Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Langlois and Hay return to top form

It wasn't their first competition since returning to action following injury, but the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, was their first big competition. Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay, 2008 Canadian pair champions, have been slowly working their way back into competitive form since Langlois' broken right ankle derailed their 2008-09 season.

They'd done the Thornhill competition this summer and showed their programs at the national team training camp in Vancouver, but this was their first international since the 2008 world championships.

"It was definitely nice to get back out on the ice and get that feeling again," said Hay, 26, after the pair returned home to Canada with bronze medals.

"Stepping onto the ice with the world champions (Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany) and the Ukrainians (Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov), who are both really strong teams that we admire a lot, made it feel real," said Langlois, 28.

"I've been a lot more nervous," she admitted. "This is my new thing I've developed now since being injured. I've been getting a lot more nervous for events. I was pretty nervous for [Nebelhorn], but it felt great to be out there."

Langlois said her ankle has not been a problem. She wears a bit of padding in her boot. At team camp in Vancouver, the team doctor said the injury had healed well.

"I'm still working on building my confidence," Langlois said. "I can do everything and I have no more pain, but I did miss 14 months of being out there. That's the one thing why I think I have a lot more nerves."

Hay said the pair has received all positive feedback on its short program, but the consistent comments on the free skate have been that it needs a more powerful climax at the end. A throw triple Lutz is the third to last element and if Langlois doesn't land it the crescendo falls flat.

Both are pleased with their performances at Nebelhorn, despite the obvious room for improvement. Between now and Skate Canada in November, they'll be working on building consistency. Their coaches and choreographer have been slowly adding elements into the free skate, and now that Nebelhorn is done the next thing to add is the triple twist. They'll be doing an Oktoberfest competition at their home rink, the Mariposa School of Skating in Barrie, Ontario.

Full article.

Jeffrey Buttle still part of the team

Although he decided last autumn not to try for another shot at Olympic glory, 2008 world men's champion, three-time Canadian champion and reigning Olympic bronze medalist Jeffrey Buttle has stayed actively engaged with the Canadian national team. He recently attended the national team training camp in Vancouver, where he answered questions from any of the skaters who wanted his insight into Olympic preparation.

"Everyone asks, 'Are you disappointed you won't be competing in Vancouver?' Absolutely not. I'm so happy with the decision I made, but I'm also Canadian, so I feel an immense amount of pride and excitement that the Olympics are going to be in Canada," Buttle says.

"When I was in Vancouver, I could feel a bit of the energy and was able to see the Olympic village," he adds. "It was just so exciting."

During the training camp he spoke one-on-one with several of the skaters, sharing his thoughts on the Olympic experience.

"There are only a couple of skaters potentially on the team that have actually been to the Olympics," Buttle says. "I think it was important for me to be at the training camp. Not really force on them my opinions or what I think, but informally have conversations to ask them how they're doing. I have been through it and I can share with them my awful days leading up to it and how I dealt with it.

"I thought speaking with them one-on-one was the best way. I didn't want to lecture them or anything like that."

As of now, Buttle, 27, knows he'll be performing a couple of shows during the Games at the GE rink, an outdoor rink in the Olympic village. He plans to stay around town and hopes to have a gig blogging for a media outlet.

His own skating season is already in full swing. He'll be competing at the Japan Open on Oct. 3. Prior to that, on Sept. 25, a coffee table book about him will be published in Japan titled Jeffrey Buttle Artist Book: Chapter TWO." The book features photographs from an elaborate and somewhat off beat photo shoot done in Japan in July.

Full article.

Ando sports new look, relaxed attitude

It's early days, but Miki Ando is getting ready for her Olympic close-up.

"I feel maybe a little stronger than last season, and I think I can improve more," she said.

Since the Japanese siren won world bronze last season, "stronger" could mean a podium finish in Vancouver next February. The 21-year-old from Nagoya dazzled with a polished exhibition to her new free skate at Stars, Stripes and Skates on Saturday, sporting an eye-popping gold dress and hitting tough triples, including two Lutzes, despite a shortened rink and show lighting.

"She looks different with this program," said Ando's coach, Nikolai Morozov.

"When she won worlds [in 2007], she improved so much. Everybody was very surprised. Then the last two years, she was kind of doing the same things. So this year she is improving again. She skated with lights and she was already basically better than she was at worlds, except for no combinations."

The two-time Japanese champion, known for her strong jumps, spent the summer at her training rink in Hackensack, N.J., polishing her routines. She hopes to impress judges by infusing her athleticism with a bit of storytelling.

"My free skate at worlds last year [to Saint-Saens' Symphony no. 3] didn't have any story. It was classical, just my feelings," Ando said. "This year I have a story. I am playing [the role of] a woman and I try to show the audience her life and how she feels inside. But I can't say the music yet."

Ando was gently reminded by training mate Nobunari Oda that fans would post videos of her performance on the internet before she had taken her final bow. Sure enough, word got out: her free skate is to a medley of the theme from HBO's Rome and music from the mini-series Marco Polo. Her short program music, though, is still private.

"My new short is also very different than last year's [to Memoirs of a Geisha," she said. "It is more powerful, a new style for me. My programs, I think, are kind of exotic. I hope they will show the audience I'm a completely different person."

Ando has had ups-and-downs almost as dramatic as the quad Salchow she landed as a 15-year-old at the 2002 Junior Grand Prix Final. After a stellar junior career, including the 2004 world junior title, and wins at her national championships in 2003/2004 and 2004/2005, she fell to sixth place in Japan. A controversial selection to the Olympic team, she placed 15th in Turin and withdrew from the 2006 worlds.

Full article.

Valentina Marchei – “I never look back; I just attack.”

Valentina Marchei is the two-time Italian Ladies National Champion. Most recently, she suffered ankle injuries causing her to miss most of the 2008-2009 figure skating season. Valentina has an incredibly positive attitude and will not let anything keep her down. This season, as she did not receive any Grand Prix events, she plans to compete in smaller competitions in Europe, including Finlandia Trophy, before challenging for a spot on the podium at Europeans and for the only Italian ladies spot for the Olympics in Vancouver.

I had the pleasure of meeting Valentina when I participated in the Adult Training Camp at Ice House in Hackensack, New Jersey earlier this summer. She was kind enough to take the time to meet with me for this interview later in the summer during the Moran Memorial Championships, the annual competition at Ice House. She has an expressive nature which made her answers to the questions interesting and enjoyable!

You began working with Nikolai last year, correct?

Yes, in September of last year.

Do you have any other coaches you work with on or off of the ice?

Nikolai is the only one--he is the coach for everything on and off the ice. When I am skating at my club in Italy, Olympic Dream High School, Valter Rizzo oversees my skating. He is a dance coach.

Your injury occurred at Skate America. What happened?

I sprained my right ankle doing a triple Lutz.

How long did it take to recover from the injury?

