Golden Skate

Orscher and Lucash win gold in Portland

Tonight was a first for US Figure Skating in what seemed to be an eternity. The pairs champions finally skated a title-worthy freeskate. Kathryn Orscher and Garrett Lucash skated a flawless technical performance in the finals of the Championship Pairs competition at the 2005 State Farm US Figure Skating Championships in Portland, Oregon.

Opening with a credible split triple twist followed by a triple toe loop to double toe loop sequence, Orscher and Lucash earned their scores of 5.6 to 5.8 for technical merit, and all 5.7s and 5.8s for presentation. Orscher and Lucash agreed that winning the title would “take a while to sink in”.

The highlight of the winners’ program were the gigantic throw jumps, both a throw triple flip, which the pair missed in the short program, and a throw triple salchow. Skating to Samson and Delilah, Orscher and Lucash also incorporated inventive lifts and variations on death spirals to bring the Portland audience to their feet. “Katie really pulled me through this one,” said an appreciative Lucash. “I thought that she was just amazing.”

At the beginning of the week, Lucash was so ill that Orscher thought that they would have to withdraw from the competition. Lucash had a stomach virus that affected his stamina, but it didn’t deter them from earning their first US National title. “A week ago, had you seen him, you would not have known he was the same person,” said Orscher.

Finishing with the silver medal were last year’s champions, Rena Inoue and John Baldwin. The pair opened with a set of very difficult side-by-side triple lutzes in which Inoue landed cleanly, but Baldwin two-footed. Skating to selections of music by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Inoue and Baldwin also completed a respectable split triple twist and side-by-side triple toes, with Inoue making a small error on the latter.

Inoue plans to apply for citizenship in July, and expects to have everything in place to be eligible to compete at the 2006 Olympic Games should the opportunity arise. “I want this team to go as far as possible,” said Inoue. “I made up my mind that I was going to apply for (citizenship).” Baldwin added that he is appreciative of Inoue’s sacrifice. “I know that Rena’s Japanese citizenship is very important to her,” he relayed. “And I really appreciate her doing that for me.”

In third place was the second-year team of Marcy Hinzmann and Aaron Parchem. Parchem previously stood on the podium in with previous partner Stephanie Kalesavich, but this was Hinzmann’s first view from the awards stand. Skating a credible routine to music from Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Hinzmann appeared to be nervous throughout the performance, skating tentatively into almost every high risk element. “I was a little bit terrified out there,” admitted Hinzmann. “But I just tried to maintain my composure as much as possible.” Hinzmann also fell on a throw triple salchow, as well as the side-by-side triple toes. “We were a little sloppy out there tonight,” laughed Parchem. “But we still ended up in third, which is what I wanted. I don’t really care how we got there.”

Recovering from a disastrous performance in the short program, Tiffany Scott and Phillip Dulebohn placed third in the freeskate, moving up from sixth to fourth place overall. Scott and Dulebohn skated a quirky program to Xotica by Cirque de Soleil, hiding themselves from the judges in their opening pose. As if from some underground cellar, Scott and Dulebohn teasingly appeared from a crouched position so close to the boards that the judges could not see them. In a performance that was noticeably different from their usual classical style, Scott and Dulebohn succeeded in creating an avant-guarde feeling in the arena. They received scores ranging from 5.1-5.3 for technical merit, and 5.3-5.6 for presentation.

The week long competition will culminate tomorrow with the Championship Mens’ and Ladies’ freeskates. Michelle Kwan will be attempting to win her ninth US title, while Timothy Goebel and Johnny Weir will battle it out in a contest of the technician versus the artiste. Both Goebel and Weir are searching for their second US crown.

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