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U.S. International Figure Skating Classic Opens with Men's Event

by Alexandra Stevenson

  (12 Sep 2013, Salt Lake City)

U.S. Men Hold Top Four Places in Short Program

1.  Max Aaron, the defending champion, a 21-year-old from Scottsdale, who trains with Tom Zakrajsek in Colorado Springs, made a sensation showing in the previous day’s practice. However, nerves obviously set. He presented his gyrating, energetic routine, set to Perez Prado’s “Historia de un Amour” with only a fraction of the talent he showed in practice the day before. He still took first place with 81.49 points, and has a comfortable lead of slightly over four points going into the Free.

The routine had been choreographed by Christopher Dean, the Olympic champion who used this music to win the Olympic 1984 gold medal with his partner, Jayne Torvill, and they were rewarded with a set of straight 6.0s.

However, Aaron signaled he was not “on” right from his initial element, when he put two hands on the ice after landing the quad Salchow and got airborne again for a double toe loop. His triple Lutz was very big and he managed his triple Axel. But, during the step sequence, he fell. It is a huge tribute to his potential, that even with a less than perfect showing, he can still come back on top.

Aaron readily agreed his showing had not matched his presentation the previous day when he was under no pressure. “It definitely could have been better. I’m here to figure out what I need to do to compete these new programs and what I need to do to accomplish them clean, not just in practice. That’s the performance I’m waiting to have. I want to capture everyone’s attention. I’m trying to pin point how to do that. I’m known as more of a jumper, so I need to work toward being a performer. I have to figure out how to balance the two. How am I going to sell it and not give away my jumps and vice versa? It’s a fine line and I’m glad I had the opportunity to perform here.”

Zakrajsek explained, “In places he got slightly ahead of his music, undoubtedly as the result of nerves. He wants to capture everyone’s attention. He has a lighter, looser style in performance. But nerves play a great part of competition.”

Aaron had been looking forward to competing against Evan Lysacek, the Olympic champion, who withdrew due an abdominal tear, even though that could have denied Aaron the chance to keep this title which he earned in the inaugural event last year.) “Of course, I’m always competing against myself, straining to get better. But having Evan here would have made a dream come true, because I’ve always wanted to compete with him and have my name called along with his. He’s been an idol of mine for a long time.”

2.  Stephen Carriere, from the Skating Club of Boston, lies in second place with 77.48 points. The 24-year-old, who is trained by Suna Murray and performed to “Sheherazade”, had a problem with a spin but was pleased. “It was an overall clean program, definitely, jump-wise. I was very excited about the (triple) Lutz-(triple) toe, so I got stuck in that excitement for a bit, so some of the turns in my footwork weren’t as good as they were at previous events. I’m actually so happy with my performance, which is a really great thing!”

“Tomorrow, I’m just going to do the same thing. I’m going to attack one thing at a time. Right now I’m just going to focus on decompressing from this performance and then tomorrow, I’ll start thinking about what I need to do. I’ll start with the quad toe and just go from there.”

“It’s interesting competing this early, because usually my first international event isn’t until Nebelhorn Trophy (in Germany at the end of September). There might be a little less pressure, but I’m not sure because I always put pressure on myself no matter what. I think I was more interested in training for the elevation here than being ready a bit earlier.”

3.  Joshua Farris, who trains in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor SC with Damon Allen, lies third with 71.85. Farris, who is 18, led a sweep of American boys of all three medals in the World Junior Championships earlier this year in Milan. He, and his coach, Damen Allen, work together on all his choreography, which was set to Pizzaolla’s famed “Libertango”.

This was Farris’ debut in senior internationals. He stepped out of his opening element, a quad Salchow, but brought off a nice triple Axel. However, he doubled his planned triple toe loop in the second jump of his triple Lutz combination “About two weeks ago, coming into this, my quad was terrible. It was the worst it’s ever been and I was debating if I should just take it out. I didn’t. My coaches said to just put it out there. So I tried it. I didn’t quite stick it, but I stood up and I’m happy with that.”