I decided to recover in the US and it took one and a half months off of the ice. It was a really slow start because in December, I discovered that the recovery was not well done. I had a lot of work to do on the ice and I did not understand why it was not working. I lost a lot of energy and power. I got through Nationals but it was not really good. After Nationals, I was supposed to get ready for Europeans—working on the ice and power work off the ice—but I only had 40 percent of the strength back in my foot. We decided that I was not ready for Europeans and I would not do it, but I would start work for Worlds. I came back here to Ice House and after one week back, I strained a ligament in my left ankle. Recovery for that injury took me three months without skating. I went home to recover and did six hours of physical therapy a day for two and a half months. Now I feel good but I am still not ready. April, May and June were the hardest. I would cry after skating every day. I could not even skate two hours in a row and I got tired fast. But I never give up in whatever I do. Everything is a challenge with myself.

Full interview.

Contesti Contends in Championships

Italy's Samuel Contesti was the surprise of the 2008-09 season. The 26-year-old won the silver medal at the 2009 European Championships and placed fifth at the World Championships, scoring a personal best of 226.97 points in the process. His medal at Europeans was the first for Italy in men since 1954.

"I was happy to perform so well," Contesti stated. "I came to skate my best and I did. I worked very hard and I am happy that it worked well. I actually would like to thank my technical staff for the great job that they did."

Contesti, who was born in Le Havre, had previously competed for France until 2006. He won the bronze medal in senior men in the 2004-05 season and the silver medal for the 2005-06 season. Even so, he competed in only two ISU championships for France, finishing ninth at Europeans and 26th at Worlds in 2004-05.

"I moved to Italy because I married Geraldine Zulini, who is Italian," Contesti explained. "I became a citizen in January 2007. I decided to compete for Italy because they were offering me better opportunities to skate at a very high level and more support."

"I have partners who support me and pay for most of my training," he continued. "I would like to thank the Italian Federation (FISG), The region Val d'Aosta, the city of Courmayeur, and Edea for their support and partnership."

Because of his move to Italy, Contesti did not compete for three years before the 2009 European Championships.

Contesti started skating when he was four years old. "My two sisters were already skating, so it felt normal for me to follow their path," he recalled. "My father was a soccer player in the first league in France (Le Havre, Nimes, etc.) and I played some soccer but I liked skating. I prefer the jumping part even if I also enjoy all the other aspects of skating."

Full article.

Injury and falls cost Australian skaters Olympic places

Australia’s hopes of sending a figure skating contingent to the Vancouver 2010 Games appear to be over after a disappointing qualifying tournament in Germany over the weekend.

After arriving at the Nebelhorn Trophy with strong hopes of securing their first Olympic team opportunity, the ice dancing duo of Danielle O’Brien and Greg Merriman were unable to skate at all after Merriman was hospitalised with a pericarditis heart infection prior to the competition.

With no result from the event, they now have no avenue to the Games, a devastating outcome for the Sydney pair.

The Oberstdorf event went little better for fellow Olympic Winter Institute ladies skater Cheltzie Lee, as she finished in 15th place overall and in tenth position among those trying to qualify, making her fourth emergency for Vancouver.

Lee was lying in 13th place after the short program, but falls on her triple lutz and double axel in the free program cost the 16-year-old Sydney skater two places.

Although it is likely some spots in the Games field may open up as nations decide not to send their full complement of skaters and as injury takes a toll, Lee’s chances look slim.

Should she miss out, it will be the first time since the 1972 Sapporo Olympics that Australia has not had figure skating representation at a Winter Games.


Jane and Todd Reach High

Colorado ice dancers Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles hope to reach new heights this season by winning a medal at U. S. Nationals in senior dance. They've finished sixth the last two years so a leap to the podium is not out of the question. Gilles has been on top previously, winning the junior title in 2005 with Trina Pratt.

Gilles was the first in his family to start skating, beginning when he was four. But his twin sisters, Alexe and Piper, followed him into the sport with Piper also competing in ice dance with Zachary Donohue.

Summersett started skating when she was just a toddler. "My Mom was involved in teaching the Basic Skills Program and she put me on the ice with a walker when I was very young," Summersett recalled. "All of my older sisters skated too."

"I became interested in dancing with a partner around 2001, as opposed to doing freestyle and dancing solo during my previous skating years," she continued. "I wanted to try something new. Now I'm obsessed and can't just skate alone."

Summersett started dancing with Elliott Pennington and the couple won a bronze medal in junior dance at U. S. Nationals in 2006 before splitting up. After sitting out the 2006-07 season, Summersett paired up with Gilles in April 2007.

"Trina quit in December before Nationals," Gilles noted. "So I missed the end of that season. My Mom saw on icedance.com that Jane was looking for a partner so we had a tryout in Colorado Springs. It was my first tryout after Trina left."

The dancers clicked immediately, winning the original and free dances at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships in 2007, a feat they repeated in 2008. They then placed sixth at the Golden Spin of Zagreb in their first international competition and finished sixth at U. S. Nationals in 2008

Full article.

Figure skating duo back for golden dream

The quest for Olympic gold sparked the comeback of China's three-time world championship figure skating pairs team of Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo.

"The Olympic championship is our dream," said Zhao on Tuesday, which also marked his 36th birthday. "We have claimed the world championship title three times but no Olympic gold. The reason for our return is very simple - to strive for Olympic gold."

The pair stood down from the national team after winning the 2007 World Championships and moved to south China's Shenzhen city to run a skating club. They also performed abroad.

However, they resumed serious training with the national team in May to prepare for next February's Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, their fourth Winter Olympics.

To realize the Olympic dream, the veteran duo is working hard every day, particularly to build up strength.

"As we got into more stamina training, we got muscle aches over almost all of our bodies," Zhao said. "But there is no way out except to training harder."

For the upcoming season, the duo has got new routines, one has a modern tempo with a strong beat and the other has a love theme. Their new costumes are being made in the US and Canada.

"We are training more than the young skaters and exceed our tasks each day," said 31-year-old Shen.

The reigning world champion pair of Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy from Germany is their greatest threat but the Chinese remain confident in their abilities.

"The German pair is very good but, for us, the biggest rival is ourselves," Zhao said. "China has world-class pairs like Pang Qing/Tong Jian and Zhang Dan/Zhang Hao and we train with them I find there is no big gap between us."

The couple married in May 2007 but still has not found time to hold a wedding ceremony. The plan to have a baby has also been put on hold due to preparations for the Olympics.

"We may plan it (wedding ceremony) after we win the Olympic gold medal," said Shen.

The pair's season starts when the ISU Grand Prix stops in Beijing and the US next month.


When Spain's Javier Fernández placed 19th at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships, he became the first skater from that country to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games.

Fernández was only 30th at Worlds in 2008, but placed 11th at the 2009 European Championships.

"I wasn't surprised that I qualified for the Olympics," Fernández said. "After I did my programs, I felt very good."

