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2013 Skate America: Ladies Free Skate

by Alexandra Stevenson

Mao Asada Clearly the Winner Despite Sitting Down on her Trade Mark Triple Axel;

U.S Champion Ashley Wagner Brings off Triple/Triple in both Sections, Showing a Distinct Advancement;

Caroline Zhang Gives Her Worst Showing EVERRRR! Has she been turned into a Zombie?

1.  Overall 204.55; 1.FS 131.37 (62.83+69.54 -1) Mao Asada, Japan, in royal blue with lots of glitter on including on a wrap around her lower right arm and wrist, gave a dynamic performance to win by over ten points. She performed to the well-known Piano Concerto No.2 by Rachmaninov.

The 23-year-old freely admitted, “I’m not completely satisfied with my performance today but this was a learning experience that I’d like to use for my next competition,” which is NHK (the Grand Prix in her home country.

She first entered a Grand Prix event in 2005. Her first win was the NHK in 2006. This is her ninth Grand Prix victory, and, in addition, she has won the Final, three times. However, she stressed how important this win was to her. “This means a lot to my skating career. I’m very happy about that. I think it’s a good stepping-stone to my next event.

“I feel like the competition for the Sochi Olympics has already started. It’s really nice to be able to compete with such good skaters. I’m hoping we’ll be able to go to the Sochi Olympics together.”

She was asked about the 14-year old Radionova, who won bronze here. “I was 15 years old when I first competed in the Grand Prix Series (winning silver in the 2005 Grand Prix in Paris) and there were skaters like Shizuka Arakawa and Sasha Cohen, whom I looked up to, and I remember I was very happy competing with them or just being at the same competition with them. It kind of feels funny to be in their position now. It’s nice to hear the comment from her and I wish her good luck. She has a long future. I hope she stays injury-free and I wish her the best in the future.”

Asada opened her routine with her triple Axel and sat down on it. She earned only 3 points for the try. Her next move, however, a triple flip to double loop earned +0.50 over its base value of 7.10. The following triple Lutz got an “e” for wrong edge take-off and lost a full point off its base value of 6. Then came two spins, a change foot combination, and a flying camel. Both were the maximum Level 4 and both received a full point extra to their base values of, respectively, 3.50 and 3.20. A double Axel to double toe loop, set when the 10% bonus marks click in, earned 5.92 and a triple Salchow was rewarded with an extra +0.80. The following triple flip to two double loops was saddled with arrows for slight under-rotation on both double but still was awarded 8.09 points. A plain triple loop got 5.81. Her last spin, a flying change foot combination spin was not only Level 4 but earned two +3s. Her straight line, Level 4 steps received six +3s and three +2s, while her finishing choreographed section was rewarded with one +3, five +2s and three +1s. It was a happy ending. Her components went from two 7.50 up to three 9.0s.

2.  Overall 193.81; 2.FS 124.55 (58.54+66.01) Ashley Wagner, USA, in a very fragile looking dress, gave one of the most mature, emotional showings she has ever given, and it certainly has to have been the most successful. Skating to Prokoviev’s “Romeo & Juliet”, she opened with a triple flip to triple toe loop which earned an extra +0.80 over its base value of 9.40. The double Axel which followed had a surprise exit of a split jump, and received +0.86 extra The triple Salchow which followed got +0.70. Her straight line steps received +0.86 over their base value for Level 3 of 3.30. Her Level 3 flying sit spin was rewarded with an extra +0.71. Then came a dicey point. Her triple loop to double Axel combination was saddled with an arrow on the first jump for slight under-rotation on the first jump. To counter that, was the 10% bonus because it was set after the half-way point. Her triple Lutz also got an arrow for slight under-rotation with an “e” for wrong edge take off. But these are not errors which in anyway are jarring to the majority of fans and although they resulted in lesser marks, they are not obvious enough, unless you are playing the moves back on slow-motion video to affect the grace and overall flow of the routine. The following triple loop also had a negative and lost -0.60.

