Monday, December 22, 2008

Alexe Gilles carries on family tradition

Alexe Gilles, the 2008 U.S. junior ladies champion, is one of three members of her family to compete internationally for the United States in figure skating.
First to compete was her brother, Todd, who finished eighth at the 2005 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in ice dancing with Trina Pratt.
Alexe was the second of the siblings to reach the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final, placing sixth last year. Todd finished eighth in 2005 with Pratt.
Her twin sister, Piper, who now dances with Zach Donohue, actually competed internationally, with a past partner, before Alexe but first qualified for the JGP Final in 2008. She and Donohue were the fifth-ranked dance team but had to withdraw due to an injury.
Alexe was disappointed that her sister could not compete, as they would have made history as the first twins to compete at the same JGP Final in different categories. Alexe still made the most of her time in Korea, winning the bronze medal in junior ladies.
"I had never been to Asia before, but once I got my legs back under me, everything came back," she said. "I get a little more used to the jet lag each time."
"Third is not bad, and I can keep improving on that," she said. "I think I could have skated better. My goal was to get a Junior Grand Prix medal. Now, I want to be in the top four in seniors at nationals and medal at junior worlds."
"I learned from not going to junior worlds last year," she added. "It made me train more. I wanted to do my triple-triple at the Final, but the first one was a bit wonky. I was doing it in practice so I hope it will be better for nationals."
"I moved up to seniors after I won juniors last year," she noted. "What's the point of staying when I could get an extra year in seniors and move up in the world rankings? I hope to keep getting better in the Grand Prix and make the worlds and then the Olympics in 2010 and 2014."
The 16-year-old started skating when she was about two-and-a-half, after she and Piper went to her brother's birthday party at the ice rink. "We went on the ice then and loved it and just stuck with it and kept improving," she said.
"It's a thrill being out there," she continued. "Not many people can do it, balancing on an eighth of an inch blade. I can be graceful and powerful at the same time. That's the fun part."
Unlike her siblings, Gilles did not go into dance. "I tried dance and had a partner for two months, but it wasn't good," she said. "I like jumping more."

Full article.

Maxwell continues to excel on the ice

Angela Maxwell, the 2008 U.S. junior ladies silver medalist, is one of the rising stars in the division. Before reaching the podium in 2008, Maxwell won the novice ladies title the previous year. The talented teenager also reached the national level in intermediate and juvenile girls.

Maxwell placed fifth at the 2008 ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Korea. She qualified by winning a silver medal in the Czech Republic and a bronze in Great Britain.

"It was cool to make the Final," she said. "It was so cool to be there. I could have done better in my free, but I'm happy I held up."

The 16-year-old started skating when she was six. "My mom was watching skating on TV, and I saw it on TV," Maxwell said. "I thought it was really awesome, and I wanted to try it. I like to feel the music and skate with my whole heart.

"Before I started skating, I was in gymnastics," Maxwell added. "I started when I was five and stayed until I was 10. I didn't do competitions but I trained a lot. I loved to tumble.

"I was also in a dance company when I was five and six," she continued. "I did jazz and tap. We used to compete as a team, and we won some championships."

Once Maxwell gave up dance and gymnastics for figure skating, she progressed quickly. She landed a double Axel at 11 and a triple Salchow one month later.

Her short program includes a triple toe-triple toe combination, triple Lutz and double Axel. For the long, Maxwell does a triple Salchow-double toe-double loop, triple flip-double toe and triple toe-triple toe combinations. She also includes a triple flip, triple loop, and triple Lutz and a double Axel.

"I want to keep getting better and improve my jumps," she said. "I've tried a triple Axel, but I had to stop because my double Axel was getting bad. I was close to landing it.

"I've been working on triple Lutz-triple toe and triple flip-triple toe," she continued. "I've landed both combinations but not consistently.

Full article.

Shibutani siblings thriving in Canton, Mich.

