by Alexandra Stevenson
New Start for Asada, Wagner Does Well, but Zhang Has Problems
1. 73.18 (38.85+34.33) Mao Asada, Japan, dressed in a flattering, blue lilac outfit, with a strap running down her bare back and a matching ribbon around her hair bun, skated last of the ten competitors. The Technical Panel gave her full credit for the three and a half rotations of her first move, the triple Axel. But the judges decided it was a two-foot landing. Six of the nine gave penalized her with -2 for her Grade of Execution, with one not noticing anything wrong and giving zero and the other two punching in -1. All her other elements got positive average GoEs with the lowest being two +0.60s. She did not get airborne after her triple flip for a planned second jump, a double loop, but added that to her later triple loop. Her spins and the steps were all Level 4.She received three of the maximum +3s for her steps, and five +3s for her final element, the layback spin. One judge gave her four 9.50s and a 9.25 for the components. (Could that have been the Japanese judge?) The lowest marking judge on the panel of nine gave her one 7.75, three 8.25s and an 8.50.
Her showing was set to Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major, Op.9, No.2 Andante, which she revealed she had used in her previous Skate America appearance, when she won bronze in 2006. She said, “It really helped me that I was able to perform well here. For the past few seasons I was not able to perform my best at the first Grand Prix (of the season) so I was very happy that I was reasonably able to perform a very good performance and I think it was a very good start for season.
“After the Vancouver Olympics, I refined my technique and relearned all my jumps. This season, for the first time, I feel like things are finally coming together. There were times when I succeeded, and times when I made a mistake but I feel like I am finally getting it.
“I was a little bit nervous before I skated, but I wanted the performance to be how I do it in practice. During the skating, I just wanted to skate the way I usually do and I was concentrating on everything.”
2. 69.26 (36.21+33.05) Ashley Wagner, USA, performed immediately before Asada, attired in a sexy black adorned with silver outfit with the back cut out and no sleeves. Her music was, “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd.
With her pony-tail flapping, she soared through her opening combination, triple flip to triple toe loop. It is the first time she has successfully brought off a triple-triple in the Short Program in competition and she was delighted to receive for the move two +2s and the rest +1s from the panel of judges. That element was followed by two Level 3 spins which both received +0.50 GoE.
Her other two jumps were set in the second half to take advantage of the 10% bonus. The triple loop earned +1.20 and the double Axel +0.57 GoEs. Her Level 4, Straight Line steps were rewarded with two of the maximum +3 GoEs, with the rest of the panel punching in +2s. Her coach, Rafael Arutunian, who now teaches her in Artesia, was ecstatic when the announcement came that she was currently in first place with only Mao to come.
Asked about her triple-triple success, Wagner, who is 22, revealed, “Going into the flip-toe, I was actually pretty terrified just because it’s a high-risk element for me, but before I went out there Rafael told me, just go do it, go skate the flip-toe, do it like you know how to. And I just kind of turned the rest off and went into autopilot for the flip-toe and performed it like the way I had in practice and I’m happy with that.
She also revealed that Chicago Tribune reporter, Phil Hersh, played a part in her determination to bring the feat off successfully. “Honestly, I’m going to have to thank him for that. I never do this, but for some reason I checked my phone because I was bored back stage and he tweeted at me that ‘Radionova has a score higher than Ashley Wagner has ever had.’ I was like, ‘Do I have to prove him wrong again? So that’s what I did. Once I got that element out of the way, I knew – I don’t want to jinx myself – but my loop is that one jump that I feel is really comfortable. The Axel I’ve been known to cheat it, fall on it and any other variation that you can get, so pretty much I just had to focus on my technique in practice and pursue the rest of the program, but I was able to relax and perform a lot more once the flip-toe was out of the way.
“I used to be a skater who really jumped based on feeling. I think there are two types of skaters, those who jump on feeling and those who jump on technique. So for me to kind of combine the feeling of the jumps that I already have, with the technique, it helps me be more consistent in competition because you just have to go out and do the same thing every time and I’m a perfectionist so that’s something I kind of crave so it’s been helping me a lot.”
