2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Greensboro, NC

22 - 30 January, 2011

Event Reports and Photo Galleries


Novice Ladies
Novice Men
Novice Pairs
Novice Dance


Junior Ladies
Junior Men
Junior Pairs
Junior Dance


Senior Ladies
Senior Men
Senior Pairs
Senior Dance

Daily Notes

For Senior event reports and photo galleries for all divisions, follow the links at the left.

All photos copyright 2011 by George S. Rossano

Sunday, 30 January

The Men's final completed the championships today.  Sentimental favorite Ryan Bradley placed fourth in Free Skate, but held on to win Men's Title, helped by Jeremy Abbott and Brandon Mroz (second and third in the Short Program) both tanking in the Free Skate.  Adam Rippon redeemed himself somewhat in the Free Skate, placing third, but it was not enough to move up onto the podium.  A pleasant and unexpected surprise in the Free Skate was the first place performance of Ricky Dornbush who moved up from seventh in the Short Program to finish second overall.  Ross Minor moved up from sixth in the short to place second in the long and third overall.  Joshua Farris, who placed 13th in the short, was last in the long.  Farris reportedly skated most of the program with a broken leg, after falling on two triple Axel attempts at the beginning of the program.

During the break between the second and third warm-up groups Johnny Weir received the 2011 Reader's Choice Award from Skating Magazine.

The Men's event did not carry the same popularity with the locals as did the Ladies event the night before.  Only about 1600 were on hand at the 1:30 PM start, but the audience built over the first two warm-up groups, and the audience reached about 4800 for the last two groups.  Only the Ladies Free Skate and the Exhibition were advertised as sellouts, though in both cases there were many empty seats scattered throughout the arena which had a total seating capacity of about 9100 for the current configuration.  On Thursday it was announced that the organizers would reach their goal of $2 million in ticket sales.  Most of this was in the form of all event tickets, and the Friday evening through Sunday evening session.  Attendance for the Novice and Junior events on the first Sunday through Wednesday of the week was dreadful, much lower than attendance last year in Spokane at the height of the recession.

Following the evening exhibition, which ended near 10 PM, there was a taping of two numbers that will be shown as part of the activities connected with the premier of Rise on February 17, 2011.  These group numbers included skating by Evan Lysacek, the medallists from this year's championships, and other competitors and local skaters.

Estimated Attendance:

Senior Men -- 4800
Exhibition -- 8500

Saturday, 29 January

To maximize ticket sales, as many events as possible are now scheduled on the weekend, so today we have three Senior final rounds, with the fourth, Men's final, set for tomorrow.  To accommodate the TV schedule we again have the Dance and Pairs events split.  The lower placed competitors compete first in the morning, to be followed by the higher placed competitors in the afternoon.  To see the full events requires two tickets, and a third is needed for the evening Ladies Free Skate.

All of this makes perfect marketing sense, even if it is unfair and an insult to the competitors consigned to the morning session.  We note that in both Pairs and Dance no competitor in the morning session was scored above any competitor in the afternoon session.  And anyone who thinks a person can judge an event consistently over an eight hour period with a long break in the middle is living in a dream world.

In Pairs, Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin gave a moving performance to win the Pairs title.  They were closely followed by Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig, 3.23 points back.  Thes two team stood our from the rest of the rest of the pack, with Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett nearly 13 points behind the gold medallist and Mary Beth Marley & Rockne Brubaker nearly 25.

No surprise in Davis & White wining the gold medal, with the couple a leading contender to win the world title in March.  Up and coming stars Maia & Alex Shibutani, left no doubt they were the wave of the future, placing second in the Dance event in their first year as Seniors.  They were the 2010 National Junior Champions and have leapt over all but one in the U.S. Senior ranks to win the silver medal to earn their first Senior World Team berth.

Alissa Czisny followed up on her strong Short Program performance with an even stronger Free Skate to win her second National title.  Czisny was the 2009 champion, but placed tenth in 2010.  This year she landed five clean triples in the Free Skate, and under-rotate a sixth.  Rachael Flatt moved up to second in the Free Skate to win the silver medal, while Mirai Nagasu faded in the long to drop to third in the Free Skate and third overall, missing the world team which has only two berths for the ladies this year.  Agnes Zawadzki, the 2010 National Junior Champion, placed fourth in the Free Skate to finish fourth overall.