After training in Colorado Springs, Colo., for two years, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, a brother-sister dance team, moved to Canton, Mich., to train with Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva in June 2006.

The decision to move was initially triggered by Alex's need to begin considering his college options. His desire to continue training as an ice dancer at a leading training center, while also being able to pursue the strongest possible undergraduate education, made moving to Michigan a natural decision. Over the past year and a half, they have truly thrived, making great progress while training in Canton. They feel strongly that they especially benefit from training alongside so many of the best ice dance teams in the world.

"We're happy to be someplace where we have a lot of strong dance teams to look up to, and the training environment in Canton is second to none," Alex said. "The other skaters have been very supportive and we learn so much by just watching them.

"I'm also going to graduate from high school this spring. I'm planning to attend the University of Michigan starting this fall."

The Shibutanis train for four-to-four-and-a-half hours on-ice five mornings a week, and they also do eight-to-ten hours of off-ice work every week.

"Marina and Igor have an equal role in our training process," Maia noted. "They have really done so much for our skating."

Shpilband and Zoueva also choreographed the couple's dances this season.

"It's a very productive dynamic," Alex said. "Igor does the initial choreography, but then Marina polishes it."

"Both of them have an equal influence on our programs," Maia added.

For their original dance this season, the Shibutanis selected music from the Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day motion picture soundtrack.

"We were excited to do something fun for the original dance and thought that swing was suitable for us," Maia said.

Their free dance is to music from the Cinema Paradiso soundtrack by Ennio Morricone.

"We wanted something to touch people," Maia stated. "It's a beautiful piece of music, and we both loved it."

"I liked the music from the moment I heard it," Alex continued.

Full article.

Weir headed back to Korea for the holidays

Johnny Weir is heading to South Korea to join good friend Yu-Na Kim for her Angels on Ice show Christmas day in Seoul, and will miss celebrating the day with his family.
Not surprisingly, his mom said she will miss him. "Normally, we're all together, but not this year," Patti Weir said. "On the other hand, the show is a wonderful thing, because it's for children's charities, and Johnny and Yu-Na are very close."
Weir said he's looking forward to the show.
"It's always so much fun performing for Korean audiences," he said. "I think I'm pretty popular there. It's kind of a perfect present for me. Yu-Na and I are even doing a pair number, but I promise I'm not lifting her.
"Yu-Na always writes, calls, checks in -- she's a very, very sweet girl. I always say I love people who are sweet and also good at what they do."
As always, Weir turned a critical and honest eye toward his recent performance at the Grand Prix Final. He won a bronze medal, his best-ever result at the event, but came away less than satisfied.
"It was a disappointment," he said. "I wanted so much to do better and win, especially after Brian Joubert pulled out. I just didn't skate very well."
After Korea, Weir turns his attention to preparing for the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, held in Cleveland on January 18-25. He's not sure whether his quadruple toe loop will make an appearance there or not. Like many skaters, he questions the calling of under rotated jumps.
"It's tough [to justify] trying a quad, because if you try and miss it, you can get more points with a double Axel," he reasoned. "Mine are always downgraded. There are times where I've re-checked the landing [on video] and I've made the [four] rotations, but landed on two feet, and that's been downgraded.

Full article.

