Sunday, July 19, 2009

There's no off-season for figure skaters and their coaches

It's a sport confined to no season. Even in mid-July, coaches are working in their cold-weather apparel -- long pants, fleece-lined jackets and parkas.

At the Arctic Edge Arena in Canton, figure skating coach and choreographer Marina Zoueva spoons honey into a mug of hot tea between sessions.

At the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club, ice dancers Evan Bates and Emily Samuelson head to ballet class with dueling colds.

And at the Detroit Skating Club, U.S. men's champion Jeremy Abbott and Daisuke Takahashi -- who's visiting from Japan to work with choreographer Pasquale Camerlengo -- alternate playing program music as they practice at opposite ends of "A" rink.

"People ask us when our off-season is, and it's hard to explain because we really don't have an off-season," said Meryl Davis of West Bloomfield, who won the U.S. gold medal in ice dance with Charlie White in January.

The Free Press dropped by the Detroit area's three major figure skating clubs last week to check in on our Olympic hopefuls. What did we find?

With the Vancouver Winter Games seven months away, there has been no time to hibernate.

TUESDAY, 9 A.M.: ARCTIC FSC

In a couple of hours, the lobby will be transformed to a party scene for coach Igor Shpilband's 45th birthday. The celebration will serve as a respite from the day's work of constructing programs and training ice dancers for the upcoming season.

Zoueva has been at the rink since 6 a.m. to prepare for the avalanche of teams that begin arriving for practice at 7 a.m. On this day, her spiral-bound organizer reveals a booked schedule through 5 p.m.

Arctic FSC is home to two of the top-four ice dance teams in the world: bronze medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, and Team USA's Davis and White, who were fourth at the world meet in March.

But Shpilband and Zoueva have eight other teams that train full-time in Canton, including current world junior champions Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein, who have moved up to seniors this season.

The dance crew shares ice time with the club's pair teams coached by Johnny Johns and Adrienne Lenda. While a clock ticks down the remaining minutes in the session, pairs skaters Andrea Best and Trevor Young work on their long program a few yards from where Davis and White are practicing a move.


Full article.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Maxwell, Musademba win senior free skate groups

Angela Maxwell won her free skate group at the Liberty Summer Competition, earning 86.94 points for an outing that included three solid triples, a flying sit spin and superb layback to Biellmann spin.

Now if only she could remember her program.

"I just got my free skate re-done two days ago, and I forgot which jumps went where," said the bubbly 16-year-old, who trains at the Ice House in Hackensack, N.J., under former ice dance competitor Olga Orlova.

"I was fine after the opening double Axel, but then the slow part started and I didn't know what to do. I skipped a jump and made up some footwork. I was just throwing out moves."

Maxwell may have a future in choreography, because her exciting straight-line step sequence earned cheers from the crowd. She also landed two of her clean triples, the toe and loop, in the second half of her program to "Nostradamas."

"We didn't want to try my most difficult jumps here, so Olga asked Craig Maurizi [another of her coaches] to re-do the jumps," the skater explained. "I just got confused about what went where."

Maxwell hopes to do even better at her next competition, the Detroit Open.

"That's in a week," she said. "I'll see if I can remember everything by then."

Joelle Forte, who won the short program, placed second in the free with 81.40 points.

Skating to music from Rachmaninoff, the 23-year-old Fordham University student popped her opening triple loop but recovered quickly with a triple Lutz-double toe combination. Her triple flip and triple Salchow were judged to be underrotated by the technical panel, but she landed a triple Salchow-double toe and a second triple Lutz-double toe.


Full article.

Chan fears "The Phantom of the Opera" no more

Patrick Chan competes his new free skate to The Phantom of the Opera at Liberty on Saturday, but according to his coach, Don Laws, it almost didn't happen.

"They forgot to put him in the draw," he said. "Finally, they just said, 'We'll plug him in last,' so that's where he is."

Chan and Laws would have hated to miss the opportunity; they've come to Liberty for three seasons running.

"This is where we do new material," Laws, who coached Scott Hamilton to Olympic gold in 1984, said. "It's a classic version. I call it 'Phantom of the Olympics.'"

With the Vancouver Games just seven months away, Chan fever has hit Canada. As one of the country's gold-medal hopes, the 18-year-old is featured in promotions and is heavily covered by the press. He has even filmed commercials, including a recent spot for Cheerios.

"Back in Toronto, at least a few times a day, someone will come up to me and say, 'Aren't you Patrick?' Sometimes it gets to be a distraction," the skater said. "That's why I like training [with Laws] in Florida, because I'm away from all that stuff. The distance helps me focus."

The spotlight on the two-time Canadian champion intensified after worlds this March, where the teen won a silver medal. Since then, apart from a week-long break and performances in "Festa on Ice" in South Korea in April, he's focused on his new program, choreographed by Lori Nichol in May.

"It's definitely a program I'm excited about, and I think everyone else is, too," he said. "It's got kind of an Olympic theme.

"It doesn't matter if it's perfect here at Liberty; the important thing is getting it out. That's the plan."

As Chan tells it, selecting the soundtrack for his Olympic quest took all of 10 minutes.


Full article.

Rachmaninoff suits Evora, Ladwig to a tee

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig showed all the best elements of classic pair skating in their new free skate to Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 -- speed, unison and daring yet smoothly executed lifts.

The Florida-based team, pewter medalists at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships, performed their pair elements with assurance, opening with a solid triple twist and hitting a strong throw triple Lutz. Six of their elements, including three lifts completed in the second half of the program, earned Level 4s.

"Amanda and Mark are pretty much the king and queen of the 4s," said their coach, Jim Peterson.

Then there are the side-by-side jumps, triple toes and double Axels. Evora fell on the first, and both skaters struggled with the second. Still, they earned a strong early-season score of 103.59 points and won the event by more than 20 points.

"I remember years ago [2006 world junior champions] Julia Vlassov and Drew Meekins skated to this music, and I loved it," Evora said. "I kept it in my head and always wanted to skate to it."

"I really like the layout of the program. When it was choreographed, the elements all fell into place very easily," Ladwig added. "We figured it out right away. We incorporated some moves [from past seasons] that we felt really fit the music, sort of a best of the best."

The team has taken power-stroking classes from five-time U.S. ice dance champion Judy Blumberg, who will visit their rink in Ellenton, Fla., later this month.

"They're focusing on deep knees and speed, speed, speed," Peterson said. "Also, the catch on the [triple] twist, which is improving. It's just the jumps. Much as I absolutely hate excuses, Amanda twisted her ankle slightly today. We wrapped it, but it just wasn't comfortable for her."

Ladwig has big off-ice news. He and his wife, Janet, are expecting a baby boy on September 16.

"I'm throwing them a shower next week. It's my gift to them," Evora said.


Full article.

Razzano surprises some in senior men's short

In an early-season upset, Douglas Razzano won the senior men's short program at the Liberty Summer Competition with a stirring performance to Debussy's "Clair de lune."

"I felt very good, very in control, and very relaxed, which is the key for me," Razzano said. "I just went out there and skated."

Performing to choreography by Shin Amano, the 20-year-old Razzano opened with a strong triple Axel, followed by a good attempt at a quad toe. Although he fell on the move, it was judged to be fully rotated by the technical panel.

"I knew if anything went wrong today, it would be that quad," said the skater, who trains in Scottsdale, Ariz., under Doug Ladret. "It's been working at home, but I've only landed three here this week. I want one in the free skate, though."

