Four Continents Championships
By Alexandra Stevenson
All photos Copyright 2006 by George S. Rossano
1. Beatrisa "BeBe" Liang made an impressive start finishing 3.78 marks ahead of her main rival, Katy Taylor, who lies second. The 17 year old from Granada Hills, CA, has finished fifth in nationals for the past two years. She attributed confidence in herself to a new easier going approach to competition. "Before competition, I am usually worried about everything. This time I just let it happen by itself because I know I can do everything in my program, so, there is nothing really to be worried about."
Skating to Firedance by D. Foster, she speed through her eight elements cleanly performing her jumps, triple Lutz to double toe, double Axel and triple flip with attack and ease. Her first and final spins, the flying sit and change foot combination, were awarded Level 4, the highest. Her circular step sequence, layback spin, and spiral sequence were all level 3. All of her GoEs were positive with the double Axel getting a +1 added to the base value.
2. Katy Taylor, skating to Gershwinís Rhapsody in Blue appropriately dressed in blue, her ponytail flapping away happily throughout the energetic program, did the same elements as Liang and received the Level 4 for the same two spins. Her layback was also a 3. However, the straight line step sequence was a 2 and the spiral sequence only a 1.
She drew to skate in the first group and after the first skater had performed, a transformer went out and the arena went black. Taylor was back stage. "I donít like the dark," said the 16 year old from Houston. "You know when youíre in the dark automatically you think youíre the only one and Iím like, ĎWhereís my coach? Whereís my coach?í"
The lights came back on. The ice was resurfaced and the remaining competitors in that first group got a second warm up. Taylor, coming off her 4th place finish at Nationals, said she usually gets nervous. "Right in the beginning I felt the nerves, but going into the warm up I felt so much better and then the lights went out and it just kind of took everything away and it was kind of weird. It didnít make me nervous anymore because it was kind of like a freak thing so I just kind of went off and did my thing and it worked.
"Iím really happy with how I skated. I skated a clean program at Sectionals and the Junior Grand Prix Finals so I was a little upset not to skate a clean program at nationals so to come to Four Continents and skate that well, Iím extremely happy with that."
She said that skating so close to nationals was, "hard because Iím still on a high from nationals medaling (the pewter) and by the time we go and by the time I got home I didnít have time to do back to back programs except for three days to train for altitude but in a way itís also good because I can stay at a high and at my highest peak and my periodization can come down for three days and go right back up again.
"I think (this competition) is a really good first senior international to get the experience of being a senior and I think itís going to be really good ISU points for the ISU world ranking for me and the whole experience has been really good so far."
3. The very experienced Yukani Nakano from Japan, is best known as being the third woman to be credited with doing a triple Axel in international competition when she landed the jump in Skate America in October 2002. The 20 year old won bronze in this event in 2003 but was 6th in 2004 and only 11th last year. She lies 3.73 behind Taylor and only 1.40 ahead of her teammate, Mai Asada.
"I didnít feel the altitude in practice but I felt it in competition. I was nervous today so the combination wasnít strong," said Nakano, who performed to music from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. She completed the triple Lutz but singled the toe loop and received a very poor GoE (-2.29).
4. Mai Asada, who is 17, is best known as the older sister of Mao. They look fairly similar. "All my jumps were good today so Iím very pleased with them. But I made an error on my layback spin that usually doesnít happen. I got stuck with my toe. Her combination was triple flip to double toe. The triple Lutz received a -0.43 GoE and the layback -0.21 not all the judges penalized her for a fault in the layback which was deemed a Level 2. She drew to skate immediately after Taylor so she was also subjected to the blackout disruption. She said, "I was lucky. The incident didnít affect me." She performed to Morning from Griegís Peer Gynt Suite.
5. Meagan Duhamel is a Canadian on the rise. In the last three nationals she has placed 10th, seventh, and 4th. The 20 year old from Lively, Ontario, also does pairs, and is sixth nationally in this discipline. She performed to Croatian Rhapsody. She said, "I am very pleased. The (double) flip wasnít a perfect landing so I am happy I was able to recover and just get everything done. That is usually the best element of the program. So, to get the (double) Lutz (combined with the double toe) done afterwards was a big accomplishment for me. I have struggled a lot this year with the short program and that is a big thing for me to get over that step. So I was just really happy to get this one done. Skating pairs is very different. I think it is more relaxing going out on the ice for pairs because someone is there with me. I feel calm and I try to bring that over to the singles. In pairs I can take my time a little bit more in pairs and be more relaxed. I think it has helped me. I need to bring that over to singles. It is all one step at a time.