Asked if being the defending Skate America gold medalist puts extra pressure on her, she answered, “I’m just focused on getting the programs out there. Mao Asada is a strong as ever, so I know I’m up against a lot. So I’m not focusing on defending my title, I’m focusing on getting the triple-triple out there because that’s going to help me with the Olympics, not the Skate America title.
3. 67.01 (37.61+29.40) A smiling Elena Radionova, Russia, in yellow green and orange with matching ribbon in blonde hair and fairly uncovered arms is fresh off victory in the Nebelhorn Trophy in which the 14-year-old rained on Miki Ando’s comeback. The Japanese former world champion had taken time off from competition to have a baby, and hoped to begin getting back into top shape by entering the German event. She did finish second but a long way behind this Russian youngster. (Radionova is too young for these Olympics, but not for the Grand Prix Series. That is going to change for next season, when the age minimum will be raised to reflect the situation with World championship entry.
Radionova performed to music from “Anna Karenina” & “Two Steps from Hell”. She began with a good triple Lutz to triple toe loop. Her other two jumping elements were set in the second half to get the 10% bonus. The triple loop was good, but her double Axel was low and not well held. It wasn’t landed on a true edge and she nearly skidded off it. (Her GoEs for this move were five zeros and two +1s.) Radionova’s steps and all three spins were Level 4, with the final layback being rewarded with seven +3s and two +2s. Her technical score was the second highest, 1.40 ahead of Wagner, but her components were 3.65 points behind the U.S. champion, who was second in both categories to Asada. She was obviously delighted to get to the end and pleased she had made no major mistake.
Radionova, who had obviously been well briefed, said, “This competition is a new level for me and I did not expect this result. It’s really nice for me to be here with these great girls. They are all very accomplished skaters. I was very happy with that. Obviously, this competition is more important than the competition in Oberstdorf, [Germany] but I was not nervous. I was really calm. I kept it together very well. I think this competition has a big meaning to me. Tomorrow, I will show you my free skating. Of course I’m hoping for a very good performance tomorrow. Whatever will be will be tomorrow. I just want to put out a strong performance.
4. 59.25 (30.11+29.14) Valentina Marchei, Italy, who trains at the Detroit Skating Club, wore a white dress, with a see-through back and sleeves. She interpreted the classic song of emigrants yearning for home, “Take Me Back to Sorrento”. She opened with a +0.70 triple Salchow, followed by a+0.50 triple Lutz to double loop. After a Level 2 flying sit spin, which earned an extra +0.50, she executed her double Axel which gained only an extra 0.07. Her layback spin was Level 3 as were her steps. However, she finished with a Level 4 change foot combination spin. Her white boots were decorated with golden swirls.
5. 58.80 (29.94+28.86)Victoria Helgesson, Sweden, was dressed in pink with black gloves and black ornamentation, including black earrings, which suited the blonde. Her music was Shostakovich’s Mystery Waltz. Though her combination was only triple toe loop to double toe loop, and her triple loop received only the base value for the jump, her double Axel, set at the halfway point received and extra +0.71 as well as the 10% bonus. Two of her spins and her steps were Level 4 with good GoEs. Her flying sit spin was Level 3 with +0.21 GoE.
6. 56.68 (28.99+27.69) Elena Gedevanishvili, 23, who represents Georgia, the country in which she was born, but trains in New Jersey, appeared in a navy sleeveless and backless dress with silver trim. Her music was “Snowstorm Romance” by Georgi Sviridov. The opening element was a triple Lutz to double (instead of the intended triple) toe loop, followed by a solo triple toe loop, which she had initially planned as a triple Salchow. Her layback spin was Level 2. Then came her +0.57 double Axel at the half way point. Her flying sit spin was Level 3 with +0.43. Her steps and the change foot combination spin were Level 4 with, respectively, +0.80 and +0.50 GoEs.
