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U.S. Figure Skating Classic - Day 4

by Alexandra Stevenson

(16 September 2012)  Salt Lake City, UT

The Inaugural US International Figure Skating Classic, a Senior “B” competition, which ended Sunday evening, was well run and a definite success, which means it will probably return to this site next year. The organization was cooperative and the ice quality very good with resurfacing on the twin rinks extremely fast. The weather was gorgeous, the scenery magnificent and the site steeped in 2002 Olympic history.

However, the competition also clearly illuminated how difficult it now is for the lesser developed skaters to earn the minimum technical scores needed for entry to the World Championships. This is a particular problem for countries whose government only fund the sport if their Association has competitors eligible for Worlds. Once these competitors realize they are so far from qualifying, will they stop trying and be lost to the sport?

Only the top two pairs gained the short program technical score for possible entry to Worlds (of 28) but four pairs made the minimum of 45 for the free (Moore-Towers & Moscovitch, Lawrence & Sweigers, Vise/Baldwin and Zhang & Bartholomay). The minimums for the World Championship for women are 28 for the Short Program and 48 for the Free Skate. These were met by the top four in the SP, Zawadzki; Gold, LaCoste and Glebova. In the FS only the top two earned the required number with Lacoste, the bronze medalist, missing the free mark by ONLY 0.1!

Four of the top five ice dancers earned the 29 need for the Short Dance and 39 for the Free Dance. A fifth couple, Chock & Bates, were over the Short Dance minimum but not the Free Dance.  If they haven’t already, they can use another Senior B to get the FD score.  Aaron, Mahbanoozedeh and Lam got the needed Short Program score but NOT Dolensky or Miner.  For the Free Skate, all four American men made the needed score, but no other competitors.

Ladies Free Skate

1. Total 172.95; 2.FS 107.71 (50.58+58.13); [1.SP 65.24 (35.44+29.80)] Agnes Zawadzki, an 18-year old who held a significant lead after the SP, drew to skate last immediately following her main rival. Although Zawadzki’s technical score for the free was 4.34 points lower than Gold, and she was a mere 0.27 ahead on the components, her comfortable Short Program lead gave her the gold by 1.80.

Zawadzki, the 2010 US Junior champion, who won silver in the world junior championship that season, was third in the past US Senior championship. She skated in blue with lots of silver to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue performed by the Boston Pops, which was her music from last year. However, she has changed some of the elements around.

She opened with a “mere” +0.93 triple toe followed by a +0.70 triple Lutz to double toe but the following triple flip was saddled with an “e” for wrong edge take-off and lost -0.70.  A member of the ISU Technical Committee recently told this reporter that this season officials were going to be VERY strict on this fault, explaining, “Skaters must make the correct edge obvious. There must be no changing back and forth.”

Zawadzki’s layback changing position spin was Level 4 with +0.83. Then came a double Axel to double toe and an unfortunate struggle on a triple Salchow which got an arrow for slight under-rotation. She managed to get airborne for the second jump after the Salchow, a double toe, but then fell. She landed her next jump, a triple Lutz, with a very deep edge and, although she held on to the landing, it lost -0.70.Then came a +0.17 double Axel. Up next was a +0.50 Level 3 flying camel, base value Level 2 straight line steps. She earned an extra 0.70 for her choreographed steps and concluded with a Level 3 +0.5 combination spin. An unusual touch was a variety of spirals, one with a change of direction, another with her head by her ankle level and one sideways, which this writer has not seen for a long time.

The pupil of David Santee and Christy Krall admitted she was thinking about U.S. Nationals when she was also first after the SP but did not skate so well in the Free and dropped to third overall. She revealed, “I think it was a big hurdle I crossed over. I’m really proud of myself for keeping it together after a mistake because I tend to let that rattle me. I feel like the jumps are a lot faster than last season and the program feels easier to perform. I’m so happy to get my first international gold.

“I want to work on getting the triple Lutz to triple toe into the free skate. I hope I’ll have it in the program later in the season. I want to skate consistently. It was good today but can always be better. It wasn't a perfect program, but I felt like it was a lot better than [my free skates] last year. I didn't let my mistakes rattle me, and I kept pushing through. The short has always been a little easier for me."