There was nothing wrong with the rest of the routine, which consisted of a triple flip to two double toe loops, a +0.71, Level 3 layback spin, and the choreographed spin. However, the closing move, a change foot combination spin, was only Level 1 with +0.71. Her components ranged from three 9.00 down to two 7.50s.

Wagner looked pleased in the Press Conference, declaring, “First of all, I have to say congrats to Mao, because she’s pushing the sport further and further every single competition and that’s something we should all be very happy about. As for myself, today was really a huge accomplishment for me. I did the triple-triple in the long program and back-to-back clean programs, which was exactly the way I wanted to start this season. I think that I still have room grow with this program, especially because it’s something that’s not my natural type of skating, but I’m very happy with what I did today.

“I think that this program requires a level of sophistication that I really haven’t put out yet in competition. With David (Wilson)’s steps, and the intricacy of the program, right now I’m trying to focus on the technical aspect of it. I’m hoping as the season goes on that I’m able to weave in more and more of the artistry. It’s kind of starting off more like the skeleton of the program and then I’m going to keep on adding as I go through the season and I get more in shape for the choreography.

“The triple Axel is something that’s so exciting to have in women’s figure skating and I really can’t wait to see that day when it’s not just the triple-triple that’s required to be competitive, but it’s the triple Axel. Having women like Mao, setting the tone in that way, is something quite extraordinary. She’s pushing the boundaries of skating and it’s up to us whether or not we’re going to keep up with her.

“I never want to have to eat my words. For me, I sleep a little bit better at night when I say I’m going to do something and then I do it. Very similar to when I said that my (U.S.) title was mine to lose and if I hadn’t won that second title, I would have been in big trouble. To say my main goal is to get the triple-triple and then come away with two triple-triples in my programs, it’s a good feeling.

“Mentally that was a rough program for me just because I was just so nervous going into it because it’s the first full competition of my season. Rafael (Arutunian, her coach) gave me a great pep talk before I went out there and told me just to trust in what I’ve been training and so technique got me through that program for the first time in my life, and I’m really happy about that.

“The crowd was so amazing to have. I’m not from the Detroit area and I’ve never lived in the Midwest, so for me to have that response is so nice, I’m very lucky.

3.  Overall 183.95; 4.FS 116.94 (59.04+58.90 -1) Elena Radionova, Russia, who, at 14, was the youngest competitor, appeared in a complicated red outfit with silver, and a red ribbon around her hair bun. She performed to music from the soundtrack of “Anna Karenina” and “Two Steps from Hell”. She readily confessed, “I’m not completely satisfied with my performance today. I didn’t really do my job. My goal was to skate clean and I didn’t skate clean today, but I’m very pleased with the result. I got third place and I’m very pleased with that. After my free skate, I didn’t quite expect that, so I’m really happy that I finished third. It’s a good result for me.

“It is very nice for me to sit here next to Mao because in some ways she is my idol. I really like the way she skates. I don’t see her only as a rival, I’m just enjoying watching her when she skates. It’s great to sit with her and with these two great skaters. I think it’s really nice.”

Radionova won the Ladies event at the Nebelhorn Trophy earlier this season, overshadowing Miki Ando in her comeback after giving birth to a baby girl five months prior. In Oberstdorf, Radionova had seemed completely invulnerable. She won both sections by a large margin.

But, in Detroit, she looked far less sure. She fell on her first jump, a triple Lutz which was meant to be a combination. Her second jump, a triple flip got an “e” for wrong edge take-off. And her third element, a combination of triple loop-loop-triple Salchow got an arrow for under-rotation on the middle jump! That lost her -0.30. She got full credit for her second triple Lutz to which she added a triple toe loop that was planned for the first triple Lutz, gaining 10.40. She did a +0.07 double Axel when the bonus marks clicked in at the halfway point, followed by a second triple loop, this one combined with a double toe loop. Her last jump, a second double Axel, was penalized with an arrow for slight under-rotation. However, all three spins were Level 4 with excellent GoEs. Her Level 3 steps received +0.71. Her components ranged from a low of 6.25 up to 8.25.