Australia's Lee Wins Inaugural ISU Scholarship

Although revenues for figure skating have declined in recent years, the International Skating Union decided in the summer of 2008 to establish a Junior Scholarship Program as part of the ISU Development Program. The main objective of the program is to provide support for young skaters of outstanding talent coming from developing members.
Eligibility for the Junior Scholarship Program is based on the results of ISU Junior World Championships, the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating or for Synchronized Skating, other ISU sanctioned Junior competitions. Scholarship amounts for the 2008-09 season were $6,000 for single skaters and $7,200 for couples and synchro teams. The scholarships are intended primarily for covering the costs of attending training camps and competitions.
One of the ladies approved for a scholarship by ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta in the inaugural season was the Australian junior ladies champion for the 2007-08 season, Cheltzie Lee.
“It was such an unexpected honor for Cheltzie to be selected to receive the ISU figure skating scholarship this year,” said her mother, Renita. “It came of course at a great time with the anticipated international competitions on her calendar and with the decline of our dollar against the world currency. It was a surprise that certainly can be used wisely.”
Lee is using the scholarship to train in the United States. She usually trains in Canterbury in Australia with Kylie Fennell, Gloria Pracey and Andrei Filipov. She also worked with Kathy Casey in Colorado Springs last December for six weeks and again before Junior Worlds last season for three weeks. "I've worked with Kathy for several years when she comes to Sydney," Lee stated. "She's been helping me perfect my triple Salchow and triple toe."
"I had to take a week or so off after I was in Colorado in December 2007," Lee added. "My mom and I were in a 19-car accident in the snow and I had a sprained back muscle that took some time to heal."

Full article.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sasha Cohen: Door still open for Vancouver Olympics

Orange County-bred figure skater Sasha Cohen, the silver medalist at the 2006 Turin Games, said she will announce next summer whether she will try to make the U.S. team for the 2010 Winter Games.

"I like the challenge. I think it's something I can do," she said by phone Wednesday. "I just don't want to rush myself into anything and just really take my time and train and see where I can get."

Cohen, 24, placed fourth at Salt Lake City in 2002. She was the leader after the short program in Turin but performed a flawed free skate and was passed by Japan's Shizuka Arakawa.

Although she has been gone from the competitive scene for a while, her return would be intriguing. No U.S. woman has dominated nationally or internationally the past few years,

and most have struggled to deal with injuries and growth spurts. If Cohen can approach or equal her former balletic grace and smooth artistry, the competition at the 2010 U.S. championships could be very interesting.

"Right now I'm in the process of training and seeing where my skill level is at," she said, adding that she has worked with different coaches and has skated in Lake Arrowhead but hasn't chosen a coach for Olympic-level preparation.

"I haven't really trained since the last time around. And I'll take all that into consideration and see if I think that I can do it and be competitive."

After Cohen left the competitive scene she stayed busy pursuing an acting career and skating in shows. She has put acting on hold -- "I realized you can only do one thing well at once and although I loved acting, my skating suffered a lot when I was taking time away from it," she said -- and is gearing up for the Stars on Ice tour.

The cross-country tour begins later this month in Spokane, Wash., and will stop locally at the Honda Center on Jan. 31 and at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario on Feb. 8.

Cohen will perform two solos and three group numbers in the show, as well as a smaller, transitional solo. "They're really trying to show how we went from being competitive athletes to being performers and entertainers and how we've trained," she said. "We're trying to show that although we try to make it look easy it's a sport and a challenge and we work very hard at it."

She said can still do all the triple jumps she performed as an Olympic-track skater and usually does two in her show routines. She'd have to do more than that to earn an Olympic berth or challenge for a medal in Vancouver, and she knows it.

"It's just a matter of getting strong enough to do triple-triples and do not just do them but do them in a way that is competitive in the way skating has envisioned," she said.

She also said she has followed the Grand Prix series this season. "It's interesting to see how it goes and how the points get laid out," she said. "It is about jumping but it's also about components and the spins and the footwork and getting the best choreographer to show your strength.

"I do miss the challenge and that intensity of competition when I've been going back and watching."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bereswill Runs Away with JGP Final Gold

The gold medalist at the SBS ISU Junior Grand Prix (JGP) of Figure Skating Final for the 2008-09 season was USA's Becky Bereswill, who is also a champion distance runner. The 18-year-old had qualified for the Final by winning silver medals at the JGPs in Spain and France, but was the sixth-ranked skater coming into the event.

"My goal was to qualify for the Final," she said. "When I made it, I was happy I achieved my goal, but in the back of my mind, I wanted to medal. I knew it would be inspirational to be with the seniors and hoped to skate well."

