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U.S. Ladies and Men Set Sights on 2016 Skate America

By Liz Leamy





This week, a handful of the U.S.’s top singles skaters will kick of their international competitive season at the 2016 Progressive Skate America, to be held October 21st to the 23rd at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, a Chicago suburb.

According to the U.S. contenders, this is an event they’re looking forward to, as it represents the first of six International Skating Union Grand Prix events that culminate with a final showdown in Marseille, France, in December. (The other five competitions will be held in Canada, Russia, France, Japan and China from October through November.)

This year’s Progressive Skate America features 58 contenders who area representing 12 countries and are competing in the ladies, men’s, pairs and dance disciplines.

“I’m excited to get the Grand Prix series started,” said Ashley Wagner, the 2016 World silver medalist and three-time U.S. champion in a teleconference call last week. “My goal is to make it to the final.”

Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion and 2014 U.S. silver medalist said he is also looking forward to competing at the Progressive Skate America competition this week, especially since it’s being held at a site so close to his hometown of Highland Park, also a Chicago suburb.

“I’m really excited to perform there in that environment,” said Brown, who has been training in Monument Park, Colorado for nearly four years with his longtime coach, Kori Ade. “It’s home for me.” (Brown said he is anticipating close to 50 family members and friends to be at the competition to watch him.)

Wagner, Gold and Bell ready to rally in ladies showdown

Ashley Wagner, the three-time U.S. champion and 2016 World silver medalist, Gracie Gold, the two-time U.S. titlist and Mariah Bell, comprise this year’s roster of American challengers in the ladies’ event.

This talented group of skaters is a force to be reckoned with as each is known for their incredible jumping ability and terrific power and artistry.

They will be going up such skaters as Mao Asada, the 2010 Japanese Olympic silver medalist, Kanako Murakami, a four-time Japanese medalist, Serafima Sakhanovich, the two-time Russian World Junior silver medalist and Gabrielle Daleman, the 2015 Canadian champion.

Wagner, who is said to have been training at full throttle all summer, seems as geared up as ever for Skate America this week as she is confident about her programs.

“I want to put out two solid programs,” said Wagner, 26, who trains in Artesia, California with Rafael Arutyunian. “I think the more subtle improvements are in the way I’m performing. I’m learning how to control my skating.”

This past September, Wagner clinched bronze at the Japan Open, where she wound up on the podium alongside Evgenia Medvedeva, the 2016 Russian World champion who was first, and Satoko Miyahara of Japan, who placed second.

“Technically, I was really happy with what I put out,” said Wagner about the Japan Open. (There, she executed two triple flips, two triple loops, several other triples and two double Axels.) “I think the performance was received very well.”

This season, Wagner is skating to the huge 80s’ hit ‘Sweet Dreams’ by the Eurythmics for her short, crafted by Jeffrey Buttle, the 2006 Canadian Olympic bronze medalist and to ‘Exogenesis: Symphony Part 3/Redemption’ by Muse for her free program, which was choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne, the 2003 World Championship dance victor with Victor Kraatz.

“I think strategy-wise, I’m focused on something that gives me a sense of calm,” said Wagner about her skating. “I think the more subtle improvements are [showing] in the way I’m performing.”

Gold, meanwhile, is said to be ready to go this week as well. Although she did not do a teleconference call, Gold has been reportedly training hard in preparation for this event.

A Springfield, Illinois native, Gold, 21, is known for her terrific jumps and electric energy.

This season, she will be interpreting the music, ‘Assassin’s Tango’ from the Mr. and Mrs. Smith film soundtrack for the short and ‘Daphnis et Chloe’ by Maurice Ravel for the free, both of which were choreographed by Lori Nichol.

Mariah Bell, the 2013 U.S. junior silver medalist, will round out this year’s ladies Progressive Skate America contingent.

This talented 20 year-old, who trains in Lakewood, California with Rafael Arutyunyan, is skating to music from ‘Chicago’ and ‘All That Jazz’ by John Kander for the short and to the classic ‘East of Eden’ film soundtrack by Lee Holdridge for her free program. Both programs were crafted by Rohene Ward, the former U.S. men’s contender.

Rippon, Brown and Dolensky comprise formidable U.S. lineup in men’s event

Adam Rippon, the 2016 U.S. champion, Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. titlist and Timothy Dolensky, the 2012 U.S. junior gold medalist, ought to do Team USA proud as they prepare to face off against some of the sport’s best in the men’s event.

This group also includes Boyang Jin, the 2013 Chinese World bronze medalist, Shoma Uno,the 2015 World junior champion from Japan and Maxim Kovtun, the three-time Russian titlist, among others.

Adam Rippon, the talented 26 year-old Scranton, Pennsylvania native, should be one to watch here as he really wowed the crowd at the 2016 World Championships in Boston last March, where he wound up sixth with his flawless free program to a lively medley of Beatles hits.

This season, Rippon is skating to ‘Let Me Think About It’ by Ida Corr and Fedde le Grand for his short, which was choreographed by Jeffrey Buttle and ‘Arrival of the Birds/Exodus’ from ‘The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos’ by the Cinematic Orchestra for his free skate, which was created by Benji Schwimmer.

Brown, who scored bronze at the 2015 Progressive Skate America, also should put out some exceptional programs this week.

Said to be skating stronger than ever after having bowed out of the U.S. Championships last season due to a ---- injury, Brown seems to be back on his game these days, that is for sure.

Last September, he scored gold at the 2016 ISU Championship Series U.S. Classic in Salt Lake City and silver at the Championship Series Lombardia Trophy in Bergamo, Italy.

“Everyday I’m coming in [to train] and working as hard as I can to make everything more strong and consistent,” said Brown in a teleconference call last week. “I’m really focused on doing the best I can and constantly improving.”

For Brown, the hard work seems to be paying off as his quads looking to be stronger and more consistent than ever.

“I’m very confident with the fact that [the quad] is there,” said Brown. “I’m excited about the trajectory the jumps are on right now.”

This season, Brown is using ‘Writing’s on the Wall’ by Sam Smith and ‘Appassionata’ from the Secret Garden film score for his short and ‘The Scent of Love’ from ‘The Piano’ film score by Michael Nyman for his free skate. These programs were both choreographed by Rohene Ward, the acclaimed choreographer and coach from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Dolensky, 24, who is from Kennesaw, Georgia, is the final American contender in this event.

Known for his high jumps and powerful skating, Dolensky is skating to ‘Cinema Paradiso’ by Josh Groban for his short and ‘Orchestral Variations on Themes of Chopin’ by Anze Rozman for his free, both of which were choreographed by Catarina Lindgren.

Dolensky trains in his hometown, Kennesaw, where he is coached by Debbie Prachar and Brittney Bottoms.