4.  Overall 176.75; FS 123.55 (64.30+59.25) Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Russia, who is 16 (and will turn 17 on December 17), recovered from a poor Short Program, just as she had at the Finlandia Trophy, with a good Free Skate. In Detroit, she had the top technical score for the Free, 1.47 points ahead of Asada. Her third place in the Free, brought her all the way up from ninth, but, although she was 8.77 points overall ahead of Cesario, she was 7.20 points overall behind her teammate, who won the bronze medal.

Tuktamysheva wore a long-sleeved dark outfit with gloves to interprete “Malaguena”. Eleven of her 12 elements received more than their base values. Her only mistake came on her third jump, a triple flip which lost -0.40. Her initial move, a triple Lutz to double toe loop, earned +0.70 over its base value. She immediately threw off a second triple Lutz, which was rewarded with an extra +0.90. All three spins were the top Level 4 with excellent GoEs. Her step sequence was Level 3 with +1.07.

Her first double Axel was set at the halfway point and combined with a triple toe loop. That was followed by a triple Salchow to double toe loop, and a triple loop. Her final jump was her 11th element, a double Axel. Her components ranged from an out of place low of 5.25 up to an equally out of place high of 8.25.

5.  Overall 167.98; 5 FS 114.47 (56.98+57.49) Samantha Cesario, USA, climbed three places presenting a routine set to “Carmen”, attired in an appropriate sleeveless and backless red dress. She was delighted with her place. “I was really happy that I came out and put out a program that I do in practice. Elizaveta (Tuktamysheva) skated so well right before me, and to go out and really fight for everything and make it happen was exciting for me and really a great way to start my Grand Prix debut season.

“I showed the routine off initially at Champs Camp and it was, like, a little rough. I skated well but the program itself was a little unfinished. Even in the U.S. International competition in Salt Lake, there were a few pieces of my performance that weren’t right on the music. But, I think, the more I do it, the more I feel it. I really want to get into that character. It’s just a lot of fun to skate and I think the audience received the program here, well.”

She received only the basic Level 1 for her layback spin and admitted, “This is always a problem for me because I really can’t practice it. I know what I’m supposed to do, but when it’s in the middle of the program, I’m thinking about the next thing, and I don’t hold it long enough. And, when I do try and hold it long enough, I get that back pain. I’m working on it. Hopefully as the season goes on it will just improve.”

She opened with a triple Lutz which got an “e” for wrong edge take-off. But the following triple loop, triple flip to double toe loop, Level 3 flying sit spin, and triple Salchow all got positive GoEs. After the layback spin, her sequence of triple loop to double Axel got an arrow for slight under-rotation on the loop. However, the following triple flip to double toe loop to double loop banked 9.24 points. Her steps were Level 2 but with +0.93 GoE. Her change foot combination spin was Level 3 with +0.50. Her last jump, a double Axel, earned a total of 3.77, and she finished with her excellent choreographed section which elicited four +3s and five +2s from the judging panel.

6.  Overall 167.35; 6 FS 111.51 (58.31+53.20) Mae Berenice Meite, in black tights with a silver and blue sparkling top, climbed a place with an elements score which was fifth best. However, her components were ranked only eighth. Skating to “Europa”, “We Will Rock You” and “La Grange”, Meite opened the routine with a +0.50 double Axel and a combination of triple Salchow to triple toe loop, which earned her 8.30 points. That was followed by a base value triple Lutz. Her first triple loop to double toe loop was flawed and she lost -0.60 off the combination’s base value of 6.4. But she later brought off a good triple loop and a second triple toe loop combined with two double toe loops. Her steps were Level 3 as was her first spin, a change foot combination. Her flying change foot combination spin received the maximum Level 4 with a small +0.21 GoE. She finished up with her choreographed section and a Level 2 layback spin which received her highest GoEs, five +2s and four +1s.