Her next goal is the Grand Prix in Moscow, November 9-11. “I want to be sure to hold the spins there. I got two Level 3s here. Obviously, I’d like them to be Level 4 by the Rostelecom Cup (November 9-11). I’m just not holding them long enough."

2. Total 171.15; 1.FS 111.78 (54.92+57.86 -1); [2.SP 59.37 (29.97+29.40)] Gracie Gold, the 17-year-old reigning U.S.. Junior champion performed American, was in a sleeveless, backless royal blue outfit trimmed with silver. She opened her Free with an awesomely high triple Lutz to triple toe which earned her 1.40 over its base and she banked 11.56. Skating to music from Life is Beautiful, her next move was a triple flip-loop-triple Salchow which earned the full base value of 10 points despite being saddled with an “e” from the tech panel. She then presented a wonderful Level 4 layback which two of the judges rewarded with +2 Grade of Execution and the other punched in the maximum +3. That meant she got a full point added and earned 3.70.

Then came a triple loop but the landing was not held and she had 1.40 removed from the jump’s base value and scored only 5.10. After a very good Level 4 combo spin, which was rewarded with an extra +0.67 for an element total of 3.67, she made two errors, doubling her Lutz and tripping on a scratchily landed double Axel to double toe. Her straight line steps were Level 3 with 0.50. However, she then sat down on a triple flip. After her choreographed steps, she finished with a Level 4 combination spin with a blur finish which gained +0.67over its 3.50 base value.

She said, "I thought the program went really well. I thought it was a really good effort. I kept it moving along and kept the flow, although I lost some speed on that last jump. I just have to keep working on it, and keep pushing myself. The senior free is an extra 30 seconds that I'm not used to yet. But for my first senior season, I think it's coming along really well.

“It’s a different style than my short program, much more classical by comparison. It’s a really beautiful piece and I just have to keep working to improve it. It’s only September, so it’s really early in the season, but I think it’s coming along nicely. It wasn’t perfect today, but I think it was a valiant effort. No one skates clean this early in the season.

“My next competition is Skate Canada. Before then, I want to work on my program as a whole. I can do each section really well, I just want to put it all together. That’s the hardest part of this sport, putting a whole program together. At first I thought having all the novice and junior skaters here would distract me, but I really liked having such a big cheering section today. It’s great that the younger skaters can be here, see an international competition and be a part of it. They get to have an international panel judging them and that’s so valuable.”

3. Total 161.53; 3.FS 102.39 ( 47.99+54.40); [3. SP 59.14 (31.88+27.26)] Amelie Lacoste, the 23 year-old Canadian champion, skated 14th of the 18 competitors, which was second in the last group of six. She performed in a sleeveless, backless deep blue and silver outfit, also to Rhapsody in Blue. There was a less-than promising opening move, a double Lutz saddled with an “e” for wrong edge take-off. However, she took a deep breath and soared into the next move, a +0.47 triple flip, and followed that with an excellent +1.17 triple loop out of a spiral.

Then came a double Axel followed by a Level 4 spin which included illusions (rocking spiral position) to sit to to high kick finale. Both that jump and spin earned an extra 0.50 over their base values. However, the following triple Salchow received only the base value and she doubled a loop. But, she pulled herself together and immediately following that, she soared through a triple loop to double loop which earned an extra +0.23. She finished on a high note with a gorgeous Level 3 layback spin with three main positions.

She explained, “The program is new for this year. It wasn’t perfect. I had a big mistake at the beginning. Then I refocused and I was pleased with that. I pushed myself until the end because my goal here was to make the technical points for Worlds which I think I achieved. That’s a goal I accomplished this week, so there is less pressure from that point of view. My next competition is Skate Canada. Now I’ll go home (to Quebec City), train hard and get more prepared in the month and a half. I also need more cardio work so I don’t feel tired at the end of my programs. I’m not worried that at Skate Canada I won’t be better, and get the qualifying score. I am a little bit mad at myself because I could have done it very easily by just adding a double loop on to my double Lutz. But, it is the beginning of the season.”