The rest of his elements -- including a triple toe-triple toe combination, a Level 4 camel combination spin and high flying sit spin -- were solid. Razzano earned 67.50 points, including the highest technical score of the event -- 39.10.

Skating to Bizet's Carmen, reigning U.S. junior champion Ross Miner placed second with 65.76 points.

The 18-year-old opened with a triple Axel that wobbled a bit on the landing, but he recovered with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and a strong triple flip. Although his camel combination spin dropped to a Level 1, his other two spins earned Level 4s.

"The camel is just not my best spin," admitted Miner, who trains under Peter Johansson and Mark Mitchell at the Skating Club of Boston. "For me, any form of a back camel needs work."

At first, Miner wasn't too pleased with his coaches' choice of music.

"When Mark told me I would be skating to Carmen, I said, 'Uh, no, I'm not,'" he said. "But, after I started skating to it on a daily basis, I began to like it."

Miner is competing on the Junior Grand Prix circuit this fall, but he will compete at the 2010 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships as a senior.


Full article.

Gibbons, Harris win junior pairs free skate

Reigning U.S. novice bronze medalists Olivia Gibbons and Tyler Harris took first place in the junior pairs free skate at Liberty with an entertaining performance to the score of An American in Paris.

The Boston-based team, who is trained by Bobby Martin, Carrie Wall and Christine Hough-Sweeney, earned 70.97 points for a program that featured fluid lifts, high throw doubles and an exciting double twist.

"It's our first time [competing] as a junior team, and it felt good to be out there," said the 15-year-old Gibbons.

"We've been working a lot harder on our lifts and making ourselves much stronger as a team."

Gibbons and Harris are not eligible for a Junior Grand Prix assignment because he is 21. Their next event is the Indy Challenge, Aug. 1-2.

Ukrainians Vladyslava Rybka and Andriy Deputat took second place with a high-energy program to Bizet's Carmen.

The team earned positive Grades of Execution for their split double twist; two throw doubles, the Salchow and loop; and back press lift to a horizontal position.

The duo, who have been training in Ashburn, Va., this summer, appreciate the opportunity to test out their programs and skills at a non-qualifying event.

"We have no competitions like this [in Ukraine], so this is a good experience for them," their coach, Rashid Kadyrkaev, said. "They've made some new friends and are [associating] with such good skaters."

Felicia Zhang and Taylor Toth, who have skated together for just two months, got the third-best score, 66.38 points. Although they had a high double twist and excellent ice coverage, they lost ground when Zhang fell on a throw double loop.

"We're getting a lot of good feedback here, and we're really excited to be together," said Zhang.

Toth was also happy with their performance here, especially since he and his new partner came up victorious in the short program.

"My friends and family sent the article from [the short] to each other; my grandmother even got it on her computer," said Toth, who hails from Pittsburgh.

Meredith Pipkin and Brett Dunie-Neustadt landed solid side-by-side double flips, but a missed lift cost them and they placed fourth with 57.80 points.


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Musademba, Forte win short programs at Liberty

The offseason was work, work, work for the top finishers in senior ladies group A at the 2009 Liberty Summer Competition, and it showed in their polished, confident programs.

"I'm just really happy with the way I skated," said winner Kristine Musademba, who won two Junior Grand Prix events last season. "I actually had the chance to train for Liberty this year, and I think that's why I had a better showing."

The 16-year-old hit an opening triple Lutz and triple flip-double toe combination in her short to Debussy's "Clair de lune," choreographed by Uschi Keszler. She received Level 4s for both her step sequence and flying sit spin combination and scored 52.84 points.

"I'm working really hard to be the best I can be, in both practices and competition," said Musademba, who trains under Traci Coleman in the Washington, D.C., area.

"I think I have a Junior Grand Prix [event], but I don't know where yet, so I want to be 100-percent ready."

Alexe Gilles, who won the U.S. junior title in 2008, showed off a mature, flowing style in her short, choreographed by David Wilson to Cinderella.

The 17-year-old opened with a solid triple Lutz-double toe, but she doubled her triple flip. She placed second with 52.22 points.

"I really like the work David [Wilson] did choreographing this program. I love the music," said Gilles, who trains under Tom Zakrajsek and Becky Calvin at Colorado Springs' World Arena.

"This performance was a good base. We've been working on pushing everything out, making [my movements] bigger to the eye. Those little details go a long way. Also, I'm trying to get more consistent with everything."

Kristiene Gong shone in her short to "One Summer Day," choreographed by Philip Mills, but lost ground when her triple flip was downgraded by the technical panel. She placed third with 49.66 points.


Full article.

Dolensky takes gold in novice men's FS at Liberty

Well-executed jumps, fast spins and deep, fluid edges marked an exciting novice men's free skate at the Liberty Summer Competition on Friday.

In a close race, Timothy Dolensky wound up at the top of the 12-member field with 80.72 points.

Skating to the "Warsaw Concerto," Dolensky hit two triple toes, a triple loop, a triple Salchow and a double Axel-double toe-double toe combination with ease. He fell on a triple flip and popped an intended triple Salchow into a single, but he was happy with his overall performance.

"I felt confident out there; my program was pretty good," said Dolensky, who turns 17 on Saturday. "I'm not sure I am where I need to be yet. That's okay, though, because it's still early in the season."

Emmanuel Savary was second with 74.49 points.

His entertaining rendition of music from the television show The Simpsons featured a triple toe-double toe; two triple Salchows, one in combination with a double toe and double loop; and two double Axels, one in combination with a double toe.

This was Savary's first time competing at the novice level. He won the 2009 U.S. intermediate title.

"I was so happy out there. I enjoy skating so much, and I just focus on what I had to do," said the 11-year-old.

Harrison Choate was third with 73.37 points. His program to West Side Story included a solid triple Lutz and a triple Salchow. Zachariah Szabo was fourth with a score of 66.80.


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Evora, Ladwig win short with "Love Actually" at Liberty

Competing at the Liberty Summer Competition every July is practically second nature to Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig.

"We've done this event every year since we started skating together, so it's eight years running," Evora said. "I can't imagine not coming."

"We've competed more at this rink [IceWorks in Aston, Pa.] than any other," Ladwig added. "The more competitions we have, the more feedback we get before our international events, the better."

The team, fourth at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships, debuted a new short program, choreographed by their coach Jim Peterson to music from the Love Actually soundtrack. They won the event with 57.65 points.

"It wasn't our best, but it had some good things," Evora added. "Our hip catch on the [Level 2] triple twist was better, and we had a solid throw triple loop. But, obviously, I popped the [triple] Salchow, and we were off on the side-by-side spins, which we really expect to be in unison."

The team is known for difficult transitions into and out of elements. Four of their moves -- the back outside death spiral, pair combination spin, side-by-side spins and press lift -- gained Level 4.

"That actually may not end up being the lift we use; we're working on spread eagles into a press star lift, with a back-to-back, split jump entrance," Ladwig said. "Hopefully, it will be ready in time for Indy [Challenge, Aug. 1-Aug. 2]."

Peterson, who also coaches U.S. pairs silver medalists Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, would love to have the top two U.S. teams this season.

"Amanda and Mark have to get their side-by-side elements more consistent," Peterson said. "Their pair elements are strong. We've been working on the height and catch on the triple twist and just making everything more explosive. [U.S. Skating's] Pairs Camp was very helpful with that."



Full article.

Zhang, Toth win junior pairs short program

It looks like pairs skating agrees with Felicia Zhang.

