Golden Skate

2004 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships: Ladies Highlights

Japan’s Yukina Ota was the winner in the ladies event, taking home her first Four Continents medal. Cynthia Phaneuf of Canada won silver, while USA’s Amber Corwin took home the bronze.

In the short, Corwin opened her program with a solid triple toe-triple toe combination followed by footwork into a slightly cheated triple Lutz. She fought for and kept a clean double Axel and produced nice spirals. Her cosmopolitan routine to Henry Mancini’s Moon River scored marks from 4.9 to 5.8, placing the 1999 Four Continents silver medalist first after the short.

“It’s my trademark, so I’ve got to do it. It’s my secret weapon,” Corwin said about her triple-triple combination. “I felt fabulous out there, I felt like I was flying. Even the little things felt so strong, it was like magical.”

Angela Nikodinov (USA) opened her short program with a triple Lutz-double toe combination followed by a triple flip, a double Axel, a flying camel, and a classic layback spin at the end. The 2000 Four Continents champion finished second after her performance to Just for You by Giovanni, earning marks ranging from 4.8 to 5.7.

Nikodinov, who underwent shoulder surgery in February 2003, was off the ice for seven months, and didn’t start practicing jumps til September 2003.

“We just had US Nationals which helped me to remember how to compete again,” said Nikodinov. “Coming back was very hard. There is a lot less pressure on me at this event.”

Ota opened her routine to Picasso’s Dance and Omotai (from the album Between Black and White) with a triple Lutz-double toe combination followed by a triple flip, a double Axel, and a fantastic layback spin. The 17-year-old’s marks ranged from 5.0 to 5.8, placing her third after the short.

“It’s easier for me to skate in Canada in this event than in Japanese Nationals,” said Ota. “I enjoy skating in Canada, the audience is very good. I also skated a good short program at Skate Canada. This morning, I didn’t have a good practice. I had the flu before coming here. But after practice I was able to regroup and I had a strong will to succeed tonight.”

Canada’s Jennifer Robinson had a solid skate with the exception of a 1/4 turn cheat on the triple flip. Though her double Axel was high, the combination spin at the end was a bit slow. The Canadian who turns 28 next month, scored marks from 4.7 to 5.6, putting her in fourth after the short.

Yukari Nakano of Japan was fifth. The 18-year-old attempted a triple Axel-double toe combination, but underrotated the Axel and stepped out of it before doing a double toe.

Joannie Rochette fell out of the triple Lutz, putting her hands down before doing a double toe in her combination. The rest of her program was strong, featuring a well-centered layback spin and lots of detail in her straight-line footwork. The 18-year-old Canadian finished sixth after the short.

Cynthia Phaneuf suffered a nosebleed between the warm-up and her skate. The newly-crowned Canadian champion fell on her triple Lutz combination, which was slow going in and tilted in the air, and also put a hand down on the triple flip, finishing eighth after the short. The 16-year old claimed the nosebleed had nothing to do with her performance.

Skating to Daphnis and Chloe by Maurice Ravel for the long, Ota opened with a triple Lutz-double toe combination followed by a double Axel, and a well-positioned flying Camel. The 2003 World Junior champion went on to land a triple loop, a triple Salchow, and a triple toe-double toe combination, but two-footed the landing on a triple flip, as well as a triple Lutz in which she fell. The otherwise solid routine earned marks ranging from 5.1 to 5.8 for a second place finish in the long and a first place finish overall.

“I’m very surprised,” said Ota. “I can’t believe it. When I came here, I didn’t expect to win a medal, let alone to win the competition. I just wanted to skate well.” On her coach shouting from the boards, Ota said, “She shouts, ‘Speed!, Speed!’. After the mistakes, I just focused on the next element and went on.”

“After the program, I felt tired,” continued Ota. “I could skate strong to the end because of support from my coaches and team leader.”

Her skating idol is Yuka Sato. “She has good edges, good skating, not just jumps, she has everything,” enthused Ota. “I have met her and she told me how to use my edges, and change the tempo. I will be working on spins, spiral and on improving my second mark.” Ota isn’t currently working on a triple Axel or quadruple toe. “I need to build up muscle and my upper body first,” she said.

Skating to Quelques Jeux Interdits by Francois Dompienne, Phaneuf opened with a double Axel followed by seven triples: triple loop, a triple Lutz, a triple toe, a triple flip, a triple Lutz-double toe combination, a triple Salchow, and a triple toe-double toe combination. The French-Canadian received marks ranging from 5.3 to 5.8, as well as a standing ovation from the crowd, for a first place finish in the long and second overall.

“I did well,” said Phaneuf. “It was perfect for me. It’s what I did in practice. I knew I would skate well. On skating in a senior international event, she added, “I am excited and I knew that I would skate well because I skated well in practice. I didn’t think about the podium at all. I had another nosebleed after the warm-up and I knew I had more time for it to stop before I skated.”