4. Total; 149.49 FS 94.67 (46.93+47.74); [4. SP 54.82 (29.56+25.26)] Elena Glebova, 23, is the six-time Estonian champion who was born in her country’s capital of Tallinn. Glebova gave an energetic if flawed showing. Skating in black, she opened with a solid triple Lutz but it was given an “e” for wrong edge takeoff. Then came a shock when she singled her flip to toe loop combo. None of her other jumps (triple toe, triple Loop, triple Salchow to double toe, triple Salchow to two double toes, and double Axel) made more than their base value. One spin got Level 4 and the other two Level 3. The steps were Level 2.

5. Total 119.86; 5.FS. 80.41 (40.94+41.47 -2); [7. SP 39.45 (20.83+19.62)] Isadora Williams, Brazil, is a 16-year old who was born in Atlanta and raised in the Washington DC area. Wearing a short beige and brown Kimono, she opened with a triple Lutz to double toe but barely kept from placing her hand on the ice between the two jumps. She later fell on with a triple flip, and got a second point removed for a time violation. She also was penalized with two arrows for under-rotating her Salchow. But her routine was enjoyable and she climbed two places.

6. Total 113.31; 10.FS 66.45 (26.77+40.68 -1);[5. SP 46.86 (25.06 +21.80)] Melinda Wang, 21, was born in New York City but represents Taipei. Performing in a black creation with sleeves but with a cutout back, Wang fell on her first jump, a triple Lutz which seemed to unbalance her. She accomplished a triple toe but executed a double Salchow, aborted another jump, singled another and skidded on the landing of her double Axel. Later she stepped out of a double Axel. However, her 10th place in the Free, dropped her only one slot to sixth overall.

7. Total 111.45; 6.FS 73.26 (35.46+38.80-1);[8.SP 38.19 (19.13 +19.06)] Melissa Bulanhagui, Philipines, is a 4’11” 22-year-old who was born in Philadelphia lives in Newark, Delaware. She free skated first of the second group dressed in bright red. She began with a very nice triple Salchow but then singled both her triple Lutz attempts and fell on her triple flip which got an “e”. Nevertheless, she was 6th in the FS and climbed one place from lying 8th after the SP.   

8. Total 106.71; 11. FS  65.65 (27.12+38.53); [6. SP41.06 (22.20+18.66)] Skating third in the last group of six skaters, Karina Sinding Johnson, Denmark, performing to a modern version of Swan Lake, didn’t fall but made many mistakes including singling both Lutz attempts. She suffered from the direct comparison with the top skaters. The 21-year-old, dressed in a long sleeved purple and silver creation. She singled both Lutz attempts and made other mistakes, which pulled her down two slots from her SP placing. She was born in West Hills, California, and is the four time Danish champion.

9. Total 105.84; 8.FS 71.70 (35.04+36.66); [11.SP 34.14 (16.77+18.46 -1)] Crystal Kiang, 22, was born in New York City but represents Taipei. She and Tiffany Packard Yu were practically tied, separated by only 0.14. Kiang was 0.42 ahead after the SP while Yu beat her in the Free by 0.18.

10. Total 105.70; 7.FS 71.98 (33.98+38.00); [12.SP 33.72 (15.60+19.12 -1)] Tiffany Packard Yu, 23, was born in Monteray Park in the United States but represents Hong Kong.

11. Total 104.15; 9.FS 68.09  (31.97+36.12); [9.SP 36.6 (17.80+19.06)] Mimi Tanasorn Chinasook, Thailand, 17, was born in Bangkok but she trains in Lake Arrowhead. She was dressed in white with pale blue and silver. An interesting touch to her costume with chiffon-y pieces fluttering from her lower arms. She gave a very pleasant showing and was unlucky to finish 11th after placing 9th in both sections.   