He stumbled on his step sequence which was his last element. “The music is just so intense that I want to be that intense and sometimes I get a little overwhelmed. My free skate (set to Schindler’s List) is a lot slower, so I don’t get overwhelmed as much. My long is so special to me. I don’t know why, I just connect with it really well. The music really carries me through it, so I’m feeling really confident.”

4.  Grant Hochstein was Evan Lysacek’s replacement, earning a respectable 63.29, points, finishing ahead of all the other country’s entrants. The 23-year-old, who is trained by Peter Oppegard, admitted, “It was strangely trippy for me. During my spin I grabbed my blade with one finger and it slipped off, and then I fell on my footwork. It’s funny because at the beginning of my program I felt really strong. The quad felt really good. I just kind of crumbled.

“Nothing is really changing heading into the free skate. I have nothing to lose. I just want to be aggressive and skate. It’s not sunk in yet. I’ve only had a week to prepare, so it’s kind of funky, but that’s okay. I just needed to go out and skate and I didn’t quite do that today. Now I’m just focusing on doing my job tomorrow in the free skate.”

5.  Andrei Rogozine, a 20-year-old representing Canada, who was born in Russia but emigrated from Moscow when he was five, was the top finisher of the other five countries, a disappointment since he was 13th in the last world senior championship. He had skated last of the field and made several errors.

Canadian Pair Takes Lead After Short Programs.  Americans Occupy Next Three Slots

Although the leaders are significantly in front of their rivals, second through fifth is very close. Only 2.96 marks separate them.

1. 68.52 (37.46+31.06) Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch are the second ranked Canadians who were fourth in the world championships earlier this year. Performing to “Motley Crew” by R. Beau, they began their Short Program with a Level 1 extremely high lateral triple twist, which gained an extra +0.93, but the following side-by-side triple toe loops lost -1.40 off this element which has a base value of 4.1.

The 21-year old Moore-Towers said, “We are pretty pleased with it. We had some stupid, silly things, one very obvious (the jump) and one not-so-obvious one. For the most part, we’re pleased. We are here to build for our Grand Prix events and the rest of our season and I think we did a good job of that.”

Moscovitch said, “It felt good. We are right on track. Probably the (side-by side triple) toe (loop) felt TOO good. I didn’t check out enough. Other than that, we’re right where we want to be.”

The throw triple loop was excellent and gained +1.40, as did the maximum Level 4 Group 5 lift. The Level 4 steps earned an extra 1.17

2. 62.26 (35.40+27.86 -1) Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir are the first national Senior pairs champions to come from Boston in the last fifty years. Castelli, who is 23, said, “For us, today, we are still trying to process the changes (which their choreographer, Julie Marcotte decided upon last week). We’re like, ‘OK, remember we have to do this instead!’ It’s definitely difficult. It’s always difficult to do transitions and Julie decided we were going to be senior-level this season. We love the program and think we can even do better

We thought the hardest struggle would be to get a title. Now, it’s definitely more difficult trying to defend it. It’s a hard task. There are a lot of great pairs skaters out there now. This year is going to be even more competitive. We are ready to step up our game and getting rid of our glitches and anxieties. We want to put out to strong programs, whether they are perfect or not. We are focusing on skating like champions.” but then there was an under-rotation on the triple twist and that lost them -1.63. Their death spiral was a good Level 3 which was given an extra +0.70. But then came a throw triple flip which lost them a small -0.23. Their Lasso lift was Level 4 with +0.70. Their steps were also the maximum Level 4 with +0.70. The program finished wit   Their step sequence was a grean under-rotated triple toe loop which lost them -1.63. Their level 4 combination pair spin earned an extra +0.33.