"There's no interest in skating in Spain," he noted. "Sometimes people watch, but they don't know Spain has skaters. I'm hoping if I skate well at the Olympics, more people will be interested in skating in Spain."

"I want to do at least one more Olympics after Vancouver," he said. "Then I hope to be a coach."

Fernández started skating when he was six years old. "My sister, Laura, started skating and I went to watch her," he recalled. "When I saw her skating, I wanted to skate too." Laura competed in ladies at both Europeans and Worlds and is now competing in senior dance with a Canadian, Simon Gagnon.

The 18-year old first landed a triple jump when he was 12 - a triple Salchow. By 16, he had landed a clean triple Axel. "I tried a triple Axel one week and landed one the next week," he stated.

Fernández is now working on both the quadruple toe loop and the quadruple Salchow. "I first tried the quad Salchow last season," he stated. "This summer, I started working on the quad toe. I've landed both of them clean but not every time on every day."

"I will have the quad toe in both my programs this year," he continued. "In the short, I will have a quad toe-double toe combination and also a triple flip and a triple Axel. In the free program, I plan to have two triple Axels, a quad toe, and all the triples. Right now my combinations will be triple toe-double Axel and triple flip-triple toe, but I may change."

Nikolai Morozov coaches Fernández and choreographs all his programs. He trains at the Ice House in Hackensack, NJ.

Full article.

Beauty and The Geek

For Jordan Cowan, the one television show he would like to be on is "Beauty and the Geek". However, he's already starring in his own version of reality by ice dancing with lovely California girl Anastasia Olson.

Cowan spends hours on his MacBook, lists Apple's Steve Jobs as the person he'd most like to meet, and plans to study computer science and engineering in college.

"I was almost ten when I started skating," Cowan admitted. "I wasn't sports-oriented as a kid. I was more of a bookworm. I read my first big book, The Lost World, when I was in third grade. I still like to read science fiction and technical computer articles."

That's the recipe for the classic geek.

"I did a lot of musical theatre until I was 15," he continued. "I did acting, singing, dancing, all of the above. I played a lot of principal roles like Billy in 42nd Street and Joseph in Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. I love theatre and I intend to get back into it. You can do theatre for a much longer time than skating."

"I did freestyle until I was 12 and was getting into the double jumps," Cowan recalled. "But I had tendonitis in my knees for two years in a row, so that's when I started ice dancing. My coaches said I'd like dancing and that I had a good figure for dance."

"I competed with Kaylyn Patitucci in 2005 and Michaela Cook in 2006-07," Cowan said, "but Michaela and I knew it wasn't a long term partnership because of our age difference. We didn't expect to make Nationals from Sectionals after only 2 months of training together, but we did, and finished 10th."

Olson is the beauty in this story.

"I used to live in California and I loved the cold of the ice rink," Olson recalled. "I started on public sessions when I was about three."

Full article.

ISU JGP Minsk Ice 2009

Junior Men
  1. Artur Gachinksi (RUS) 178.67 pts
  2. Nan Song (CHN) 178.11 pts
  3. Sanislav Kovalev (RUS) 165.64 pts
  4. Jiaxing Liu (CHN) 157.75 pts
  5. Eliot Halverson (USA) 153.70 pts
Junior Ladies
  1. Polina Shelepen (RUS) 151.08 pts
  2. Yuki Nishino (JPN) 141.81 pts
  3. Ksenia Makarova (RUS) 126.42 pts
  4. Kristiene Gong (USA) 123.74 pts
  5. Jasmine Alexandra Costa (EST) 120.56 pts
Junior Pairs
  1. Wenjing Sui & Cong Han (CHN) 152.55 pts
  2. Yue Zhang & Lei Wang (CHN) 133.09 pts
  3. Kaleigh Hole & Adam Johnson (CAN) 131.83 pts
  4. Alexandra Vasilieva & Yuri Shevchuk (RUS) 130.14 pts
  5. Maddison Bird & Raymond Schultz (CAN) 126.95 pts
Junior Ice Dance
  1. Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin (RUS) 167.65 pts
  2. Rachel Tibbets & Collin Brubaker (USA) 152.32 pts
  3. Alisa Agafonova & Dmitri Dun (UKR) 148.01 pts
  4. Tatiana Baturintseva & Ivan Volobuiev (RUS) 147.10 pts
  5. Karen Routhier & Eric Saucke-Laucelle (CAN) 145.66 pts

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Alissa Czisny SP

You can find more videos of the Nebelhorn Trophy 2009 on these Youtube channels:
tamriko666 and poggipoggi

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Davis & White FD, Savchenko & Szolkowy LP

Davis & White FD

Savchenko & Szolkowy LP

Davis, White run away with Nebelhorn gold

U.S. ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their first gold medal at the Nebelhorn Trophy by scoring 100.76 points in their free dance and finishing with 200.46 points overall.

The couple skated to Phantom of the Opera, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd at the conclusion of their spectacular program, which include some fantastic new lifts with multiple changes of position.

"It's a very demanding program, but we love it," Davis noted. "The audience response meant the world to us."

"It's quite a change of pace," White said. "We're using the Broadway version except for the last instrumental piece,"

"We reviewed a lot of music after worlds," Davis recalled, "but we kept coming back to Phantom. We had a lot of different versions of the music."

"It's a generalization of the story itself," White said. "We didn't have to go with the whole structure of the movie. There's the mystery when they meet, then the phantom gets Christine to love him, then he reveals his face at the end."

Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski of Israel, who skated to Schindler's List, earned 84.54 points in their free dance to place second in the segment and win the silver medal with 169.59 points, more than 30 points behind the Americans.

"We made no major mistakes, so we're happy for the first time doing this program," Alexandra Zaretski said.

"We've always wanted to skate to this music," her brother, Roman, said. "It's close to our hearts. The music evokes a passion in us that we want to communicate to the audience. Sometimes it makes me cry."

Lithuania's Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas, who danced to West Side Story, earned 82.70 points to place third in the free dance and won the bronze medal with 162.02 total points.

"We skated the program well," Copely said. "The audience response as the elements went by really buoyed us."

Full article.

Czisny defends title at Nebelhorn Trophy

U.S. skater Alissa Czisny defended her gold medal at the 2009 Nebelhorn Trophy, totaling 151.40 points to win by 1.39 points over Finland's Kiira Korpi.

"I love coming to this competition," Czisny said. "My short was good, but my long was just OK. I'll look at the protocol and see what I have to work on."

First after the short program, Czisny was only sixth in the free skate with 91.02 points in her program to selections from the motion picture soundtrack of Dr. Zhivago.

Czisny had a triple Lutz, triple flip, triple toe and triple loop-double toe combination, all of which received negative GOEs. She doubled a planned triple loop and popped the opening double Axel in a planned double Axel-double Axel sequence, receiving no points for it.