7.  Overall 156.79; 7.FS 97.54 (44.62+54.92 -2) Valentina Marchei, Italy, had two falls and dropped from fourth.

8.  Overall 152.34; 8.FS 93.54 (41.91+54.63 -3) Viktoria Helgesson, the glamorous Swedish blonde, who skated to “Harem Cobra Goddess” by Les Baxter and “Harem Silks” from Bombay, was all in black with a back cutout. She had on black gloves and there were distracting black feathers on her wrists. The material of her dress was meant to look like leather. With three falls (on a triple flip which was given an arrow for slight under-rotation; on a triple loop set at the half way point, and on a second triple loop which received a double arrow for a downgrade to double) plus other mistakes, someone who knew nothing about our lovely sport, could have mistaken her for a masochist.

9.  Overall 149.44; 9.FS 92.76 (41.57+53.19 -2) Elene Gedevanishvili, who was born in Georgia but has lived in New Jersey for some years now, skated to music from the ballet, “Giselle”. However, she fell on her first element, a triple Lutz, and then again on her eighth element, a double Axel, which judge No.4 didn’t see because he/she punched in 0 instead of the required -3. “0” means satisfactory in every aspect, while the compulsory -3 reflects a fall. Obviously, that judge looked away too early, and did not think to review the video replay. It does happen from time to time – that’s why the sport has the number of judges it does, to negate the influence of a mistake.

Gedevanishvili, who earned a place for her country (which is not that far from the Olympic site, Sochi,) in the recent Nebelhorn Trophy, was upset with her showing which pulled her down from fifth after the Short Program. She did pull off two triple Salchows and a triple toe loop.

10. Overall 110.12; 10.FS 64.36 (24.27+41.09 -2) Skating first, to the lovely Chinese music, ‘Butterfly Lovers’ which Lu Chen, the twice Olympic bronze medalist and 1995 world champion, used so brilliantly, Caroline Zhang, seemed to be in a world apart from the arena. Right from the start, there was obviously something wrong. She singled her first element, a flip. It didn’t seem to be a case of something going wrong in the air. It just seemed like it was meant to be a not very good single (which had -0.06 taken off its base value). Then came a single Lutz which got an “e” for wrong edge take-off.

The third element, a double Axel, made the base value but with nothing extra. However, her fans, of which there are many, breathed a collective sigh of relief. But then came a Level 2 flying camel and Level 2 steps. The first gained a small +0.29 but the steps got -0.13 subtracted. What was happening? That there was something major going wrong became even more obvious when she singled her loop, which got -0.06 removed from the base value plus 10% of 0.55. The next move was an aborted flip which got no marks.

Then, she seemed to wake up from this sleep-walking, zombie state and did a base value double Axel for which she got her highest GoEs, - nine zeros, which means nothing added to the base value, but also nothing taken away. But she sat down on the following triple loop, which got a single arrow for slight under-rotation. The change foot combination spin, which came next, was Level 3 with +0.21. Her choreographed section received eight +1s and a +2. Her final layback spin, normally a thing of wonder, gaining Level 4s and +3s, still wasn’t anything like the magnificent ones with which she has amazed and delighted us in the past. But she received Level 3 with +0.71, which came from the judges’ four +2s, four +1s and a 0. Her components ranged from highs of three 6.0s down to one 3.25 for “Performance & Execution”.

She said later, sounding disappointed but perfectly normal, “Honestly, that was just a disaster of a skate for me and I was not expecting that. But from here, it just gives me more motivation to work toward each program. There’s a lot to work on between now and nationals. I have new blades waiting for me at home to switch into before sectionals. Other than that it’s straight training up until nationals.”

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