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2013 Skate America at Joe Louis Arena Kicks Off Senior Grand Prix Series

by Alexandra Stevenson

Ice Dance

The highlight, of course, of this competition, undoubtedly, will be the performances of Meryl Davis & Charlie White. As the US’s only duo ever to capture the world ice dance title, which they have earned twice, in 2011 & 2013, this provides a splendid opportunity to experience the fast becoming legendary twosome live, in what is expected to be their last season in eligible competition.

They will present their “My Fair Lady” Short Program on Friday evening, and their “Scherezade” at the climax of Saturday’s competitions. The five-time U.S. champions could be forgiven for riding on their reputations. But that certainly isn’t the case here. White, who will turn 26 on October 24, has said that although they were delighted at the reception they received in Salt Lake City at the recent U.S Classic International, they know they have more work to do.

To the outsider, the “My Fair Lady” routine was fabulous, very light, infectiously upbeat and very enjoyable. But, it turns out, according to White, “It’s all about the Levels. We want Level 4s for all five elements, and to get the highest Grades of Execution we can. Salt Lake was a good outing, but we’re aiming to show improvement, every time we step out onto the ice, even if that is only a little step forward. Everything is important. You can’t afford to ignore any fault, even if it’s tiny.”

Davis, who was 26, on New Year’s Day, admits the training didn’t get any easier as they climbed the ladder to success. “You have to give everything you have, and we aim to do that.” They train in Canton.

Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, USA, who are both 22, started the season well by winning in the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf in the very south of Germany, an event they had also won shortly after they teamed up in 2011. For this season’s Short Dance, they perform to a Quickstep to, “Mr. Pinstripe Suit”; a Foxtrot to, “Maddest Kind of Love”; and a Charleston to, “Diga Diga Do”, all by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

In their short time together, they have earned a reputation for pushing themselves to the limit, which has resulted in falls. In Germany, Hubbell said, Zach and I have a large presence on the ice. This is partly because of our height dominance over most of the dancers, but I believe that it is also about the connection that we have. Zach and I are two skaters who always knew each other, and even competed against each other, but were never friends. Once we started skating together, we found out why. We are both very passionate, emotional, dramatic people, who love to be the center of attention on the ice.” They train at the Detroit FSC.

Maia & Alex Shibutani, USA, are brother & sister, who have been skating together since she was 9 and he 12. They will present a Quickstep sandwiched between Foxtrots on Friday. In 2011 they had a wonderful season, earning the bronze medal in the world championship in Moscow, but they have been eighth in the subsequent two world championships. It was the same in the Four Continents. They were second in 2011 but fourth in 2012 & 2013. In nationals, they were second in 2011 & 2012, but third last January. They are now 19 & 22. They train alongside Davis & White in Canton, and the Olympic champions, Canada’s Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir.

Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte, Italy, teamed up in 2005. They have competed in the world championships since 2007, with a best place finish last March of fourth. The twice Italian champions, who are 26 & 28, will skate to “42nd Street”, with “Lullaby of Broadway” in the center section. They have competed on the Grand Prix Circuit since 2006 and this is their 14th Grand Prix but they have only appeared in Skate America once before, in 2009 when they were second.

Isabelle Tobias & Deividas Stagniunas are the three-time Lithuanians champions, who were fourth in the recent Finlandia Trophy in Espoo. She is 22 and he 28. They train at the Novi rink with Igor Shpilband. They will present a Foxtrot and Quickstep to “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”.

Pernelle Carron, who is 27, is from France. Lloyd Jones, 25, is from Wales. They have been skating together for France, for several years, first training in Paris, then in the United States and currently in Britain. They were the French champions in 2010, and runners-up for the title in 2011 & 2012.

Cathy Reed & her brother, Chris, represent Japan, which is where their mother is from. They have been Japanese champions five times, 2008-2011 & 2013. She is 26 and he 24. In the recent Nebelhorn Trophy, they earned one of the Supplementary Olympic Berths for Sochi in February.


The Pairs Short Program will start on Saturday at noon and the Free Skate will take place on Sunday from 2:30pm. It is always exciting to watch athletes at the top of their careers. Reigning world champions, Tatiana Volosozhar, 27, & Maxim Trankov, who just turned 30 on October 7, dethroned the previous world title holders, Germany’s Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy, in March in London, Ontario. In last year’s Skate America, Trankov grumbled a lot at the timing of the practice sessions, which he said, had been revised and didn’t follow previous year’s arrangements, but they still dominated the event. There’s no word yet, of course, whether they’ll be better pleased about the scheduling in Detroit.