It’s been a long climb for Castelli & Shnapir, who teamed up in 2006 and first made nationals, as novices, in 2007 finishing 10th. She explained, “It’s been a long climb to winning the senior title. We did make a break after getting stuck as the fifth ranked pair for two years in a row. But I think that re-thinking made us stronger.”

Castelli admits, “I’m a very fiery, energetic person. When I know I want something, I go right after it. Shnapir added, “And I’m very passionate. I think we both can be stubborn! And now we have proven to ourselves that we don’t have to skate perfect programs, but if we work on our performance, and our emotion, if we do have a glitch or fumble, we can rebound.”

3. 61.66 (34.04+27.62) Caydee Denney & John Coughlin train in Florida and were the U.S. 2011 champions but he was forced to stop skating for a period, during he had all sorts of treatment including having pieces of shattered bones REMOVED from various parts of his body.

Coughlin explained, “As a team, we have been working really hard on and off the ice. We are trying to be the best we can be and focus all our energies into this Olympic year. We want to learn from each competition.  Our off-ice (training) has changed a lot this year. We both do hot yoga for our flexibility. I feel like I’m dying halfway through it. We work out with (coach) Dalilah’s (Sappenfield) son, Larry, at his gym. We do workouts specifically for skaters.

Denney added, “This program is still fairly new. With each week of training and each competition, this program is going to get more comfortable. There’s room to grow in this program but overall I was pleased with how we did today.”

Coughlin added, “It’s a strong score for us for an imperfect for program. To be over 61 - I’m not sure we broke that often with clean programs in the past. In front of an international panel it means they like this program and we are moving in the right direction. Overall, we’re excited about it.”

They gained +1.17 over their wonderful Level 3 triple twist but the triple toe loop was under-rotated and they lost -1.63. Their Level 3 back outside death spiral gained +0.70 over its base value. The throw triple flip lost -0.23. The Axel Lasso lift gained +0.70 as did their Level step sequence. They concluded with their pair combination spin which got an extra +0.60. All three of their last elements earned the maximum Level 4.

4. 60.31 (34.77+25.54) Tarah Kayne, 20, from Fort Myers, in Florida, who is new to pairs, & Daniel O’Shea, 22, from Gurnee, Illinois, teamed up in April, 2012. They train in Ellenton. They presented a very enjoyable Short Program with music from the James Bond movies. He said, “It was a lot of fun. We are a newer team and our goal was to show what we can do and have fun doing it.” She said, “The entire feel of the program, I get to have a lot of sassy moments throughout. I play to the music and the crowd. James Bond is such an expressive piece of music and has a lot of character notations in it. I really like the footwork because it’s after all the big elements and we get to play it up our inter-reaction with each other and the music.”

5. 59.30 (32.10+28.20 -1) Page Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers are the 2011 Four Continents bronze medalists and three-time Canadian bronze medalists.  They had problems on their first move, the side by side triple toe loop jumps, losing -2.10 from the base value. Their triple twist was Level 1 with just a smidgen, -0.23, removed. Their Level 4 pair spin earned a half point over it’s base of 4.50. Their Axel Lasso lift was the top Level 4 and earned +0.93 over the 6.5 base value. However, their back outside death spiral was only classed as the basic Level 1 with +0.93 added. Their step sequence was Level 4 with +0.47. However, they got no points at all for their last element, the throw triple Lutz.

6. 50.23 (30.43+21.80 -2) Felicia Zhang from Plainsboro, N.J. & Nathan Bartholomay from Newtown, Pa, who train in Ellenton, Florida, reduced the difficulty of their presentation and had quite a few significant errors.

Zhang said, “It wasn’t our greatest. We had some bumps along the way here and even though it wasn’t perfect, we thought it was pretty good for us. We pushed through and ended strong.” She explained that over the summer, “We changed our footwork going into the (triple) twist and we feel like it’s helped make the element bigger and stronger. We have been working on everything to try to get faster and improve components.”

They still went into the Free with five couples behind them.

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