12. Total 95.69;13. FS 60.71 (27.45+34.26 -1); [10.SP 34.98 (17.84+18.14 -1)] Kai-Jing Leong, Singapore, 19, was born in Canada. Wearing a one sleeved navy outfit, she opened with a very high double Axel but then had a scrunchy landing on her double Lutz. That was followed by a triple Salchow and double Lutz to double toe. She slid and fell off a forward edge and appeared more tentative after that surprise. 

13. Total 93.30; 14.FS 59.73 (30.13+29.60); [SP 13. 33.57 (17.43+18.14)] Skating second in the field of 18 entrants from 15 countries a day after she turned 27, Ana Cantu Felix, Mexico performed to Somewhere Over the Rainbow in black with lots of sparkles. She tried triples but none were clean.

14. Total 93.11; 12.FS 63.54 (27.94+35.60); [SP 17. 29.59 (12.59+16.98)] Clara Peters, Ireland, had a disastrous Short Program. She gave a far better showing in the Free, very gracefully interpreting the calming Clair de Lune dressed in in a lovely sleeveless light blue creation with silver sparkles to place 11th 12th in the Free and 14th overall, just 0.19 behind Felix.    

15. Total 89.23; 15.FS 58.12 (25.46+34.66 -2);[SP 14. 31.11 (15.17+16.94 -1)] Ami Parekh, India, 24, opened the Ladies Free. Skating to well-known piano music in pink and silver, she gave a pleasant performance but fell backwards on steps. 

16. Total 82.00; FS 51.91 (22.71+33.20 -4) [SP 16. 30.09 (14.57+17.52 -2)] Georgia Glastris, Greece, is a 20-year-old who was born in Chicago. She fell four times in the FS and twice in the SP. Obviously, it was not an event she will wish to remember.

17. Total 77.65; 18. FS 47.37 (19.51+31.86 -4); [SP 15. 30.28 (12.44+17.84)] Stephanie Rigley was born and trains in California but is of British descent. She performed in a two-piece purple outfit. She worked hard but it was a flawed showing with falls on under-rotated jumps.   

18. Total 76.97; FS 48.47 (22.14+29.33 -3) [SP 18. 28.50 (14.28+16.22 -3)] Sumika Yamada, Hong Kong, dressed in a long sleeved black dress with pink adornments, is a 17-year-old who was born in Osaka, Japan, but now lives and trains in Fairbault, Minnesota. She had an unpleasant outing, falling three times on both her triple Salchow attempts and collapsing to the ice on the edge going into a loop jump. She got no credit at all for two of her 12 required elements.

Pairs Free Skate

The pairs brought this inaugural event to a successful conclusion.

1. Total 179.25; 1.FS 115.91 (59.38+56.54); [1.SP 62.94 (34.02+28.92)] Kirsten Moore-Towers, 20, & Dylan Moscovitch, 28, Canadians who teamed together in 2009, were the clear winners but even they tired at the end of their four-and-forty second routine, a result of the 4,300-foot altitude. Moscovitch said, "There was altitude, yes, but everybody had to deal with it. It's definitely a bit harder, but it's still early in the season, and this program is a step up in difficulty for us.” He said he works on his stamina by running but now will up the amount. “You always want to take something from a competition to improve upon, and I need to ramp things up even more in that area."

They performed in lilac to music from Queen. They began with a romantic pose but then the softness turned to aggression with their dynamic execution of a superb Level 3 lateral triple twist which gave them 6.50 points. That was followed by a sequence of two triple toe loops which earned them 7.49. They followed that with side by side triple Salchows to bank another 4.67. Their choreo section came next, which was worth 2.23. The following Level 3 forward inside death spiral earned 3.43 points. Their pair combination spin was the maximum Level 4 with an extra +0 33.

Their next element was a definite highlight – a Level 4 Group 5 lift for which all five judges gave +2 Grade of Execution on a scale which has only one higher award (+3). That, alone, gave them a total of 8.55 points. They then presented two throws in a row. The throw triple Salchow got an extra +0.47, giving them 5.42, and the throw triple loop was even better, gaining +1.40 over the base value for a total of 6.90.

