out to the physical therapists at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center because, without them, I wouldn't have been able to be here today."

3. Total 213.44; 3.FS 144.35 (69.68+74.66) Ross Miner drew to skate last, 15th, and brought the event to a satisfying conclusion, although he wasn’t satisfied. “I did the easy stuff but I wish I had done quad Salchow. I didn’t trust myself when I needed to. I’m glad I did this competition. It’s good to get my programs out there. I have motivation to get where I need to be. I’m missing points because I’m missing the second triple Axel and the quad. I’ll get there. Congratulations to my teammates Max, Armin and Timothy on a great job here.”

Miner had a troubling start, doubling his Salchow, which was given only its base value. That was a lot of points to give away. Skaters may only do a certain number of elements. Before this system was adopted a competitor might have made another try but that can be very risky nowadays, where anything extra gets a penalty. The second element, a triple Salchow earned 1.0 over its base value. The following triple Axel got +1.33 added to its base value. His first spin was Level 3 with +0.67. The triple Lutz to triple toe earned an extra +0.70 and his step sequence was Level 3 with +0.67.

When the time bonus mark clicked in, he executed a +0.70 triple Lutz-loop-triple Salchow followed by a Level 4, +0.50 spin. Then he had a momentary lapse, where he brought off a double instead of triple loop. Back on form he gained +1.17 for a triple flip. The choreographed steps got +0.70 over their base, while a double Axel earned an extra +0.17. He pleased the audience with a final Level 4 combo spin which was rewarded with an extra +0.50. His components included one 8.0 and the rest were in the 7s.

4. Total 203.59; 4.FS 139.91 (68.91+71.00) Timothy Dolensky was first up for the last warm-up group. The 20-year-old, who was dressed in black with a red waistcoat, advanced the competition to a far higher level than that of the previous competitors. (His costumes are designed by Joyce Jiang.) Interpreting "Il Postino" by Luis Bacalov, he began with a triple Lutz which earned +2 from the panel of judges. (This is only one level down from the maximum +3). The following double Axel gained +0.50. Then came a +0.70 triple loop to triple toe loop followed by a Level 4 combo spin and Level 3 steps which both earned an extra +0.50.

At the time bonus point, he presented a triple flip to double toe to double toe which was not quite perfect and had -0.23 removed from its base value. The following triple Lutz to double toe gained an extra +0.47 and the next element, a triple flip, earned an extra +0.23. His change foot camel was the maximum level 4 with an additional +0.50. A triple Salchow earned +0.47. A double Axel gained just the base value.  In another interesting judges’ disagreement, four of the panel gave merely zero, which is merely OK, but the remaining judge gave +2 which is outstanding. He concluded with a +0.07 Level 2 spin.

Dolensky’s flow over the ice is powerfully smooth. For his components he earned four 8.0s while one judge gave him only 6.25 for both the Transitions and Interpretation categories. He said, “I felt really good out there. I always skate my best when I feel calm. I just have to trust in my training and know that everything in my program is something that I can do. I broke 200 points today and that was my goal for the whole season. I feel really confident. Once I get the triple Axel in my long, I’ll be right where I need to be.”

 5. Total 196.34; 5.FS 129.21 (60.21+70.00 -1) The little known Shiu Ting Ronald Lam was the 14th skate to perform. Representing Hong Kong took the ice in a blue shirt with suspenders, he gave an extremely interesting routine which, while flawed, was fun and very Gene Kelly dancey. He opened with a triple Lutz to triple toe followed by a triple Axel on which the landing was held although -0.33 was removed from the base value. His triple flip got an extra 0.70 but he fell on the second jump of his double Axel to triple toe. He singled a planned triple loop but brought off a +0.47 second triple Lutz. His triple Salchow lost -0.70 from its base value but he followed that with a base level double Axel. His components ranged from a high of one 7.75 down to three 6.50.

He said, “I came here trying to make the World Championships technical points mark. I did in the short. I think I was just short in the free skate. (He needed an extra 4.49.) Those mistakes in the end were tough. It tells me I could do it. I plan to get the standard at another Senior B or in the Four Continents.”