With just two months training under their belts, she and partner Taylor Toth won the junior pairs short program at the Liberty Summer Competition in Aston, Pa., edging out Ukrainians Vladyslava Rybka and Andriy Deputat by 0.17 points.

"We had a really good throw double Salchow and good [side-by-side] double Axels," Toth said. "Hopefully, by the time we get to Indy [for the Pairs Challenge, Aug. 1-Aug. 2], those Axels will be triple toes."

Zhang, the 2008 U.S. novice ladies bronze medalist, is learning pairs from the ground up.

"It's a lot of fun; I love it," Zhang said. "I love the throws and the lifts, too."

The team, which trains at the University of Delaware, credits coaches Ludington and Jeff DiGregorio with its swift progress.

"It's good they know how to explain things. I can do the moves, but I have a hard time explaining them," Toth said. "They're very technical and hard to describe."

The team hopes to win an assignment on the Junior Grand Prix.

Rybka and Deputat showed an impressive Level 4 lift and good speed, although they completed only a single twist.

"She's going to be 12 at the end of July, so she is too young for the Junior Grand Prix," said Rashid Kadyrkaev, one of their coaches. "They live in Kiev, but they're training with us in Ashburn [Va.] at the Ice House.

"We're trying to maximize their visit here, so they are also doing the Potomac Open and Indy [Challenge] to prepare for Ukraine nationals in February."

Olivia Gibbons and Tyler Harris, who train under Bobby Martin, Carrie Wall and Christine Hough at the Skating Club of Boston, were third with 38.97 points. Meredith Pipkin and Brett Dunie-Neustadt placed fourth with 37.08.


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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Skaters gather in Pennsylvania for Liberty Open

Skaters are gathering at the IceWorks Skating Complex in Aston, Pa., for the eighth annual Liberty Summer Competition, hosted by the Liberty Figure Skating Club of Philadelphia. The non-qualifying event is a chance to perform new programs, gain feedback and make necessary changes before national qualifying events and international competitions, including the junior and senior Grand Prix assignments.

Among the men scheduled to compete: reigning world silver medalist Patrick Chan, who is expected to debut a new program, choreographed by Lori Nichol to selections from Phantom of the Opera, in the senior men's free skate event; 2009 U.S. pewter medalist Ryan Bradley; 2008 U.S. bronze medalist Stephen Carriere; 2009 U.S. junior champion Ross Miner; 2009 U.S. junior silver medalist Keegan Messing; and Armin Mahbanoozadeh, who finished second at last season's Junior Grand Prix Final.

"This summer has been as intense as ever," said Carriere, who will perform a new short program to "Carmina Burana" and last season's free to Stravinsky's Firebird.

"Summer is when you get that good foundation training your programs. Not going to worlds [this year] was tough to swallow, but it gave me more time to go home and get down to the basics, work on my triple Axel and triple-triple combinations [Lutz-toe and flip-toe]. I want to see the [triple] toe in those combinations more optimal and ideal."

Carriere, who placed a disappointing ninth at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships, has also been working on a new entrance to his triple Axel, which failed him at a few key moments last season.

"I had a lot more negative grades of execution on the Axel [than in 2007-2008]. It was a little inconsistent, so I've been working on new technique for the take-off," he said. "I used to go into it with a half circle. Now I'm trying to get that step and skid, gain consistency. I need to bring out the fire. The past year was muffled. I'm taking nothing for granted."

For three of last season's top U.S. juniors -- Miner, Mahbanoozadeh and Messing -- It's an early opportunity to compete as seniors.


Full article.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

McLaughlin, Brubaker adapt to new training methods

At U.S. Figure Skating's Champs Camp last month, a speaker asked skaters and their coaches, "What's your first big Olympic memory?"

Frank Carroll remembered how his coach, Maribel Owen, left him to train on his own while she accompanied students to the 1956 Games. Tom Zakrajsek recalled the inspiration of Dorothy Hamill's 1976 gold-medal winning free skate.

Then John Nicks spoke up.

"For me, it was Sonja Henie's first gold medal in 1928," the dry Brit remarked, prompting waves of laughter and a few groans.

Nicks was exaggerating a bit -- he wasn't born until the following year -- but, at age 80, he's the senior member of the coaching ranks. Nicks leads a group of veteran pros -- including Carroll and Don Laws, coach of Canada's world silver medalist Patrick Chan -- who hope to guide their pupils toward the 2010 Winter Olympics.

In Nicks' case, he was thrust back into the spotlight in May when two-time U.S. pair champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker announced they were leaving Colorado Springs, Colo., and coach Dalilah Sappenfield to work with him in Aliso Viejo, Calif.

"They've completed the first real month [training here]," he said last week. "The first week or two were a little rough. I'm sure my coaching is very different for them. They had a wonderful coach [Sappenfield] before, and it takes time getting used to change. The last few weeks have been much, much better."

Teamed by Sappenfield in early 2006, McLaughlin and Brubaker gained fast success, including the 2007 world junior title. In their 2007-08 senior debut season, they qualified for the ISU Grand Prix Final and won the U.S. national title on their first try, although McLaughlin was too young to compete at worlds. But they had a difficult 2008-09 season, scrambling to repeat as U.S. champions after placing second in the short program and finishing a disappointing 11th at their senior worlds debut in Los Angeles in March.

"The move was uncomfortable at first, but I think it will be good in the long run," said McLaughlin, who will turn 17 in September. "Mr. Nicks is very wise. He has a lot of knowledge, a lot to share."


Full article.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The unique chance

France has a history of strong Men's single skaters. Right now Brian Joubert is undoubtedly the number one with five World medals on his record, but who will be Joubert's successor in France once he retires from competition? After last season, Florent Amodio has become the heir apparent.

In what is a funny coincidence, Amodio debuted at Junior Worlds in Oberstdorf, like Joubert did in 2000, just seven years later. Like Joubert, he finished in 15th place but still was noticed by observers who recognized his talent. Unlike Joubert, however, Amodio continued to compete at the junior level and celebrated his biggest success so far when he won the Junior Grand Prix Final last December.

The Frenchman seemed poised for the podium at Junior Worlds in March, however, it didn't happen. Amodio imploded in the short program, singling the Axel, doubling the Lutz, falling on a spin, and finished 19th. He pulled up four spots in the long and thus ended up where he was in his debut two years before.

"I've learned a lot of things about myself that I didn't know before," Amodio said when talking about his experience at Junior Worlds. "I learned technical things. For example in my short program. My warm up went really well, but I skated fifth (in the group) and I wasn't active enough in the time between the end of the warm up and my skate. I didn't remain focused enough. I didn't attack this competition the way I should have. I didn't get into it. I wasn't fighting enough. I didn't expect to mess up the short program."

Amodio came to Sofia to win, but the results of the short program were difficult for him to digest and made it hard for him to attack the free skate. "The motivation wasn't quite there," he admitted. "I tried to fight and to give my best, but it was hard. I still drew a lot of positive things from it. It was a lesson for me. I think it's important to learn for the future from a defeat."


Full article.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Former U.S. champion arrested on drug charges

Former U.S. champion Nicole Bobek has been charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, the Jersey Journal reported Monday.

Working with the Bayonne, New Jersey, police force, the Hudson County prosecutor's office announced it had uncovered a distribution network selling $10,000 worth of the drug each week. The 31-year-old Bobek was one of more than a dozen people arrested.

"She played a significant role in this operation," Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio is quoted as saying. "She was actively involved in the upper echelon of this ring."