But then things went a little sour. Their only negatives were from their last two lifts, between which they presented a +0.33 Level 3 flying combination spin. These last two lifts were only Level 1 and not fully completed. Moore-Towers admitted, “I feel great. There’s some stuff that we’re frustrated with, but this is just another time out there for us. We know everyone in our event, so it was a fun competition. There’s some things we need to work on and some things but we’re really happy with some things.”

Her partner said, “This entire week, we stepped up our game. Our warm-ups and practices have all been very strong, smooth and aggressive, which was our goal. We learned what we need to step up even more going into the Grand Prix season, and that’s exactly why we came here. We want to reassess now. We recognize where we need to improve. We took a big step up from last year and I think we’ve done a great job so far this season. No we need to keep improving. I’m very happy with the way we train. We’ve performed four times this year, including at our High Performance camp, and we’ve been pleased every time. We feel good going into the season and we’re looking forward to Cup of China Grand Prix.” They train with Kris & Kristy Wirz in Kitchener/Waterloo.

2. Total 164.03; 2.FS 109.60 (56.73+53.87 -1); [2.SP 54.43 (29.69+25.74 -1)] Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers, Canada, skated first up in the second warm-up group. He was in khaki, she in brown with pink underskirt. Only four of their 12 elements received negatives but they included the first three moves. She fell on their first element, their triple toes. The triple twist was judged only “basic” which is new this season. It means the move was executed but no feature was added to receive Level 1 so it earned only 3.67. Their sequence of two double Axels got a very slight -0.17 removed from the base value. Their only other negative came on their 8th of the 12 required elements. They got - 0.47 removed although one judge punch in zero seeing nothing wrong with the throw triple loop.

The rest of the program had some very interesting variations. One lift had her dramatically sliding down his body before he caught her just a split second before her head would have hit the ice! Wow! Another had him rotating her above his head with her not holding at all. They had two changes of direction in one lift which is extremely difficult. Their second throw was an impressive throw triple flip, which earned an extra +0.93.

 Swiegers, who was born in South Africa, said, “We had a rough summer training-wise so we are happy with that program. It’s just coming together for us now. For us to come here and put down a solid program is a really big bonus. We have been dealing with a lot of little injuries so we couldn’t train the way we wanted to.” His partner added, “This is a confidence booster to know that even with the opening mistakes we still came back and had a smart program. We used our heads out there. We didn’t give up on anything. We fought for everything. It wasn’t a clean, easy program, but we made everything work. Now we can go home, take that and build it into a world-class competitive program.”

3. Total 143.34; 3.FS 102.35 (51.68+50.67); [5.SP 36.99 (18.73+23.26 -1)] Tiffany Vise & Don Baldwin, US, were first up of the six pairs for the Free, and gained bronze with a FS which was far superior to their SP showing in which they were fifth. By winning the 2010 Olympic gold medals, China’s Xue Shen, then 31, & Hongo Zhou, then 36, demonstrated that skaters often retire far too early in this demanding sport. Here in Salt Lake City, Vise, 26, and Baldwin, 34, who teamed up in 2009, clearly demonstrated they are far from the “old codgers stage”, finishing above the two other pairs representing the US. Vise and Baldwin placed ninth in the last US championship. Both partners come from skating families, with older siblings who represented this country in pair skating. They used the sountrack of Legends of the Fall by James Horner and "Time to Say Goodbye" by Erich Kunzel.

They began with a Level 2 +0.40 double twist and a nice side by side triple toe to double toe sequence which gained +0.47 over its base value. That was followed by +0.07 double Salchows. Their Level 3 forward inside death spiral received an extra +0.47. Then came their only negative, a throw triple flip which got -1.87 taken off because she put one hand on the ice but they still banked 4.18 points for the move. After their choreographed steps, they presented three excellent moves, a Level 4 Group 5 Axel lift which received an extra +0.47, a +0.70 throw triple loop and a flying Level 4 +0.17 combination spin. Their last two elements were both Level 4 and earned their base value, a Group 4 Lift and the pair combination spin.