The only jump that received a positive GOE was her triple Lutz-double toe loop combination, but she scored high on her fast and well centered spins as well as her spiral sequence

Korpi used "Crooked Room" and "Passenger to Copenhagen" for her long program. She placed fourth in the free skate with 91.67 points to win the silver medal with 150.01 points overall.

"It's been a great week," Korpi said. "I really enjoyed it. I'm so happy to have won a medal on my birthday. I think it has been ten years since I was here for a training camp, and the village is such a nice place. I was supposed to come last year, but then I got sick, so I wanted to be sure to come this season."

Korpi landed triple Salchow-double toe loop, double Axel-double toe-double toe, triple loop, and double Axel. She two-footed her opening triple Lutz and popped her planned triple Salchow and triple loop.

"It was up and down for the whole program," Korpi said. "It was difficult to maintain concentration because of the mistakes. I felt I was rushing, but I tried to fight until the end.

Full article.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lambiel LP, Brezina LP

Lambiel LP

Brezina LP

Savchenko, Szolkowy dominate pairs at Nebelhorn

Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy won their fourth gold medal at the 2009 Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, further cementing their position as number one in the icenetwork.com world rankings.

All of the pairs in the final flight had significant errors in their programs, but the Germans' strength overall kept them on top.

The two-time world pairs champions fought through their free program to "You'll Never Walk Alone," scoring 113.19 points in the long and 185.99 overall to win the competition by a margin of 20.24 points.

Szolkowy doubled the first jump and Savchenko doubled the second jump in their opening side-by-side triple toe sequence, and Savchenko landed awkwardly on the throw triple flip. Their side-by-side triple Salchows were also doubled.

"In the back of our minds, we knew we had to win this competition," Szolkowy said. "It was a test for us. Now we know what we have to work on."

Ukraine's Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov took the silver medal by placing second in the free skate with 106.29 points and scoring 165.75 points overall.

They skated to music from the motion picture soundtrack Pearl Harbor by Hans Zimmer, the same as last season.

The program started poorly as Morozov fell on their opening side-by-side triple toe-triple toe sequence, and Volosozhar fell on the side-by-side triple Salchows.

"Some things worked and some did not," Morozov said. "It was better than we did here last year.

Canada's Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay skated to "Grand Canyon Suite" and scored 98.13 points for fifth in the free skate and third overall with 155.61 points.

Langlois fell on their opening side-by-side triple Salchows and the throw triple Lutz, singled the second jump in their triple toe-triple toe combination and lost speed on the side-by-side spins.

Full article.

Lambiel crushes competition at Nebelhorn

Two-time world champion Stéphane Lambiel of Switzerland celebrated his return to competitive skating by winning the gold medal at the Nebelhorn Trophy by 26 points over his nearest rival. Lambiel, who was first in the short program, scored 154.91 points in the free skate for 232.36 points overall.

Lambiel, skating to "Otono Porteno" by Astor Piazzola, landed a quad toe-double toe-double toe and triple flip-triple toe combinations, a triple flip, triple loop, triple Salchow and two double Axels, but he popped his triple Lutz.

"I'm very excited to be back competing," Lambiel said. "This was my first competition in 18 months, so I really felt the pressure. But the 18 months off helped me to become a better skater and a better person."

"I was happy with my performance although I would have liked to have skated clean and done a triple Axel," Lambiel continued. "I was touched to see so many fans and wanted to skate well for them as well as myself."

"This was the first time I competed in September since I was a junior," Lambiel added. "It was a little bit soon, but the win is a bonus for the rest of the season. Now that I have qualified my country for the Olympics, I just have to make sure I qualify myself."

Russia's Ivan Tretiakov skated to the motion picture soundtrack of Charade and garnered 139.18 points in the free skate, placing him second. His combined total of 206.23 points jumped Tretiakov, who was fifth in the short program, over Michal Brezina to win the silver medal.

"This was my first medal at a major international," Tretiakov said. "Last year I came here, but finished really low, so I did not think I would be in the top five."

Tretiakov opened with a quad Salchow and then completed a double and triple Axel, a triple loop and triple Lutz, and triple flip-triple toe and triple flip-double toe-double toe combinations.

"It was the first time I landed the quad in competition," Tretiakov noted. "I missed it in my warm up, and my coach told me to play safe but I insisted on doing it."

Full article.

Czisny leads after ladies short at Nebelhorn Trophy

The ladies began their Olympic quest at the Nebelhorn Trophy today in Oberstdorf, Germany. There are 33 ladies in the event, with 26 competing for one of six open Olympic slots.

U.S. ladies champion Alissa Czisny, the defending Nebelhorn gold medalist, earned 60.38 points in the short to lead the ladies.

"I came back because I wanted to get out in front of the judges as soon as possible," Czisny said. "I wanted to get into that competition feeling like I had last season."

"I'm keeping my eyes focused on my goal of going to the Olympics," Czisny added. "That's the culmination of every skater's dream. I remember when I saw my first Olympics and watched Nancy Kerrigan and Oksana Baiul. We didn't own a television so we rented one just to watch the Games."

Czisny's program included a triple flip, double Axel and triple Lutz-double toe combination as well as her spectacular spiral and spins for which she received Grades of Execution (GOEs) of 3 from at least one judge foe each spin.

"I saw Stéphane Lambiel got a 3 GOE on his spins yesterday and I wanted to get threes on my spins today," Czisny said. "I really like doing the layback."

Czisny, who at 11th place in the icenetwork.com world rankings is the highest rated lady competing, used music from the motion picture soundtracks of The Mask of Zorro and The Legend of Zorro.

"It's fun and flirty and the choreography helps me get into character right at the beginning," Czisny said. "I always like to play a character."

Finland's Kiira Korpi, ranked 16th in the world, was the first of the ladies to skate. And she almost kept that position throughout the day, finishing in second place with 58.34 points.

"I wasn't thrilled to draw first so early in the morning," Korpi said, "but I often train earlier than that and the crowd was great with so many people."

Korpi, skating to "Caravan," completed a triple loop, double Axel and triple Lutz-double toe loop combination.

"This was a good beginning for the season," Korpi stated. "I've had higher scores but a few of my landings weren't perfect. I'm happy just to be here after such a difficult season last year."

"I wanted to have a competition to get ready before Finlandia," Korpi continued. "I only did three events last year because I had so many problems. This year, I'm stronger physically and mentally and enjoying my skating more. I'm not taking anything for granted."

Full article.

Davis & White OD, Lambiel SP

Music: Devdas OST

Music: William Tell Overture

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Davis, White widen lead with OD win

The ice dancers competed for a second time at the 2009 Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany today with Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White winning the country/folk original dance with 62.08 points. They increased their overall score to 99.70 points to lead by 14.70 points.

"Our original dance is an Indian folk dance," Davis said. "We wanted to do something really different and unique. We wanted to play with the crowd a little bit and show a connection with them."