A long-legged, blue-eyed blonde, Bobek was something of a bombshell on the ice, exuding charisma and playful elegance. Her signature move, a stunning, fully extended spiral, is widely credited with inspiring other skaters of her generation to improve their spiral sequences.

In 1995, Bobek won the U.S. title, upsetting the favored Michelle Kwan. She went on to capture the bronze medal at the 1995 World Championships.

Even with this success, there were rumblings: Bobek's coach that season, Richard Callaghan, was the latest in a seemingly countless series, and prior to the U.S. Championships, she was charged with stealing money from a friend's house. After legal maneuvering, she was eventually granted a probation discharge.

"I guess you could say I'm a free spirit," Bobek said around that time.

Bobek never repeated her 1995 success. The following season, she withdrew from the U.S. Championships with an injury and was not granted a bye to worlds. In 1997, she won the U.S. bronze medal and competed at worlds, placing 13th after another of her coaches, Carlo Fassi, died at the championships.


Full article.

Kostner heading to the U.S. to train in Los Angeles

Carolina Kostner is trying to regroup before the 2009-10 season, an important one for her because of both the Olympics and the world championships, the latter of which will take place in her home country. So, she is making some changes.

On Monday, she announced in a feature that aired on Italian television that she is moving to the United States to train. Kostner will be under the tutelage of Frank Carroll and Christa Fassi in Los Angeles. Carroll is the legendary coach who worked with Michelle Kwan and now counts world champion Evan Lysacek and American Mirai Nagasu as pupils. Fassi is the widow of famed coach Carlo Fassi, and has worked with Robin Cousins, Jill Trenary and many others.

Kostner had been searching for a new training situation since announcing last month that she was no longer working with Michael Huth in Oberstdorf, Germany.

"I tried to find a place where I train well and am happy," she said in the TV interview.

This move is partly in response to her panic or nerve attacks on the ice. She has started working with the same psychologist that helped Italian swimmer Federica Pellegrini win the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the 400-meter freestyle.

Ironically, one of the most recent slip-ups for Kostner came in L.A., at the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, where she followed a fifth-place short program with a disastrous, 15th-place free skate, during which she singled many intended triple or double jumps. Kostner was the defending world silver medalist but finished only 12th in 2009.

The 22-year-old born in Bolzano, Italy, is a four-time national and two-time European champion. She finished ninth at the Olympics in Turin in 2006 and would love to improve on that finish next season, both in Vancouver for the Olympics and back in Turin at worlds.


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Kwan agrees to perform in Kim's show in Korea

Michelle Kwan celebrated more than just the Fourth of July last weekend.

On Friday, through her agent, Shep Goldberg, Kwan announced that she will skate in Yu-Na Kim's Ice All-Stars 2009 in Seoul, South Korea, in August. Kwan has not skated before an audience since an appearance in Champions on Ice in Las Vegas on August 16, 2006.

"Michelle has turned down other invitations, but she and Yu-Na have a mutual admiration society going," Goldberg told The Associated Press.

She has not skated competitively since a groin injury forced her to withdraw from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. The timing of this announcement leaves open the possibility for a return to competition this year, with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver on the horizon. Kwan has been practicing and working out for most of the year.

"Michelle is feeling healthy and has her abilities up to the standards she sets for herself, which are very high standards," Goldberg added.

Kwan, a five-time world champion and nine-time U.S. champion, will turn 29 on Tuesday. She has until September to enter regional qualifying competitions for the 2010 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, Wash., which will serve as the Olympic trials.

Goldberg reiterated that Kwan, who won a silver medal at the 1998 Games in Nagano and a bronze four years later in Salt Lake City, has not yet made a decision about trying for another Olympics.

Kwan spoke briefly to The Associated Press in March at the world championships in Los Angeles: "I don't have a timetable; I do have goals," she said. "Right now, I want to do one thing at a time before I make any decisions. I want to make sure everything is out there, and I look at all the options. Eventually, I'll get to a place I am comfortable with."

She recently graduated from the University of Denver and was accepted into the master's program at Tufts University.

For the last several years, Kwan has remained in the public eye. In November 2006, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appointed Kwan a public diplomacy ambassador. Kwan was also part of the Presidential delegation at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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Flatt and Nichol hope to create Olympic moments

Lori Nichol saw something different in Rachael Flatt's skating last week.

"The music is really driving her," said the Toronto-based choreographer, who has worked with the teen (and several of her top U.S. rivals) for years.

"She's like a firecracker out there."

Maybe it's the adrenaline. Since placing fifth at her first senior worlds in late March, it's been a mixture of schoolwork, training and vacation for the two-time U.S. silver medalist, who turns 17 on July 21st.

"We did my new short at the end of May, right after school got out about a month ago," Flatt said. "Between getting choreography, going on vacation and Champs Camp [June 11-14, in her training town of Colorado Springs] it's been fairly busy.

"I think I'll be home for the rest of the summer except for one week in Steamboat [Colorado] for high-altitude training. There will be a lot of beneficial time to refine and add details to my programs."

Flatt is thrilled with how the two efforts, a short program to Louis Prima's Big Band anthem "Sing, Sing, Sing" and free skate to Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," are shaping up.

"I'm doing my long with Lori this week. It's going really well," she said. "We're just starting to figure everything out.

"I think [the programs] show two totally different sides of my personality. One is the romantic and very strong part of my personality, and the other is bubbly and happy and lots of fun. It's a good contrast."


Full article
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Mroz to show a new side this season

When it comes to Brandon Mroz, we ain't seen nothing yet.

"After he competed at his first senior worlds and took a look around, he realized the top men have as close to the total package as you can get," the skater's coach, Tom Zakrajsek, said.

"He's got kind of a playful personality; there's a little bit of a twinkle in his eye," added Catarina Lindgren, one of his choreographers.

"I see him as a big personality who can relate to a crowd. He's the kind of skater you would say, 'I would really like to have him in my show.' That's the kind of role I see him moving into."

That sounds great to Mroz, who is anxious to up the ante and beat out a few of his elders to make his first Olympic team this season.

"I love a good challenge. I love to go out there and shake things up," said the 18-year-old skater, who was born in St. Louis but has trained in Colorado Springs under Zakrajsek since 2005.

Mroz shook things up plenty at 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland this January. The teen placed second with the most technically proficient free skate of the event, including a quadruple toe loop, two triple Axels and a triple-triple combination in the second half of the program. In March, he placed ninth at his first senior worlds.

"I definitely felt I had a great season," Mroz said. "I had some great moments. I was happy with both my programs at worlds, although I could have skated better in the free. Now I have to build on them and apply myself for the Olympic season. I have to give it everything I've got. Olympic season is no time to hold back.


Full article.

Weaver adds red and white to red, white and blue

Texan Kaitlyn Weaver is now Olympic-certified after being officially sworn in as a Canadian citizen on Monday in Kitchener-Waterloo -- the community where she first joined forces with ice dance partner Andrew Poje in the summer of 2006.

"Overall, it was a really great day and I'm so happy and so honored to now, finally, be Canadian. I'm so excited to get the season started. It's just a really great feeling," said Weaver, who met with immediate success on partnering with Poje, taking a bronze medal in senior competition at their first Canadian championships in 2007 and another bronze at the world juniors a month later.

Because ISU rules require only one partner to be a citizen of the country they represent in international competition, the U.S.-Canada ice dance pairing has been competing for Canada for four years already. To compete at the Olympics, however, both partners must be citizens of the country.

Weaver, 20, now enjoys dual citizenship since becoming a Canadian does not require her to forfeit her U.S. citizenship. On hand for the ceremony held at city hall were Weaver's mother and Poje's family. Her father could not attend due to work obligations.