Only fourth after the short program, Bereswill scored almost 15 points above her previous best (83.24) to set a new personal best overall with 98.01 for the free skate and 146.69 total points.

"I knew we were all very tight after the short program, so it was anyone's game," acknowledged Bereswill. "I wanted to score two personal bests for the long and overall so I was happy I did that."

"I was very excited for the free skate," she continued. "I was nervous at first, but then I thought about performing the music and telling the story the way Marina (Zoueva) taught me, the nerves went away. I just went with that feeling and took everything one step at a time and I just really enjoyed my time out there."

Bereswill's long program contains a triple flip-double toe-double loop, double Axel-triple toe loop, and triple loop-double loop combination jumps. Her solo jumps are a double Axel, triple loop, triple Lutz, and triple toe loop. In the short program, her elements include a triple flip-double toe loop, triple Lutz and double Axel.

Phillip Mills with assistance from Marina Zoueva, choreographed her free program to Puccini's Nessum Dorma from the opera Turandot, while Igor Shpilband choreographed her short program to Carousel Waltz by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein.

"Both of my programs are new," Bereswill said, "but both are very different. John (Millier) told me I should look for music that I really care about. So I looked for music that is powerful and inspiring to me and it has really helped."

Full article.

Abbott's Grand Prix win rewarded with Athlete of the Week honors

There had been six ISU Grand Prix of Skating preliminary events this year — Skate America, Skate Canada, Trophee Eric Bompard and others — and due to the competing skaters' varied schedules it was difficult to reward top finishers with USA TODAY's Olympic Athlete of the Week award.

But when you win the Grand Prix Finals, as Jeremy Abbott did over the weekend, the Athlete of the Week award is yours, hands down. Abbott, a 23-year-old Colorado native, won the Cup of China earlier this year, and proved it was no fluke with a win at the finals in Korea.

He placed second in the short program and won the free skate handily to win the event. He's the first American male to win the event and his overall 237.72 was the highest-ever score recorded by an American man at an ISU event. Johnny Weir earned bronze on the strength of a second in the free skate and a fourth in the short program. Abbott posted personal best scores in the short program, free skate and overall total.

At the same event, American pair Meryl Davis and Charlie White finished fifth in the original dance and third in the free dance to take third place for their first medal at the final. Their finish was just out of four final pairs since the other American combo in the final, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto had to withdraw after Agosto suffered a back injury in the original dance portion of the competition.

Also on the ice, Jennifer Rodriguez proved herself fully committed to her comeback by winning the 1,000 meters at a speedskating World Cup in Nagano, Japan. Shani Davis added to his medals this season with a gold in the men's version of the event.

In what can only be called a disappointing weekend for American skiers, Lindsey Vonn was a bright spot as she reclaimed her first-place overall standing in the FIS World Cup after losing the top spot on Saturday after a disqualification in the giant slalom. She returned to the slopes in northern Spain on Sunday and posted the second-fastest times in her two slalom runs. She's having her best slalom season ever and looks to still be improving her overall game ahead of 2010's competitions on the slopes in Whistler. On the men's side, Ted Ligety failed to reach the podium for the fifth straight time in giant slalom with a 12th place finish in the discipline in France. Bode Miller finished 24th after missing a pair of gates.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kim Yu-na Braces for Fresh Challenges Ahead

“Although I missed the gold medal, I feel confident that I can do well in big competitions now that I’m in my third season on the senior circuit. I learned a lot from the mistakes I made in this competition.” So said Kim Yu-na after a somewhat disappointing second-place finish in the 2008 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province on Saturday.

At only 18, the best should still be ahead of her. The lineup includes the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships and the World Championship next year, and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Her failure to win the Grand Prix Final three years in a row is only the beginning of a new journey ahead of her. And from it, she says, she learned a valuable lesson in how to compete under intense pressure.

