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2013 Nebelhorn Trophy: Ladies

by Sandra Stevenson

14-Year-old Elena Radionova Mars Miki Ando’s Comeback but Will the Russian be a Force When She Grows?

American Ashley Cain and Canadian Veronik Mallet beat Miki Ando in the Free Skate but Ando holds on to silver by less than half a point.

Miki Ando remembers when she was 14, and throwing off Quad Salchows in practice. She is still the only woman the ISU has credited with accomplishing this jump in an ISU event, the Junior Grand Prix Final in 2002 at The Hague when she was 15. But, no, she has long since given up trying that jump. She also remembers when she world champion (twice – in 2007 & 2011). But, “That was so long ago,” the now 25-year old, who will turn 26 on December 18, readily admitted. “Here (in Germany), I was so nervous. Before the Free, I was shaking. And then, afterwards doing television, I was in tears (of relief). I’m just glad it’s over and I have a medal.” But not the one she was hoping for.

Elena Radionova, who turned 14 on January 6, said her mother put her into ice skating when she was very young because her feet turned in and the parents hoped skating boots would help correct that problem. Surprisingly for one so young, she knew all about Ando’s quad success. However, she is obviously a late bloomer physically, and is still tiny, having not yet developed hips and boobs.

In the Short Program, which was set for Radionova to music from the movies, “Anna Karenina” and “Two Steps from Hell”, she gained seven of the maximum +3s and two +2s for her final move, the layback spin, which she concluded with an almost split Biellmann position with her head still leaning back. All her Levels were the maximum 4, and she certainly overshadowed Ando, winning both sections by very significant margins. In the Short Program, she won by 4.90 points over Ando, and her Free was 20.45 points ahead of Ando.

Radionova opened her Free with a +0.70 triple Lutz to triple toe loop and earned positive Grades of Execution for almost everything she tried, including her second triple Lutz, set at the halfway point. The exception came immediately following that second triple Lutz, when she fell on a double Axel.

Again all three spins were Level 4 but her steps in this section were “only” Level 4. Her Free was set to the soundtrack of “Frida”. Overall, she finished a remarkable 25.35 points ahead of Ando.

Ando was second in the SP, which she performed to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”. She was beaten on the Element score by Ashley Cain, but was ahead of the American by virtue of her higher components. Ando’s combination was triple Lutz to double loop, which was given an arrow for slight under-rotation on the second jump. The rest of her elements received positives. However, two spins were only Level 3, with the combination spin receiving only 0.03 GoE. Her steps were also Level 3, but with + 0.93. Her concluding layback spin was awarded only Level 2, with +0.36.

Ando was only fourth in the FS, which was set to Stravinski’s “Firebird”. She opened with a triple Lutz for which two judges gave +1, five thought it was merely satisfactory in every aspect and punched in 0, and the remaining two thought it was flawed and gave -1. Her triple loop which followed received five 0s, along with three +1s and a solitary +2. But the two spins which followed were relatively slow and only Level 2 with +0.50 for the flying sit, and +0.21 for the change foot combination. The double Axel, which followed, was good enough for an extra +0.50.

But then she doubled her Salchow and received a total score for this element of only 1.27. She immediately followed that with a triple Salchow to double toe loop, earning 5.95. A triple toe loop lost -0.10. Then came a double Axel combined with two double loop jumps which earned its base value. Her last spin, a flying camel combination spin was only the basic Level 1. The step sequence was only Level 2 although with an extra +0.50. She finished with her choreographed section. Although she was given the second highest component score, Ando received only the sixth best technical score.

Realistically, for any hope of gaining an Olympic place, Ando is going to have to do quite a lot more work and with a top coach who is top-of-the-line in interpreting what is needed for Level 4s. She still has not decided on a coach. She was being “looked after” by an Italian in Oberstdorf.

Of course, she is now the mother of five-month old daughter, Himawara, which comes with an enormous amount of demands. She, and her mother, brought the baby to Germany. “She keeps me relaxed and happy,” Ando said. Many women athletes say that having a baby made them stronger, but undoubtedly Ando must make significant progress if she is to earn an Olympic place in the extremely competitive Japanese championship.

In Germany, she held on to second overall but only by 0.47 over the American Ashley Cain. Cain, who is 18, is trained by her father, Peter. He, and his sister Liz, competed in pairs in four world championships and represented the country of their birth, Australia, in the 1980 Olympic Games in Lake Placid where they finished 11th. Ashley also competed in pairs but has now given that discipline up to concentrate on singles.

In her SP, set to “Flamenco Fire”, Cain was saddled with an arrow for slight under-rotation on the second jump of her combination, triple flip to triple toe loop and lost -0.80 in the SP. But the other six elements all received significant Grades of Execution.

In her FS, choreographed very gracefully to “Ave Maria”, for which she wore a beautiful white and silver outfit, Cain fell on her opening move, a triple Lutz and got an arrow for slight under-rotation for both her triple flips, the first of which was combined with a double toe loop. But she did a good, +0.60 triple loop, and a second one at the half-way stage combined with a double toe loop and double loop which earned +0.20 for GoE. Two of her spins were the maximum Level 4. The concluding spin and her steps were Level 3. At the halfway mark, she earned +0.40 for her triple Salchow and +0.64 for her double Axel. Her steps, for which she earned two of the maximum +3s, and the last spin, the combination, were Level 3. She also earned one +3 for her choreographed section. She performed very gracefully in white and silver to “Ave Maria”.

Cain, who turned 18 on July 22, is the daughter of Peter Cain, who was 11th in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, with his sister, Liz. He is married to Darlene, a Canadian ice dancer, and they teach in Texas. He remembers his competitive days with a smile. “People ask me about coming to the United States. We had to, to get the proper top level coaching, but it was very hard. People know Australia is a long way away, but they don’t realize just how far that is!” His daughter gained quite a bit of success in pairs, but is now concentrating on singles.

Canada’s Veronik Mallet, who turned 19 on June 11, lay 2.08 points behind Cain after her SP which was set to “Papillon”. She executed a good +0.40 triple loop to double toe loop, but her triple flip lost -0.30. Two of her spins, the flying sit and the combination, earned Level 4. The layback spin and the footwork gained Level 3.

Mallet was taking part in her first ever international. She was a late bloomer, who only recently got her triple Lutz and triple flip jumps and so is just emerging on the international scene. She was third in the FS, for which she performed to “Funny Girl”, although the range between second (Cain with 104.52), third (Mallet with 103.88) and fourth (Ando with 103.07) was very close.

Brooklee Han, who was born in the United States, but whose father is Australian, and so she now represents that country, zoomed up from 10th after the SP, with a free which fifth best. Elene Gedevanishvili, 23, who represents the country of her birth, Georgia, but has now qualified for her third straight Olympic Games, was sixth overall in the SP and overall, although she was only seventh in the Free.

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