Estimated Attendance:

Senior Pair/Dance 1st half -- 6400
Senior Pair/Dance 2nd  half -- 7500
Senior Ladies FS -- 8000

Friday, 28 January

Ashley Cain & Joshua Reagan again dominated the technical scores in the Junior Pairs event, winning the Free Skate and the gold medal.  In Program Component Score they were scored 0.95 points back, trailing in Transitions, Choreography and Interpretation.  Like many of the Novice and Junior pairs teams at these championships the technical aspects of their skating was clearly superior to the artistic.  As technically strongly as they and a few other teams skated, average program component score in the mid fives, and less, for the technically best teams is not a good sign.

Andrea Poapst & Christopher Knierim moved up from sixth in the Short Program to second in the Free Skate to win the silver medal.  Their opening triple twist was spectacular, and the following three elements were also very strong.  The team faded somewhat, however, for the remainder of the program, though those elements were still clean.  Their program to "Amelie" was much more interesting and showed a clearer relationship, than than did the leader's "Romeo and Juliet" which showed no hint of emotion between the skaters

Cassie Andrews & Timothy LeDuc dropped from second in the Short Program to fifth in the Free Skate.  They held onto a place on the podium and finished third overall, 0.82 points ahead of Bryn Carman & AJ Reiss who placed third in the Free Skate and fourth overall.  Andrews & LeDuc's "Carmen" was as tedious as any, and also showed no glimmer of a relationship between the skaters.

While certain technical aspects of U.S. pair skating have improved in recent years (we finally have several teams that can do decent triple twists, and difficult overhead lifts), the takeaway from the Novice and Junior pair events at these Nationals is that artistically U.S. pair skating is currently a nearly barren wasteland.

Estimated Attendance:

Junior Pair FS -- 1500 (1000 of which were school field trips)
Senior Dance SD -- 1500
Senior Men SP -- 3600

Thursday, 27 January

The Novice events are a distant memory.  The Junior events are done, but for the Junior Pairs Free Skate (tomorrow).  The big kids begin today with the Senior Pairs Short Program and the Senior Ladies Short Program.

Follow the Senior Pairs link for the Short Program notes.

Follow the Senior Ladies link for the Short Program notes.

Estimated Attendance:

Senior Pairs SP -- 1800
Senior Ladies SP -- 2400

Wednesday, 26 January

Wandering around the arena waiting for the evening session to begin (opening ceremony and the Junior Ladies Free Skate) the building was a ghost town.  The senior ladies had their practice in the afternoon on the main ice, and the room was pretty much empty.  Most sessions thus far have had under 1000 in the audience with about 500 a typical number.  For the Junior Free Skate, an audience finally trickled in before show time, and the session had the best attendance of the week, thus far, at about 2600.  The opening ceremony was led by Paul Wylie, 1992 Olympic silver medallist, who is the honorary chairman of the championships.

In the Junior Ladies event, Courtney Hick followed up on her technically strong Short Program with another athletic performance in which she landed six triple jumps, including her now signature triple flip - triple toe loop combination.  It received GoEs from 2 to -1.  The difference of opinion probably centers on the triple toe loop, which viewed from about 20 feet away, which seemed ever so slightly under rotated, though not enough for a under-rotation call.  Both her triple Lutz attempts had edge calls.  The first in combination (3Lz+2T+2Lo<)  was landed but the ending double loop was called under-rotated.  She had a fall on the second, solo, attempt.  All her spins were again called level four and were well executed.

Lauren Dihn moved up from third in the Short Program, to second overall in a strong performance, marred only by a fall on a triple loop attempt on the second element.  She did not let the error throw her off and she finished the program cleanly.  Katatina Kulgeyko dropped to third in the Free Skate to finish third overall.  Kulgeyko struggled a bit, popping her opening flip to a no value element and doubling two other jumps.  She landed three double jumps and two double Axels.  Nevertheless, it was a well presented program and received the second highest component scores of the segment.

Charlotte Lichtman & Dean Copely cast a spell over the judges with their Beetlejuice Free Dance in the Junior Dance event, and perhaps a spell also cast over the rest of the field is the reason five of the thirteen couples fell in the free dance.  In the case of Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton, the one point deduction cost them the pewter medal, ending up in fifth place, 0.48 points behind Anastassia Olsen & Jordan Cowan.  Joylyn Yang & Jean-Luc Baker, the leaders in the Short Program dropped like stones into eighth place in the Free Skate to finish sixth overall.  Yang fell in twizzles  and slid into the wall opposite the judges.  The element received no points.  The judges dropped them in program components also compared to their scores in the Short Dance.  Their twizzles in the Short Dance had earned them 6.29 points, and and had they executed similarly in the Free Dance they would have ended in second place.  So the fall was a catastrophic error.