The rivalry with Mao Asada of Japan is another spur to morale. Until the Grand Prix Final, they had been tied like twins with two losses each in a total of four competitions since they started competing together in the senior circuit. But with this year’s Grand Prix, Asada now has an edge: her triple axel, which had only 50 a percent success rate before the season, is now Asada’s stock-in-trade, and Kim now has to come up with another strategy to overcome the challenge.

The dream score of 200 is yet to be broken. Kim and Asada are the only ones who ever came close to the standard.

“I still have the Four Continents and the World Championship coming up,” says Kim. “I want to be well rested and stay in a good form until then. I want to end this season in good shape without making mistakes.”

Koreans show their passion for skating at Grand Prix Final

The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating final has wrapped up in Goyang City, Korea and my impressions are of a country and fans totally in love with figure skating.

Mr. David Dore, former director general of Skate Canada and current ISU vice-president for figure skating, had this to say: “The interaction of the crowds and the performers reminds me of the “glory” days of successful skating in Canada. There is good evidence of strong sponsorship and enthusiastic and involved fans, which is great for skating.”

The intensity was palpable as nervous Koreans cruised the hallways and milled around outside the building waiting for the senior ladies to skate and a chance to see Korea’s champion, teenaged phenom Yu-Na Kim. Her face is everywhere from commercials to print ads to TV interviews. That kind of pressure would feel overwhelming to the most seasoned rock star - never mind an 18 year old girl.

Though not perfect, Kim did lead after the short program before ending up second behind world champion Mao Asada of Japan. Italy’s Carolina Kostner looked confident and secure in her free program and skated her way to the bronze medal.

The men’s event belonged to relative newcomers. Jeremy Abbott of the U.S. captured the gold, and Japan's Takahiko Kozuka took the silver. Their eagerness to perform and the superb construction of their programs gave them each the safety net they needed to be able to rise to the top.

Crowd favourite Johnny Weir of the U.S. took the bronze. Canada’s Patrick Chan struggled in the short and tried to make up lost ground in the free, but it was a case of too little, too late.

Frenchman Brian Joubert withdrew just prior to the free program, citing a back injury. He was not alone.

China reveals key to pairs success

The dance event ultimately featured only four teams. The Russian team of Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski pulled out just after the original dance warm-up with Novitski suffering from “digestive intoxication,” as the media advisory so delicately put it. Americans Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto bowed out before the free dance as a result of a flare-up of a back injury for Agosto.

Defending world champions Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France prevailed, with the silver going to Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin. The American team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White pulled ahead of Italians Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali in the free dance to win the bronze.

The pairs event really showed that the key to success is finding the perfect program for a team - one that helps them to truly express themselves artistically in a way that is accessible and understandable to judges and audience alike.

The winners - China's Qing Pang and Jian Tong - have just such a program with their free. It is tango-inspired, sophisticated, challenging and totally engaging. It propelled them from third place in the short program to first - ahead of teammates Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang, who took the silver, and defending world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy from Germany, who got the bronze. Savchenko and Szolkowy led after the short program, but with an error-filled skate and a weaker free skate they were no match for the Chinese.

With a number of key players absent, such as Japan’s Nobunari Oda in the men's competition and Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in ice dance, what will happen as the season continues to unfold is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Asada vs. Kim: Skating's gold-medal duel in 2010?

Let the ice-hype begin.

In what may be a preview to the gold-medal showdown 14 months from now at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Japan's Mao Asada edged Kim Yu-Na of South Korea in the Grand Prix Final of skating Saturday in South Korea.

The two have been rivals since they were juniors. Barring injury or other misfortune, their head-to-head duel in Vancouver should be one of the most sizzling matchups in the Olympic Games.

And with his surprise victory for the Grand Prix Final men's title, U.S. skater Jeremy Abbott put himself in the hunt for a medal in 2010. U.S. skater Johnny Weir took third.

Kim, 18, skated before an adoring hometown crowd that included South Korea Prime Minister Han Seung-soo and led by a slim half point after Friday's short program. But Asada went where no woman has gone before, the first to land two triple axels in competition.