The talented duo gained a record score for their Short Program, set to Khatchaturian’s “Masquerade Waltz”, in this season’s Nebelhorn Trophy. Their Free Skate in Germany caused a sensation, mainly because of his yellow pants, which, when he does a flying camel, reveal some black belly hair around his navel! The routine is set to music from the Broadway show “Jesus Christ Superstar” which caused all sorts of praise and censure when it was first produced 1971. (This author remembers the very realistic ending of the first act, which closed with “policemen” coming down the aisles to arrest the theatre-goers!) But, by today’s standards, the concept is relatively tame, and the music has been used without causing any problems by many skaters.

This is probably their last season of ISU eligible competition, and they have talked vaguely about pursuing career in the entertainment world out outside of skating.

Kirsten Moore-Towers, 21, & Dylan Moscovitch, 29, from Canada, won silver in the 2010 Skate America and bronze in 2011. Earlier this year, they finished fourth in the world championships. “That was an amazing experience,” Moore-Towers said enthusiastically. “We weren’t disappointed to be so close to the podium. We were just so pleased to have finished where we did.” They will present their Short Program to Motley Crew – Mic Macs by Raphael Beau & Max Steiner. Their Free is set to a Fellini Medley by Nino Rota.

The U.S. will be represented by three pairs. Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir are the current U.S. champions. They have set their SP to “Black Magic Woman” and “Smooth” by Carlos Santana, and their FS to the music from the James Bond movie, “Skyfall”.

Caydee Denney & John Coughlin, who teamed up in May 2011, won the U.S. title the following January. Both Denney and Coughlin had previously claimed the US title with their former partners. But they were forced to withdraw from the 2013 nationals after he had surgery to repair a hip injury. They will perform their SP to music from the Opera, “Tosca”, and their Free to “Phantom of the Opera”.

Felicia Zhang, 20, & Nate Bartholomay, 24, who train with Jim Peterson in Ellenton, Florida, earned their entry to Skate America on the basis of their good performance in Skate Detroit. Their SP is set to the Carousel Waltz, and their FS to “Les Miserables”. They also teamed in May 2011, and after placing eighth in nationals in 2012, they shot up to earn the bronze medals last January.

Stefania Berton & Ondrej Hotarek also represent Italy, although he is originally from the Czech Republic. They train partially at the Detroit SC. They will be performing their SP to music from “The Mask”. She is 23 and he 29. They are three times Italian champions, and have competed in the past four world championships finishing 11th, 10th, 11th & 10th.

Margaret Purdy, 18, and Michael Marinaro, 21, who are both from Ontario, are representing Canada in their first senior international. Last season they earned silver in the World Junior Championships, and were fifth in Canadian nationals at senior level.  

Ksenia Stolbova, 21, & Fedor Klimov, 23, teamed up in the spring of 2009. They won the 2010 & 2011 Russian Junior championships and took third and second places in the World Junior Championships. They will skate to a Spanish Fantasy for their SP and to “The Adams Family” for the FS. They were fifth in skate America in 2010.

Vanessa James, 26, & Morgan Cipres, 22, represent France, although James has ties to various countries. She and her twin sister were born in Ontario. Their father is from Bermuda, and holds a British passport, which meant for a while James competed in Britain. She won the Ladies Senior title in a year in which Jenna McCorkell was sidelined. Then she went to France and began pair skating. Cipres is her second French partner, and had no experience of pairs when they teamed up. Last season they placed fourth in Skate America, and eighth in the World Championships. They intend to skate their SP to “Minnie the Moocher” by Cab Calloway. Their FS is set to “Angels and Demons” by Hans Zimmer, and “Requiem for a Dream” by Clint Mansell.

Julia Zlobina, 24, & Alexei Sitnikov, 27, represent Azebaijan. They have placed 17th & 16th in the last two world championships.


The Mens Short Program will open the event this year on Friday, at 7pm, followed by the Short Dance.

Brian Joubert, France, definitely has only an outside chance of victory in the Joe Louis Arena, where Tonya Harding’s henchman incompetently whacked Nancy Kerrigan’s shin back in 1994. But the moody, very sexy persona, has a hard core of fans. He turned 29 in September but even a Miss France failed to seduce him from his mother’s care. “Nothing in Paris can match her cooking,” he declared after his home town rink in Poitier closed down for a year of refurbishment and he was forced to spend his each week in his country’s capital, which is often thought of as the world’s most romantic city. He said the highlight would be opening his mother’s front door each Friday evening. Although the rink, where he learned to skate, will not officially open until November, Joubert persuaded the management to let him sneak back in early, and he has been reunited with his early coach, Veronique Guyon.

Joubert, the 2007 world champion and Grand Prix Final gold medalist, is happiest when he is at home, content to look after his animals, which include a set of seven snakes. Earlier this year, he finished only 9th in his 12th world championship, which was his lowest place since he finished 13th in his initial appearance in 2002. In the interim years, in addition to the one title, he has claimed three silvers and two bronzes. If he competes in Sochi, it will be his fourth Games. His highest Olympic place was 6th in 2006. In 2002 & 2012 he finished 14th & 16th.