6. 2.07 behind Duhamel is her teammate, Lesley Hawker, a 24 year old from North York, Ontario, who took the bronze in her fifth time at Canadian nationals. She had been twice ninth, the 6th and 5th. Hawker, who is one in a family of ten, skated to Smile Charlie Chaplinís theme song. "It went pretty good," she said. "I missed one element. I did a double instead of a triple flip but everything else felt really great to me. It was probably one of my best shorts of the season but I have to work on rotating every single jump."
7. Amelie LaCoste, the 17 year old 2005 Canadian junior champion, who gained fifth place in Canadian seniors in her first attempt, drew No.1 and set off the power failure. "I was just on my way to the kiss and cry area when the lights went down. This happened to me for the first time! She performed to El Conquistador by Maxim Rodriguez beginning with a triple loop to triple loop combination but the second jump was deemed under-rotated and classed as a double. She received a -1.29 GoE. "Iím really pleased with myself. I did what I wanted. I went for all the jumps. Iím happy to have tried my triple-triple. I skated very well. It was my best short program of the year," she said.
8. Joanne Carter, a 25 year old from Sydney who won the Australian title in 1999 but who hasnít been able to claim it since then, tried a double Lutz to triple loop but fell on the second jump which was downgraded to a double. The rest of her elements were good and she did a lovely Ina Bauer into double Axel. Carter has been involved in a struggle for Australiaís one Olympic place with the five times national title holder Miriam Manzano who lies 11th here. Manzano claimed that she should be entitled to it but their Association felt it should be the one who did best in the previous Four Continents Championships which was Carter.
9. Christine Zukowski, a 16 year old pupil of Jeff DiGregrio from Newark, Delaware, who was the 2005 US junior silver medalist and finished sixth in her debut this year in seniors, doubled her loop and received a -1 GoE for her triple Lutz to double toe combination in her Firebird by Stravinski routine. She said, "I doubled my loop, but otherwise I think it went pretty well."
1. (2, 2) Taylor seized her moment giving a well rehearsed, enjoyable routine with five triple jumps that succeeded despite one momentís uncertainty resulting in an aborted triple loop. At the end of the four minutes, she hit her forehead with feigned annoyance at that lapse but her effort was good enough for gold, by a margin of 2.56.
When the marks went up, she knew she had overtaken her teammate, Liang, but had to wait through the two remaining competitors to discover the overall result. Nakano, who was lying third, had drawn to skate last and was a distinct threat since she was trying a triple Axel.
But that move was not verified by Shin Amano, the technical specialist who was a pupil of Nobuo Sato, who now coaches Nakano.
Taking the ice in a mauve outfit, performing to the Forrest
Gump soundtrack, Taylor began with a triple flip followed by a double
Axel. Her first spin, a flying sit spin, gained the maximum, Level 4. The
succeeding triple Lutz to double toe appeared effortless, secure and
Taylorís change foot combination spin was Level 2. Her triple flip-double toe was fine but then came the mistake with the loop. But that did not faze her and she charged into her Level 2 straight line steps. The last two spins were a Level 4 sit and a Level 3 layback. Her final move, a second triple Lutz was landed with a steep edge. This gained a small negative GoE (-0.43). Apart from the loop, it was the only moment of any uncertainty.
The 16 year old who comes from Sugarland, Tara Lipinskiís hometown, is often compared with the 1998 Olympic champion because of her small size and compact, secure jumping abilities. "The comparison is mainly because of the hometown, but Katy does share Taraís drive," said Conter.
"I beat my personal best again by 15 points," said a delighted Taylor. "I even beat my personal best from nationals. I was upset about the loop though because it is my best jump. I think maybe I just pre-rotated my arms because I know I wasnít holding back.
"Iím very excited being here because this is my first senior international and I really just wanted to go out there and do two good skates which I did, but now I am walking away with a medal."
It was a risk scheduling her second triple Lutz right at the end when she must have been exhausted but Taylor was confident about it. "I train really hard back home so I have good stamina. I was a little worried about the altitude but I stayed strong and talked with my mental coach Friday and we went over a few things to say to myself when I get tired towards the end."