In all, 48 people from 26 different countries were sworn in. "They were from all over the world. It was really cool to hear where they came from and imagine what their stories were like," Weaver recounted.

Following the ceremony, the Poje family hosted a celebration at the German Alpine Club for all the people who have been part of the couple's on-ice journey or had a role to play in Weaver's successful citizenship bid and, of course, for Weaver herself. She noted that Poje's grandparents immigrated to Canada from Germany and the family has been involved in the club for years, while his mother was born in Slovakia.


Full article
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Abbott turns to Dickson, Bourne for programs

Jeremy Abbott is fighting a summer cold and laryngitis but can't contain his enthusiasm for his new training digs at the Detroit Skating Club (DSC).

"I just love it," he said.

Former coach Tom Zakrajsek led the skater to the Grand Prix Final and U.S. titles last season, but in May the 24-year-old decided to make the move to Michigan. There he's trained by Yuka Sato, the 1994 world champion, with an assist from her husband, two-time U.S. pair champ (with Kyoko Ina) Jason Dungjen.

"Yuka and Jason have been so fantastic. The rink here is phenomenal. Jerod Swallow [five-time U.S. ice dance champ, with Elizabeth Punsalan] is skating director and he has been so accommodating. I'm happy with the situation and with the decision I've made."

Icenetwork.com caught up with Abbott and got the scoop on his programs for the Olympic season.

So, what's the word on your free skate music?

My free will be "Jupiter" (from Gustav Holst's "The Planets Suite") and "Pines of Rome" (by Ottorino Respighi). It's music people will recognize when they hear it. I always try to use something a bit different; this season I wanted something familiar to people, but not something they heard a lot.

What did your choreographer, Tom Dickson, think of the choice?

We actually started work on a different piece I brought to him, but just with the editing and trying to get everything right, it became pretty obvious it wasn't really the right fit for me. I asked Tom what he thought about "Jupiter" from "The Planets." That floored him a bit, but then he and I worked on it and it took off in an entirely different direction. A lot of skaters seem to be approaching their programs a bit differently this Olympic season. I want to continue doing what I did last season, improve my skating skills, artistry and range of movement, but also make the program more accessible to a broader audience.


Full interview.

Hamill lends helping hand to Flatt

Since she began mentoring Rachael Flatt this spring, it's been the question on everyone's lips: will Dorothy Hamill ask her protégé to get a "Hamill wedge?"

"I'd never do that," laughed Hamill of her signature '70s haircut. "The thing I really don't want people to think is I am going to try to change Rachael, try to have her do what I did."

That doesn't mean Hamill isn't up for giving some gentle advice.

"I would love to take her to a hairstylist and find something comfortable for her; all the girls are wearing buns these days," said Hamill, who is 52 but looks far younger.

"Rachael doesn't have to do something that's the same as what everyone else is doing. It's important she find what is comfortable and works for her. If you feel comfortable, ultimately your performances come to life."

Helping to add vivacity and charm to Flatt's technically strong programs is Hamill's main goal. The 1976 Olympic champion saw Flatt win her second consecutive U.S. silver medal in Cleveland this January and was instantly taken with the 16-year-old's competitive fire and drive.

"I didn't even know about the mentor program," she remembered. "I heard about it from Brian Boitano in passing; he mentioned he was mentoring Alissa Czisny and Ryan Bradley, and I thought that was terrific.

"Then I watched the ladies at nationals and I was really impressed [with Rachael]. I remember thinking, 'what a fresh, beautiful face.'"

Hamill gave Flatt a standing ovation, which caught the eye of the skater's coach, Tom Zakrajsek, an old friend of Hamill's who performed in her Nutcracker on Ice tour.


Full article.

World title brings new attention to Lysacek

To the winner go the spoils, and Evan Lysacek is no exception.

A cast on his fractured left foot forced the skater off the ice for five weeks but didn't slow him down. Photo shoots, commercials and personal appearances -- including presenting the game ball at an L.A. Laker game -- have kept the 24-year-old world champion hopping.

"I feel really lucky to have these opportunities. With the Olympics coming up, I guess the timing this year was just really good," a tanned and relaxed Lysacek said on a break during U.S. Figure Skating's "Champs Camp" last weekend.

"I think there's going to be a lot of attention on all the skaters going into Vancouver, [considering] the success companies had using athletes from the Beijing Olympics [to promote] their products. Especially in this economy, they'll be looking to [capitalize] on the kind of attention athletes are going to get."

The two-time U.S. champion (2007 and 2008) is making the most of both his world title and training break. The Naperville, Ill. native, who moved to Los Angeles in 2003 to train under Frank Carroll, has given no thought to a vacation; work with sponsors and charities takes up all his down time.

"I'm a workaholic anyway, there's nothing I'd rather be doing," he admitted. "I haven't been home for four out of the five weeks.

"I got to reconnect with friends in Chicago, because I was there for a doctor's appointment. DuPage Figure Skating Club has been my club since day one, they've been so supportive, so I surprised them and went to their brunch. I'm doing [scholarship] grants right now for the Stephanie Joseph Memorial Fund [founded in memory of a friend]. I've kept so busy, I haven't had enough time to sit and get bored."

There have also been more glamorous commitments.


Full article.

Caroline Zhang changes coaches

Colorado Springs, Colo. - Caroline Zhang, the 2007 world junior champion and 2009 U.S. bronze medalist, announced today she has ended her four-year professional relationship with coach Mingzhu Li and will train with Charlene Wong.

Zhang has trained with Li since 2005. "

Working with Coach Li the past four years has been a great experience," Zhang said. "She is an outstanding coach, and I am very grateful for everything that she has done for me. She has helped me grow as a skater and as a person."

Wong's former students include 2008 U.S. champion and two-time world junior medalist Mirai Nagasu.

"I feel that I need a change to further improve my skating, so I have chosen to work with Charlene," Zhang continued. "I feel she will be able to add a new dimension to my skating."

During the 2008-09 season, Zhang finished fifth at Skate Canada, garnered bronze at Trophée Eric Bompard in Paris, France, finished fourth at the Four Continents Championships and took the silver at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. She finished the season with a third-place finish at the inaugural World Team Trophy in Tokyo, Japan.

Wong, a four-time Canadian silver medalist and 1988 Olympian, said she is looking forward to working with Zhang.

"She truly is a gifted skater and has the potential to be among the world's best," Wong said. "I look forward to joining her on this exciting journey."


icenetwork.com

Home ice for Estonian dancer at 2010 Europeans

For Estonian skater Kristian Rand, the 2010 European Figure Skating Championships will provide an opportunity to compete in his hometown when the event is held in Tallinn in January.

Rand will be skating with Caitlin Mallory, an American from Berkeley, Calif., with whom he has skated for the past year. The couple placed 14th at the 2009 European Championships and 20th at the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in their first two ISU championship competitions together.

For Mallory, the event will provide another opportunity to compete at the highest level in ice dancing.

"I decided to skate for Estonia after having a great tryout with Kristian," she continued. "For a year, I had searched for an American partner, but eventually I decided that I was willing to skate for another country, as it meant that I would have the chance to form a really great partnership. My experience so far representing Estonia has been wonderful. I have been to Tallinn twice, which is an amazingly beautiful city. I am very excited about the Europeans in Tallinn!"