"The dance has good energy and shows some movements that are different from the rest of the skating world," White added.

"There is a stark contrast between Indian folk dancing and the Arabian and Middle Eastern dances that you usually see," Davis continued. "It's a very unique style of dancing."

Israelis Alexandra and Roman Zaretski, skating to "Hava Nagila," placed second with 52.71 points in the original dance. With 85.05 total points, they remained second overall.

"It wasn't bad for the first one," Roman Zaretski said. "We enjoyed it. Our federation told us we needed to use Jewish music this year for the Olympics, and 'Hava Nagila' is the best."

A battle looms for the bronze medal with just .23 between two teams that have swapped places in each dance.

A Lithuanian polka by Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas earned them 48.09 points, placing them third in the original dance, but they dropped to fourth overall with a 79.32 total.

"It was pretty good, but we could have had more energy," Copely said. "It was a long day. We need to show more expression, but it's early in the season."

Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko of Russia scored 47.91 points to place fourth with their Russian folk dance. They have 79.55 total points and stand in third place overall.

The next four teams are separated by only .66.

Full article.

Savchenko, Szolkowy rout field in pairs short

Two-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, who are first in the icenetwork.com world pairs rankings, won the short program at the Nebelhorn Trophy with a superb program to "Send in the Clowns."

"We always want to try different things," Szolkowy said of the music choice. "It's nice piano music and we can make a story about the clowns."

They scored 72.80 points by completing a throw triple flip, side-by-side triple toe loops, a triple Lutz twist and a Level 4 lift.

"It was good for the first competition," Szolkowy said. "There were some little mistakes like the lift was not completely clean. And we were a little slow in the second half of the program."

Ukraine's Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov, seventh in the world rankings, were second after the short with 59.46 points. They used "Dreams Illusion" as their short program music.

Morozov fell on the landing of their side-by-side triple Salchows, but the couple completed a Level 4 lift and a throw triple loop as well as a triple Lutz twist.

Canada's 2008 pairs champions, Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay, were third with 57.48 points. They skated to "Fascination".

"I was a lot more nervous at this competition than usual," Hay said, "but it felt really good out there. This program is something that we can be aggressive with. Our spins have been better in practice but overall it was great."

"We wanted to come out really strong at this competition," Langlois said. "Getting a good score was huge for us. I got distracted a bit with the mistakes but I still felt good."

The duo had side-by-side triple toe loops, a throw triple Lutz, a level 4 lift and a double flip twist.

"We're working the elements back in slowly," Hay said. "The triple twist isn't quite ready yet, but we'll put it in when we feel really comfortable with it."

Full article.

Lambiel leads after short at Nebelhorn Trophy

The men began their quest for spots for the 2010 Olympic Games today in Oberstdorf, Germany, at the 41st Nebelhorn Trophy. Of the 32 men competing, 23 were trying to win a spot at the Games.

Former Canadian competitor Fedor Andreev, the son of choreographer Marina Zoueva, was unable to compete for Azerbaijan because he was unable to complete his paperwork in time.

Leading the charge in the short program was 2006 Olympic men's silver medalist Stéphane Lambiel of Switzerland, who scored 77.45 points while skating to Giacomo Rossini's "William Tell Overture." Lambiel, who has been skating professionally for the last year, is ranked 16th in the icenetwork.com world rankings.

Lambiel fell on the first jump in his planned quadruple toe-triple toe combination, but showed strong spins and footwork. He landed a double Axel and triple flip.

"I felt good, I was prepared, and I was ready to attack," Lambiel said. "It was a shame about the quad toe because it was good in practice."

He was followed by the Czech Republic's Michal Brezina, who won the Nebelhorn Trophy in 2007 and is ranked 17th in the world rankings. Brezina, who trains in Oberstdorf, skated a crowd-pleasing routine to "Puttin' on The Ritz," scoring 73.23 points. He put a hand down on his opening triple Axel but otherwise skated well, landing a triple Lutz and a triple flip-triple toe combination.

"I had hoped to skate clean, but I was maybe too much inside in the rotation of the triple Axel," Brezina said. "We only changed the program on Wednesday to take out the quad Salchow and put in the triple Lutz, but I'll do the quad in the long."

"It would be cool to beat Stephane," he added, "but I'm happy with where I am now. It could have been better, but it was my first time competing this program."

Brezina did beat Lambiel technically, scoring 39.88 in his element score to 38.10 for Lambiel.

American skater Ryan Bradley used "Dark Eyes" for his short program, scoring 68.18 points to place third in the segment. Bradley's opening quad toe-triple toe combination was the highest scoring element in the men's short, gaining 14.60 points.

Full article.

Davis, White lead field after compulsory dance

Qualifying for the remaining quota spots for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games began today in Oberstdorf, Germany, at the 41st Nebelhorn Trophy.

Starting the competition were the ice dancers, who competed one compulsory dance, the Tango Romantica. Of the 16 couples competing, six teams are competing for five remaining Olympic spots. That includes couples from China, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Georgia, and Hungary.

The Australian team of Danielle O'Brien and Gregory Merriman, who had an excellent chance of being Australia's first Olympians in ice dancing, withdrew before the compulsory dance when Merriman was stricken with an infection of the heart muscle. He was hospitalized in Germany for antibiotic treatment and is not expected to be released before Sunday.

The first competitors on the ice were Allison Reed and Otar Japaridze of Georgia. Although Japaridze has competed internationally with several partners, this was the first competition for Reed, whose brother and sister, Cathy and Chris Reed have qualified to skate for Japan at the Olympics.

U.S. ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, ranked third in the icenetwork.com world rankings, scored 37.62 points to place first in the compulsory dance.

"The skating skills required are really tremendous," White said, "but we're comfortable with the difficult steps and trying to add character to the dance. We've spent more time on the tango than the Golden Waltz because we've been able to work with ballroom dancers on it."

The were followed by Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski, the 2009 World University Games champions, who scored 32.34 points. The Zaretskis are 14th in the world rankings.

Russia's Ekaterina Riazanova and Ilia Tkachenko scored 31.64 points in the compulsory dance to place third.

Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas of Lithuiania earned 31.23 points to finish fourth.

Hungary's Nora Hoffman, who is trying to make a second Olympics, and her new partner, Maxim Zavozin, scored 31.20 points to place fifth in the compulsory dance. They lead the countries trying to gain an entry to the Olympics.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Joubert opens his heart, overcomes obstacles

Brian Joubert has been on every world podium since 2006, even winning a gold medal in 2007. As he starts what may be his last Olympic season, he took the time to detail his new team, new program and hopes for icenetwork.com.

A much talked about program

"I have kept last year's short program," Joubert explained. "It really suits me well. I have proved it last year [Joubert won that section in Los Angeles, prior to faltering in the free to take a final third place]. My free program is completely new, however, and it is absolutely superb. It requires a huge amount of work, however, but I feel great on it."