He made his international debut in Skate America in 2001 in Colorado Springs and was ninth. He won the event in 2002 in Spokane and then again, in Pittsburg in 2004, but after gaining the bronze the following year, in Atlantic City, he has not returned to the event.

 [Joubert out as of 16 Oct.]

Last year, there was a Japanese mens sweep of the medals, with Takahiko Kozuka earning gold; Yuzuri Hanyu taking silver; and Tatsuki Machida claimed bronze. Kozuka and Machida are returning this year, along with the first ever Japanese man to claim an Olympic figure skating medal, a bronze in 2010 in Vancouver, and the world title a few weeks later, Daisuke Takahashi.

But, although the 27-year-old Takahashi was the 2007 and 2012 world silver medalist, he was only fourth in his country’s nationals, last December. He previously won gold in Skate America, in 2005, 2007 & 2010. For the SP, he will be performing to the “Sonatina for Violin in C-Sharp Minor,” by Mamoru Samuragochi, for which the choreography was created by Kenji Miuamoto.

Kozuka, not only won last year, he was the gold medalist in 2008. There was never any question that the now 24-year-old from Nagoya would learn to skate. His grandfather, Mitsukiko, was an ice skater of note. His father, Tsuguhiko, was a singles skater and competed in the 1968 Olympic Games. His mother was an ice dancer. His Short Program has been choreographed by Canadian ice dance world champion Shae-Lynn Bourne, to Dave Brubeck’s “Unsquare Dance”.

Machida will perform his Short Program to the soundtrack of “East of Eden” by Lee Holdridge, choreographed by Stephen Lambiel and Philippe Mills. Although he has been a senior competitor for several years, there is so much talent in his home country that the 23-year-old has yet to make his national podium. He was training in Lake Arrowhead, until that facility recently, unexpectedly closed.

Denis Ten rocketed into prominence, winning the silver medal in March at the world championships in London, Ontario, on the basis of his quads. He was born in Almaty and has represented Kazakhstan five times in that event, with the previous four finishes ranging from 14th to 7th. Kazakhstan is the world’s largest land-locked country, and the ninth largest country in the world. “I tell people how big it is,” Ten explains, “But a lot of people simply don’t believe me because they’ve never heard of it before! A lot of the residents are of Korean descent, which is what I am.” He is a descendant of a famous Korean General, Min Keung Ho.

However, because of his skating aspirations, he moved first to Moscow and then came to California in 2010. He has been training with Frank Carroll since then. The 20-year-old will skate his Short Program to Camille Saint-Saens’ “Dance Macabre”, which was choreographed by Lori Nichol.

[Ten out as of 16 Oct. due to illness.]

Artur Gachinski, Russia, was the world bronze medalist in 2011 when that event was in Moscow, but, the following year, in Nice, he was only 18th. He was 4th nationally this past season, after being runner-up for the previous two nationals. Russia could only enter one man in the last World championships in London, Ontario, and that wasn’t him. So, at the advanced age of 20, he is on the currently on the comeback trail. In the Finlandia Trophy, he had boot problems and was only sixth in the Short Program, but he climbed up to win bronze. His Short Program routine is Flamenco.

This is Max Aaron’s debut in Skate America. The 21-year-old current U.S. champion, who moved from Scotsdale, AZ, to train in Colorado Springs, will be performing his Short Program to “Historia de un Amor” by Perez Prada, choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo.

His teammate, James Brown, USA, who turns 19 on December 15, is also making his first appearance in Skate America. He won silver in the world junior championships earlier this year, after earning bronze in the same event in 2012. Although he has competed at senior level in the U.S. championships over the past three years, placing 9th twice and then then 8th in January, his first senior international competition was the recent Nebelhorn Trophy, where he finished second. He has kept his Short Program from last season, “The Question of U” by Prince, choreographed by Rohene Ward.

Adam Rippon, USA, who will turn 23 on November 11, was the replacement for Evan Lysacek, who has not competed since winning the 2012 Olympic gold. But he was still being listed as a competitor early this week. Rippon, who is the only male to ever win back to back World Junior titles, which he did in 2007 & 2008, has struggled somewhat recently in this era where quads are King. He will perform his SP to Bizet’s “Carmen”.

Alexander Majorov, Sweden, 22, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, but his family emigrated to Sweden in 1991.His father, who has the same name, was the first coach of Alexei Yagudin, the 2002 Olympic champion. When he won the bronze, in the 2011 World Junior championship, it was Sweden’s first ISU championship medal in 74 years, enough to make the great Ulrich Salchow cheer from his grave. But he subsequently suffered from back problems.