Most women skaters can't land one triple axel in competition, much less two. Asada opened her program with them.

Judges scored Kim, winner of five straight Grand Prix events she entered -- including October's Skate America -- better on artistry. But Asada, 18, the reigning world champion, led by almost four points on technical elements and won gold by 2.2 points over Kim.

Kim does not have a triple axel in her program. It is considered the most difficult of triple jumps because skaters go into it facing front, so the jump actually requires three-and-a-half rotations.

Neither skater stayed up: Asada fell on a different triple jump, and while Kim landed a difficult triple-flip, triple-loop combination, she fell on a triple salchow.

Abbott is a native of Aspen -- ski country. But he knows his way around ice.

Abbott, 23, was almost an afterthought in the field in his first Grand Prix Final. But he never fell, and easily defeated Japan's Takahiko Kozuka of Japan, 237.72 points to 224.63. Kozuka, the Skate America champion, fell twice. Weir, rallying from a poor short program, opened up big to take second in the free skate to finish third overall.

Jenna working towards the Winter Olympics 2010

COLERAINE'S international ice skating star, Jenna McCorkell, has one thing on her mind - the Winter Olympics in 2010. As Jenna works towards next year's European and World Championships she will constantly have one eye on a place in the GB team for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

With only one full season of international competition left before the Olympics, Jenna can see the finishing line up ahead.
She said: "What people don't understand is the level of commitment, work and consistency in top level competition required. I have been training for this moment since I was six-years-old and I am determined to get there.

"I am really enjoying my skating at the moment and my performance level has really improved this year. It is great to be working with my coach Yuri Bureiko again and I am really looking forward to competing in next year's internationals and then in the Winter Olympics. That is my ultimate goal."
World and European coach Yuri Bureiko said: "Jenna possesses a special quality that exudes excellence and she is the hardest worker on and off the ice I have ever trained. It is one thing to have talent but if you do not work the talent you may as well forget it.

"Jenna has already made her results outshine any other this year. She is beating her own personal bests each time she goes out and tries her best each time she meets the ice either in training or in competition - therefore one cannot ask for anymore from any athlete. I am delighted with her progress."

The support Jenna has received over the years is something she will always treasure. "The support from the Sport NI lottery, The Mary Peters Trust, The Dromona Award, Coleraine Borough Council and so many individuals, in particular my family, over the years have all made this possible and without their support and belief in me I would not have made it this far. But above all you have to love what you do."
Now in her penultimate Olympic year, Jenna is hard at work in training for the next season. The next event will be the British Senior Championships, a title she has taken no less than five times, then it will be an immediate flight to Helsinki for the European Championships on the January 19.

Following that there is a short break before intense training for the World Championships in Los Angeles on March 23.

Turn pro

It's a time of transition for Chris Mabee.

"Life's definitely changed in the past couple months," said the Canadian senior men's figure skating 2007 silver medallist in.

First, he's newly retired.

"I made that announcement last week to Skate Canada," Mabee said.

"That's permanent."

Mabee asked Skate Canada to keep his decision to retire low key.

"The focus right now shouldn't be on who's retiring, it should be on the athletes that are competing for nationals and going to the Olympics."

The 23-year-old skater trained throughout the summer with an eye on competing in two fall senior Grand Prix events (Skate America and NHK), and nationals, but he struggled to find the right frame of mind for training.

"After the last nationals, I kind of had a hard time getting back on the ice in the off season. Actually I had a hard time getting on the ice in the off season, period. And then in the summer, I tried to push myself. I tried to train, tried to be ready for the season, and something just wasn't right. My motivation was not there. My desire to train was not there. And it just made the whole process a lot harder.

"It was really frustrating, not only for me, but for my coaches and the people around me because no one really knew what was going on."

He competed at Thornhill Summer Skate in August, and rated it 'OK' considering how he felt and where he was at mentally. He went to the national team camp and felt he improved. But that improvement did not increase his desire to get back on the ice, train harder, and improve even more.