"A program to win," was the unanimous comment judges gave when they saw Joubert's new free program to "Ancient Lands," by Irish composer Ronan Hardiman.

"As soon as I heard that music," Joubert explained, "I knew it would be for me."

Joubert's choreography was crafted by world ice dancing gold medalists Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski. Joubert says he always admired them when they were competing.

"The program they made is technically very demanding. This is normal. After all, it is an Olympic program and it can not be an easy one! Yet, I love it so much that I do not count my time," he added. "We work really hard on it." Incidentally, "Ancient Lands" was the theme of Alexei Yagudin's exhibition program in 2002 -- the year he won the Olympic gold. A reference Joubert does not deny, as he has always been a big fan of Yagudin's.

A completely renewed team

Joubert has gathered his own "Olympic team" during the summer. After splitting with his former coach Jean-Christophe Simond at the end of last season, Joubert has decided to turn again to Laurent Depouilly, his former coach who he won his European title with in 2005. Depouilly, who was coaching his own daughter south of Bordeaux, has now left his family behind to relocate near Joubert's home city of Poitiers for the season.

The idea of calling Denkova and Staviski may be credited to Nathalie Depouilly, the wife of Joubert's coach. Nathalie, a French team member in ice dancing in the 1980s, and a renowned ice dancing coach in France, saw the potential to create the free program of her husband's protégé with the Bulgarian duo.

Full article.

Who's skating for Azerbaijan?

The draw to determine the men's skate order at this week's Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, had more drama than usual.

This year, the season's first notable international competition is doubling as a qualifier to determine the remaining Olympic spots not earned by countries at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships.

Fedor Andreev, who won a bronze medal at the 2003 Canadian Figure Skating Championships and placed ninth at the 2009 Canadians, had hoped to switch allegiances and represent Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic that became independent in 1991, at Nebelhorn. His name was initially included on the entry list for the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles, but removed prior to the draw.

This time around, he made it a step closer.

During a draw ceremony earlier today, ISU Chair Sports Directorate Peter Krick said, "Fedor Andreev has not yet shown a clearance paper for his [Azerbaijani] citizenship, but he has time to do this until tomorrow morning. Therefore, we will draw him. However, the skater who will be drawn to skate after him should be aware that Andreev may not skate, and he may have to skate instead."

Andreev was drawn to skate fourth. Czech Michal Brezina, who won the silver medal at the 2009 world juniors, drew to skate fifth. (Czech Republic, by virtue of Tomas Verner's fourth-place finish at the 2009 worlds, has already qualified two Olympic men's spots).

Sources within the ISU said that although Andreev presented an Azerbaijani passport, he must also provide an additional document certifying his citizenship. Andreev, who trains in Florida under Richard Callaghan, was not present at the draw ceremony in Oberstdorf.

Joelle Forte, last season's Eastern Sectionals champion who placed 12th at the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, also hoped to qualify an Olympic spot for Azerbaijan by competing at Nebelhorn. However, her name was recently removed from the entry list. Russian-born Emma Hagieva, who is coached by 1999 world champion Maria Butyrskaya, is listed as Azerbaijan's entry in the ladies' event.

In recent years, Azerbaijan has been represented at the Olympics and world championships by ice dancers Igor Lukanin, a native Russian, and American-born Kristin Fraser. Their highest finish at worlds was 11th in 2008. After placing 18th at the 2009 worlds, they elected to retire and pursue coaching careers.


Countries fight for Olympic quota spots at Nebelhorn

More than 75 percent of the quota spots for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games were determined based on the results of the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships. The remaining spots will be determined at this week's Olympic qualifying competition, the 41st Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Vienna has traditionally been the site for the Olympic qualifying competition, but economic concerns forced the Austrian Skating Federation to forgo the opportunity this season.

The figure skating competition at the 2010 Olympics will include 30 men, 30 ladies, 24 ice dance couples and 20 pairs. Quota spots for 24 men, 24 ladies, 19 ice dancers and 16 pairs have already been determined.

Countries have a 50-percent chance of winning a quota spot in both pairs and dance. Ten dance teams are competing for the five remaining quota spots and eight pairs are competing for four spots.

For the men and ladies, the odds are only half as good. Unless a country gives up some of the quota spots it has already earned, there are only six places left in both the men and ladies events.

Assuming all the preliminary entries are qualified at the time the event begins, there will be 23 men and 29 ladies fighting for a spot.

Several 2006 Olympians will be battling for a chance to compete at another Olympic Winter Games.

Stéphane Lambiel
, the silver medalist in 2006, will return from a professional career to try to regain a spot for Switzerland, which had two places in 2006.

Germany's Stefan Lindemann, who retired after placing 21st at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, is also making a comeback attempt.

Viktor Pfeifer, who finished 22nd at the 2006 Olympics while competing for Austria, tried competing in the U.S. for a few seasons before returning to compete for Austria last season. He will try to make it to the Olympics through the qualifying competition for a second time.

Full article.

U.S. ice dance teams announce coaching change

Piper Gilles and Zach Donohue, the junior bronze medalists at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and senior ice dancing team Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles announced today they have ended their two- and three-year professional relationships, respectively, with coach Patti Gottwein of the Broadmoor Skating Club in Colorado Springs, Colo., and will train with Elizabeth Punsalan Swallow at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

In addition to their U.S. junior bronze medal, Gilles and Donohue collected the gold and silver medals at their 2008 Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series assignments in the Czech Republic and South Africa, respectively.

"We want to thank everyone who has worked with us the past couple years -- they have been amazing," Piper Gilles said. "But we felt we needed a change of direction with our skating. We need some extra help with mental discipline and our connection on the ice."

Summersett and Gilles garnered bronze at the 2008 Nebelhorn Trophy and finished sixth at each of the last two U.S. Championships.

"We felt we needed stimulation and a change in order to continue making improvements," said Todd, who began training with Gottwein in 2001 with former partner Trina Pratt. "Everyone in Colorado has been great. We want to thank Patti for all her help."

Both teams will remain members of the Broadmoor Skating Club and will continue working with the club's choreographers, Tom Dickson and Christopher Dean.

Punsalan Swallow competed in ice dancing with then-partner-and-now-husband Jerod Swallow. Together, the couple won five U.S. championships and twice competed in the Olympic Winter Games.


Russia looks to build on lead at JGP Belarus

Russia looks to build on its medal lead in the 2009 Junior Grand Prix (JGP) of Figure Skating Series, as it has gold-medal contenders in all four disciplines at this week's stop in Minsk, Belarus.

Russian Ivan Bariev is looking to finally reach the top of the podium at a JGP event. He has four silver medals in four JGP events to his credit. Teammate Stanislav Kovalev was fourth in Belarus last season and fifth in Czech Republic. Nan Song of China was fifth at the JGP stops in Mexico and France last season, and he placed seventh at the 2009 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. Other challengers include China's Jiaxing Liu (seventh at JGP Budapest last month), Kazakhstan's Abzal Rakimgaliyev (third at the 2009 Triglav Trophy) and American Eliot Halverson (two bronzes in the 2006 JGP Series).