Asked about what it's like skating with Rand, Mallory said, "We have a great time working together, and it is very enjoyable to train and learn as a team. Off the ice, we share a lot of similar interests, in terms of art, culture and food. On the ice, I think that our styles are very complementary of each other. Of course, as a new team, we are still developing our style and learning how to better relate to each other.

"This season, our primary goal is to show how much we can improve. Last season, we were just getting started, but now that we have some experience together, we're excited to show what more we can do. Of course, it would be amazing to make it to the Olympics, but we have plenty of other great competitions to look forward to as well, like Europeans and worlds. We would like to improve on our standings and give some new personal-best performances."


Full article.

Wilson choreographing Weir's new programs

Johnny Weir has learned the truth of the old adage, "Never say never." After working with Russian-born choreographers for years -- including Tatiana Tarasova, Nina Petrenko, Denis Petukhov and Marina Anissina -- the three-time U.S. champion is turning to Canadian David Wilson for programs this Olympic season. But as he told icenetwork.com, that doesn't mean he's playing it safe.

Icenetwork: Why David Wilson, and why now?

Johnny Weir: Well, I've been impressed with his work for a long time, but [before] he was working with Jeff Buttle and I didn't want to mix myself with one of my top international competitors. That always put me off working with David. So, first and foremost, I went to David because I admire what he does and he's very creative. He's one of the only people I know as crazy and colorful in the head as I am, and, if you mix the two of us, we can come up with something fantastic. Second, like everyone else, I've seen his results. Yu-Na [Kim] had scores as high as a lot of the men at worlds. Buttle was world champion. Joannie Rochette is doing very well. Obviously, he's very good at putting together programs under [the International Judging System]. I need that input. I've been lacking as far as transitions are concerned. As much as I sometimes hate it, I have to play by the rules.


Icenetwork:
In the past, you've said you will only use Russian choreographers?

Weir: When you hear something consistently, you need to buckle down. I've taken flack for only using Russian [choreography]. Previously, Russians were not necessarily choreographing for the system, because they were already the best -- and why change?

This was particularly true of Tatiana Tarasova and others from the Soviet-era generation. They were already the best; they were already successful. But, when you're an athlete, you want to win. You have to play the game to some extent. At the end of the day, I'm still headstrong. I still have my own ideas, but I'm tapering that a little bit. One person this year in particular called me to discuss what my ideas were. This person said, "We really want to see big fireworks at the end of a program, like Evan Lysacek does." Now I didn't want to hear that, but telling me to look at how someone else did things brought it home to me that yes, at the end of his music, he goes huge, and maybe there's something to that. That last footwork sequence gets people clapping.


Full interview.

Carolina Kostner leaves coach Michael Huth

Two-time European champion Carolina Kostner has left her long-time coach Michael Huth and is searching for a new training situation.

The 22-year-old Kostner, who won world silver in 2008, placed 12th at the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles after a disastrous free program that saw her inexplicably singling many intended triple and double jumps. The event was the nadir of a disappointing season; Kostner also lost her European title to Finland's Laura Lepistö in part due to repeating a spin and gaining no points for her final element.

The multi-lingual skater, who is fluent in Italian, German and English as well as her native tongue of Ladin, would be comfortable training in many different countries. Born in a village in the mountains of South Tyrol in Northern Italy, she left home at age 12 when her rink in Ortisei was destroyed by a heavy mud slide. She began training full-time in Oberstdorf, Germany, site of the annual Nebelhorn Trophy, under Huth's tutelage.

In Oberstdorf, the Italian champion often shared the ice with 2008 European champion Tomas Verner, as well as other top European ladies, including former German champion Annette Dytrt and two-time European silver medalist Sarah Meier, who has trained at the national center there during the summer months.

Under heavy media coverage during the 2006 Turin Olympics held in her home country, Kostner served as flag bearer for the Italian team and placed ninth. There will also be added pressure on her to perform well next season: the 2010 World Championships, held after the Vancouver Olympics, will take place in Turin.


icenetwork.com

ISU announces 2009-10 Grand Prix assignments

Entries for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series for the 2009-10 season have been released.

The upcoming Olympic season will include three major comebacks -- Sasha Cohen will appear at the Series-opening Trophee Eric Bompard Cachemire; Evgeni Plushenko will skate the next week at the Rostelecom Cup; and Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao will debut at the Cup of China.

Full entry lists are below.

2009 Trophee Eric Bompard Cachemire
Paris, France
October 15-18, 2009

Ladies
• Mao Asada, Japan
• Sasha Cohen, United States
• Gwendoline Didier, France
• Elene Gedevanishvili, Georgia
• Alexe Gilles, United States
• Yu-Na Kim, South Korea
• Kiira Korpi, Finland
• Carolina Kostner, Italy
• Yukari Nakano, Japan
• Caroline Zhang, United States
• TBA, France
• TBA, France

Men
• Ryan Bradley, United States
• Vaughn Chipeur, Canada
• Javier Fernandez, Spain
• Brian Joubert, France
• Peter Liebers, Germany
• Nobunari Oda, Japan
• Yannick Ponsero, France
• Alban Préaubert, France
• Adam Rippon, United States
• Tomas Verner, Czech Republic
• Sergei Voronov, Russia
• Chao Yang, China

Pairs
• Adeline Canac and Maximin Coia, France
• Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, United States
• Huibo Dong and Yiming Wu, China
• Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison, Canada
• Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur, France
• Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov, Russia
• Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, Germany
• TBA, France

Ice Dancing
• Zoé Blanc and Pierre-Loup Bouquet, France
• Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov, Russia
• Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell, United States
• Sinead Kerr and John Kerr, Great Britain
• Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre, United States
• Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, France
• Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer, Russia
• Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates, United States
• Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Canada

2009 Rostelecom Cup
Moscow, Russia
October 22-25, 2009

Ladies
• Miki Ando, Japan
• Mao Asada, Japan
• Alissa Czisny, United States
• Candice Didier, France
• Katarina Gerboldt, Russia
• Oksana Gozeva, Russia
• Amelie Lacoste, France
• Alena Leonova, Russia
• Kimmie Meissner, United States
• Susanna Pöykiö, Finland
• Julia Sebestyen, Hungary
• Ashley Wagner, United States

Men
• Florent Amodio, France
• Patrick Chan, Canada
• Takahiko Kozuka, Japan
• Andrei Lutai, Russia
• Brandon Mroz, United States
• Evgeni Plushenko, Russia
• Shawn Sawyer, Canada
• Adrian Schultheiss, Sweden
• Gregor Urbas, Slovenia
• Kevin van der Perren, Belgium
• Johnny Weir, United States
• TBA, Russia

Pairs
• Mylène Brodeur and John Mattatall, Canada
• Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, Russia
• Anastasia Martiusheva and Alexei Rogonov, Russia
• Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, United States
• Qing Pang and Jian Tong, China
• Maria Sergejeva and Ilja Glebov, Estonia
• Amanda Velenosi and Mark Fernandez, Canada
• TBA, Russia

Ice Dancing
• Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, Italy
• Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas, Lithuania
• Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier, Canada
• Meryl Davis and Charlie White, United States
• Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, Russia
• Terra Findlay and Benoit Richaud, France
• Carolina Hermann and Daniel Hermann, Germany
• Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak, Czech Republic
• Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer, Russia
• TBA, Russia

2009 Cup of China
Beijing, China
October 29-November 1, 2009

Ladies
• Rachael Flatt, United States
• Kiira Korpi, Finland
• Carolina Kostner, Finland
• Bebe Liang, United States
• Mirai Nagasu, United States
• Joannie Rochette, Canada
• Fumie Suguri, Japan
• Akiko Suzuki, Japan
• Diane Szmiett, Canada
• Binshu Xu, China
• TBA, China
• TBA, China