"I think that's where I realized that something was going wrong. The emotion just felt so overwhelmingly strong that I knew I was going to have to do some soul searching. And it was going to have to happen fast. I was in no mental position to compete.

"That's basically when I decided I was going to take the season off and re-evaluate," he said, recalling his October announcement to withdraw from the 2008-09 season.

Full article.

Armenia returns to Figure Skating

After a five-year interval, Armenian figure skaters will compete in the European figure skating championship to be held in January 2009 in the Finnish capital of Helsinki.

The men’s team of figure skaters includes Gegham Vardanyan, 20, while Ani Vardanyan, 18, will represent Armenia in the women’s team. The last time Armenia participated in the championship was in 2004.

Gegham and Ani Vardanyan will soon leave for the Latvian capital of Riga to participate in the sport/instructional meeting.

Nearly 30 countries have been granted the right to participate in the 2009 European figure skating championship. The leading figure skaters in 2008 were from France, Russia, Sweden, Italy and Finland.

The European championship will kick off on January 20, while the men will begin competition on January 21. One of the favorite skaters from the men’s team is French Brian Joubert.

In the past couple of years, Anastasia Grebionkina and Vazgen Azroyan represented Armenia, but these athletes no longer take part in professional competitions because they currently participate in different shows taking place in Russia.

Buttle turns to choreography

World champion Jeffrey Buttle will not be at the Canadian figure skating championships next month in Saskatoon. He'll be in Japan, skating on a Stars on Ice tour.

But he will be in Saskatoon is spirit, through Fedor Andreev, who will try to win one of the spots open for men to get to the world championships in Los Angeles in March. And that's because Andreev will skate two programs choreographed by Buttle, who retired from competitive skating in September.

Last Sunday, Andreev won the senior men's qualifying event for the Canadian championships, skating with Buttle programs.

Could this be the start of a new career for Buttle?

Buttle, who watched his programs for the first time on Sunday at the qualifying event, said although he's done “pretty programs for pretty girls” in the past, he's never done any for a senior skater like Andreev.

“It was a great opportunity for me to work with somebody who is really strong and masculine,” he said.

The Russian-born Andreev, whose mother is famous choreographer Marina Zoueva, was a Canadian junior champion in 1999, then won a bronze medal at the senior level in 2003 in Saskatoon. He quit skating with back problems after the 2005 season, but returned last season to win the qualifying event. He was eighth at the national championships last year, which meant he had to qualify again for them this year.

Last year, he returned for the love of skating. This year, Andreev says he's more competition-minded. He wants to win something this time. And this time, he turned to Buttle because “I just felt I could use Jeff's talent and creativity.'' He's now also working with Brian Orser as a coach at times, and said his skating has improved tremendously. He says he feels more solid on the ice.

Buttle picked out the music for Andreev's short program, while Andreev's mother helped him pick the first violin concerto from Tchaikovsky for his long program. A little known fact about Andreev: he played the violin for 10 years and used to be part of the Ottawa Youth Orchestra.

The short program is to Jimi Hendrix music.

“Fedor is a real good looking guy and I wanted to give him something sexy, even a bit subtle,” Buttle said. “He doesn't really need to do much to be sexy on the ice [he's a former Calvin Klein model]. It's just something I know he's never done before and something I think he could have a lot of fun with.''

