2011 U.S. Nationals Singles Preview

By Liz Leamy

Top U.S. menís and ladies contenders geared up and ready to go in Greensboro

Next week, the 2011 U.S. Championships will kick off in Greensboro, North Carolina with a top-rate roster of some of the countryís finest singles contenders looking to earn a coveted U.S. title, medal or World-team berth.

Although this might be a post-Olympic year, these skaters seem to be as strong as ever and ought to manage upholding the well-known superior American competitive standard in an effective and memorable fashion.

MEN

The menís showdown, a main event, ought to live up to its usual hype, drama and excitement. This year, there is a wide array of talented and highly skilled contenders who are reputed to have some of the finest jumps, spins and edges in the world, even despite the fact that an American failed to qualify for the Grand Prix Final in December. Collectively, this group ought to reflect the golden wake left by Evan Lysacek, the 2010 U.S. Olympic champion, in much of the same way.

Jeremy Abbott, the reigning U.S. menís titlist who has been living and training at the Detroit Skating Club with Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen for two years, is certainly a force with which to be reckoned here. Although he was second at the NHK Trophy in Japan and third at the Cup of Russia and just missed qualifying for the finals, he is said to be more than determined than ever to reclaim his national title and prove his golden worth.

Brandon Mroz, the 2009 mení silver medallist who is coached by Tom Zakrajcek in Colorado Springs, is another premier contender at this event. Known for his superior jumping ability, Mroz has developed into a formidable opponent on the international front, and pulled off second at the Cup of China and third at the Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris this past fall and could very well. According to sources, he has been training well over the past few months and is prepped to claim a top U.S. national spot.

Adam Rippon, the acclaimed 21-year old two-time Junior World champion who trains with Brian Orser in Toronto and represents the Skating Club of New York, is another top contender. Reputed to have some of the finest triple jumps, spins and edges around, he is one tough skater to beat when he is on his game. Last fall, he earned a bronze at Skate Canada and was fourth at Skate America.

Richard Dornbush of Corona, California, who trains with Tammy Gambill, is another formidable opponent here. Last month, the 20-year old captured the Junior Grand Prix menís title in Beijing, where he was awarded the eventís highest scores for his high-quality jumps, spins, edges and program components.

Armin Mahbanoozadeh of Great Falls, Virginia, who is known for his quick air rotation and excellent jumping ability, is another big name here. Last fall, this skater clinched the bronze at Skate America. He trains with Priscilla Hill and Karl Kurtz in Wilmington, Delaware.

Keegan Messing of Girdwood, Alaska, is also likely to put up some high scores at this event. Last month, he placed fifth in the Junior Grand Prix Final and was second to Patrick Chan, the Canadian two-time World silver medallist and 2010 Grand Prix Final champion at the Liberty Open in Aston, Pennsylvania last summer. (At Liberty, he earned the highest skating-skill scores.)

Ryan Bradley is another outstanding skater here. Although he elected not to compete in the Grand Prix series this fall, this athlete is reputed to often skate strong programs at major events.

LADIES

The ladies showdown ought to be interesting and one most likely, in which the winner will be determined based upon their triple-jump skills and technique.

Rachael Flatt, the reigning champion who finished sixth in the Grand Prix Finals this December, ought to skate her usual series of clean programs and should generate some high marks. This year, Flatt, who is coached by Tom Zakrajsek in Colorado Springs, has concentrated on presentation and components and seems as prepared than ever to prove herself as the nationís best.

Mirai Nagasu, the vivacious Californian who skates with Frank Carroll, also seems well poised to possibly clinch the title. Although she has struggled at times with jump-rotational issues, she is said to be skating better than ever and seems resolute to prove herself as the nationís finest female contender.

Alissa Czisny, the Michigan native who pulled of the Herculean task of jumping from tenth place at the 2010 U.S. Championships to winning the Grand Prix Final title last month, is another major contender here. Czisny, who started training with Yuka Sato and Jason Dunjgen in Detroit this year, has rebounded largely due to the improvement of her triples, which are bigger, cleaner and higher than ever. All she has to do is skate clean and aggressively.

Agnes Zawadzki of Chicago who works with Tom Zakrajsek in Colorado Springs, is another skater to watch. Reputed to have some of the biggest triples around, Zawadzki is a force to be reckoned with when she pulls it all together.

Caroline Zhang, the artful California-based skater known for her extraordinary flexibility and artistry, is also looking to score big marks in Greensboro. Over the past few years, Zhang has struggled with some of her triples, but has been working diligently on jump technique with her new coach, Tammy Gambill this season and wants to show that she has made major improvement in this area.

Alexe Gilles of Colorado Springs, who is also coached by Tom Zakrajsek, could also fare out well at this event. Although she has dealt with some inconsistency on her triples over the past few seasons, Gilles has been said to be training well and ought to do well in Greensboro if she puts together some clean programs.

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