The Junior Pairs Short Program was closely contested.  Ashley Cain & Joshua Reagen currently lead  Cassie Andrews & Timothy LeDuc by 0.23 points.  Kylie Duarte and Colin Grafton lie in third another 2.05 points back.  Only 1.01 points separate second through sixth place after the short, and even the ninth place team is in striking distance to still reach the podium.  Cain & Reagan where scored first in components in and second in elements while for Andrews and LeDuc it was the reverse.  The mix strengths and weaknesses in the teams leaves the door open to completely scramble the deck in the Free Skate, which will be contested on Friday.

Estimated Attendance:

Junior Pairs SP -- 2200 (mostly grade school field trips)
Junior Dance FD -- 500
Junior Ladies FS -- 2600

Tuesday, 25 January

The top two Junior Men swapped places in the Free Skate, with Max Aaron moving up to win the Junior Men's title.  Aaron landed a clean triple Axel - double toe loop combination, and attempted a second triple Axel, on which he fell.  He landed fie other triple and all three spins where called at level 4.  Alexander Zahradniuk had a strong skate and had the highest Program Component Score, but not by enough to make up for the substantially lower base value in his program.  He landed six triples, including a triple flip - triple toe loop combination.

Alexander Aiken held third in the Free Skate to finish third overall.  Emmanuel Savoy moved up to fourth in the Free Skate after being fifth in the long, but he could not gain enough ground on Steven Evans who held fourth place overall.  Aiken had a strong skate, landing six triples, including triple Lutz - triple toe loop.

The Junior Short Dance had some strong technical skating.  Artistically, it was a hodgepodge of styles with Indian, Italian, Russian, country, blues and jazz Viennese Waltzes.  Only a handful of the couples seamlessly integrated the two patterns of the Viennese into the dance as a whole.  The leaders in the Short Dance, Joylyn Yang & Jean-Luc Baker were technically strong, while third in components.  There mildly eastern/Indian themed program was a bit odd for a waltz, but well skated.  Less than one point back, Charlotte Lichtman & Dean Copley skated a lively Italian themed program that was fairly pleasant, with only a few small miss-steps.

The event got off to a rough start, with technical difficulties with the scoring system delaying the start.  It took 45 minutes to complete the first warm-up of four couples.  There was also a scoring muddle for the elements for Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus.  Due to a data entry error, the element list had to be revised later in the event, and after the correction was made, they gained 12 points and moved from up several places to finish fourth today. 

After two days with five events each, the rest of the weeks seems almost leisurely.  Only two events are going today.  One bit of schedule relief is the loss of the Junior and Senior Compulsory dances.  With one less segment in those events, that's one less competition session and one less set of practices.  Separate from whether or not this is good for Dance, the loss of the compulsories is certainly a boon to the scheduling of the championships.  Thus far, it has been smooth sailing at the championships, except for the bus service, which is dreadful -- the worst in memory for the 28 nationals we have been to -- at least for the line we are consigned to.  Much like the bus service at Torino Worlds last year, the busses seem to come when they want, where they want, if they feel like it.

Estimated Attendance:

Junior Short Dance -- 500  (about half of which where grade school field trips)
Junior Men FS -- 900

Monday, 24 January

In the Junior Ladies Short Program, the last of five events today, there was some strong technical skating. with 2/3 of the ladies landing clean triple-double combinations, triple loop and double Axel.  The technical star was Courtney Hick who landed triple flip - triple toe loop, triple loop, double Axel, three level 4 spins, and a level three sep sequence.  Trailing by one triple jump and a few spin levels, Katarina Kulgeyko also had a strong skate, as did Lauren Dihn, currently in third place.  For most of the ladies, the component scores did not keep up with the technical, with only Hick getting consistent component marks in the 6s.  Hick's triple-triple was big and clean and strong -- Rachael Flatt would kill for that element.

The Novice Pairs had only a handful of performances where a team gave a glimmer of hope for their future potential.  While several showed technical potential, few showed technical  potential together with the artistic potential for a pair program and the strong relationship between the partners needed for true success in the pairs discipline.  One of these was Madeline Aaron & Max Settlage who won both the Short Program and Free Skating, winning the event by nearly 15 points.  Hopefully this team will stay together long enough to reach their full potential.  A technically strong performance was also given y Chelsea Liu & Devin Perini.  However, currently Perini currently towers over the younger Liu, overpowers her, which limits the artistic character of this team.  Earlier in the season Perini would often lift Liu off the ice when not intended due to their size mismatch, though they have gotten better in that respect as the season has progressed.