7. 55.84 (29.79+26.05) Mae Berenice Meite, France, 19, wearing a purple outfit with one sleeve, skated to The Question of U, by Prince, which is extremely blues-y music. She began with a combination of two triple toe loops but stepped out of the landing of the second jump, which cost her -1.40 off the combination’s base value of 8.20. Her following element, the triple loop, gained its full base value and her double Axel received an extra +0.50. Two of her spins received Level 4, the layback and the change foot combination. The flying camel and her Steps were Level 3.
8. 53.51 (27.54+25.97) Samantha Cesario, USA, is a 20-year-old from Oceanside, NY, who trains in Monsey with Mary Lynn Gelderman. This was her debut on the Senior Grand Prix circuit. She was second of the ten women to skate, and performed to “Fever” in red dress with orange. Her first move was a combination of two triple loops but the second jump got two arrows from the Technical panel which meant it was downgraded to a double and she received only 5.70 points.
She also had -0.50 subtracted from the base value of her second element, a triple flip. After her Level 3 +0.50 Layback spin, she executed her double Axel after the 10% bonus for jumps clicked in. However, her Grade of Execution for this jump was only +0.07.Her flying sit spin earned the maximum Level 4 with +0.36 over its base value. Her straight line steps and final spin, the change foot combination, were both Level 3 with +0.14 and +0.64 Grades of Execution. Her components ranged from one judge giving marks for all five categories in the 7s to four scattered 6.0s.
Cesario said, “It was really exciting. I’ve watched all of these really talented skaters on TV and now to be part of the competition is really awesome. I made a few silly mistakes. It wasn’t my best but I’m happy with how it went overall”. About the downgrade, Cesario said, “I thought it was a good attempt. To get the downgrade on the triple-triple was unfortunate but I went for it and I’m happy I did it. I did all the Junior Grand Prixes and I think that mentally prepared me a lot and it’s not all that different. It’s just the arena feels a little different, similar to a nationals, but I wasn’t really nervous.”
9. 53.20 (26.38+27.82 -1) Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Russia, did not have a good Short Program in the recent Finlandia Trophy but, in Espoo, she recovered from a sixth place in this section to win the overall bronze medal with a second place in the Free. In Detroit, skating to a Latin Medley, she singled her planned triple Lutz in her first element. This jump was meant to be combined with a triple toe loop and she was able to complete that but then fell. She earned a total of only 2.60 points for this move, and she lost another point for the fall. (A successful triple Lutz to triple toe loop has a base value of 10.10 points.)
The 16-year old, who turns 17 on December 17, is the current Russian champion, who placed 10th in the last world championship. But she has obviously encountered growth problems. She pulled herself together after the fall remarkably well. Her second element, a triple loop was a tad shaky, and she lost 0.10 from that jump’s base value of 5.10. However, all three spins were the maximum Level 4, with an extra +0.14 for the flying sit spin, +0.79 extra for her layback spin, and +0.86 over the base value for change foot combination spin. Her straight line steps were Level 3 with +0.43.
10. 45.76 (21.04+24.72) Caroline Zhang, USA, a 20-year-old, who showed great potential when she was young, but suffered when her body grew, opened this Ladies competition. Attired in black with a strip of silver running down her back, she interpreting “Phantom of the Opera”, opening with a triple loop to double toe loop combination, which was saddled with an arrow on the first jump for a slight under-rotation. This combination’s base value is 4.90 and she lost 0.70 from that.
Her second element was even more of a disaster. It was meant to be a triple flip and it turned into an under-rotated double. She explained later, “I was a little bit shaky. I had some problems with my triple flip this week in practice, so I think I was just really nervous on that going in and it showed on my jumps for sure. But I hope I got the nerves out so for the free skate, I’ll be able to do it better because I have two planned.”
The other five elements were good, although she has definitely performed much better. The change foot combination and layback spins were “only” Level 3 with +0.43 and +0.86. The flying camel was Level 2 with +0.43. Her Level 3 steps received an extra +0.29. It looked like the mistakes had drained her for the rest of the program. She is trained by Peter Oppegard.
She said, “I’ve done this competition a few times and it’s one of my favorites. I feel like it’s like a mini-nationals in how it’s in the same arena and it’s all the same people around and it’s always fun.” But obviously, this day was not a good one.
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