The ladies event is a showdown between a pair of Russian ladies, Ksenia Makarova and Polina Shelepen. Makarova took the silver three weeks ago in Lake Placid, N.Y., and was fourth at both of her JGP events last season. Shelepen topped the field at the first event in this year's JGP Series, in Hungary. The wild card in this competition is Japan's Yuki Nishino, who won gold at both of her JGP events in 2007 and bronze at the 2007 JGP Final but fell off the map last season. Canada's Alexandra Najarro (fifth in Great Britain, seventh in Czech Republic a year ago) will also contend for a medal.

The pairs event in Gomel will be highly competitive, with several JGP medalists in the field. Russians Ksenia Ozerova and Alexander Enbert won silver (Belarus) and bronze (Czech Republic) at their two JGP events in 2008, while their country mates, Ksenia Stoblova and Fedor Klimov, claimed the silver this season in Lake Placid. Wenjing Sui and Cong Han were the surprise winners of the pairs event at the 2010 Chinese Championships held earlier this month; one of the teams they defeated there was Yue Zhang and Lei Wang, the silver medalists at the 2008 JGP Final. Canada is well represented in Belarus, with JGP Lake Placid champions Kaleigh Hole and Adam Johnson as well as Maddison Bird and Raymond Schultz, the sixth-place finishers at the 2009 World Junior Championships.

Ice Dancing
Three teams will likely fight for top honors in the dance event. Karen Routhier and Eric Saucke-Lacelle are the reigning Canadian junior champs and grabbed the silver this season at JGP Budapest. Ukrainians Alisa Agafonova and Dmitri Dun have a gold and three silvers in their JGP career, while Russia's Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin have captured three bronze medals in the JGP Series (two in 2007, one in 2008). Should one of those three stumble, Americans Rachel Tibbetts and Collin Brubaker (three JGP fifth-place finishes) and Russians Tatiana Baturintseva and Ivan Volobuiev (three JGP top-seven finishes) could land on the podium.


U.S. athletes head to JGP Belarus, Nebelhorn

Nebelhorn Trophy

The 2009 Nebelhorn Trophy serves as the Olympic qualifying competition for countries that were unable to qualify any skaters during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships. The top six women and men, top four pairs teams and top five ice dancing teams will earn a spot for their country at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.


Reigning U.S. champion Alissa Czisny is making her third trip to the Nebelhorn Trophy. After finishing fourth in 2004, she took home gold from the event last season.


This is the first appearance at the Nebelhorn Trophy for reigning U.S. pewter medalist Ryan Bradley. After taking home silver from Skate Canada last season, Bradley finished seventh at Trophée Eric Bompard.


Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski won gold in their debut at the Nebelhorn Trophy in 2006. The 2007 U.S. champions, they placed fifth at the 2009 U.S. Championships.


Reigning U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White are making their first appearance at the Nebelhorn Trophy. The team won gold last season at Skate Canada, bronze at Cup of Russia and bronze at the Grand Prix Final in Goyang City, Republic of Korea. Their gold-medal win at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships was followed by a fourth-place finish at the 2009 World Championships in Los Angeles, Calif.

The Nebelhorn Trophy has been held continuously since 1969. In that time, U.S. skaters have won 50 gold medals, including Dorothy Hamill (1971), Todd Eldredge (1987), Michael Weiss (1996), Timothy Goebel (1997), Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto (ice dancing, 2005) and, most recently, Alissa Czisny (ladies, 2008) and Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates (ice dancing, 2008).

Full article.

Dube and Davison focus in on Vancouver

"For sure, you don't want to put too much pressure on yourself, but you'd be lying trying to convince yourself that it's not a big year. A home country Olympics is huge. It's something that is very special and you can't treat it any other way," says two-time Canadian pair champion Bryce Davison.

While the pressure of an Olympic Games in your home country can be intense, there are also some significant advantages. Davison, 23, and partner Jessica Dubé, 21, along with other members of the Canadian national team have had the advantage of attending training camps in Vancouver, B.C., for several years.

"It's become very comfortable for everyone on the team going to that rink," Davison says. "It helps because you know all the little details of what Vancouver is going to be like."

The most recent camp was two weeks ago, where all the invited skaters were asked to perform short program and free skate or original dance and free dance before a panel of judges and technical specialists. Each skater or team received detailed feedback.

"The short program still needs a little bit of work... but people really liked it, so we were really pleased with that," says Dubé. "It's giving us a bit of confidence to go into this season.

"It's really good to have that camp before the competitions so we're sure about the stuff we're doing. It takes a little bit of pressure off of our shoulders."

Dubé and Davison are going with new short and free programs for this season. The short was choreographed by ice dance coach Pasquale Camerlengo. It was the first time the pair worked with him. For the long they returned to longtime choreographer David Wilson.

They found working with Camerlengo quite enjoyable. "He's very innovative," says Davison. "If you didn't like something or if he could see you weren't comfortable with it, he'd find a new way to do it. It came together very quickly. We loved it and we love it still. It's going to be something a little different for us."

Full article.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stars, Stripes and Skates brings out the champions

On Saturday, Sept. 26, fans can get a sneak preview of Johnny Weir's new short program at the eighth annual Stars, Stripes and Skates ICEtravaganza.

The show, which honors the memory of September 11 and benefits The Heritage Foundation of 9/11, will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Danbury Ice Arena in Danbury, Conn. For more information, see www.StarsStripesandSkates. To purchase tickets, contact the Danbury Arena at (203) 794-1704.

Former national ice dance competitor Tara Eve Modlin, who is also Weir and Jeremy Abbott's agent, founded the non-profit organization and began the show in 2002. Its aim is to help teach youngsters the value of heroism, volunteering and patriotism.

"It's a beautiful thing Tara's done," said Weir, who first performed in the show in 2003. "It's really impressive that a skating show can last that long these days. I think it's the fact you're bringing something beautiful to remember something so terrible."

The show, headlined by Olympic champion Oksana Baiul, also features 2007 world champion Miki Ando and four-time U.S. ice dance silver medalists Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov, reigning Japanese champion Nobunari Oda, U.S. junior ice dance champions Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein, former world junior champion Derrick Delmore and Japanese ice dance champions Cathy Reed and Chris Reed will also take part. The evening will be hosted by Hairspray star Nikki Blonsky and Sirius XM radio personality Frank DeCaro.

Kate Gosselin, star of the hit TLC reality show Jon & Kate Plus 8, will make an appearance. Jill Zarin and LuAnn de Lesseps, cast members from The Real Housewives of New York City, will also be in attendance.

Weir plans to perform his popular exhibition to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" in addition to his new competitive program. The singer's mom, Cynthia, will be on hand to watch the performance.