Men
• Stephen Carriere, United States
• Samuel Contesti, Italy
• Evan Lysacek, United States
• Armin Mahbanoozadeh, United States
• Nobunari Oda, Japan
• Yannick Ponsero, France
• Kevin Reynolds, Canada
• Denis Ten, Kazakhstan
• Sergei Voronov, Russia
• Ming Xu, China
• TBA, China
• TBA, China

Pairs
• Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin, Canada
• Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, United States
• Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze, Russia
• Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur, France
• Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, China
• Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov, Ukraine
• Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang, China
• TBA, China

Ice Dancing
• Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, United States
• Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein, United States
• Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, Italy
• Xintong Huang and Xun Zheng, China
• Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, Russia
• Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, Canada
• Xiaoyang Yu and Chen Wang, China
• Anna Zadorozhniuk and Sergei Verbillo, Ukraine
• Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski, Israel
• TBA, China

2009 NHK Trophy
Nagano, Japan
November 5-8, 2009

Ladies
• Miki Ando, Japan
• Becky Bereswill, United States
• Annette Dytrt, Germany
• Alena Leonova, Russia
• Laura Lepistö, Finland
• Yan Liu, China
• Sarah Meier, Switzerland
• Kimmie Meissner, United States
• Yukari Nakano, Japan
• Cynthia Phaneuf, Canada
• Ashley Wagner, United States
• TBA, Japan

Men
• Jeremy Abbott, United States
• Kristoffer Berntsson, Sweden
• Artem Borodulin, Russia
• Michal Brezina, Czech Republic
• Vaughn Chipeur, Canada
• Brian Joubert, France
• Takahiko Kozuka, Japan
• Adam Rippon, United States
• Daisuke Takahashi, Japan
• Jeremy Ten, Canada
• Johnny Weir, United States
• TBA, Japan

Pairs
• Mylène Brodeur and John Mattatall, Canada
• Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, United States
• Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, United States
• Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, Russia
• Ksenia Krasilnikova and Konstantin Bezmaternikh, Russia
• Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers, Canada
• Qing Pang and Jian Tong, China
• Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran, Japan

Ice Dancing
• Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, Russia
• Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier, Canada
• Meryl Davis and Charlie White, United States
• Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, Russia
• Allie Hann-McCurdy and Michael Coreno, Canada
• Sinead Kerr and John Kerr, Great Britain
• Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak, Czech Republic
• Cathy Reed and Chris Reed, Japan
• Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles, United States
• Anna Zadorozhniuk and Sergei Verbillo, Ukraine

2009 Skate America
Lake Placid, N.Y., United States
November 12-15, 2009

Ladies
• Sasha Cohen, United States
• Rachael Flatt, United States
• Elene Gedevanishvili, Georgia
• Elena Glebova, Estonia
• Sarah Hecken, Germany
• Joshi Helgesson, Sweden
• Tugba Karademir, Turkey
• Yu-Na Kim, South Korea
• Susanna Pöykiö, Finland
• Julia Sebestyen, Hungary
• Fumie Suguri, Japan
• TBA, United States

Men
• Florent Amodio, France
• Ryan Bradley, United States
• Andrei Lutai, Russia
• Evan Lysacek, United States
• Brandon Mroz, United States
• Takahito Mura, Japan
• Yasuharu Nanri, Japan
• Kevin Reynolds, Canada
• Shawn Sawyer, Canada
• Adrian Schultheiss, Sweden
• Tomas Verner, Czech Republic
• Jialiang Wu, China

Pairs
• Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin, Canada
• Stacy Kemp and David King, Great Britain
• Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, United States
• Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, China
• Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov, Ukraine
• Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang, China
• TBA, United States
• TBA, United States

Ice Dancing
• Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, United States
• Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, Italy
• Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein, United States
• Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, France
• Kristin Fraser and Igor Lukanin, Azerbaijan
• Kristina Gorshkova and Vitali Butikov, Russia
• Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, Russia
• Caitlin Mallory and Kristian Rand, Estonia
• Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre, United States
• Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski, Israel

2009 Skate Canada
Kitchener, Canada
November 19-22, 2009

Ladies
• Alissa Czisny, United States
• Sarah Hecken, Germany
• Joshi Helgesson, Sweden
• Amelie Lacoste, Canada
• Laura Lepistö, Finland
• Jenna McCorkell, Great Britain
• Sarah Meier, Switzerland
• Mirai Nagasu, United States
• Cynthia Phaneuf, Canada
• Joannie Rochette, Canada
• Akiko Suzuki, Japan
• Caroline Zhang, United States

Men
• Jeremy Abbott, United States
• Michal Brezina, Czech Republic
• Stephen Carriere, United States
• Patrick Chan, Canada
• Samuel Contesti, Italy
• Armin Mahbanoozadeh, United States
• Alban Préaubert, France
• Daisuke Takahashi, Japan
• Denis Ten, Kazakhstan
• Jeremy Ten, Canada
• Kevin van der Perren, Belgium
• TBA, Canada

Pairs
• Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, United States
• Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison, Canada
• Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay, Canada
• Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov, Russia
• Ksenia Ozerova and Alexander Enbert, Russia
• Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, Germany
• Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin, United States
• TBA, Canada

Ice Dancing
• Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, Russia
• Andrea Chong and Guillame Gfeller, Canada
• Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas, Lithuania
• Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, France
• Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, Italy
• Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell, United States
• Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, France
• Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates, United States
• Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Canada
• Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, Canada


icenetwork.com

Jeremy Abbott joins forces with Yuka Sato

U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott is ending his long-time professional relationship with Tom Zakrajsek at the World Arena in Colorado Springs and moving to the Detroit Skating Club, where he will be coached by Yuka Sato.

"I want to try a new situation and new environment," Abbott said. "I've really thought through this decision. It's not spur-of-the-moment or emotional. After the success I had this year, I thought about what type of training I needed, and [decided] I needed to make a change.

"I've done great work in Colorado Springs, and Tom is an amazing coach. We've been together for 10 years, and I've enjoyed that time. Yes, [the move] is upsetting, but I need to do it for me."

Abbott, who placed 11th at the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, competed as part of the winning U.S. team at the first annual ISU World Team Trophy in Japan last month then traveled to Korea to perform in Yu-Na Kim's Festa on Ice. After those shows, he took a brief European vacation to mull over his options.

"I met Yuka in Korea and talked with her a lot, just as a person, not as a potential coach," said Abbott, who will turn 24 on June 5. "When I got home from vacation and made my decision [to leave Colorado Springs], she was one of the first people I thought of.

"Last week, I went down to DSC, and we kind of tried things out. It just really worked out between us, and I think it will be a good situation for me."

Sato, a two-time Japanese champion who won the world title in 1994, has enjoyed an exceptionally long and successful professional career, performing for many seasons in Stars on Ice and other shows throughout the world. The daughter of two prominent coaches, Nobuo and Yumiko, she is often called "a skater's skater" for her speed, deep edges and fine carriage.


Full article.

McLaughlin, Brubaker to train with Nicks

Two-time U.S. pairs champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker are ending their professional relationship with Dalilah Sappenfield and will train with John Nicks in Aliso Viejo, Calif.

"After careful consideration, and with support from Dalilah, Keauna and I made the decision to make this change as we approach this very important season," Brubaker, 22, said.

"We look forward to working with Mr. Nicks this season to attain our goals of qualifying for the Grand Prix Final, retaining our U.S. title and preparing for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games."