Earlier this season, she had competed in sectionals in Westminster, which is a Denver suburb, and although it is a thousand feet lower, it is still at a fair altitude and Taylor said it helped prepare her for this event. "I think it helped a lot because I knew what to expect and I knew that adrenalin helped me because in practice I am tired. And at sectionals I was congested so this was 100 percent better."
Her season is not over. She is the 2nd alternate for the Games and 1st alternate for the Calgary Worlds plus she will be going to World Juniors in Slovenia. Thatís a prospect she is looking forward to because it was where her first international, The Triglav Trophy was held and she enjoyed it. About having to go back to a junior length free, Conter said, "Itís very difficult to loose half a minute. Thereís only one spin less so itís a packed program. Itís a rush to fit in all the elements."
2. (3,1) Nakano gave a very competent showing, using Minkusí well loved music for the ballet, Don Quixote, in a beautiful pink outfit, although it would be enhanced greatly if she would only smile. "I beat my personal best here, but I think that my performances at NHK Trophy (which she won in November last year) and the Grand Prix Final (in December where she won the bronze) were better than this. The triple Axel felt good on the landing. This just means that I have to train it more."
All three medalists had trouble with the loop. Nakano singled hers in a routine with five other triples. Her first move was the Axel attempt which was deemed a double with a minus 0.50 GoE. Her final triple toe to double Axel sequence was also given a minus (0.71 GoE). There were other jump combinations - a triple Lutz-double toe toward the beginning and a triple toe-double toe-double loop in the final minute. Also included were solo triple flip and Salchow.
3. (1, 3) Liang was a mere 1.58 behind Nakano. "I think it was a pretty good performance," she said. "I missed a couple of elements but every time I go out there I have fun and I learn something from it. Itís a learning experience for me. Before coming to this competition I trained really hard because it was so close to Nationals and I just know that no matter what I put into my practice, it will come out in the competition and I can trust that when I compete. I was really excited after the short and I tried to not let myself get distracted by (being in the lead)."
She performed a sophisticated routing to the very mature music Hope by Apocalyptica and the Tango Primavera Portena by Astor Piazzolla, dress, of course, in black with red tones in the bust area. She began with a Level 3 flying sit followed by a double Axel. The third move was meant to be a triple flip but she collapsed on it. It was given -3 GoE and she received a 1.0 deduction for a fall. She only just held the landing of the second jump on her next move, triple Lutz to double toe, and received -1.0 GoE. There were no other minuses. The circular step sequence was Level 3 and the change foot combination spin a Level 4. She executed a triple flip and added an impromptu double toe to it at the point where the bonus 10% kicks in. "I missed the first triple flip which was meant to be a combination so when I did the second flip I stuck on a double toe. I just make sure that I gain as many points as I can so that whatever chance to do that Iíll go for it."
That was followed by a layback and the spirals, both level 3, and then came the unfortunate loop. She quickly recovered with a good triple Lutz quickly followed by a triple toe to double loop and her final Level 2 change foot combination spin.
4. (6, 4) The unheralded Hawker gave a performance which delighted her coach, Richard Callaghan. Skating to three pieces from The Mission soundtrack by Ennio Morricone, Gabrielís Oboe, The Mission theme and The Falls, she began with a good triple Lutz-double toe-double loop quickly followed by a triple flip to double toe. However, her loop attempt was only a double. After her level 3 combination spin, she soared into a triple Lutz which received a -0.43 GoE. That was followed by a triple toe to double toe and a triple Salchow which both received base value. Her change foot combination spin was only a Level 1 and her straight line steps a Level 2 but the spirals were Level 3. Then came a double Axel, a flying camel spin Level 2 and a flying sit Level 3.
"I was really happy," she said. "The jumps were good. It was a little bit tough today because of the altitude. It really affects the breathing, but you know what Ė overall I donít think it affected me that much so I am really happy. There wasnít a lot of preparation because weíve just had Canadian nationals. It was hard because everyoneís nationals are big, especially American and Canadian. Just to go back to regular training was hard. My coach pushed me through some hard days."