“With Nationals, I had lots of confidence for this competition,” said Phaneuf, who felt her decision about not going to Worlds this year was the right one. “I think I made a good decision to go to Jr. Worlds,” she said, and added that she felt no pressure at this event. “I just do what I do in practice.”

On winning her first senior international event, Phaneuf said, “I learned that I can do a good long program even if I didn’t do a good short.” She plans to use her prize money to help pay for her training.

Corwin opened her program to Book of Secrets by Loreena McKennitt with a triple toe-double toe combination followed by a triple Lutz, a triple loop-double loop combination, and a double Axel which was shaky but clean on the landing. The 27-year-old fell on on her triple flip but then landed a triple Salchow-double toe combination. However, she fell again at the beginning of her straight line footwork sequence, earning marks from 4.7 to 5.7 to place fifth in the long and third overall.

“I feel that I fought hard tonight,” said Corwin. “I was nervous, more nervous than I would have liked but I held it together. In the past there have been times when after a mistake I would loose it, but tonight wasn’t like that. I feel I held it together.” She added, “It was exciting to be first after the short but I had to try not to think about it and just concentrate on me.” On the fall in the footwork, she explained, “I knew that this was the last element so I tried to put as much expression in it as possible and just lost it.”

“Getting a medal here was very exciting,” said a pleased Corwin. “I could do with more practice. I love competing in Canada. It feels nice to be back on top. I’ve been figuring things out. I’m stronger than ever.” Of her long program, Corwin said, “I guess I feel like I held back, was hesitant. During the circular footwork I had to re-focus but almost ran into the boards.” Revealing her plans for the future, she added, “I plan to compete next year at the Grand Prix Series, medal at nationals and be on the world team. I feel I was confident coming into this competition, I was strong. I feel like I’m in a good place. Skating with the new judging system made me see what I need to work on.”

Rochette skated to Il Etait Une Fois le Diable by Ennio Morricone for her long, opening with a triple loop, followed by a triple flip, and a triple toe, but fell on the triple Lutz which had a bad lean in the air. She then executed another triple toe followed by a triple Salchow but then touched down with her hand on a double Axel. The two-time Canadian silver medalist placed third in the long and fourth overall.

“I’m disappointed,” said Rochette. “I’ve done good run-throughs in practice and didn’t skate to my full capacity tonight. I wasn’t nervous. Tonight’s skate was below average. Just before nationals, I was doing clean run-throughs during practice. I wanted to bring that to tonight’s skate.”

Skating to Prelude a L’apres Midi d’un faune, Robinson opened with a triple Lutz followed by a triple toe. The 6-time Canadian National champion almost fell out of a cheated triple flip, but stayed on one foot. She went on to execute a triple Salchow-triple loop (cheat on the loop), a triple Salchow (had to hang on), a double Axel, and a triple Lutz-double toe (heavily two-footing the landing of the Lutz). The 2004 Canadian bronze medalist earned marks from 4.9 to 5.5 for a fourth place finish in the long and fifth overall.

“I think I handled this week 100% awesome,” said the 6-time Canadian National champion. “We had attack in practice all week and I was happy with how I skated tonight. I really pushed the speed. I’m happy with the triple salchow-triple loop.” Regarding Canadian Nationals, she said, “Nothing went well. To come from three poor performances to two strong ones is great. I’ll take this confidence to Worlds.”

Nakano attempted a triple Axel-double toe combination, but underrotated the Axel. The 2003 Four Continents bronze medalist placed sixth in the long, dropping her from fifth to sixth overall.

Onda maintained her seventh place position, landing two good triple-double combinations.

“I felt very good today,” said the two-time Four Continents bronze medalist. “In my short program, the Lutz and the Axel weren’t so good. I was sick, I had caught a cold, but now I’m feeling fine. Today I was strong. I was very happy at the end of my performance. This was the last competition for me this season, and I wanted to finish on a high note. I don’t have vacation now, I have go back to school and prepare for exams. I’m a college student in Japan.”

Nikodinov, who was in second after the short, doubled three triple jumps and singled a double Axel, resulting in a ninth place finish in the long and seventh overall.

Jennifer Don (USA), who won the 2003 Junior World bronze in pairs with partner Jonathon Hunt, finished 13th.

“I was really surprised,” said Don, “especially by the first toe, because yesterday’s practice and today’s practice and warm up both went really well for me. So I think I got a little shook up after the landing of the toe. I wasn’t really expecting to come out forward. I was a little too close to the boards to pull of the Sal (salchow). I did a three turn and I thought, ‘I’m going to hit the boards’. I think I out-skated myself a little bit, going too fast. On competing in her first Four Continents Championships, the new champion said, “It definitely was a good experience. It was the most important competition I’ve ever been to, and it was an honor to be here. I wish I’d have had a little more time to prepare for it.”

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