McLaughlin and Brubaker were teamed by Sappenfield in early 2006. They achieved fast success, winning every competition they entered their first season, including the 2007 U.S. junior and 2007 world junior titles.

The following season they made their mark on the ISU Grand Prix, placing second at both the Cup of China and NHK Trophy, and won their first U.S. senior title. They did not compete at the world championships because McLaughlin, at 15, was too young under ISU rules.

This fall, the couple placed second to world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy at Skate America and won bronze at Skate Canada but missed qualifying for the Grand Prix Final. At the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland, a disappointing short program put them second to unheralded Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett going into the free skate, but they scrambled to win their second U.S. title by a slim margin.

Difficulties with side-by-side triple jumps marred their world senior debut in Los Angeles in March, where they placed 11th overall.


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Plushenko makes comeback official

Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko has officially announced his comeback for the upcoming season. "I've missed competing badly," the 26-year-old Russian skating star told the daily newspaper Kommersant in an interview that was published on Thursday in Moscow. "As for an Olympic medal, I'd be pleased with any, regardless of the color. But, obviously, I'm coming back to win." While Plushenko said that he will begin his serious preparation starting this Thursday in St. Petersburg, Russia, he explained that he has been getting his triple Axel back over the past three months and landed six in his show in Germany in April. "I also did a quad toe as an encore in Germany," he added.

For his competitive long program, the three-time world champion plans two quad toe loops.

Plushenko has prepared a short and a long program, both to music arranged by a good friend of his, the Hungarian violinist Edvin Marton. He picked a Tango for the free skate and the theme from the movie The Pianist for the short. Marton was also responsible for the skater's music when he took the gold in Turin in 2006. The Russian wants to debut his programs in competition at the end of September and will ask the Figure Skating Federation of Russia to invite him to the Rostelecom Cup (formerly the Cup of Russia) in Moscow this October. Plushenko is the second prominent skater in two weeks, after Sasha Cohen, to announce a competitive comeback. He also expects Switzerland's Olympic silver medalist Stéphane Lambiel will return to competition.


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Nagasu leaves Wong, moves to Carroll

Multiple sources have confirmed to icenetwork.com that 2008 U.S. ladies champion Mirai Nagasu has made a coaching change for the 2009-10 season. She has ended her on-ice relationship with Charlene Wong and is now training with Frank Carroll. "At the end of the season I felt like I really needed a change," Nagasu said. "After a lot of thought and deliberation, we decided that the right choice was to begin training with Mr. Carroll."

Nagasu began training with Wong in October of 2006. Subsequently, they enjoyed great professional success. Nagasu won the U.S. junior ladies title in 2007, followed by the senior ladies win the next season.

"Charlene and I have been through a lot together," Nagasu said. "She's always been there for me, and has been a huge part of my journey to this point."

The 16-year-old California native struggled most of the 2008-09 season, suffering from an injured ankle and a growth spurt (Nagasu grew from 4'11 to 5'3). She finished fifth (Skate America) and eighth (NHK Trophy) at her Grand Prix assignments and was a disappointing fifth at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Carroll has coached Linda Fratianne, Michelle Kwan, and Evan Lysacek, all of whom he has taken to the world championships.

In 2007, he was elected to the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame. He is the head coach for the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, Calif.


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Perseverance pays off for U.S. champ Czisny

Alissa Czisny finally won the gold medal in senior ladies at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships in her eighth attempt. Although she won a bronze medal in 2007, the top of the podium had eluded her until last season. "I've grown into who I am today," Czisny said. "It was my first time on the top at nationals, and I was very excited." Czisny placed ninth at the 2009 Four Continents Championships. She had placed fifth in her last appearance at the event in 2007.

"It gave me a good idea of what to expect in the future, especially not to step out of combinations," she noted.

Ending the season, Czisny placed 11th at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships, up four spots from her 15th place finish at the 2007 World Championships, her only previous time there. She finished eighth in the long program to make up for a 14th-place result in the short. "I [went] and tried to do my best," Czisny said. "I was a little bit disappointed with my short program, but I can take what I learned from this competition and continue to improve.

"I'm relieved that the season is over. It's been a long season for me. Worlds was my 10th competition."

Czisny competed at four competitions in the United States early in the season including the U.S. Collegiate Figure Skating Championships, which she won for the second time. She opened her international season with a win at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, in September. That led to ISU Grand Prix assignments, and Czisny delivered with a bronze medal at Skate Canada and a fourth-place at Cup of Russia.

"I didn't get to compete a lot [in the 2007-08 season]," Czisny stated, "so I got a head start [last] season. I struggled [in 07-08] and never felt ready, then I broke my thumb before nationals. But everything happens for a reason, and this year every aspect of my skating has been better.


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Findlay Finds Fresh Start in France

Terra Findlay, a 19-year-old blond from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, has found new hope for her skating career by dancing with Benoît Richaud, 21, from Avignon, France.

Findlay started ice dancing in 2005, competing with Liam Dougherty. They placed eighth in senior dance in Canada in 2006 and seventh in 2007, before the couple split up. "I wasn't really comfortable in Montreal," Findlay said. "There was a big age difference between Liam and me. I was really homesick, so I went back after we split up, but I realized that I still wanted to skate."

"Benoît and I started skating together in November of 2007," Findlay stated. "When I decided I wanted to continue, I put my profile on icepartnersearch.com and Benoît's coach found it and sent me a message about a tryout."

After the tryout, the dancers decided to compete for France rather than Canada. "There are not as many couples in France," Findlay said, "and some of them will leave after the Olympics next year. Also the French federation did not want to let Benoît go. It's easier to get a passport as well, and we would be eligible for the Olympics in 2010, but our real goal is 2014."

The couple finished tenth at the 2009 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. "We wanted to come to the Junior Worlds and be in the top five," Richaud said, "but after the compulsory dance, it was not possible. You can't expect to be at the top in your first year."


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The surprise from Kazakhstan

On March 26, 2009, at approximately 6.30 PM (PST) in Los Angeles, Calif., 15-year-old Denis Ten single-handedly put Kazakhstan on the worldwide map of figure skating. The young skater stunned the crowd, the press, and the judges with a magical performance that catapulted him from 17th after the short program, to eighth overall. This was by far the best ever placement any skater from Kazakhstan had achieved at Worlds.

However, setting this kind of record was nothing new to Ten, who already had become the first skater from Kazakhstan to win a Junior Grand Prix event (in the fall of 2008). He also earned the best placement thus far of a skater from his country in an ISU Championship event when he finished fourth at the 2009 World Junior Figure Skating Championships.

Ten moved ten thousands of spectators in the Staples Centre and on television with his beautiful Rachmaninov free program that featured text-book perfect jumps, fast paced footwork, elegant spins, and expression beyond his age. At the end, he fell on his knees and kissed the ice while the crowd rose to give him a standing ovation.

"It was a big joy," Ten said as he recalled the moment. "I just wanted to show everything that I was capable of. It was the best performance of my life so far. Now I have to build from there and develop further."

"When the audience stood up, it was like a positive shock," he continued. "When Evan (Lysacek) skated clean and got a standing ovation (in the short program), I was watching as well and I stood up and I thought how nice it was to skate well and to get a standing ovation. So I'm just very happy that the crowd stood up for me. I was able to experience something at my young age that many skaters never experience in their career."

After observing him in Los Angeles, many journalists and figure skating fans were puzzled. Who is this immensely talented young skater and where did he suddenly come from?


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