6. Total 181.95; 6.FS 124.07 (59.75+64.32) Christopher Caluza of the Philippines was eighth to skate. Dressed in blue with white on his shoulders, he also is a very smooth skater. He began with a triple Lutz to triple loop but got an arrow for slight under-rotation on the second jump. That was followed by a triple flip which was saddled with an “e” for wrong edge take-off. At the point where the bonus marks click in, he tried a triple toe to double toe but got an arrow on the first jump. However, he then did a +0.70 triple loop to double toe to double loop combo in which he threw his arm into theof air on the last jump. He got credit for a base value triple Salchow and did a good (+0.23) second triple Lutz late in the program and finished with a Level 4 combination spin. Other highlights were a smooth outside spread to double Axel. He ended with a Level 4 combo spin which gained an extra 0.50. But even with this superior content, he was over five points from making the minimum technical score for allowing entry to worlds.

7. Total 172.96; 7.FS 112.65 (52.15+61.50 -1) Jeremy Ten, skated immediately after his teammate. He is the third ranked Canadian and is from Vancouver. Trained by Joanne McCloud and attired in a white on one side and creamy beige on the other with white gloves, he stepped out of his opening triple Axel and after his triple Lutz he had to execute a double three before getting into the second jump of the combination, a triple toe. Both this Lutz and his second version got “e” for wrong edge takeoff. He fell on his triple loop. He was apparently tiring as did triple Salchow to double toe. His 11th element was only a double toe. Obviously, this was just an early season glimmer of his potential.

8. Total 168.95; 8.FS 110.37 (55.21+56.16 -1) Liam Firus is ranked fifth in Canada and is also from Vancouver. He was first on of the second warmup group. He is trained by Lorna Bauer, the sister of former Senior Ladies competitor, Susan Humphries. He fell on his opening triple Axel but then did a nice +0.93 triple Lutz. That was followed by triple flip which was saddled with an “e”. Then he presented a plus 0.50 Level 4 upright spin. However, his other two spins were not as impressive.

He then did a base level single Axel to triple toe, which was followed by a base level triple loop. The he performed a second triple Lutz combined with a triple toe loop but stepped out of the second jump. He was obviously tiring and reduced his next move to a combination of Axel, single toe loop, double toe loop. His last jump was a triple Salchow which got an arrow.

9. Total 161.54; 9.FS 101.41 (44.75+57.66 -1) Paul Bonifacio Parkinson, representing Italy, appeared in black with gold. He skating ninth, opening with a +0.23 triple Salchow. He got credit for the rotation of his triple Axel although with –2 GoE. Later, he fell on a second attempt at this element, which was given an arrow for slight under-rotation. His first spin, a combo, received the maximum Level 4.

10. Total 156.72; 10.FS 101.16 (44.66+57.50 -1) Luiz Manella representing Brazil performed last of the middle warm-up group in brown and beige. He opened with a double Axel and then executed a triple Lutz combined with two double toes which earned its base value. He fell on the following triple loop, which got an arrow for slight under-rotation. Then came two spins, a combo and flying sit, which received Level 3 and 4. His triple Salchow to double toe earned its base value but his triple flip had a decided lean in the air and was given an “e” for wrong edge takeoff. He singled the following intended triple Lutz. His final two jumps, a triple toe and a double Axel both got negative Grades of Execution from the small international panel of five judges.

11. Total 143.54; 11.FS 92.07 (44.57+48.50 -1) Patrick Myzyk, Poland, skated second, and fell on his opening jump, a triple flip. After a faulty double Salchow, he brought off a +0.70 triple Lutz to double toe and later, when the bonus marks click in, he was successful with another triple Lutz which earned the base value but these were his only triples.

12. Total 140.57; 12.FS 91.99 (42.01+52.98 -3) Christopher Berneck, representing Germany, was last in the first warm-up group to take the ice. He fell three times, on his opening triple Axel, on a triple Lutz and at the end of the routine on a single loop.

13. Total 131.52; 13.FS 91.16 (41.66+50.50 -1) Mark Webster, Australia, was fourth up, skating in a bright blue shirt under a black waistcoast to Rhapsody in Blue. He fell on his opening triple Axel which received an arrow for slight under-rotation.

14. Total 125.92; 15.FS 77.55 (35.39+44.16 -2) Oleeksii Bychenko, Israel, performed third but fell flat on his under-rotated first jump, a triple toe, and singled the second. He also fell at the halfway point on a triple flip.

15. Total 122.77; 14.FS 77.84 (32.50+46.34 -1) Jono Partridge, from Britain who trains in Colorado Springs, drew to open the Mens Free. Dressed casually in a blue sweater with tan pants and elbow protectors, he was a student on the loose. He recovered from singling his opening triple Lutz but fell on his second triple Salchow, which got two arrows for under-rotation. He was 14th in the free but his marks weren’t high enough to overtake the Israeli competitor.