Full article.

Zhang back training with former coach Li

Caroline Zhang, the 2007 world junior champion and 2009 U.S. bronze medalist, announced today she has ended her three-month professional relationship with new coach Charlene Wong and will return to Mingzhu Li. Zhang has trained with Li since 2005. Zhang says she will continue to work with Wong on "choreography and footwork."


Castelli, Shnapir return to competition at Mid Atlantics

The 2009 Middle Atlantic Figure Skating Championships, held at Chelsea Piers in New York last weekend, marked a return to competition for Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, who won a bronze medal at junior worlds in February.

The pair didn't skate their best, missing key elements and placing second overall to Jessica Crenshaw and Chad Tsagris of Greece. But Castelli, who narrowly escaped major injury after a scary practice collision early this summer, is happy just to be back on the ice.

"I was skating [at Skating Club of Boston] with Simon; we were going backwards, and this Italian boy who had come over to Boston to train was skating backward also. We had a collision and when we fell, I landed on his blade," the 19-year-old skater said.

"I got an incision on my upper inner thigh and had to get rushed to the hospital. It was not a really painful experience, but it was a big bummer."

The injury, which required many internal and external stitches as well as physical therapy, took Castelli off the ice for four weeks, costing the pair training time and the chance to compete at both Liberty Open and Indy Pairs Challenge.

"It's a huge setback," said the team's coach, Bobby Martin. "They were getting ready for the summer competitions and getting feedback on what they were doing. They've added a lot of difficulty to their programs, the choreography is more intricate, there are new elements -- it's a big transition year for them."

Last season, the petite Castelli and her 6-foot-4 partner, who was born in Moscow but emigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was an infant, placed third in juniors at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Castelli calls their world junior medal "amazing; we didn't really think about the podium. We just wanted to skate well and we came back with a medal. It was a surprise in a way, but it really wasn't, because we were training well. We had the lifts and throws."

Now, they're taking steps to improve their side-by-side elements.

Full article.

Figure skating season begins in France

There were two hot topics in Orléans this past weekend as the elite skaters of France gathered for their first competition, the French Masters. Brian Joubert was supposedly unveiling his new free program, crafted by former ice dancing world champions Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski. The other subject that got tongues wagging was Isabelle Delobel's baby, which was expected to arrive during the competition.

Though both stories gained a lot of steam, and The Masters, allowed for a valuable review of French figure skating on the eve of the upcoming Olympic season.

Joubert's new program
Many were wondering about Joubert's new free program.

"Finally, this is a winning program," one international judge present in Orléans commented after seeing it.

Joubert's 2008-2009 season ended in turmoil, as he cut ties with former coach Jean-Christophe Simond and decided to train again with Laurent Depouilly, who had helped him win his first European Championship in 2005. Many then wondered how Joubert could renew his repertoire and undertake the necessary changes to his skating style.

"We decided to keep last year's short program," Joubert explained. But Joubert will be skating a new free skate this season. After long discussions, the team finally decided to ask Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski to help him build what should be his Olympic free skate.

Joubert missed his quad in both the short and free programs in Orléans, and he lost to 2008 Junior Grand Prix Final winner Florent Amodio. His showing, however, reassured federation experts and judges.

"I am well aware that there is still a lot of work ahead of me," Joubert said. "Yet I am on track. And I love this program."

Full article.

Cohen trying for third Olympics

Faster, higher, stronger -- Sasha Cohen is embracing the Olympic motto with open arms.

"I'm not coming back to be as good as the old me; I'm coming back to push myself in ways I haven't before," the 2006 Olympic silver medalist, who is returning to competition after three seasons away, told a media assembly in Chicago over the weekend.

"I've realized that skating is my purpose in life for the moment. I miss that drive and intensity, that meaning to my day, the good times, the bad times, just the challenge. I realize I have 50 more years of my life to do other things, and I wasn't ready to start that just yet."

Cohen, who turns 25 on October 26, is re-embracing the training grind, challenging herself technically and pushing her skating -- and her body -- into new directions.

"[I'm] opening my eyes to the changes in the new [judging] system and the type of skating that's out there and challenging myself to do more difficult programs, faster stronger programs.

"I'm working with a new coach, Rafael Arutunian, in Lake Arrowhead [Calif.], and I've been working a lot on different technical things, jumps and certain specific technical exercises jumping-wise . . . right now, it's just the brunt of all the work and good days and not-so-good days, but I've been progressing every month, and I'm very excited for the coming season."

Cohen readily admits competing with the likes of the last two world champions, Yu-Na Kim and Mao Asada, both still teenagers, is a tall order. Known for her charisma and spectacular spirals, the Californian usually didn't include triple-triple jump combinations in her programs. (She completed a triple toe loop-triple Salchow in her 2006 Olympic free skate.)

Since she won bronze at the 2006 world championships, her most recent competition, the International Judging System (IJS) has grown tougher. Technical specialists mercilessly scrutinize jump take-offs and rotations. Even the strongest athletes, like former world champions Miki Ando and Brian Joubert, have lost points on jumps that used to pass muster.

Full article.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

... and more...

Rachael Flatt SP

Rachael Flatt LP

Jeremy Abbott SP

More 2009/2010 programs...

Caroline Zhang SP

Caroline Zhang LP

Mirai Nagasu SP

Mirai Nagasu LP

Sinead Kerr & John Kerr's FD

ISU Junior Grand Prix Torun Cup 2009

Junior Men
  1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) 198.65 pts
  2. Austin Kanallakan (USA) 171.19 pts
  3. Gordei Gorshkov (RUS) 166.59 pts
  4. Alexander Nikolaev (RUS) 163.94 pts
  5. Ronald Lam (CAN) 157.87 pts

Junior Ladies
  1. Kanako Murakami (JPN) 160.85 pts
  2. Anna Ovcharova (RUS) 142.71 pts
  3. Christina Gao (USA) 134.55 pts
  4. Alice Garlisi (ITA) 121.74
  5. Karen Zhou (USA) 121.01 pts

Junior Pairs
  1. Narumi Takahashi & Mervin Tran (JPN) 150.03 pts
  2. Tatiana Novik & Mikhail Kuznetsov (RUS) 149.04 pts
  3. Brittany Jones & Kurtis Gaskell (CAN) 129.45 pts
  4. Alexandra Vasilieva & Yuri Shevchuk (RUS) 127.12 pts
  5. Taylor Steele & Robert Schultz (CAN) 126.86 pts

Junior Ice Dance
  1. Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) 171.61 pts
  2. Marina Antipova & Artem Kudashev (RUS) 148.03 pts
  3. Isabella Cannuscio & Ian Lorello (USA) 145.59 pts
  4. Alexandra Paul & Michell Islam (CAN) 145.13 pts
  5. Ruslana Jurchenko & Alexander Liubchenko (UKR) 142.15 pts