The Ladies Event will be the Last to Start and to be Completed

Twice U.S. Champion, Ashley Wagner, will have all the pressure on her. Snapping at the 22-year-old’s toes will be the two young Russians, Elena Radionova and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. Radionova, the current Russian Junior and World Junior champion, who turned 14 on June 1, has already rained on Miki Ando’s return to competition, winning decisively at the Nebelhorn Trophy at the end of September, ahead of the Japanese star, who had given birth just five months previously. Radionova, who lives in Moscow, will skate to music from “Anna Karenina” and “Two Steps From Hell”. Her FS is to music from “Frida”.

Tuktamysheva, who will turn 17 on December 17, made quite an impression when she won the Trophee Bompard in 2011. But she has grown, both up and out, and in the recent Finlandia Trophy, she was only sixth in the Short Program. She did pull up, however, with second place in the Free to earn third overall. Her Short Program is set to a Latin medley, and her Free to Malaguena.

Wagner will perform her SP to Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond”. Her FS is set to Prokofiev’s “Romeo & Juliet”.

Mao Asada, Japan, first captured the world’s attention in December 2005 when she won, in Tokyo, the Grand Prix Final over the Russian Irina Slutskaya, the reigning world champion who would take the 2006 Olympic bronze. However, Asada was less than three months too young to be sent to those Olympic Games. She is known for doing the triple Axel early in her career. However, she lost the ability to fully rotate the jump. She still kept trying it in competition and was severely penalized for taking the risk.

The now 23-year-old won the world title in 2008 and 2010, and was the 2010 Olympic silver medalist. In her 16 appearances previously in the Grand Prix Series, not counting the Final, she has only been to one other Skate America. That was in 2006, when she earned bronze. Lori Nichol has choreographed her SP to Chopin’s Nocturne No.2, Opus 9-2. Tatiana Tarasova choreographed her FS to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2.

Caroline Zhang, USA, was brilliant in 2007, when she won the World Junior title but, as she grew things became so much more difficult. The now 20-year-old still has wonderful spins, including “the Pearl” in which, during a magnificent layback, her head is the pearl and her arms the shell. But she has problems getting penalized for under-rotated jumps. “I try SO hard to correct that,” she said at the Finlandia Trophy shaking her head. “But, I have a reputation for doing that, and so I get scrutinized more.” In Espoo, at the beginning of this month, she finished fourth overall.” Her Short Program is set to music from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” and her Free Skate is to “Butterfly Lovers Concerto”, by Chen Gan and He Zhanhao.

Samantha Cesario, USA, is making her first appearance in this event. She turned 20 on August 21. She was fourth in the World Junior championship earlier this year and eighth in the last U.S. Senior championship. She earned bronze in the recent U.S International FS Classic 2013 in Salt Lake City. She will present her SP to “Fever” and her FS to music from “Carmen”. She is trained by Mary Lynn Gelderman in Monsey.

Veteran Elena Gedevanishvili, who represents the country of her birth, Georgia, which is not that far from Sochi, where the Winter Olympic Games will take place, made her first trip to the Olympic Games in 2006, when she finished tenth. (She finished 14th in 2010.) She was the first skater from Georgia to medal at an ISU championship, which she did when she won bronze in 2010 at the European Championship. Although her family now lives in Boxborough, New Jersey, she had been training in Canada. But this past Spring, the now 23-year-old decided to train back in NJ, with Russians, Eduard Pliner and Konstantin Kostin. She will present her Short Program to “Snowstorm Romance” by Georgi Sviridov, and her Free Skate to music from the ballet “Giselle”. She has competed in eight world senior championships, and, unfortunately, her worst placing was earlier this year in London, Ontario. She has accomplished her best placing of 10th, three times. This will be her fifth Skate America.

Viktoria Helgesson, Sweden, 25, has competed six times in the World championship with a best place finish of 10th in 2010. She is six times Swedish champion but was only second last season, when she was beaten by her five-years-younger sister, Joshi. When she was awarded the bronze in the 2011, it was the first time Sweden had ever claimed a Grand Prix medal.

Mae Berenice Meite, France, will execute her SP to “The Question of U”, by Prince, and her FS to three different pieces, two by Jean-Pierre Danel, “Europa” & “La Grange”; along with “We Will Rock You” by KCPK for the middle section. The 19-year-old has competed in two world championships, finishing 14th in 2011 and 11th in 2013. This will be her third appearance in Skate America.

Valentina Marchi, Italy, has had a long career. The 27-year-old, who trains in Bloomfield Hills, has made nine appearances in the Italian senior championship, winning five times and medaling in all but one. This will be her fifth Skate America. Her highest place was fourth last year. She was eighth in the world championship in 2012 but only 18th earlier this year. She will perform her SP to “Return to Sorento”, and her Free to “Nyah” from Mission Impossible.

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