Full article

Long and Winding Road for American Ice Dancers

For U. S. ice dancers Jennifer Wester and Daniil Barantsev, the road to international senior competition has been long and hard. After teaming up in early 2003, the couple has endured numerous setbacks that kept them from competing. First and foremost was Russia's refusal to release Barantsev, the 2000 and 2001 World Junior ice dancing champion with Natalia Romaniuta, to compete for the United States.
"During the first couple of years, Daniil and I were still very hopeful that his release was around the corner and we kept focused on using the time to get our partnership together but with each year that optimism wanted to fade and the tensions of daily training started to wear on us," Wester said. "Shows were a relief when we got them but they were extremely few and far between. Somehow we just didn't feel that we could stop and be satisfied with ourselves. We just feel that our rollercoaster has made it through so many turns and loops that if we can just keep riding we'll get to the station we've been dreaming about."
Except for the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships, the couple had no where to compete. For another two seasons, they could only compete at U. S. Nationals, but not internationally. Finally last season, the couple received their first international assignment to compete at the Nebelhorn Trophy, which they won. Later, after finishing fifth at U. S. Nationals, they placed fourth at the 2008 Four Continents Championships. This season, they received their first two senior Grand Prix assignments, placing seventh at Skate Canada and eighth at Trophee Eric Bompard Cachemire.

Full article.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

2008 Cup of Russia / NHK / GPF - Result

2008 GPF - Results

  1. Jeremy Abbott (USA) 237.72 pts
  2. Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) 224.63 pts
  3. Johnny Weir (USA) 215.50 pts
  4. Tomáš Verner (CZE) 206.65 pts
  5. Patrick Chan (CAN) 205.16 pts
WD - Brian Joubert (FRA)

  1. Mao Asada (JPN) 188.55 pts
  2. Yu-Na Kim (KOR) 186.35 pts
  3. Carolina Kostner (ITA) 168.01 pts
  4. Joannie Rochette (CAN) 166.36 pts
  5. Yukari Nakano (JPN) 161.93 pts
  6. Miki Ando (JPN) 158.25 pts
  1. Qing Pang & Jian Tong (CHN) 191.49 pts
  2. Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang (CHN) 188.22 pts
  3. Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy (GER) 185.09 pts
  4. Tiana Volosozhar & Stanislav Morozov (UKR) 175.83 pts
  5. Yuko Kawaguchi & Alexander Smirnov (RUS) 167.45 pts
  6. Maria Mukhortova & Maxim Trankov (RUS) 153.16 pts
Ice Dance
  1. Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder (FRA) 156.10 pts
  2. Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin (RUS) 152.95 pts
  3. Meryl Davis & Charlie White (USA) 148.04 pts
  4. Federica Faiella & Massimo Scali (ITA) 145.12 pts
WD - Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto (USA)
WD - Jana Khokhlova & Sergei Novitski (RUS)

JGPF results HERE.

2008 NHK - Results

  1. Nobunari Oda (JPN) 236.18 pts
  2. Johnny Weir (USA) 224.42 pts
  3. Yannick Ponsero (FRA) 217.24 pts
  1. Mao Asada (JPN) 191.13 pts
  2. Akiko Suzuki (JPN) 167.64 pts
  3. Yukari Nakano (JPN) 166.87 pts
  1. Qing Pang & Jian Tong (CHN) 186.06 pts
  2. Rena Inoue & John Baldwin (USA) 161.49 pts
  3. Jessica Dubé & Bryce Davison (CAN) 156.76 pts
Ice Dance
  1. Federica Faiella & Massimo Scali (ITA) 176.67 pts
  2. Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat (FRA) 175.42 pts
  3. Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates (USA) 161.45 pts

2008 Cup of Russia - Results

  1. Brian Joubert (FRA) 230.78 pts
  2. Tomáš Verner (CZE) 222.94 pts
  3. Alban Preaubert (FRA) 219.08 pts
  1. Carolina Kostner (ITA) 170.72 pts
  2. Rachael Flatt (USA) 166.06 pts
  3. Fumie Suguri (JPN) 162.04 pts
  1. Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang (CHN) 177.42 pts
  2. Yuko Kawaguchi & Alexander Smirnov (RUS) 169.27 pts
  3. Tatiana Volosozhar & Stanislav Morozov (UKR) 167.86 pts
Ice Dance
  1. Jana Khokhlova & Sergei Novitski (RUS) 187.62 pts
  2. Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin (RUS) 184.66 pts
  3. Meryl Davis & Charlie White (USA) 170.61 pts

2008 GPF - Photos