Evora and Ladwig Turn Eyes Towards National Title

(Quotes from U.S. Figure Skating Telecon, 6 Jan 2012)

Two-time National Silver Medallists Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig have their sights set on the U.S. National title, after their best season start, with two fourth place finishes in the Grand Prix, one at Cup of China at the other at Trophee Eric Bompard.  The 2012 National Figure Skating Championships will be their tenth appearance together in the Senior category

"I thought the Grand Prix series was a great debut for two new programs and new costumes and I thought it got out a lot of elements and we saw some positive feedback and saw growth in our training and are looking forward here heading to San Jose," said Mark.

"I have to agree with Mark," said Amanda, "I [was] really pleased to see that in our Cup of China scores were our personal best  and that we had beat from the year before as well as that our components marks have gotten higher since we have started.  So it's good to see that our performances were well received by the judges, as well as the crowds."

Following the Grand Prix, the team returned to their training town, Ellenton, FL, where they are coached by Jim Peterson, Allison Smith, and Lyndon Johnson.

"Since we got back from the Grand Prixs what we did," asked Mark, echoing back a question.  "You know, we took some down time and had a good Thanksgiving, and saw family, and then we're starting to ramp up as we've been heading into December.  He had our annual holiday show which is always kind of a fun stress relief where we perform for our local crowds. And we've been buckling down the last few weeks, and having more focus on our elements and more focus on our training, and keeping it really regular so that we will be in top shape when we get to San Jose."

"Yes," said Amanda, "one of the things we have done since our Grand Prixs is that we've had a few people come in.  We had Judy Blumberg come here for a week again and just kind of tape what we did in the performances and see how we can continuously improve them as we head into Nationals.  As well, we had Tina Lundren stop in for a day to look at the programs."  Tina Lundren is a world official," Mark explained.

Taking forward the momentum from their personal best in China, and looking to work their scores higher, Mark said, "I think we have been pushing the quality specifically.  In terms of our elements there have been minor minor chorographical changes, but nothing, nothing, element wise is really seeing a dramatic shift."

"Since our programs were well received from the Grand Prixs we felt we'd keep the order of the elements the same, and were just continually keeping on the quality of everything, including the choreography quality," said Amanda.

Following up on working their component scores, Mark added, "A lot in that connection has been mentioned about me, you know, not looking like a dead fish out there and we've been over not just this season, but over the last several seasons, been incorporating ballet, and I can see the fruits of that hard work coming together now."

"One of thing too that were praised a little bit at the Grand Prixs was our transitions," said Amanda.  "We really upped that from last year.  It was nice to see that the judges had noticed it and wanted to encourage the transitions we had been doing." 

The team will be competing against several former National Champions at Nationals in San Jose, but all with different partners.  The reigning silver medallists are the highest ranked team from last season still together, making them the natural favorite this season.

Asked if they thought this season might be their best opportunity yet to win the title, Mark said, ""I think every year we have a great opportunity, and we have to just go out there and focus on our performance of the program we have been building, of the program we've been showing, and it's GOE to the podium.  Whether we're on there at the top, or we're on there a step down or below, we want to go out and show the elements as we can best execute them on that day. I mean, I think the judges have the harder part of trying to rank everybody."

Added Amanda, "Just like Mark has said, you know, you go in every year knowing that you have the chance of being a national champion and you go for it.  I don't think any of us in this sport are not aiming to be a national champion.  Also, knowing that we can be national champion is so ???? (bad audio), I think our primary focus is literally having a good performance.  Because at the end of the day, like Mark had said, judges can do the marks but the only thing we can control is our performance."  "Right," said Mark.

Being thought of as the favorite puts some competitors off, due to the pressure that often goes with that designation, but Mark & Amanda appear to be taking it in stride.  

"I am big believer in the whole pair community," said Mark.  "They are all my favorites. There isn't one team I would count out." 

Amanda followed, "It's nice to be known as the favorite.  Since Mark and I have been together for a long time, people do know us well.  I do take into account to know and realize that there's a whole bunch of people that believe in us and that does help me while on on the ice." 

Asked about their side-by-side jump, which sometimes vex them in competition, Amanda responded, "It's interesting you say that, we have Christy Krall here today. She's here for the weekend to work with Mark and I, and a few of the other elite skaters here.  The same thing, we took the open mind of 'you know, yes we sometimes have a weakness in our side-by-side jumps,' and we would like to show that we are doing everything that we can to make that a better improvement.  So it's nice to have her here, be opened minded [about] what she says, and use what her advice is into the national championships."

After nine years at the Senior championships, one might naturally assume winning the  National Championships would be the cap to their careers, but the team had a more modest view of things.

"My year of first making Nationals in 1999 as a novice, put the expectations of Nationals was THE cap for me," said Mark, "and ever since then, every year, and every time I go, and anything I've ever been awarded for placement has always just been gravy.  And I look forward to this year, and going out there  and maybe there will be more gravy, maybe there will be a lot of gravy, but it's all gravy to me."

"Frosting on the cake," chimed in Amanda, followed by a "That's right," from Mark

Although the team has given no indication this year might be their last, when you have been around the rink as long as they have, you end up with questions about how they view their legacy, and the team gave thoughtful answers about what they long partnership has brought to U.S. pair skating.

"I think you've hit it on the head, said Mark.  "I mean, we bring stability. I mean, there's always been a belief in each other and in the team , and that everything regardless of what bumps you hit in the road it rises above and you carry forward.  So , I think we bring a great stability, and I think even in new teams it shows that even little bumps that will happen in new teams that they will be able to get by and they will be able to perform and they will be able to go on.  So, I think we bring a great heart to U.S. pairs." 

And in closing Amanda added, "And what's great about Mark and I since we've been together for so long, is that our work is done.  You know, we have the experience behind us, and I hope that we can inspire other U.S. pairs teams, this is what you are capable of doing staying together;  and it is, it takes years to get that unison together, to get that connection with one another, and it's something I feel is our strength.  But at the same time we don't have to try anymore.  It's already there."

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Copyright 2012 by George S. Rossano