5. (5, 6) Duhamel was only 0.66 behind her teammate. Using Saint Saens Rondo Capriccioso, Duhamel accomplished six triples including a double Axel to triple toe but singled a flip and fell on a Salchow. "I think it was good Ė nothing above average; nothing below average. Thatís about how I train everyday. Iím really happy because I didnít have a very good nationals so this is kind of a rebound for me and I think I did a good job." Asked how she felt mentally, she said, "On a scale of one to ten, Iíd chose ten. You know, recovery is something we worked on this year."
6. (4, 7) Asada, interpreting Amethyst by Yoshiki, fell twice, on a triple flip and the second jump in her sequence of two double Axels. However, she brought off five triples. She caused a small gathering to laugh when she laughed, expressing surprise at her marks. "I donít know. I am very excited about my personal best, but I had two falls so Iím not happy about that. My foot is weak and I had to have it taped before I started. I am happy being here and I had a lot of fun. Before the competition I had a chance to talk to my sister (Mao, the 15 year old World Junior and Grand Prix Final champion who is too young to go to the Olympics) and she was very encouraging."
7. (10, 5) Yan Liu, the Chinese champion interpreted music from the Chinese movie, My Parents, by San Bao. The 21 year old was 21 in the last world championship and better her last yearís placement in this event by one. She won the Olympic secondary qualifying event in Vienna. She finished 4.58 above Carter.
She said, "Overall, it was a performance like I can do it in practice. It wasnít the best of the season but it was good. I felt quite tired because of the altitude. I didnít feel my legs anymore. It was hard. It was a good test for me for the Olympic Games so I could see if my training was good enough."
8. (8, 9) Carter began with an excellent triple Lutz which earned +0.71 GoE and they presented an ambitious three jump combination, triple flip-double toe-double loop. Although it was given a -0.43 GoE, she banked 7.87 points for it. She stepped out of her second triple flip and downgraded her last two jumps but it was an energetic, enthusiastic showing which used three pieces similar pieces of music, Tanguera and two pieces by Astor Piazzolla, Tango Zero Hour and Libertango. She was dressed in black, of course. "Itís disappointing. Skating in the altitude, weíre not used to it at all. So coming over (from Australia) was a big thing for us. To get a training at altitude was good. The beginning was good. I wanted to try a triple-triple (Lutz-loop). Unfortunately, it didnít come off in the short or long. But itís a stepping stone to the Olympics. Thatís the main thing."
9. (11, 8) Akiko Kitamura is a 17 year old from Kyoto, who is trained by Midori Itoís coach, Mie Hamada. She was 14th in the last world junior championship in her first entry Kitamura finished 1.95 behind Carter. Skating to the music Poeta, she began tentatively messing up her triple Lutz which was downgraded to a double with a negative GoE. However, she accomplished a fine three jump combination triple toe-double toe-double loop and four other triples.
10. (9, 10) Zukowski skated to Gershwinís Three Preludes. She began well with a good triple loop but fell, very softly, on her next jump, a triple Lutz, and doubled the following flip. Everything else was fine up to her last triple, the second Salchow. She messed up the landing but was credited with accomplishing the full rotation.
"It could have been a lot better," she said. "With the event being in the USA, the crowd was really behind me and I think I just got a bit tight when I went out there. I need to train a lot harder to be on top. I missed a lot of schoolwork so as soon as I get home I have to go to the computer. Always after competitions, skaters go down a little bit and so, after nationals, it was kind of hard to get back up but I was feeling good before I came here and I still feel good about myself." She finished only 0.62 behind Kitamura.
11. (7, 11) Lacoste interpreted Nino Rotaís Romanza, Andante Nalinconico. There was a delay before she skated as the flower girls were dispatched to pick up some plastic item that had been thrown on the ice. "It didnít bother me," said Lacoste, "I stayed in my bubble. It was long, but things happen." The Canadian began with a very good triple loop-double loop combination but then fell on her next move, a triple Lutz. She explained, "I talked to myself after it and said, ĎThat is past. I have to refocus and forget about the jump.í" But she doubled her next jump, the flip. After that she was fine until the end where she reduced the difficulty of her last two jumps, a planned double Axel became a single and the second triple loop turned into a bad double.
Anastasia Gimazetdinova, the 25 year old Uzbeki from Pervouralsk, who was lying 19th of the 26 competitors, withdrew because of an injured left foot.
2006 Four Continents Ladies Medalists
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