They train in Scottsdale, Arizona. Baldwin said it felt great “to have Team USA cheering us on. It really helps when you start to feel tired. They really pulled us through.” Vise said, “It felt good. When we nail the first three elements, it really sets the tone for the rest of the program. Once we hit those, we could relax and take the rest of it one step at a time.” However, she explained, “We want to want to reorder some of the elements in our short program before Skate Canada. We did a revamp last year and it made a huge difference. You just have to play around with everything until it fits.”

4. Total 143.32; 4.FS 95.88 (48.14+49.74 -2); [3. SP 47.44 (23.66+23.78)] Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay, who train in Ellenton, Florida, were making their international debut, and finished an incredibly close fourth, just 0.02 behind Vise and Baldwin. However, they were 6.47 points behind Vise & Baldwin on the Free. Vise and Baldwin scored 3.54 points more technically and 0.93 more on the components, plus Zhang got two points deducted for her falls.

Zhang and Bartholomay performed their Free last. She was in purple and he in a blue shirt and black trousers. Their routine, which was set to music from the musical West Side Story, beginning with the famed Tonight, opened with a triple twist. She fell on her side-by-side triple toe, which had two arrows for a downgrade. They then executed a sequence of two double Axels but got a single arrow for a slight under-rotation on the second jump. Then came a +0.17 Group 4 Lift which earned Level 3. During their section set to Maria, she on the throw triple Salchow. The following flying combo spin earned the base value for Level 3 but then she fell again on their throw triple Salchow. After a good Group 3 which gained the top Level 4 with +0.33 added, they did their choreographed steps which was followed by a    throw triple Lutz on which she put both hands on the ice so they lost 0.93. They next performed a Level 3 forward inside death spiral which lost -0.23. The following Level 2 pair spin got a tad removed from the base value of -0.10. Their final move, a Level 4 Group 5 lift which got great applause and +0.70 over its base value.

Despite her falls, it was a very impressive beginning. Bartholomay, who is 23, said, “Our training really kicked in for parts of it. It needs work here and there, but we thought we put out a strong program. There were a couple bobbles but nobody’s perfect every time.” Zhang, who was leading up to her 21st birthday on September 22, said, “We’re happy with our placement in our first senior international. Our elements are all there. Everything is really coming together. At this point, we need to work on the consistency and the timing under pressure. We need to step that up a little bit.”

5. Total 121.31; 6.FS 75.73 (32.33+44.40 -1); [5.SP 45.58 (20.84+25.74)] the new partnership of Lindsay Davis & Mark Ladwig (they teamed up in May) were attired in silver and grey. Skating second, they opened with a triple Salchow meant to be combined with a double toe but she singled it. Their triple twist was seriously under-rotated and then she fell on their throw triple flip. She did a double Axel but he singled. Their next move, a Level 3 forward inside death spiral was their first to earn a positive Grade of Execution (+0.93) and their flying combo spin earned the base value for Level 3.

Their 8th move was a very interesting Group 4 reverse lift with a point where they reversed direction and she was flat out looking at the ceiling and not holding him at all. After the choreographed steps, came an Axel lift from a kneeling position which got no points at all. The last lift which had a back entrance from Group 4 had -0.33 off its base value for Level 4.  Their last element, meant to be the pair spin earned no points. It was definitely a flawed performance but it was extremely interesting in its very creative aspects.

Davis said, “It’s definitely been a learning experience. We put out some tricks that we haven’t put out so far. It was a good warm up for what’s to come.” He added, “We’ve got to go home and do more free skates that will prepare us for Skate Canada and NHK Trophy in Japan.”

6.Total 117.27; 5.FS 78.51 (40.37+40.14 -2); [6.SP 38.76 (20.65+19.12 -2)] Danielle Montalbano & Evgeni Krasnopolshy, Israel, were fifth in the FS but were too far back to advance from sixth. She wore white and he was in a white top and black pants. They skated to Phantom of the Opera. Their double twist was Level 2. Although she fell on both a triple Salchow and a triple toe, and their Levels were low, they had negatives on only a total of four of the 12 elements.