Sportís finest gear up for 2011 Hilton HHonors Skate America

Dornbush, Czisny Ready to Show Off Their Skills

by Liz Leamy

Men

The menís showdown ought to be a main event at this yearís 2011Hilton HHonors Skate America, in spite of the fact that Evan Lysacek, the esteemed 2010 U.S. Olympic champion announced his withdrawal last week.

This year, the menís roster features some of the sportís top menís contenders, many who have scored a decent amount of hardware at various international events over the past few seasons. Collectively, this bunch ought to stage quite a interesting competition.

Richard Dornbush, the 20-year old Corona, California native who last season stole the spotlight after having catapulted from tenth at the 2010 Nationals to second at the 2011 U.S. Nationals, will be helming the way for the American contingent.

Dornbush, who trains with Tammy Gambill in Riverside, California, is hoping to continue his skyward ascent as a major menís player and has upped his technical ante to insure this indeed will happen. This season, Dornbush has added a quad to his jump repertoire, which should help him score some big points here. (Last summer, he landed this jump for the first time ever at a non-qualifying California event, so the odds that he will accomplish this feat again appear likely.)

Armin Mahbanoozadeh is also another major U.S. contender to keep an eye one. Last year, this skater, who trains with Priscilla Hill in Wilmington, Delaware, earned bronze at this event and sixth at the 2011 Nationals. He generally earns big points for his high-energy spins and notable triples, which are defined by quick air rotation and good height.      

Douglas Razzano, the 22 year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona who was called in at the last minute to replace Lysacek, might very well prove himself to be a wild card here. Last season, he came up tenth at the 2011 Nationals. He is coached by Doug Ladret.

On the international front, Takahiko Kozuka of Japan, the 2011 World silver medalist and reigning Japanese titlist, should be reliable for a medal-worthy performance. This skater, known for his technical acumen, musical interpretation and consistency, trains with Nobuo and Kumiko Sato in Yokohama.

Florent Amodio, the 2011 European champion and French silver medalist, is another premier international entry to watch. This skater, who is coached by Nikolai Morozov, is known to be a big crowd pleaser and ought to rack up some big points as long as he stands up. 

Michal Brezina of Czeckoslavakia, the fourth-place finisher at the 2011 Worlds, is another strong contender.

Ladies

This year, the ladies event ought to be a dramatic one, especially in looking at the list of entries, which features some notable domestic and international contenders.

Alissa Czisny, the reigning U.S. gold medalist known for her fantastic artistry and fast, flexible spins, will lead the American team. Last year, this Michigan native earned international acclaim as a top-rate jumper when she finished fifth at the 2011 World Championships. Since 2010, she has been training with Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Caroline Zhang, the 18 year-old California contender, should be another interesting U.S. entry to watch. This skater, who placed second at the 2007 Nationals (CHECK) and third at the 2009 Nationals, has been training with Peter Oppegard in Artesia, California. She is hoping to stage a comeback here at this event after a disappointing12th-place finish at the 2011 Nationals.

Joelle Forte, a solid ladies skater from the New York City area, is always good for a nice series of performances. This athlete, reputed to have wonderful artistry and fluid triples, was ninth at the 2011 Nationals. She trains with Dmitri Gromov and Elaine Zayak, the 1982 World titlist.

Carolina Kostner of Italy, the 2011 World bronze medalist, should be a definite medal contender. This skater, 24, who is trained by Michael Huth in Obersdorf, Germany, has also won two World medals in the past, a bronze in 2005 and silver in 2008 and is known her fast and long triple jumps.

Ksenia Makarova of Russia who placed seventh at the 2011 Worlds is another standout contender. This skater, known for her electric triples and rubber band-like spins, catapulted herself into the spotlight when she clinched the 2010 Russian title several years ago.

Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia, who was tenth at the 2011 Worlds, is another formidable contender. This athlete, reputed for her exceptional athleticism, has been training with Brian Orser in Toronto this past year and seems primed to do well at this competition.

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