Yesterday little Nathan Chen kicked serious butt in the Short Program.  Today in the Free Skate he kicked ass.  No doubt about it.  With program components averaging near 6.00 and six triple jumps he led the group by more than 25 points and won the event by more than 35 points.  Alexander Bjelde, who placed fifth in the short, moved up to second in the Free Skate, with two triple toe loops and two triple Salchows and placed fourth overall.  The silver and bronze medals were won by Jordan Moeller (3, 4) and Nix Phengsy (4, 3).  Phengsy bested Moeller by just 0.8 points, and the two skaters were tied in Total Program Component Score, and also in the individual Choreography and Interpretation marks.  In total score for the event they were separated by only 0.37 points

After a third place finish in the Novice Ladies Short Program due to a fall on triple Salchow, Hannah Miller won the Ladies event with a first place finish in the Free Skate, with four triple jumps -- two Salchows and two toe loops.  It was not the most difficult program of the group, but one of the cleanest and the most well balanced.  Barbie Long had the most difficult program, with six triples attempted, including two clean triple Lutzes.  She came up a bit short in components, however, and placed second overall all, just 0.45 points back.  Mariah Bell placed third in the Free Skate and third overall, landing two triples but singled an attempt at triple toe loop.  She was scored second best on components.

Hannah Miller soars in the Short Program

Rachel and Michael Parsons were edged out of first place in the Free Dance by 0.05 points, but their lead after the two pattern dances was enough to keep them in first place overall.  In Novice Dance the two pattern dances make up approx. half the scores.  Jessica Mancini & Tyler Brooks had place second in both Pattern Dances and held second overall.  Kaitlin Hawayek & Michael Bramante, who placed third and fourth in the Pattern Dances, placed third in the free dance to win the bronze medal.  Elliana Pogrebinsky & Ross Gudin, who split the Pattern dances with Hawayek and Bramante, placed fourth in the Free Dance to finish fourth overall.

Estimated Attendance:

Novice Free Dance -- 500
Novice Ladies FS -- 600
Novice Men FS -- 300
Novice Pairs FS --  300
Junior Ladies SP -- 500

Sunday, 23 January

2011 Nationals got off to a flying start -- which is more than can be said for the Wright flyer in the competition logo, which depending on your point of view, is either taking off backwards or spiraling into the ground to crash and burn.  In the arena today, however, things were flying high, with the Novice Pattern Dances (the new name for the compulsory dances), all three Novice Short Programs and the Junior Men's Short Program.

Mariah Bell gave a delightful performance to win the Novice Ladies Short Program, while Nathan Chen kicked serious butt in the Novice Men's event.  Madeline Aaron & Max Settlage gave a strong performance, but have three other teams nipping at their heels.  Rachel Parsons & Michael Pasrons won both pattern dances and opened currently hold a 3.68 point lead.

Withdrawn: Felicia Zhang & Taylor Toth from Senior Pairs due to bruised ribs (Zhang).

Zhang has not yet withdrawn from Senior ladies and the buzz backstage has it that the injury is a cover story for a partner breakup.  Looks like Mr. Toth has lost (drive off?) yet another partner.

Estimated Attendance:

Novice Pattern Dance -- 500
Novice Ladies SP -- 600
Novice Men SP -- 1100
Novice Pairs SP -- 1500
Junior Men SP -- 750

Saturday, 22 January

Withdrawn: Kiri Baga from Senior Ladies due to Achilles tendonopathy.

2011 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships Singles Preview

2011 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships, Pairs Preview

2011 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships, Dance Preview

The country’s best figure skaters take to the ice Jan. 22-30 for the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex in Greensboro, NC.  More than 250 figure skaters will compete in the novice, junior and senior divisions.  All four reigning U.S. senior champions: Rachael Flatt, Jeremy Abbott, Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett, and Meryl Davis & Charlie White will be competing

Official practice began today all four novice disciplines and the junior ladies and men’s.  Competition will begin tomorrow with all four Novice divisions skating the Short Programs and Compulsory Dances.  In the event the Junior Men will also compete in the Short Program.  Competition events will begin at 10 AM and continue until 9:30 PM.

AT&T is again the title sponsor of the Championships and NBC Sports will provide live, high-definition TV coverage of the senior-level events.  NBC’s broadcast team will consist of Tom Hammond (play by play), Scott Hamilton (analyst), Sandra Bezic (analyst), Tracy Wilson (analyst) and Andrea Joyce (reporter).

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